Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Neogobius fluviatilis
(monkey goby)



Neogobius fluviatilis (monkey goby)


  • Last modified
  • 25 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Neogobius fluviatilis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • monkey goby
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • The monkey goby is considered to be one of the most successful fish invaders in European inland waters in recent decades (

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Monkey goby (male) lateral view; from the Bug River (from the River Vistula drainage system, Baltic Sea basin) collected in August 2007
TitleMonkey goby (male) lateral view
CaptionMonkey goby (male) lateral view; from the Bug River (from the River Vistula drainage system, Baltic Sea basin) collected in August 2007
Copyright©Joanna Grabowska
Monkey goby (male) lateral view; from the Bug River (from the River Vistula drainage system, Baltic Sea basin) collected in August 2007
Monkey goby (male) lateral viewMonkey goby (male) lateral view; from the Bug River (from the River Vistula drainage system, Baltic Sea basin) collected in August 2007©Joanna Grabowska
TitleMonkey goby (dorsal view)
Copyright©Joanna Grabowska
Monkey goby (dorsal view)©Joanna Grabowska
Monky goby; general view
TitleMonky goby; general view
CaptionMonky goby; general view
Copyright©Joanna Grabowska (nee Kostrzewa)
Monky goby; general view
Monky goby; general viewMonky goby; general view©Joanna Grabowska (nee Kostrzewa)


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Neogobius fluviatilis (Pallas, 1814)

Preferred Common Name

  • monkey goby

Other Scientific Names

  • Gobius fluviatilis Pallas, 1814
  • Gobius fluviatilis pallasi Berg, 1916
  • Gobius fluviatilis var. nigra Kessler, 1859
  • Gobius lacteus Nordmann, 1840
  • Gobius niger Eichwald, 1841
  • Gobius sordidus Bennett, 1835
  • Gobius steveni Nordmann, 1840

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Flussgrundel
  • Hungary: folyami géb
  • Netherlands: pontische stroomgrondel
  • Poland: babka szczupla
  • Russian Federation: babka; bychok peschanik
  • Slovakia: býcko riecny

Summary of Invasiveness

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The monkey goby is considered to be one of the most successful fish invaders in European inland waters in recent decades (Copp et al., 2005). It has expanded to seven countries in Europe outside its natural range (Belarus, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Germany and the Netherlands) where it has been recorded from the upper Dnieper, Pripyat, Vistula, Western Bug, Danube and Rhine river basins.

The expansion of monkey goby range in the Danube may be the result of natural migration encouraged by water transport and by human-mediated alteration of the river's environment, e.g. construction of reservoirs (Ahnelt et al., 1998). The intensive shipping explains the jump-like dispersal observed in the Danube system.

Biró (1971) considered the possibility that monkey goby was passively introduced into Lake Balaton by ships. Passive dispersal of gobiids by ships, especially cargo vessels, seems to occur quite regularly (Ahnelt et al., 1998). It is connected with the gobiids concealment behaviour, in which they may occupy holes and depressions on ships hulls. Males can use ships hulls as places for nests, and be transported together with fertile eggs for long distances. This behaviour, and their presence in the dockside, also predisposes gobies to be taken into ballast tanks. The transport of ballast waters on the Danube by tankers occurs regularly (Ahnelt et al., 1998).

