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Round Goby - Neogobius melanostomus

Aquatic Invasive Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SNA
* (see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status


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State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
A conservation status rank is not applicable because this species is not a suitable target for conservation activities as a result of being exotic or introduced.
General Description
The round goby is a small (less than 8 inches) benthic fish that is superficially similar to our native sculpins, but can be distinguished by the presence of fused pelvic fins (sculpins have two separate fins).

Diagnostic Characteristics
This goby is superficially similar to native sculpins but can be distinguished by the presence of fused pelvic fins (sculpins have two separate fins), a 17.8 cm (8 inch) maximum length has been seen in United States (Marsden and Jude 1995; Hubbs et al. 2004).

Range Comments
Native Range: Eurasia including Black Sea, Caspian Sea, and Sea of Azov and tributaries (Miller 1986).

Introduced Range: Introduced into the Great Lakes from the Black Sea via freighter ballast. Spread to Lake Superior by freighters operating within the Great Lakes. This species has been introduced into the Great Lakes states and Provinces--Michigan, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Ohio, Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania tributaries of Lake Erie and in 2010 spread into the lower Illinois River in Illinois (USGS 2018)

Montana Range: Not known to occur in any waterbodies within Montana's borders.

Not known to undergo any migratory behavior from their small home range.

The distribution of the round goby around the inshore areas of the Black and Caspian seas indicates their potential for widespread occupation of inshore habitats with cover, especially plants or rocky rubble, in the lower Great Lakes, yet they can migrate to deeper water 50-60 m in winter (Jude et al., 1992). Freshwater Lakes and brackish seas. Fresh water, prefers brackish (Stepien and Tumeo 2006).

Food Habits
The diet of round gobies collected in the United States consists of aquatic insects, zebra mussels, and some native snails. Larger round gobies focus feeding mainly on zebra mussels, which no other fish species of the Great Lakes consumes so heavily, allowing round gobies to uniquely exploit a resource that could fuel a population explosion (Vanderploeg et al. 2002). Walleye anglers in Detroit report that at times, all they can catch are gobies, which eagerly attack bait (Marsden and Jude 1995).

The round goby perches on rocks and other substrates in shallow areas, yet it has been reported in a variety of other habitat types including open sandy areas and abundant aquatic macrophytes (Jude and DeBoe 1996; Clapp et al. 2001). This goby also has a well developed sensory system that enhances its ability to detect water movement. This allows it to feed in complete darkness, giving it an advantage over other fish in the same habitat The numbers of native fish species have declined in areas where the round goby has become abundant (Crossman et al., 1992). This species has been found to prey on darters, other small fish, and lake trout eggs and fry in laboratory experiments. They also may feed on eggs and fry of sculpins, darters, and logperch (Marsden and Jude, 1995) and have also been found to have a significant overlap in diet preference with many native fish species.

Preventing the spread of this invasive fish species into Montana's waterbodies will likely be due to diligence in making sure no live fish are transported in live wells across state lines (i.e. preventing bucket biology).

Threats or Limiting Factors
There seems to be no limiting factors in the establishment of this species into Montana's waterbodies. It can withstand cold water temperatures that are found in the Great Lakes and would likely survive conditions during a Montana winter.

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Citation for data on this website:
Round Goby — Neogobius melanostomus.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from