Invasion History

First Non-native North American Tidal Record: 1963
First Non-native West Coast Tidal Record: 1963
First Non-native East/Gulf Coast Tidal Record:

General Invasion History:

Acanthogobius flavimanus (Yellowfin Goby) is a coastal and estuarine fish native to the Northwest Pacific. Its native range extents from Peter the Great Bay, Russia, to Kyushu, Japan (Golikov et al. 1976; Froese and Pauly 2018). This fish enters brackish and fresh water, but requires a salinity of at least 5 PSU for successful development. In 1963, two specimens of A. flavimanus were collected in fresh water in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Brittan et al. 1963). By 1970 the Yellowfin Goby was widespread and abundant in the entire bay and estuary, and in reservoirs connected to the Delta by canals but located far inland (Brittan 1970). Currently, this fish ranges from Bodega Bay to San Diego (Williams et al. 1008; USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2018). In 1971, A. flavimanus was collected in Sydney, Australia, and later spread to Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, and South Australia (Hoese 1973; Lockett and Gomo 1999; Lockett and Gomon 2001). This fish has probably been transported by ships' ballast water, though some authors have proposed eggs in fouling or oysters as possible vectors (Brittan et al. 1963; Haaker 1979; Middleton 1983; Lockett and Gomon 2001).

North American Invasion History:

Invasion History on the West Coast:

Acanthogobius flavimanus was first collected was first collected at Prisoners Point, Venice Island, in the San Joaquin River on January 18, 1963. Another specimen was caught in the Stockton Deepwater Channel on March 29, 1963. Both of these collections were made in tidal freshwater in the San Francisco estuary Delta (Brittan et al. 1963). By 1968, A. flavimanus had been collected through most of the San Francisco estuary from Richardson Bay, near the Golden Gate, throughout the South and San Pablo Bays to the lower Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, to the ports of Sacramento and Stockton. Remarkably, large numbers of dead Yellowfin Gobies were found in the San Luis Reservoir in 1967, which is 100 miles southeast of San Francisco. This reservoir receives freshwater through the O'Neill Forebay, which receives water from the Delta through the California Aqueduct and from the Delta-Mendota Canal. The fish were killed by an anoxic event in the reservoir. Also in 1967, one fish was caught in a tributary creek of the Bolinas Lagoon, which is a separate estuary about 15 miles north of the Golden Gate (Brittan et al. 1970). Acanthogobius flavimanus was collected in Tomales Bay in 1970, Estero Americano in Bodega Bay in 1972, and Elkhorn Slough in 1972 (USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2018).

On September 22, 1977 an individual A. flavimanus was photographed in Los Angeles Harbor, and on March 29, 1978 a specimen was collected in Long Beach Harbor. In 1978, more specimens were collected in Newport Beach, the San Gabriel River, and the Long Beach Swimming Lagoon, near the mouth of Los Angeles Harbor (Haaker 1979). The Yellowfin Goby has spread north and south to other southern California estuaries, reaching the San Dieguito River (1984), San Diego Bay (1988), Los Penasquitos Lagoon (1989), and the Tijuana Estuary in 1990 (Williams et al. 1998; Williams et al. 2001), Santa Margarita River (1998, (USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2018) and Ballona Marsh and Mugu Lagoon, near Los Angeles (Swift et al. 1993). Based on their genetic differences, the southern California and Northern California-San Francisco Bay populations are suspected of being separate introductions (Nielson and Wilson 2005; Hirase et al. 2017). The San Francisco Bay population was most similar to fish from Tokyo Bay, but the origin of the southern population was not clear (Hirase et al. 2017).

Invasion History Elsewhere in the World:

In 1971, a specimen of Acanthogobius flavimanus was collected in Sydney Harbour, New South Wales. By 1973, 17 fish had been collected (1971, Hoese 1973). This Goby was found in two locations in New South Wales in the late 1970s, Botany Bay and the Hawkesbury River, in Newcastle (Middleton 1982; Lockett and Gomon 2001). In 1990, it was collected in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, and was found to be established in the northern part of Bay (Lockett and Gomon 2001). It has not undergone the rapid geographical and population expansion noted in California, perhaps because of warmer temperatures (Lockett and Gomon 2001), and/or of low genetic diversity (Hirase 2017).


