Needlespine Coralgoby, Gobiodon acicularis Harold & Winterbottom 1995

Other Names: Needlespine Coral Goby

A Red-striped Coralgoby, Gobiodon axillaris. Source: John E. Randall / Fishbase via EOL. License: CC by Attribution-Noncommercial

A yellowish-brown to black coralgoby with an elongate and filamentous first dorsal-fin spine and a triangular first dorsal fin with the spines decreasing progressively in height posteriorly.
Coralgobies are highly specialised and live exclusively between branches of living acroporid corals.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Gobiodon acicularis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 Nov 2020,

Needlespine Coralgoby, Gobiodon acicularis Harold & Winterbottom 1995

More Info


Northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Elsewhere the species occurs in the Western Pacific: Indonesia, Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands, Palau and Australia. 
These obligate coral-dwelling gobies live exclusively between branches of acroporid corals, especially those of the genera Echinopora and Hydnophora.
A coralgoby pair inhabits the same coral colony for most of their adult life.


Dorsal fin VI + I, 10-11; Anal fin I, 9.

Body depth at level of pelvic fin 2.0-2.5 in SL; first dorsal-fin spine elongate and filamentous; triangular first dorsal fin; pelvic fin reaching anus, pelvic-fin frenum and basal membrane complete; scales absent.


Feeds on coral tissue, mucous, filamentous algae, detritus and tiny invertebrates from the .


Coralgobies are hermaphrodites, and individuals can change sex bi-directionally - from female to male and male to female. This ensures that there is always a breeding pair within a coral head.


The species is named acicularis in reference to the elongate spine of the first dorsal fin. 

Species Citation

Gobiodon acicularis Harold & Winterbottom 1995, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 108(4): 688, figs 1-2. Type locality: off Babelthuap Island, coral-enclosed area north of Arakataoch Stream, Belau (Palau), western Pacific.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Needlespine Coralgoby, Gobiodon acicularis Harold & Winterbottom 1995


Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Brooker, R.M., Munday, P.L. & Ainsworth, T.D. 2010. Diets of coral-dwelling fishes of the genus Gobiodon with evidence of corallivory. Journal of Fish Biology 76: 2578–2583,

Duchene D., Klanten, S.O., Munday, P.L., Herler, J. & van Herwerden, L. 2013. Phylogenetic evidence for recent diversification of obligate coral-dwelling gobies compared with their host corals. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 69: 123-132

Harold, A.S. & Winterbottom, R. 1995. Gobiodon acicularis, a new species of gobioid fish (Teleostei: Gobiidae) from Belau, Micronesia. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 108(4): 687-694, See ref at BHL

Harold, A.S., Winterbottom, R., Munday, P.L & Chapman, R.W. 2008. Phylogenetic relationships of Indo-Pacific coral gobies of the genus Gobiodon (Teleostei: Gobiidae), based on morphological and molecular data. Bulletin of Marine Science 82: 119-136. 

Larson, H.K. & Murdy, E.O. 2001. Eleotridae, Gobiidae. pp. 3574-3604 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Munday, P.L., Harold, A.S. & Winterbottom, R. 1999. Guide to coral-dwelling gobies, genus Gobiodon (Gobiidae), from Papua New Guinea and the Great Barrier Reef. Revue Française d’Aquariologie Herpétologie 26(1-2): 53-58,

Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian Reef Fishes. A comprehensive guide to the coral reef fishes of Micronesia. Guam : Coral Graphics vi 330 pp. 192 pls.

Nilsson, G.E., Hobbs, J.-P.A. & Ostlund-Nilsson, S. 2007. Tribute to P. L. Lutz: respiratory ecophysiology of coral-reef teleosts. Journal of Experimental Biology 210: 1673-1686.

Nilsson, G.E., Hobbs, J.-P.A., Ostlund-Nilsson, S. & Munday, P.L. 2007. Hypoxia tolerance and air-breathing ability correlate with habitat preference in coral-dwelling fishes. Coral Reefs 26: 241-248.

Schubert, M. 1999. Skin toxins and the ecology of coral gobies (Gobiodon: Gobiidae), Honours thesis, James Cook University, Townsville.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37428370

Behaviour:Commensal in branching corals


Depth:1-10 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:4 cm SL

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