Together with natural spread, shipping seems to be an essential factor for dispersal of non-native gobiids in the Dnieper and Pripyat rivers, whereas in the Vistula and Bug rivers monkey goby dispersal was through natural migration as the shipping intensity is very low (Semenchenko et al., 2011). Moreover, the expansion of the monkey goby as well as other Ponto-Caspian gobies also seems to be facilitated by construction of reservoirs on large European rivers (Slynko et al., 2011), as they have established abundant populations in the reservoirs. Thus, reservoirs with stable conditions suitable for reproduction and increase in abundance, may serve as sources for further expansion in the river system. Construction of canals that connect different river basins also facilitates expansion of this species.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Perciformes
  •                         Suborder: Gobioidei
  •                             Family: Gobiidae
  •                                 Genus: Neogobius
  •                                     Species: Neogobius fluviatilis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Phylogenetic results indicate that the current genus Neogobius is paraphyletic and that the subgenus Apollonia should therefore be elevated to the level of genus, containing Apollonia (N.) melanostomus (the round goby) and A. (N.) fluviatilis (the monkey goby) (Stepien and Tumeo, 2006). Based on analysis of cranial osteology Vasil’eva (1989) grouped the round goby and monkey goby into the single sub-genus Apollonia Iljin, 1927. A close relationship between those species from phenetic and phyletic studies, which share synapomorphic states for 37 characters, was also proved by Simonovic (1999).

Based on results of all phylogenetic approaches the subfamily Benthophilinae was recognized as encompassing both the ‘‘neogobiins” and tadpole gobies, and genetically diverges from other Gobiidae subfamilies (Neilson and Stepien, 2009). Benthophilinae contains three tribes: Neogobiini (Neogobius, which is synonymized here with Apollonia; containing the type species N. fluviatilis, along with N. melanostomus and N. caspius), Ponticolini (containing the genera Mesogobius, Proterorhinus, Babka, and Ponticola - elevating the latter two from subgenera and removing them from the formerly paraphyletic Neogobius), and Benthophilini (tadpole gobies) (Neilson and Stepien, 2009).

Neogobius fluviatilis used to be divided into two subspecies: N. f. fluviatilis (Pallas, 1814) in the Black and Azov Seas and associated drainages and N. f. pallasi (Berg, 1916) in the Caspian Sea basin. The two subspecies were distinguished by the presence of a darker lower band on the first dorsal fin, reduced average numbers of lateral scales and longitudinal scale rows and a shorter snout in N. f. pallasi (Berg, 1949), as well as some reported variations in osteology (Pinchuk et al., 2003). Recent phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear sequences discerned a pronounced genetic break between monkey gobies in the Black and Caspian Seas, indicating a long-term species-level separation dating to around 3 million years (Neilson and Stepien, 2011). This pronounced separation was confirmed by morphological and population genetic divergence. Thus, instead of the formerly identified subspecies of N. fluviatilis, according to the authors there are two separate species of monkey gobies: N. fluviatilis in the Black Sea basin, Don and Volga Rivers, and the Kumo-Manych Depression, and Neogobius pallasi in the Caspian Sea and Volga River delta (Neilson and Stepien, 2011).


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The monkey goby is a small/medium fish of total length up to 195-160 mm (males) and 128-115 mm (females) for Black Sea and Caspian Sea populations. The shape of the body is typically streamlined. Snout pointed. Interorbital space is about half to three-quarters eye diameter. Head width about equal (or slightly more) to depth. Mouth moderately obliquely upwards. Lower jaw prominent anteriorly. Angle of jaws below anterior age of orbit. As in all fish from the Perciformes family it has two dorsal fins with contiguous or slightly separated bases. First dorsal fin relatively high with more or less acute anterior profile. The second dorsal fin as well as anal fin profile descending evenly towards the rear tip. Pectoral fins reach beyond the second dorsal fin origin. Its pelvic fins form a very characteristic suction disc on the ventral surface. Caudal fin rounded. Caudal peduncle relatively shallow (Pinchuk et al., 2003). The body is scaled with ctenoid scales, but cycloid on rear breast, pectoral fin lobes and abdomen. The meristic features of monkey goby are: D1 VI (V-VII), D2 I/15-17 (14-18), A I/13-15 (12-17), scales in lateral line l.l. 57-65 (52-67) (Evlanov et al., 1998; Pinchuk et al., 2003).