Acanthogobius flavimanus (Yellowfin Goby) is a coastal and estuarine fish that enters brackish and fresh water. It has the typical features of the family Gobiidae, including the two pelvic fins united to form a conical sucking disk, two dorsal fins (the anterior fin is spiny and the posterior one is soft), and eyes near the top of the head. The dorsal fins have eight contiguous spines and 14 rays. The lateral line is not noticeable. Scales are large, with about 55 to 65 in the mid-lateral series. The anal fin is about equal in length to the soft dorsal fin, with 11-12 rays. The body is somewhat elongated, rounded anteriorly, and laterally compressed posteriorly. The head is about 30% of body length. The maxillae almost reach the midpoint of the eyes. The body is light brown, with five to seven diffuse, dusky dark-brown patches along each side. The dorsal fins are speckled with dark brown dots. There are about ten dark zigzag bands on the caudal fin. Yellowfin gobies reach 250 and occasionally 300 mm (Miller and Lee 1972; Golikov et al. 1976; Eschmeyer and Herald 1983; Froese and Pauly 2018; California Fish Website 2018).


Taxonomic Tree

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:   Chordata
Subphylum:   Vertebrata
Superclass:   Osteichthyes
Class:   Actinopterygii
Subclass:   Neopterygii
Infraclass:   Teleostei
Superorder:   Acanthopterygii
Order:   Perciformes
Suborder:   Gobioidei
Family:   Gobiidae
Genus:   Acanthogobius
Species:   flavimanus


Aboma snyderi (Jordan & Fowler, 1902)
Gobius flavimanus (Temminck & Schlegel, 1845)

Potentially Misidentified Species

Acanthogobius stigmothonus (Richardson, 1845)
Acanthogobius stigmothonus (Richardson, 1845), native to the South China Sea, and Gulf of Tonkin, has been considered synonymous, but is now regarded as a separate species (Froese and Puly 2018).

Eucyclogobius newberryi
Tidewater Goby, smaller (to 57 mm, spiny dorsal is clear at tip.

Gillichthys mirabilis
Lonngjaw Mudsucker (to 210 mm), gap between dorsal fins, very long jaw, and chunkier body than the Yellowfin goby.

Lepidiogobius lepidus
Bay Goby, native, smaller (to 100 mm), gap between dorsal fins, different color pattern.



Acanthogobius flavimanus (Yellowfin Goby) is a coastal and estuarine fish that enters brackish and fresh water. Male fish mature after one year and females in two years at 190-233 mm length (Suzuki et al. 1989; California Fish Website 2018). Fish in freshwater move into brackish waters with salinities above 5 PSU to breed. Males excavate a Y-shaped vertical nest in mud or coarse sand. The nest consists of two tunnels, which join to form a chamber. Females attach the club-shaped eggs to the roof of the tunnel and the males fertilize and guard them. The eggs take about 28 days at 13 C to develop. The newly hatched larvae are about 4.5 mm long and are planktonic, feeding on copepods (Dotu and Mito 1955; California Fish Website 2018). The larvae migrate vertically in the water column, moving upward on incoming tides and downward on outgoing times, which favors upstream transport (Bennett et al. 2001).

Acanthogobius flavimanus is known from a wide range of marine, estuarine, and freshwater habitats. These gobies can
 tolerate a wide range of salinities and temperatures (at least 0-50 PSU, 7-32 C), and colonize a range of estuarine habitats, including fresh, brackish and salt marshes, lagoons and salt ponds (Brittan et al. 1970; Mejia et al. 2008; Workman et al. 2007; Williams et al. 1998). They require a salinity of at least 5 PSU to breed, but are capable of migrating long distances up rivers (Brittan et al. 1970; Workman et al. 2007).  They are mostly benthic ambush feeders, feeding on benthic macroinvertebrates, including insects, crustaceans and polychaetes (Workman et al. 2007; Cohen and Bollens 2008; Howe et al. 2014). As a now-abundant fish in California estuaries, Yellowfin Gobies are a frequent prey species for larger predatory fishes (e.g. Striped Bass, Morone saxatilis, Nobriga and Feyrer 2008) and for Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina richardii).


copepods, amphipods, insects, bivalves


Fishes, birds

Trophic Status:




General HabitatUnstructured BottomNone
General HabitatGrass BedNone
General HabitatTidal Fresh MarshNone
General HabitatOyster ReefNone
Salinity RangeLimnetic0-0.5 PSU
Salinity RangeOligohaline0.5-5 PSU
Salinity RangeMesohaline5-18 PSU
Salinity RangePolyhaline18-30 PSU
Salinity RangeEuhaline30-40 PSU
Salinity RangeHyperhaline40+ PSU
Tidal RangeSubtidalNone
Vertical HabitatNektonicNone
Vertical HabitatEpibenthicNone

