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Stippled Clingfish Care | A Weird Looking Fish |

Stippled clingfish are different from other fish species and you may not identify them as fish due to their shape.

They are shaped like tadpoles with a wide flattened head. Clingfish do not have scales and their body is covered with a thick coating of slime.

It makes the fish very slippery and you cannot catch them by hand. As the name suggests, fish cling to a substrate such as rocks and shallow reefs using a special structure.

Stippled clingfish

They have a large suction disk formed by the union of the pelvic fins and the adjacent folds of flesh.

With help of this suction, they are able to stay in rocks and leaves without being swept away in the ocean current.

Their slippery body is covered with tiny olive dots. The head and nape are covered with larger dark dots. 

Clingfish belong to the family of Gobiesocidae. It is the only family in the order Gobiesocidae. The scientific name of this species is Gobiesox punctulatus .

They are spread from Western Atlantic from Florida to Northern South America in Barbados, Grenada,  Jamaica, St Kitts, and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, and the Grenadines, Trinidad, and Tobago, and Venezuela.

The stippled clingfish categorized under the “Least concern” category in the  IUCN list. 

The stippled clingfish are small fish that are widespread in tropical and temperate regions. Although clingfish can live near the coast, deeper seas, or freshwater, stippled clingfish live in tidal zones where the current and wave action is strong. They shelter in shallow reefs, seagrass beds, and submerged or merged rocks. 

How big do Stippled clingfish get?

The maximum length is 6.4 cm in the wild.

Is Stippled clingfish aggressive?

They are semi-aggressive in captivity. But most of the time they live peacefully in the aquarium. 

Stippled clingfish behavior

As their name suggests, this fish spends its time clinging to different surfaces such as rocks and ledges.

They cling hard to the substrate and when the ocean waves withdraw, they get out of the water. Stippled clingfish can survive even if there is no water surrounding them, by breathing water stored in their suction cup.

They leave the clinging surfaces only when they need food. Stippled clingfish wag their white-edged and paddle-shaped tails while clinging to rocks.

They are semi-aggressive in captivity. However, they live peacefully with most of the fish species. They become territorial when they live with the same species or other clingfish species.

How long do Stippled clingfish live?

No exact period was found. However, many aquarists suppose they live 5-10 years.

One look Care guide

Scientific nameGobiesox punctulatus
Common nameStippled clingfish 
Care levelAverage 
Native toBarbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Florida, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico, South America, The Bahamas, the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, USA, Venezuela 
Type Saltwater fish 
Color Light brown to grey with dark dots 
Tank size22 gal (~ 100L)
Prefered temperature78.8 °F (26°C)
Size6.3 cm
Growth rateRapid 
Temperament Semi-aggressive
Recommended tank matesFairy wrasse
Curious wormfish
Small goby species
Preferred foodSmall crustaceans such as shrimps, worms, small fish, brine shrimp, frozen foods and mysis. 
Feeding frequency2-3 times 
breedingEgg-laying species can be done in captivity

Stippled clingfish care

Stippled clingfish size

They are not big fish. The maximum length they can reach is 6.4 cm in captivity

Stippled clingfish tank size

As they are not big fish, 22 gal (~ 100L) will be enough for one clingfish. 

How many Stippled clingfish should be kept together?

There is no evidence. but according to the literature you can have up to three clingfish if you have enough space in your aquarium. Make sure you feed them enough.

Tank setup

They are bottom dwellers. They cling to the rocks and similar structures and therefore you have to provide them with such surfaces.

Make sure your aquarium decorations are free of sharp edges. They seem to be nocturnal and hence it is good to use small LED lights throughout the time. 

Water quality condition

Since they are very sensitive to water conditions, make sure you keep the water parameters at the desired range.

They live in tropical environments when they are in their natural environment. Therefore, they need warm water in the aquarium too. 

Stippled clingfish breeding the water temperature should be in the range of 78.8 °F (26°C)

Stippled clingfish male or female identification 

Both male and female stippled clingfish look the same. However, comparatively the female clingfish is larger than the male

Stippled clingfish breeding

They breed at night or early in the morning. If you need to breed them, you have to make their aquarium darker.

The male spawn with the female and the female lays eggs in the clutch. It lays approximately 150 eggs and the male then guards them on his own, constantly fanning and watching over them.

At first, the eggs are clear, and then with the development of the embryo, a black pigment appears. Usually, it takes eleven days to hatch the eggs. 

Stippled clingfish fry care

Once the fry comes out of the eggs, it is good to transfer them to another tank. The shape and the size of the fry look like mosquito larvae.

You can use a small air-driven sponge filter. It is good to change 75%of water daily. As they do not prefer daylight, use small LED lights and it does not make any significant difference if you put on the light for 24 hours.  

You can feed the fry with rotifers and newly hatched decapsulated Artemia. It is reported that many of the fries will die during this period and only the largest and strongest fry will remain.

It will take 25-30 days to transform the free-swimming fry into the real shape of the clingfish.

After the 25-30 days, their pelvic fins and suction cup develop and you can see the juvenile clingfish which sucks the substrate.

Be careful when to change the water, at this point because they are very sticky and may stick to the instruments you use for the water change.

At this stage, you can introduce them to frozen food pallets and copepods. After 46  days, they are big enough to eat frozen Mysis shrimp.    

They have a very rapid growth rate and they become like adults within one and half a month. They can be very territorial at this stage.

Therefore, it is better to separate them. You can transfer the fully grown adults to a community tank after 3.5-4 months and make sure they have enough space if you are going to put more than one stippled clingfish into the tank. 

Feeding behavior of Stippled clingfish 

What do they eat ( in the wild and in an aquarium)

They are carnivorous. They feed on small crustaceans such as shrimps, worms, and small fish when they are in the wild.

In captivity, they can be trained to eat many foods such as brine shrimp, frozen foods, and mysis. 

How often should you feed

You can feed them 2-3 times a day

When should you feed (time of the day)

Many aquarists suggest that they seem to be nocturnal and therefore, it is good to feed them during the night or when it is dark. 

How long they can go without food

Not known. But cannot thrive long without food.

What fish can live with Stippled clingfish?

They reside peacefully with many fish species. Fairy wrasse, filefish, tilefish, curious wormfish, and small goby species are best matches. However, they are territorial with other species and the same species of clingfish. 

Is Stippled clingfish aggressive?

They are semi-aggressive, but most of the time they live peacefully with other fish species. 

Can Stippled clingfish live in a pond?

Technically, yes.  They can live in a pond.

Credit to : King Tide Corals
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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.