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

Rock goby (Gobius paganellus)

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



Gobius paganellus is a moderately large species of goby growing up to 12 cm. It has a rounded head and large eyes, which are quite close together. The rock goby is usually dark brown in colour or light brown with dark mottlings and there is a pale band on the upper margin of the first dorsal fin. This band is creamy or yellowy in females and a bright yellow to orange in males. Around the nostrils there are 5-6 finger-like protrusions.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Most records are from the south and west coasts of England and Scotland and around the Welsh and Irish coast. However the rock goby is likely to be found on eastern coasts where rocky outcrops are present.

Global distribution



Gobius paganellus is present in rocky habitats from the intertidal down to around 15 m. It can be found on shores with lots of seaweed cover in rock pools and under stones.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Small in size, round in cross-section with two dorsal fins.
  • Upper rays of pectoral fins reach almost to origin of dorsal fin.
  • Large eyes quite close together.
  • Nostrils with 5-6 finger-like protrusions.
  • Pale brown with dark mottling to dark brown in colour.
  • Light band on upper margin of first dorsal fin.
  • Grows up to 12 cm.

Additional information

It is possible that Gobius paganellus could be confused with the giant goby (Gobius cobitis), which shares similar habitats. However, the giant goby is much larger and grows up to 27 cm. The black goby (Gobius niger) is also similar to the rock goby but the black goby is found almost exclusively on muddy or sandy substrata and has a much larger first dorsal fin.

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. FishBase, 2000. FishBase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line], 2001-05-03

  2. 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.]

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

  4. MarLIN (Marine Life Information Network), 2005. SEArchable BEnthic Data (SEABED) Map [on-line]. Data Access Sub-programme, Marine Life Information Network for Britian and Ireland,

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

  6. Picton, B.E. & Morrow, C.C., 2000. Encyclopaedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland., 2003-09-18

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

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

  9. 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:

Reeve, A. 2008. Gobius paganellus Rock 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 16-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 03/07/2008