Tolerances and Life History Parameters

Minimum Temperature (ºC)7.8Workman et al. 2007, lower Mokelumne River, CA. Probably tolerates lover temperatures,
Maximum Temperature (ºC)31.6Williams et al. 1998, Sweetwater Marsh, San Diego.
Minimum Salinity (‰)0Frequent freshwater occurrences
Maximum Salinity (‰)60Field data, mean salinity Pond B5, Eden Landing Salt Pond complex, South San Francisco Bay (Mejia et al. 2008)
Minimum Reproductive Salinity5Wang (1986)
Minimum Duration45Hatching to juvenile stage
Maximum Duration50Hatching to juvenile stage
Maximum Length (mm)300Froese and Pauly 2014
Minimum Width (mm)190Suzuki et al. 1989
Broad Temperature RangeNoneCold temperate-Warm temperate
Broad Salinity RangeNoneNontidal Limnetic-Hyperhaline

General Impacts

Acanthogobius flavimanus (Yellowfin Goby) has become an especially abundant estuarine fish in the San Francisco estuary and is widespread on the coast of central and southern California. It is a suspected competitor with native estuarine fishes and a predator on eggs and larvae (Meng et al. 1994; Lafferty et al. 1999). It is prey for larger predators, including the introduced Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis, Nobriga and Feyrer 2007), and native Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina richardii, Gibble and Harvey 2015). Several extirpations of endangered, native Tidewater Gobies (Eucyclogobius newberryi) in coastal California followed the invasion of Rainwater Killifish (Lucania parva) and Yellowfin goby (Acanthogobius flavimanus) (Lafferty et al. 1999).

Regional Impacts

P090San Francisco BayEcological ImpactCompetition
Competition with native species (Leptocottus armatus- Staghorn Sculpin; (Eucyclogobius newberryi- Tidewater Goby) and introduced species (Tridentiger bifasciatus- Shimofuri Goby) is suspected (Meng et al. 1994; Fuller et al. 1999).
P090San Francisco BayEcological ImpactPredation
Predation on eggs, larvae and juveniles of native species (Leptocottus armatus- Staghorn Sculpin; (Eucyclogobius newberryi- Tidewater Goby) is suspected (Meng et al. 1994)
NEP-VNorthern California to Mid Channel IslandsEcological ImpactCompetition
Competition with native species (Leptocottus armatus (Staghorn Sculpi); (Eucyclogobius newberryi (Tidewater Goby) and introduced species (Tridentiger bifasciatus- Shimofuri Goby) is suspected (Meng et al. 1994; Fuller et al. 1999; Lafferty et al. 1999).
NEP-VNorthern California to Mid Channel IslandsEcological ImpactPredation
Acanthogobius flavimanus (Yellowfin Gobies) are potential predators on eggs, larvae and juveniles of native species, including Leptocottus armatus (Staghorn Sculpin); Eucyclogobius newberryi (Tidewater Goby, endangered) is suspected (Meng et al. 1994; Lafferty et al. 1999).
P090San Francisco BayEcological ImpactFood/Prey
Acanthogobius flavimanus was the most frequent food item of Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) (Gibble and Harvey 2015) in San Francisco Bay. It was the most frequent fish prey of Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) there, in 2003 (Nobriga and Feyrer 2008).
NEP-VNorthern California to Mid Channel IslandsEcological ImpactFood/Prey
Acanthogobius flavimanus was the most frequent food item of Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina richardii ((Gibble and Harvey 2015) in San Francisco Bay. It was the most frequent fish prey of Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) there, in 2003 (Nobriga and Feyrer 2008).
NEP-VIPt. Conception to Southern Baja CaliforniaEcological ImpactPredation
Acanthogobius flavimanus (Yellowfin Gobies) are potential predators on eggs, larvae and juveniles of native species, including Leptocottus armatus (Staghorn Sculpin); Eucyclogobius newberryi (Tidewater Goby, endangered) is suspected (Meng et al. 1994; Lafferty et al. 1999).

