information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Two spotted goby (Gobiusculus flavescens)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



Gobiusculus flavescens are small, slender gobies, reaching up to 6 cm in length. They are distinct from other gobies in that their eyes are on the side of the head (lateral) rather than on top (dorsal). There is a black spot at the base of the tail fin, and in the males, there is a second, smaller black spot beneath the pectoral fins. They are reddish to greenish brown in colour, paler on the undersides with dark reticulations dorsally. There are four light 'saddle' marks dorsally from the head to the end of the second dorsal fin. The two dorsal fins are banded red, with the first dorsal fin bearing 7 rays (instead of the more usual 6 in other gobies). Along the midline of the sides are a series of bluish markings. During the breeding season these markings become extremely bright in the males. The caudal fin is transversely banded.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Common on all coasts of Britain and Ireland.

Global distribution

Found in the eastern Atlantic from Faeroes, Vesteralen (Norway), and western Baltic to north west Spain excluding south east North Sea. Rarely reported in the Mediterranean.


Distinct from other goby species, Gobiusculus flavescens are frequently found hovering in small, loose shoals in the water column amongst Laminaria plants and Zostera beds and over seaweed covered rocks. They are found in intertidal pools and shallow water to a depth of 20 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • A black spot at the base of the tail fin.
  • Males exhibit a second black spot beneath pectoral fins.
  • Small and slender, up to 6 cm in length.
  • Eyes on side of head (lateral).
  • Characteristically found in loose shoals above or amongst Laminaria and Zostera beds.
  • Reddish to greenish brown with pale undersides.
  • Light coloured 'saddle' marks along the back.
  • First dorsal fin bears 7 rays.

Additional information

Wheeler (1969) remarks that breeding males become so brilliantly coloured that they are almost unrecognizable

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Dipper, F., 2001. British sea fishes (2nd edn). Teddington: Underwater World Publications Ltd.

  2. Fish, J.D. & Fish, S., 1996. A student's guide to the seashore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  3. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

  4. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  5. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  6. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  7. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  8. Picton, B.E., & Costello, M.J., 2001. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats and fauna of Britain and Ireland., 2001-06-01

  9. Wheeler, A., 1969. The fishes of the British Isles and north-west Europe. London: Macmillan.

  10. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


This review can be cited as:

Ballerstedt, S. 2008. Gobiusculus flavescens Two spotted goby. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 14-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 03/06/2008