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Rhinogobius mekongianus (PELLEGRIN & FANG, 1940)

SynonymsTop ↑

Gobius mekongianus Pellegrin & Fang, 1940; Ctenogobius cephalopardus Smith, 1945


Rhinogobius: from the Greek rhinos, meaning ‘nose’, and the generic name Gobius.

mekongianus: named for the Mekong River to which it is endemic.


Order: Perciformes Family: Gobiidae


Known from various parts of the middle and upper Mekong river basins with record existing from the Nam Tha, Nam Ou, Nam Khan, Nam Lik, Nam Ngum and Nam Mang tributary systems in Laos, the Nam Noeua (a tributary of Nam Ou) in Vietnam, and the Mae Nam Kok in Thailand.

Occurrences in the Chao Phraya drainage in central Thailand most likely refer to the congener R. chiengmaiensis.


Inhabits smaller rivers, tributaries and streams with substrates of gravel, rocks, boulders, and exposed bedrock which undergo seasonal variations in water flow rate, depth and turbidity.

Aquatic plants are not normally a feature of such habitats although riparian and overhanging vegetation may grow thickly.

Maximum Standard Length

45 -50 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

An aquarium with base dimensions of 60 ∗ 30 cm should prove large enough to house a small group.


Not difficult to maintain under the correct conditions; we strongly recommend keeping it in a tank designed to simulate a flowing stream with a substrate of variably-sized rocks, sand, fine gravel, and some water-worn boulders.

This can be further furnished with driftwood branches, terracotta pipes, plant pots, etc., arranged to form a network of nooks, crannies, and shaded spots, thus providing broken lines of sight.

While the majority of aquatic plants will fail to thrive in such surroundings hardy types such as Microsorum, Bolbitis, or Anubias spp. can be grown attached to the décor.

Like many fishes that naturally inhabit running water it’s intolerant to accumulation of organic pollutants and requires spotless water in order to thrive. Weekly water changes of 30-50% tank volume should also be considered routine.

Though torrent-like conditions are unnecessary it does best if there is a high proportion of dissolved oxygen and some water movement in the tank meaning power filter(s), additional powerhead(s), or airstone(s) should be employed as necessary.

Water Conditions

Temperature: 18 – 26 °C

pH6.0 – 7.5

Hardness36 – 268 ppm


Rhinogobius spp. tend to be opportunistic carnivores feeding on a range of small invertebrates, crustaceans and similar in nature.

In the aquarium they should be offered small live or frozen foods such as chironomid (bloodworm) or mosquito larvae, Artemia, Daphnia, Mysis, etc.

Dried foods may be accepted following a period of acclimatisation but should not be used regularly.

Sexual Dimorphism

Adult males are more intensely-coloured and develop slightly more-extended dorsal and anal fins than females.


Not yet achieved in aquaria as far as we know but observations of wild fish suggest that eggs are deposited on the ceiling of a cave or crevice and guarded by the male until hatching, as is typical for the genus.

NotesTop ↑

This species’ name has been misapplied to the congener R. chiengmaiensis in the aquarium trade but it does not appear to have appeared on the market itself.

It can be told apart from R. chiengmaiensis by a combination of external characters including: presence of 7-8 irregular dark markings on the body (vs. 5 in R. chiengmaiensis ); branchiostegal membrane with relatively large spots about ⅔ pupil size (vs. branchiostegal membrane with tiny yellow to orange spots less than ½ pupil size); cheek and opercle with about 40 round dark spots in male (vs. around 55-80 round spots).

The Gobiidae is the most speciose vertebrate family and notoriously problematic in terms of identifying fishes down to species level.

Within this sizeable assemblage Rhinogobius is often included in the subfamily Gobionellinae alongside genera such as BrachygobiusChlamydogobiusMugilogobiusPseudogobiopsisSchismatogobius, and Stigmatogobius.

Members can be told apart from these and all other gobiid genera by the following combination of characters: head with four simple, longitudinal infraorbital sensory papilla rows abc, and d, single cp papilla, and paired papillae in mental row f; head canal variable from complete loss to normal development of anterior and posterior oculoscapular canals, and preopercular canals, and always with double interorbital pores λ if the pore is present; body mostly covered with ctenoid scales; longitudinal scale series 25–42; head including cheek, snout, opercle, anterior part of nape as well as pre-pectoral region all naked; D1 usually VI; D2 I, 6–11; A I, 5–11; P 14–23; and V I, 5 + I, 5, forming a rounded disc with frenum present, performing two pointed spinous lobes, the spinous ray usually longer than the first branched ray; dorsal pterygiophore formulae modally 3–22 1 101; vertebrae 25–29, usually 26 for most landlocked species.

The genus is widely-distributed throughout much of continental Asia in Russia, Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, plus numerous islands of the Western Pacific including Japan, Taiwan, Hainan, and the Philippines.

There currently exist over 60 recognised species with many more awaiting formal description, and a number of the described ones are only considered nominal taxa pending additional study.

Those exhibiting similarities in appearance, morphology and behaviour are therefore often aggregated in nominal species groups, e.g., the R. brunneus group, R. duospilus group, etc., for ease of reference.

The fused pelvic fins form a structure normally referred to as the ‘pelvic disc’, a common feature among gobiids which is used to adhere to rocks and other submerged surfaces.

Rhinogobius spp. also exhibit different reproductive strategies depending on environment, with those inhabiting rivers connected directly to the sea typically amphidromous, and those landlocked in upper reaches of rivers or lakes non-diadromous.

Many of those appearing in the aquarium trade have proven difficult to identify for a number of reasons including:

– taxonomic confusion.
– lack of aquarium literature.
– incorrect labelling by exporters and subsequently shops.
– historical over-use of some names, e.g., ‘Rhinogobius wui‘ which is itself an invalid synonym of R. duospilus.
– likely trade of undescribed species without locality data.
– mixing of species at export facilities.


  1. Chen, I-S., M. Kottelat and P. J. Miller, 1999 - Zoological Studies 38(1): 19-32
    Freshwater gobies of the genus Rhinogobius from the Mekong basin in Thailand and Laos, with descriptions of three new species.
  2. Chen, I-S., Y.-H. Cheng, and K.-T. Shao, 2008 - Ichthyological Research 55(4): 335-343
    A new species of Rhinogobius (Teleostei: Gobiidae) from the Julongjiang basin in Fujian Province, China.
  3. Kottelat, M., 2001 - WHT Publications, Colombo: 1-198
    Fishes of Laos.
  4. Rainboth, W. J., 1996 - Rome, FAO: 1-265
    FAO species identification field guide for fishery purposes. Fishes of the Cambodian Mekong.
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