Its coloration is rather pale, sandy to brownish grey, with small brownish irregular spots above the lateral line, along which there is a row of 8-9 or more rectangular black spots of larger size. The fish appears semi-transparent especially in the abdominal part where miomers are clearly visible under the skin. A dark streak runs from the eye to the angle of upper lip. First and second dorsal fins have 3-4 dark pigmented streaks, other fins more or less pale.

The dimorphism between sexes, apart from in the breeding season, is not clearly visible. Breeding males are much darker than females, sometimes almost black with distinct yellow or orange edges of dorsal and caudal fins. Tips of dorsal fins are elongated in spawning males.


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The monkey goby is an example of a relict Ponto-Caspian fish fauna and naturally occurs in freshwater, estuarine and coastal habitats of the Caspian Sea, Black Sea, Azov Sea and Sea of Marmara basins as well as the rivers flowing into them, e.g. Danube, Dniester, Dnieper, Don, Kuban, Southern Bug, Volga and Ural (Pinchuk et al., 2003).

Generally, in the first part of the nineteenth century its range was limited to lower sections of these rivers: for example, in the Danube it naturally inhabited from the delta as far upstream as the Iron Gate, a gorge that forms part of the boundary between Romania and Serbia (Oliva, 1960; Banarescu, 1964). In recent decades, expansion upstream has been observed in most of the above mentioned rivers. Along the Danube it has reached Hungary, Slovakia and Germany, and has also been recently found in the Waal River (the Rhine River system, the North Sea basin) in the Netherlands (Stránai and Andreji, 2001; Harka and Biró, 2007; Van Kessel et al., 2009).

Due to upstream migration in the Dnieper River the monkey goby spread to Belarus, and through the Dnieper-Bug canal it has entered rivers of the Baltic Sea basin, i.e. the Bug River (Eastern Bug) and the Vistula River in Poland (Grabowska et al., 2008; Semenchenko et al., 2011). It has also expanded its range upstream in the Volga River in Russia (Slynko et al., 2011).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


ArmeniaLocalisedNativePinchuk et al., 2003
AzerbaijanLocalisedNativePinchuk et al., 2003Coast of Caspian Sea, and estuaries and lower reaches of rivers entering the Caspian Sea
Georgia (Republic of)LocalisedIntroducedPinchuk et al., 2003Coast of Caspian Sea, and estuaries and lower reaches of rivers entering the Caspian Sea
KazakhstanLocalisedNativePinchuk et al., 2003Coast of Caspian Sea, and estuaries and lower reaches of rivers entering the Caspian Sea
TurkeyLocalisedNativePinchuk et al., 2003Coast of Black Sea, and estuaries and lower reaches of rivers entering the Black Sea; also the Marmara Sea catchment, Lake Manyas and Sapandzha, the Kozoly River


BelarusLocalisedIntroduced1936 Invasive Datamining 2011 - Invasive Species Databases; Vorontzov, 1937In the Dnieper and its tributary the Pripyat R.
BulgariaLocalisedNativePinchuk et al., 2003In the Danube R., up to the Iron Gate and its system, i.e. rivers such as Ogosta, Iskur, Vit to Pleven, Osam, Yantra
CroatiaPresentIntroducedDAISIE, 2011
GermanyLocalised2008Introduced2008Stemmer, 2008; Borcherding et al., 2011German section of the Rhine
HungaryLocalisedIntroduced1970 Invasive Biró, 1972; Pintér, 1989; Harka, 1993; Ahnelt et al., 1998In Lake Balaton
MoldovaLocalisedNativePinchuk et al., 2003In the Dniestr and Prut river basins
NetherlandsLocalisedIntroduced2009 Invasive Kessel et al., 2009The Waal River (Dutch part of the Rhine system), vicinity of the city of Nijmegen
PolandLocalisedIntroduced1997 Invasive Danilkiewicz, 1998; Kostrzewa and Grabowski, 2002; Kostrzewa et al., 2004; Grabowska et al., 2008In the middle course of the Bug R.
RomaniaPresentNativePinchuk et al., 2003In the Sasik R. (the Siret R. tributary – Danube system) and in the Danube up to Iron Gate. Lake Razelm.
-Southern RussiaLocalised Invasive Pinchuk et al., 2003; Slynko et al., 2011Lower section of the Volga River and Caspian Sea coast and estuaries of its rivers
SerbiaLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Banarescu, 1970; Jankovic, 1996; Simonovic et al., 2001In the Serbian part of the Danube R. and its tributaries: Czerna and Sava rivers
SlovakiaLocalisedIntroduced2001 Invasive Stránai and Andreji, 2001In the Danube and its tributaries including Hron R.
UkraineWidespreadNativeSmirnov, 1986; Pinchuk et al., 2003; Vasil'eva, 2003It is native in the lower section of the Dnieper River and in the Black Sea estuaries

