Aquarium fish: Stiphodon (Stiphodon ornatus)
Size: 6.5 – 7 cm
Origin: Asia
Water temperature: 20-28 ° C
Aquarium volume: 60 l

Stiphodon (Stiphodon ornatus ) – a gentle species of aquarium fish from the order of the perch, belonging to the goby family. In Poland, under this name, there is another species from the Gobiidae family – Vanderhorstia delagoae. These fish can turn their heads to some extent. Unfortunately, due to their special nutritional requirements and high oxygen demand, skinny, neglected individuals that can be difficult to recover are often available for sale.



Endemic species, occurs only in the provinces of Aceh and West Sumatra, Sumatra, Indonesia. The location is a small river that runs close to the village of Barung Barung Belantai in West Sumatra. It lives almost alone in short coastal streams, with habitats lying over waterfalls or water rapids. This makes it inaccessible to most species of other fish. The gradient of the streams varies by location.

Stiphodon species inhabiting fast-flowing waters or living near waterfalls do not have elongated dorsal fin rays, and the first dorsal fin is rounded and approximately the same height as the second dorsal fin. Species with a taller front dorsal fin with elongated rays (usually seen in males) tend to live in slower-flowing waters and do not climb up waterfalls. S. ornatus belongs to the latter group, although detailed information is lacking. In places of occurrence, the ground is usually rocky, with loosely scattered stones and boulders.

In the vicinity of the shore, vegetation and sunken leaves can be found. Other vegetation is not present. There is evidence to suggest that different Stiphodon species actively choose a particular type of substrate, with some appearing to focus on rocks or boulders within a certain size range. In females, the range appears to be narrower than for males, so there may be a division between species or within species depending on the location. All habitats are characterized by very clean, well-oxygenated water which, in combination with the tropical sun, facilitates the development of a rich biofilm on submerged surfaces.

Gobies successfully colonize these niche environments that provide them with a food source and are an important factor in their reproductive strategy.

Characteristics and disposition

It has a typical grandmother’s build, an elongated body, a large round head and fused pelvic fins. S. ornatus may be marketed under different names and although its identification was not clear until 2013, it appears to be the most common species of  Stiphodon in the trade . Under the same name, you can meet other almost identical-looking species, the males of which also show remarkable variability of colors depending on the mood.

It can be confused with S. atratus , S. imperiorientis , S. martenstyni , S. pelewensis , S.

pulchellus , and S. weberi. However, there is little information on the morphological differences and coloration between these species. Species S. ornatuswe will recognize the following combination of features.

The second dorsal fin usually has 9 soft rays. In males, the front dorsal fin is pointed with 3 to 5 elongated spines. Pectoral fin usually with 15 soft rays. The caudal fin in males measures 29-35% of their standard length. In individuals up to 50mm in length, there are 33-45 premaxillary teeth, in larger ones, over 50mm, between 44-47 teeth.

Males do not have a white patch behind the base of their pectoral fin. In both sexes, the back of the neck and back of the head are always covered with cycloid scales. Coloration of males usually with 7-11 faint dark transverse stripes on the hind half of the torso and tail, sometimes with two broad side stripes below the first and second dorsal fin bases. The Gobiidae are the most specific family of vertebrates and notoriously problematic to identify. As with all representatives of the genus, sexual dimorphism is pronounced, although in this case males are difficult to define .

The basic color of the body ranges from pale olive to dark brown with dark-edged scales. However, it should be borne in mind that these fish can very quickly change their coloration to even darker ones. The pace and frequency of these changes also varies greatly. In an aquarium, some individuals may remain dark most of the time, others change color every bit, and some do not darken at all. The color of the cheeks can be orange or golden to bright blue.

The fins are orange to red, with dark rays. The second radial, anal and distal caudal fins are edged in white and blue. All fins have irregular rows of dark markers. In darker specimens, the fins will also be darker, and in extreme cases, completely black, with only a thin orange to blue border. Females are relatively lighter in color and look similar to other species with a pale basic coloration and two dark side stripes on the body.

