Interspecific competition for a shelter between non-native racer goby and native European bullhead under experimental conditions - effects of season, fish size and light conditions.
Under laboratory conditions, we assessed by video-recorder whether or not the interference competition of invading racer goby Babka gymnotrachelus affects the habitat (refuge) use and behaviour of European bullhead Cottus gobio, a native nest-guarding species, during and after the spawning season, spring and autumn respectively, when available refuge (nesting) habitat is limited. A bullhead was placed in a tank for 24 h and then an intruder, either a goby or another bullhead was added for the next 24 h. We assessed: (1) the time spent by the two fish in the shelter; and (2) acts of aggression and attempts to enter the shelter. In spring, the amount of time spent in the shelter by the bullhead was considerably lower in the presence of a racer goby of larger or equal size than when the bullhead was alone. In autumn, bullheads occupied shelters at a similar frequency with and without a goby present. Smaller gobies were not able to replace bullhead residents in the shelter. Racer gobies were much more aggressive than bullheads of equal or smaller size, particularly in spring. Bullheads kept outside of the shelter by a resident goby made more attempts to enter the refuge during spring. In summary, under experimental conditions, racer gobies modified the typical behaviour of bullheads by reducing the use of shelter and potential nesting places.