History of Introduction and Spread

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In the Danube the monkey goby was detected for the first time outside its natural distribution area in 1965, prior to construction of dams ( Banarescu, 1970). Later (after 2000) it was recorded in a few localities in the Serbian section of the Danube and its tributaries there, e.g. the Sava and Czerna rivers (Simonovic et al., 2001). Thus, although the monkey goby is native to Serbia, its expansion to many new localities has been observed. A similar expansion also occurred in Ukraine in the Dnieper and its tributaries, and in Russia in the Volga (Smirnov, 1986; Slynko et al., 2001; Vasil’eva, 2003).

In Hungary the monkey goby was recorded for the first time in Lake Balaton in 1970 (Biró, 1971, 1972), and since 1984 in the Hungarian stretch of the Danube. The next records of its upstream migration come from Slovakia, where in 2001 it was collected in the Hungarian–Slovak section of the Danube (Stránai and Andreji, 2001). It also entered some of its tributaries like the Hron (Stránai and Andreji, 2001), Bodrog and Tisza rivers (Harka, 1997; Ahnelt et al., 1998), and in 2003 the Rába River at the border of Austria (Harka and Biró, 2007). In 2008 the species was collected in the German section of the Rhine in Duisburg harbour, and subsequently in 2009 it was observed in the Netherlands (the Waal River of the Rhine River system), possibly as a result of monkey goby dispersal through the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal (Van Kessel et al., 2009).

The upstream migration of the monkey goby in the Dnieper River began quite early as it was recorded in the middle section of the river in 1856 and again in 1932, at locations currently within the Ukraine (Berg, 1949). It was reported in the Belarusian part of the river in 1936 (Vorontzov, 1937). It penetrated to its tributary, the Pripyat River, in the early 1950s (Voronin, 1957). Due to the Dnieper–Bug canal that connects the basins of the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea (through the Pripyat River and the Muchavets River, a small tributary of the Bug River) it migrated to the Bug River (a tributary of the Vistula) in Poland, where it was found in 1997 only a few kilometers downstream of its convergence with the Dnieper-Bug canal (Danilkiewicz, 1998; Semenchenko et al., 2011).