Unlike other species, these stripes are uniform, with straight edges, especially in the front part. The other two thin strips run across the head and back, blend into one around the other dorsal fin, and touch the upper body strip at the base of the tail. When the fish are stressed or excited, the coloration significantly fades, the scales of the body appear black-edged, the fins have irregular rows of dark spots, in some individuals with light discoloration. All Stiphodon species have a suction cup made of a pair of pelvic fins. It allows them to firmly attach to various surfaces in a strong current of water.

Thanks to it, vertical climbs are also possible, e.g. up river rapids. Even when the water falls with great force towards them, they are able to climb really high. The snout in the upper jaw line is densely packed with premaxillary teeth. These teeth act like a comb, in the hands of a sadistic hairdresser, they comb through the algae, tearing out a large amount of them.

The above-mentioned suction cup provides extra leverage and helps detach algae and other edible microorganisms. Males are somewhat territorial, especially during the breeding season, but can be kept more in a correspondingly larger space. Sometimes they chase each other away, ruffling the gill covers and fins, but they don’t hurt each other too much. In nature, males usually stay alone and females in loose groups, therefore it is best to keep one male with several females in the aquarium. Interestingly, females of different related species may group together, but despite their great similarity, males appear to be able to tell them apart.

These fish swim in jumps over the entire surface of the bottom. Often they can also be observed stuck to the aquarium glass.

Nutrition and feeding

Stiphodon species feed primarily on benthic algae and related microorganisms. They have a specially toothed mouth, adapted to scrape algae, with full soft lips and regenerative teeth. The suction cup made of joined belly fins not only keeps the fish in a fast current, but also provides the right pressure and leverage while feeding.

In the aquarium, they can eat spirulina tablets falling to the bottom, plant flakes and sometimes live or frozen foods, e.g. water, artemia, daphnia. Animal foods should be given irregularly and sparingly, because their digestive system is primarily adapted to the processing of plant matter. An optimal diet will be provided by a mature and well-lit aquarium with lots of algae surfaces. Some aquarists set up separate tanks only for the cultivation of algae.

Such a tank does not have to be large, it only requires strong light, and in the spring and summer season it can be kept outside, for example on the balcony. Plantain prefer soft algae, e.g. diatoms, cyanobacteria or green algae, while harder algae, e.g. brush-like algae, will not be eaten.


Contrary to popular belief that they can be kept even in an aquarium below 60 liters, these fish need a little more space.

The key criterion is the size of the bottom area, which should be at least 80 × 30 cm for several individuals. The depth of the reservoir is not that important. Rainbow goby are not difficult to breed, as long as we meet a few basic requirements. The most important thing is that the water should be perfectly clean and well-oxygenated. Efficient filtration, additional circulators, air stones, etc.

are recommended. The substrate can be sandy, gravel or mixed. There should be a layer of smooth pebbles of various sizes on top of it. You can also use old, washed-out wood for decoration. New wood can discolor the water, which will reduce the amount of artificial light entering the aquarium, which should be strong enough to ensure the growth of algae and micro organisms.

Some aquarists keep a filter sponge in the aquarium as a habitat for an additional food source. If many males or different species are kept, they should be provided with many hiding places in the rock structure and the lines of sight should break. You should also remember that males, in particular, tend to dig into the ground while sleeping or spawning, so larger rocks are best placed directly on the bottom of the tank. These fish choose a different resting place every night, and the females prefer uninhabited places. Despite the lack of aquatic vegetation in their natural environment, we can place durable plants such as Mikrozorium, Crinum or Anubias in the tank.

The leaves of the latter are especially popular with algae and can be used as a shelter. Since they need stable water parameters and feed on biofilm, they should never be introduced into new, immature aquariums. They require weekly water changes of approx. 30-50%. Cleaning the tank of algae can only be limited to the windshield.

