30 Nov

Partner Gobies and Pistol Shrimp – Advantageous Community Living

When diving in Bali, we often look out for big fish like manta rays, molas, sharks and turtles. But people that dive more frequently around Bali will find that often a lot of the marine life here happens quiet and secretly on the ocean floor; if you take the time to observe the sand, you will discover a different underwater world.

Crabs and garden eels lurk with their heads out of the sand. A leopard flounder glides through your sight and there are these holes everywhere.

In many of them, advantageous communities can be found like those of the partner goby and the pistol shrimp.




Let’s conclude what either of them brings to the table:

The pistol shrimp is the construction worker – his department is the hole. Like a bulldozer, he pushes the sand in front of him, keeping the cave clean and expanding the living space. He can only do this, because the goby is an excellent bouncer. As soon as the goby feels the slightest hazard approaching, she will make contact with her caudal (tail) fin and the pistol shrimps antenna, so the shrimp can retreat into the hole. Pistol shrimps don’t have a good visual orientation and thus depend of the help of their bodyguard. The goby on the other hand gets a solid and clean home that she can retreat to, once in danger.


goby fish


Fascinating studies have shown that gobies can even help the pistol shrimp with finding a nice meal, by transporting algae to the entry of the cave. Even active feeding has been observed. A former photography friend of mine told me that she spotted a pair of gobies, helping their pistol shrimp to find a partner by leading them to another cave. Wingmanship by the books and most definitely a blind date by nature.

If you want to dive with gobies and pistol shrimps, we can recommend the areas in Padangbai, Amed and Tulamben. Aside from beautiful reefs, you can also find sandy slopes with lots of tiny and spectacular life to be explored.

If you are interested in symbiotic relationships as the one between pistol shrimp and goby, then the PADI Underwater Naturalist Special Course is for you.

Have you already observed their useful synergy underwater in Bali or somewhere else? Share your experiences and observations!


Written by Felix Schroers

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