In subsequent years, the species expanded downstream in the Vistula River and reached the river mouth in 2003 (Grabowska et al., 2008). The rate of spread in the Vistula River was estimated as 122 km per year (Semenchenko et al., 2011). Genetic analysis of introduced populations in the upper Danube/Hron River and Vistula River basins indicates a north-west Black Sea origin. Two distinct pathways of their expansion are identified: the Danube River and the Dnieper-Pripyat-Bug River system (Neilson and Stepien, 2011).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Belarus 1936 Interconnected waterways (pathway cause) Yes Vorontzov (1937) Upstream migration from the lower section of the Dnieper River
Belarus 1950 Interconnected waterways (pathway cause) Yes Voronin (1957) Upstream migration from the Dnieper River to the Pripyat River
Germany 2008 Interconnected waterways (pathway cause) Yes Kessel et al. (2009) In Rhine, introduced by upstream migration in the Rhine River
Hungary 1970 Interconnected waterways (pathway cause) Yes Biró (1971) Lake Bulaton. Passive transport by ships suggested, possibly from lower Danube
Hungary 1984 Interconnected waterways (pathway cause) Yes Biró (1972) Danube River, possibly from the lower river
Netherlands 2009 Interconnected waterways (pathway cause) Yes Kessel et al. (2009) First record from the North Sea Basin. Found in Waal River, possibly as a result of dispersal through Rhine–Main–Danube Canal
Poland 1997 Interconnected waterways (pathway cause) Yes Danilkiewicz (1998) Middle course of Bug River. First record from the Baltic Sea basin. Upstream migration from the Dnieper River through the Prypiat-Bug canal
Poland 2002 Interconnected waterways (pathway cause) Yes Kostrzewa and Grabowski (2002) Introduced to lower Vistula River by downstream migration from the Bug River
Serbia 1965 Interconnected waterways (pathway cause) Yes Banarescu (1970) First record of expansion in the Danube R. outside its previous range of distribution. Upstream migration from the lower section of the Danube River
Slovakia 2001 Interconnected waterways (pathway cause) Yes Stránai and Andreji (2001) Upstream migration in the Danube River
Ukraine 1932 Interconnected waterways (pathway cause) Yes Berg (1949) Introduced by upstream migration from the lower section of the Dnieper River

Risk of Introduction

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The further expansion of the monkey goby may be expected through three main invasion corridors for Ponto-Caspian hydrofauna identified by Bij de Vaate et al. (2002). The so-called southern and central corridors are especially important for the invasion to Western Europe i.e. from the Danube River through the system of canals that connects it with the Main River (the right tributary of the Rhine River, the North Sea basin) and from the Dnieper through the Vistula River system to the Oder and Laba rivers. Considering it is a euryhaline we can also expect that the monkey goby may enter the Baltic Sea. Thus, another route to the West and North of Europe is possible along the Baltic and North Sea coasts. The monkey goby spread may be due to natural migration combined with passive dispersal by ships and barges.     


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The monkey goby is a benthic euryhaline species, inhabiting from the entirely freshwaters of rivers and man-made lakes to brackish and polyhaline salinities of the Black, Azov and Caspian seas. In the seas it is found in coastal shallows on sandy or sandy-shelly bottom. In spring it is found typically at depths of 0.5 –5.0 m, but in late autumn and winter it moves to much deeper waters of 5-10 m (see Pinchuk et al., 2003 for review).  

Among fresh waters it prefers relatively large (in European scale) rivers (e.g. Danube, Dniest, Dnieper, Rhine, Vistula) with moderate current and sandy bottoms. In the Danube River system the monkey goby occurs mainly on sandy bottoms (Adámek et al., 2007), but also on gravel and gravel-rocky substrate although much less abundant here than bighead goby and round goby (Jurajda et al., 2005). Abundant populations are also found in reservoirs located on these rivers. Entering the down sections of their tributaries it avoids small rivers and streams with fast running water as well as flood plains e.g. in the Belarusian part of the Dnieper (Zhukov, 1965; Pinchuk et al., 2003). It is also common in large bays in the Danube delta (Pinchuk et al., 2003) and Rhine delta (Borcherding et al., 2011).