The aquarium should be tightly covered, as these fish can climb vertical surfaces. Rainbow plantain can be kept in a social aquarium, but mates should be selected carefully. The best choice will be similar-sized, gentle species naturally inhabiting the upper zones of well-oxygenated streams, eg Tanichthys (Chinese Cardinal), Microdevario , smaller Danio . They can be successfully kept with a variety of Kąaczowatymi, small Piękniczowymi and prawns of the genus Caridina and Neocaridina . The bottom companions can be small loaches of the genera Gastromyzon , Pseudogastromyzon , Barbucca , or Acanthopsoides and the genera Annamia, Homaloptera.Beware of aggressive species, e.g.

many of Schistura . The bad combination will be large fish, cichlids and other territorial species inhabiting the bottom zones.


In the aquarium, the courtship of these fish is observed, and sometimes it also spawns, but so far no one has managed to raise fry. This is likely due to a complex amphidromic breeding strategy in which adult individuals live and reproduce in freshwater streams, while initially pelagic larvae after hatch are washed downstream into the sea, where the larval fry spend the first part of their lives developing in the sea. After reaching a certain age, they begin to migrate up the rivers, such a journey sometimes requires spectacular climbing, e.g.

up waterfalls or rocky slopes. For their small size, females are extremely fertile and can lay up to 10,000 eggs during a single spawning period. The eggs are small, pear-shaped, 0.5 mm in diameter and stick to the surface with the help of fibers. Usually the female places them on the underside of the rocks. The large number of fry reduces threats such as predation or the possibility of being too dispersed in the sea, and the small size allows them to be nourished by microscopic plankton.

Spawning is initiated by an intensely colored male, who tries to encourage the female to the selected place, while driving her rivals away. Spawning mostly occurs under rocks. In the aquarium, it has been observed that at the climax, first the male dives its head into the ground, followed by the female. After fertilization, the male takes care of the eggs. The incubation time is approximately 24 hours.

After hatching, the larvae are not fully developed, have a large yolk sac, and no mouth, anus, or functioning eyes. The yolk sac is absorbed in 3-4 days and during this period the larvae must reach the ocean. Probably the short incubation and hatching times increase the chances of success. The fact that Stiphodon species only occur in relatively short, steep streams is also linked to this migration. The larvae initially float in the water before they land in the shallow wave zone.

One study found that S. percnopterygionus pelagic larvae were transparent and had a marginal caudal fin, while “sedentary” larvae were pigmented. Interestingly, the size of pelagic larvae ranged from 13.5-14.2 mm, and sedentary larvae were 12.7-13.6 mm. The pelagic period ranged from 78 to 146 days and was longer at lower temperatures. During the annual cooling down period between December and April, gonadal activity of both sexes decreases significantly and the fish are likely to stop reproducing, while the breeding peak is in June-November.

Once embedded in the substrate, the larvae begin to lose their temporary abilities, their caudal fins disappear, and they begin their journey upstream to join the adults. Sometimes they have to travel several kilometers inland, often in cascades or sections with fast current. The pelvic fins are joined together to form a circular sucker that allows juveniles to stick to hard surfaces and climb steep slopes, in some cases even up vertical waterfalls. This journey may take several months and the fish will reach sexual maturity within a year. Since they are believed to have a natural lifespan of around two years, they are likely to spawn soon, if not immediately, upon arrival at the breeding grounds.

McDowall (2007) provided a list of potential benefits for fish using such a breeding strategy, hypothesizing that it could facilitate the colonization of new islands emerging in volcanic areas and / or allow streams to recolonize after events such as volcanic eruptions / rapid water flow changes during the season. rainy season. He also believed that leaving the marine environment could be seen as a trade-off, since amphiphromic goby are often the only fish found in their habitat, predators are virtually non-existent, but the available food sources are much less diverse than in the ocean. The ability to comb the biofilm seems to be the key to success.


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