Regional Distribution Map

Bioregion Region Name Year Invasion Status Population Status
NWP-3a None 0 Native Estab
NWP-4a None 0 Native Estab
NEP-V Northern California to Mid Channel Islands 1963 Def Estab
NEP-VI Pt. Conception to Southern Baja California 1978 Def Estab
NWP-3b None 0 Native Estab
NWP-4b None 0 Native Estab
AUS-X None 1971 Def Estab
AUS-VIII None 1990 Def Estab
P050 San Pedro Bay 1978 Def Estab
P090 San Francisco Bay 1963 Def Estab
P080 Monterey Bay 1974 Def Estab
P060 Santa Monica Bay 1993 Def Estab
P061 _CDA_P061 (Los Angeles) 1993 Def Estab
P010 Tijuana Estuary 1990 Def Estab
P020 San Diego Bay 1988 Def Estab
P030 Mission Bay 1992 Def Estab
P022 _CDA_P022 (San Diego) 1984 Def Estab
P040 Newport Bay 1978 Def Estab
P045 _CDA_P045 (Santa Ana) 1978 Def Estab
P095 _CDA_P095 (Tomales-Drakes Bay) 1967 Def Estab
P110 Tomales Bay 1976 Def Estab
P112 _CDA_P112 (Bodega Bay) 1972 Def Estab
P063 _CDA_P063 (Santa Clara) 1994 Def Estab

Occurrence Map

OCC_ID Author Year Date Locality Status Latitude Longitude


Precht, William F. Hickerson, Emma L.; Schmah, George P.; Aronson, Richard B. (2014) The invasive coral Tubastraea coccinea (Lesson, 1829): Implications for natural habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys, Gulf of Mexico Science 2014: 55-59

Baltz, Donald M (1991) Introduced fishes in Marine Systems and Inland Seas, Biological Conservation 56: 151-177

Bennett, William A.; Kimmerer, Wim J.; Burau, Jon R. (2002) Plasticity in vertical migration by native and exotic estuarine fishes in a dynamic low-salinity zone., Limnology and Oceanography 47(5): 1496-1507

Bonnet, Nadia Y. K.; Rocha, Rosana M.; Carman, Mary R. (2013) Ascidiidae Herdman, 1882 (Tunicata: Ascidiacea) on the Pacific coast of Panama, Zootaxa 3691: 351-364

Brittan, M. R., Albrecht, A. B., Hopkirk, J. D. (1963) An oriental goby collected in the San Joaquin River Delta near Stockton, California, California Fish and Game 49(4): 302-304

Brittan, Martin R., Hopkirk, John D., Conners, Jerrold D., Martin, Michael (1970) Explosive spread of the oriental goby Acanthogobius flavimanus in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region of California, Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, Fourth Series 38(11): 207-214

Carlton, James T.; Blakeslee, April M. H.; Fowler, Amy E. (2022) Accidental associates are not symbionts: the absence of a non?parasitic endosymbiotic community inside the common periwinkle Littorina littorea (Mollusca: Gastropoda, None 167(97): Published online

Cohen, Sahrye E.; Bollens, Stephen M. (2008) Diet and growth of non-native Mississippi silversides and yellowfin gobies in restored and natural wetlands in the San Francisco Estuary., Marine Ecology Progress Series 368: 241-254

Dill, William A.; Cordone, Almo J. (1997) History and status of introduced fishes in California, 1871-1996, California Department of Fish and Game Fish Bulletin 178: 1-414

Dimitriadis, C and 12 authors (2020) Updating the occurrences of Pterois miles in the Mediterranean Sea, with considerations on thermal boundaries and future range expansion., Mediterranean Marine Science 21: 62-69.

Dôtu, Yosie, Mito, Satoshi (1955) On the breeding habits, larvae, and young of a goby, Acanthogobius flavimanus (Temminck & Schlegel), Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 4(4/5/6): 153-161

Eschmeyer, William N.; Herald, Earl S.; Hamman, Howard (1983) A field guide to Pacific coast fishes: North America, Houghton Mifflin, Boston. Pp. <missing location>

Feyrer, Frederick; Herbold, Bruce; Matern, Scott A.; Moyle, Peter (2003) Dietary shifts in a stressed fish assemblage: consequences of a bivalve invasion in the San Francisco estuary., Environmental Biology of Fishes 67: 277-288

Friese, Erich U. (1973) Another Japanese goby in Australian waters; what next?, Koolewong 2(3): 5-7

2002-2014 FishBase.(World Wide Web electronic publication)..