Habitat List

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Lakes Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Reservoirs Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Natural
Estuaries Principal habitat Natural
Lagoons Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Inshore marine Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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The monkey goby has a maximum life span of 5-6 years, but in most studied populations in its natural range does not exceed 3-4 years (Pinchuk et al., 2003). The age of maturation observed in its natural range is from 2 years at a total length from 40 to 120 mm (Smirnov, 1986; see Pinchuk et al., 2003 for review). Fecundity, depending on female size, ranges from 300 to 2000 or even 3000 mature oocytes (see Pinchuk et al., 2003). The egg diameter in gonads at the beginning of the spawning season is 1.5 to 2.0 mm. The spawned eggs are yellow-orange of pyriform shape, length 3.95 (3.7-4.2) mm by width 1.8 (1.7-2.0) mm (Bilko, 1968). It is a multiple spawner (at least two batches). The spawning starts in April when water temperature exceeds 11-14oC, reaches its peak in May at 18-19oC and lasts until June or July. Spawning occurs in shallow waters (usually 0.3-1.0 m and down to 2.3 m; Bilko, 1968). In the Lower Rhine spawning starts later in the year, although the above temperature thresholds are exceeded, and the first larvae are found in June (J Borcherding, University of Cologne, Germany, personal communication, 2012). 

Eggs are deposited in a nest on the underside of different structures such as rocks, stones, logs, roots, algal clumps, and empty shells of molluscs, as well as on human artifacts such as litter and ropes. The males guard their eggs until they hatch, fan the clutch with their pectoral fins, and defend the nest aggressively. The number of eggs found in one nest ranges from 150 to 6000, and more than one female may deposit eggs in the same nest (Bilko, 1968; Ulman, 1970).

Monkey gobies reach their defined phenotype very early in their ontogeny and thus represent a strongly precocial species with direct development ( Capová et al., 2008). They have been reported to feed on a variety of food items: invertebrates rather than fish. The diet is composed mainly of chironomid larvae, small Crustaceans i.e. amphipods; less frequently it includes Oligochaeta, Trichoptera, Simullidae and Mollusca but only large specimens (Biró, 1995; Kakareko et al., 2005; Adámek et al., 2007; Grabowska et al., 2009; see also Pinchuk et al., 2003 for review). In the Lower Rhine, however, large individuals have been observed to feed preferably on fish (J Borcherding, University of Cologne, Germany, personal communication, 2012).


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Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Tolerated Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 2.7 40.7

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) Optimum Saturation not less than 50-60%
Salinity (part per thousand) Optimum In the Caspian region (also polihaline waters of the northern Black Sea; Kartanitsky Bay), 0-17% tolerated
Water temperature (ºC temperature) Optimum from 4-20° tolerated

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Acanthocephaloides propinquus Parasite All Stages not specific Kvach, 2002; Kvach, 2005
Acanthocephalus lucii Parasite All Stages not specific Kvach, 2002; Kvach, 2005
Anodonta anatina Parasite All Stages not specific Ondracková et al., 2005
Apatemon cobitidis Parasite All Stages not specific Molnár, 2006
Contracaecum Parasite All Stages not specific Ondracková et al., 2005
Cryptocotyle concavum Parasite All Stages not specific Kvach, 2002; Kvach, 2004; Kvach, 2005
Cryptocotyle lingua Parasite All Stages not specific Kvach, 2002; Kvach, 2005
Dichelyne minutus Parasite All Stages not specific Kvach, 2002
Diplostomum Parasite All Stages not specific Ondracková et al., 2005
Eimeria daviesae Parasite All Stages not specific Molnár, 2006
Eustrongylides excisus Parasite All Stages not specific Kvach, 2004; Kvach, 2005
Goussia kessleri Parasite All Stages not specific Molnár, 2006
Goussia szekelyi Parasite All Stages not specific Molnár, 2006
Ichthyophthirius multifiliis Parasite All Stages not specific Molnár, 2006
Ligula pavlovskii Parasite All Stages to species Kvach, 2001; Kvach, 2004; Kvach, 2005
Metagonimus yokogawai Parasite All Stages not specific Molnár, 2006
Nicolla skrjabini Parasite All Stages not specific Kvach, 2004; Ondracková et al., 2005
Pomphorhynchus laevis Parasite All Stages not specific Molnár, 2006; Ondracková et al., 2005
Proteocephalus gobiorum Parasite All Stages to genus Kvach, 2002
Pseudanodonta complanata Parasite All Stages not specific Ondracková et al., 2005
Pygidiopsis genata Parasite All Stages not specific Kvach, 2002
Raphidascaris Parasite All Stages not specific Kvach, 2004; Kvach, 2005
Raphidascaris acus Parasite All Stages not specific Molnár, 2006; Ondracková et al., 2005
Telosentis exiguus Parasite All Stages not specific Kvach, 2002
Timoniella imbutiforme Parasite All Stages not specific Kvach, 2002
Unio tumidus Parasite All Stages not specific Ondracková et al., 2005

