Seems like we’ve forgotten the clown gobies of the genus Gobiodon lately. Generally truly inexpensive and often thought of as common, they lack the exclusivity factor of something like a captive bred Brazilian Goldline Goby (Elacatinus figaro) or the mystical qualities of a Flaming Prawn Goby (Discordipinna griessingeri). Of course, SPS coral keepers haven’t helped with the popularity of the Gobiodon genus, given their propensity to tear away SPS flesh to create a nesting site to lay eggs. However, not all of us keep SPS tanks and clown gobies are ideal candidates for nano and pico reefs. Clown gobies are also an ideal breeding challenge, with some species (including Gobiodon okinawae) having been successfully spawned and reared in captivity.
There’s something to be said for paying closer attention but also pestering the customer service reps at Blue Zoo Aquatics, this time Lisa Palmer, to dig a bit deeper. Thanks to Lisa going the extra mile for me this week, she came back with some truly hidden gems. Gems as in a half dozen little orange-yellow-red-green clown gobies. I’d been on the Blue Zoo waiting list for months, waiting for notification that “Brown Clown Gobies” were available and hoping beyond hope that they were the species I was looking for. For anyone interested in uncommon fish, it pays to have quarantine tanks on perpetual standby and a credit card with room to spare.
After working with Lisa I got verification that the generic “Brown Clown Gobies” (Gobiodon spp.) that arrived at Blue Zoo Aquatics this week were not the 5-Lined Clown Goby, G. quinquestrigatus as listed in the details text and page headers. “Brown Clown Goby” might also have been G. reticulatus, G. oculolineatus, or any number of “brownish” clown goby species. What I was looking for is the “Brown Clown Goby” that is surprisingly colorful and often overlooked, the Warpaint or Tomahawk Goby, Gobiodon atrangulatus (which is the species shown in the listing’s photo, which truly doesn’t do justice to the species). Who would’ve thought that gold, orange and red, with just a hint of green, could look so good?!
Of course, coming in labeled as generic “Brown Clown Goby,” most hobbyists would expect a tiny turd of a fish and never give them a second thought. But once you see them in person — “OMG!” Of course, there are “Brown Turd Gobies” too and I just as easily could have been sent those. Careful communication with Lisa Palmer ensured that I didn’t receive this fish, one with no English common name, which I now dub the “Turd” or “Mocha” Clown Goby, Gobiodon unicolor!
Ironically, I can probably guarantee that no one has bothered to attempt to breed a fish like Gobiodon unicolor yet, making it a prime candidate for an intrepid breeder who’s looking to be the first to spawn and rear a species without a lot of competitive pressure. That, and there has to be a certain amount of humorous pride to say you were the first to breed the “Turd Goby!” Every bachelor male reefer with a typical male sense of humor just got excited about this nondescript brown goby now that it has a new name.
Humor aside, I hope this attention to the stunning variety of mixed-bag clown goby species encourages retailers (like Blue Zoo, wink-wink, nudge-nudge) to take a little extra care in sorting through the “miscellaneous” grab bag type species that are sometimes sent to importers. These would make great, yet affordable, WYSIWYG fare. Obviously a fish like the Warpaint Goby is deserving of greater attention (and yeah, that means they could cost a bit more if you have to get a bunch of rabbit-gift gobies in the process).
Of course, Lisa Palmer’s finds didn’t stop with the Warpaint Goby. She also found two more “Naked” Green Clown Gobies, an apparent variation that shows up in groups of Green Clown Goby imports, Gobiodon histrio.
Why would I be looking for this? Well, I got in about a half dozen green clowns, and two in the shipment looked different. More “blue” and they lacked any red markings on the flanks. I lost one shortly after arrival and have been looking for suitable mates since. This time, I got ’em! Two more naked Green Clown Gobies have joined the one on hand. It doesn’t appear to be a dietary thing, as the one I received months back has not developed any additional red markings. So is this a color variation? A different species? Undescribed maybe (note the black opercular spot and the red line at the base of the dorsal fin)? Perhaps even a hybrid? The jury is out for the moment, but I’m glad to have suitable mates on this unusual and currently “inexpensive” color form of a classic, and often underappreciated species.
The moral of the story? Rare and different need not come with a massive price tag. The grab bag imports sometimes hold several hidden gems — all it takes is a keen eye and persistence to spot them.