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The monkey goby is a prey of common freshwater predators like northern pike Esox lucius, perchpike Sander lucioperca, burbot Lota lota, European wels Silurus glanis and large individuals of perch Perca fluviatilis (Plachocki et al., in press; see also Pinchuk et al., 2003 for review). It is characterized by high parasite burdens over its entire range, with a wide variety of parasite species. Kvach (2001) reported high infection of monkey goby in one of the Dnieper River estuaries with the metazoan parasite Ligula pavlovskii which influences the biological condition of fish (Kvach, 2001).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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The species was not intentionally introduced anywhere. Its dispersal is considered to be both natural and passive. Shipping and man-made alterations of the river system seem to facilitate monkey goby expansion in large rivers of eastern and central Europe. Cargo vessels and ships with ballast water provide shelter and concealment for the species and a means of long distance transport, especially during reproductive seasons when males guard fertile eggs deposited in nests, settled possibly in any available holes of ship hulls. Harbours, reservoirs and artificial banks with rip-rap habitats are often preferred by gobiids and facilitate their establishment, and are sources for further expansion.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Interconnected waterwaysMigration upstream in rivers is facilitated by man-made alteration of the river Yes Ahnelt et al., 1998; Grabowska et al., 2008; Pinchuk et al., 2003; Semenchenko et al., 2011

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Ship ballast water and sedimentIn all stages of life Yes Yes Ahnelt et al., 1998
Ship hull foulingPossibly as eggs Yes Yes Ahnelt et al., 1998

Impact Summary

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Environment (generally) Negative

Environmental Impact

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The influence of monkey goby on invaded ecosystems needs detailed studies as its interactions with native fish species are unknown. Evaluating the potential impact of this species on ecosystems, several taxonomic groups of native macroinvetebrate hydrofauna could potentially be affected by the presence of this new omnivorous feeder. Moreover it can reduce food resources of many native species, as many European freshwater fish species utilize the same prey categories e.g. chironomid larvae, amphipods or oligochaetes.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Modification of natural benthic communities
  • Modification of nutrient regime
  • Negatively impacts aquaculture/fisheries
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Interaction with other invasive species
  • Predation


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The monkey goby used to be a commercially important species in the Ponto-Caspian region. It has been the most numerous and widely distributed of commercially exploited gobies, constituting 54% (varying in importance from region to region) of the entire goby catch in the northern Caspian and 42% in the Dnieper-Bug estuaries. In the Azov Sea it was the third most common species in catches (see also Pinchuk et al., 2003 for review). Traditionally, as with other gobies, monkey gobies were consumed dried or as a soup. The species is of some significance as a food for more commercially valuable predatory species. Nowadays, monkey gobies are less abundant, and the absence of large concentrations of the species prevents its widespread commercial exploitation (see Pinchuk et al., 2003 for review). In newly invaded areas there is no commercial value for the monkey goby.

Uses List

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Human food and beverage

  • Food


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Adámek Z; Andreji J; Gallardo JM, 2007. Food habitats of four bottom-dwelling gobiid species at the confluence of the Danube and Hron Rivers (South Slovakia). International Review of Hydrobiology, 92:554-563.

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31/12/11 Original text by:

Joanna Grabowska, University of Lodz, Dept Invertebrate Zoology & Hydrobiology, Banacha 12/16, 90-237 Lodz, Poland

Reviewers' names are available on request.

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