Fuller, P.M., Nico, L.G., Williams, J.D. (1999) Nonindigenous fishes introduced into inland waters of the United States, American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD. Pp. <missing location>

Gewant, Darren; Bollens, Stephen M. (2012) Fish assemblages of interior tidal marsh channels in relation to environmental variables in the upper San Francisco Estuary, Environmental Biology of Fishes 94: 483-499

Gibble, Corinne M.; Harvey, James T. (2015) Food habits of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) as an indicator of invasive species in San Francisco Bay, California, Marine Mammal Science 31(3): 1014-1034

Glynn, Peter W; Gillette, Phillip R.; Dettloff, Kyle; Dominguez, Joshua D Martinez, Nicolas; Gross; Julie; Riegl,Bernhard M. (2021a) Experimental evidence of minimal effects on octocoral hosts caused by the introduced ophiuroid Ophiothela mirabilis, Coral Reefs <missing volume>: <missing location>

Golikov, A. N. and 7 other editors. (1976) <missing title>, Nauk, Leningrad. Pp. <missing location>

Grabowski, Michal; Bacela, Karolina; Konopacka, Alicja;Jazdzewski, Krzysztof (2009) Salinity-related distribution of alien amphipods in rivers provides refugia for native species, Biological Invasions 11: 2107-2117

Grimaldo, Lenny; Miller, Robert E.; Hymanson, ZacharyPeregrin, Chris M., (2012) Fish assemblages in reference and restored tidal freshwater marshes of the San Francisco estuary, San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 10(1):

Haaker, P. L. (1979) Two Asiatic gobiid fishes, Tridentiger trigonocephalus and Acanthogobius flavimanus, in southern California., Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences 78(1): 56-61

Hoese Douglass F (1973) The introduction of the Gobiid fishesAcanthogobius flavimanus and Tridentiger trigonocephalus into Australia, Koolewong 2: 3-5

Howe, Emily R.; Simenstad, Charles A.; Toft, Jason D.; Cordell, Jeffrey R.; Bollens, Stephen M. (2014) Macroinvertebrate prey availability and fish diet selectivity in relation to environmental variables in natural and restoring North San Francisco Bay tidal marsh channels, San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 12(1): 1-46

John S. Odenkirk (2018) The First International Snakehead Symposium: News from the Front(s), Fisheries 44(3): 123-128

Lafferty, Kevin D.; Swift, Cam C.; Ambrose, Richard F. (1999) Extirpation and recolonization in a metapopulation of an endangered fish, the tidewater goby., Conservation Biology 13(6): 1447-1453

Lafferty, Kevin; Page, Carl J. (1997) Predation on the endangered Tidewater Goby, Eucyclogobius newberryi, by the introduced African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, with notes on the frog parasites., Copeia <missing volume>(3): 589-592

Lockett, Matthew M.; Gomon, Martin F. (2001) Ship mediated fish invasions in Australia: two new introductions and a concideration of two previous invasions, Biological Invasions 3: 187-192

Massé, Cécile; Jourde, Jérôme; Fichet, Denis; Sauriau, Pierre-Guy; Dartois, Manon; Ghillebaert, François; Dancie, Chloé (2022) Northern range expansion of the Asian mussel Arcuatula senhousia (Benson, 1842) along the French Atlantic coasts, BioInvasions Records 11: Published online

Mejia, Francine; Saiki, Michael K.; Takekawa, John Y. (2008) Relation between species assemblages of fishes and water quality in salt ponds and sloughs in South San Francisco Bay, Southwestern Naturalist 53(3): 335-345

Meng, Lesa, Moyle, Peter B., Herbold, Bruce (1994) Changes in abundance and distribution of native and introduced fishes of Suisun Marsh, Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 123: 498-507

Middleton, M. J. (1982) The oriental goby, Acanthogobius flavimanus (Temminck and Schlegel), an introduced fish in the coastal waters of New South Wales, Australia, Journal of Fish Biology 21: 513-523

Moyle, Peter B. (1976) Fish introductions in California: History and impact on native fishes., Biological Conservation 9: 101-118

Neilson, Mattew E.; Wilson, Raymond R., Jr. (2005) mtDNA singletons as evidence of a post-invasion genetic bottleneck in yellowfin Acanthogobius flavimanus from San Francisco Bay, California., Marine Ecological Progress Series 296: 197-208.

Nobriga, Matthew L.; Frederick Feyrer (2007) Shallow-water piscivore-prey dynamics in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta., San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 5(2 (Art. 4)): 1-13

Olds, A. A.; Smith, M. K. S.; Weyl, O. L. F.; Russell, I. A. (2011) Invasive alien freshwater fishes in the Wilderness Lakes System, a wetland of international importance in the Western Cape Province, South Africa, African Zoology 46: 179-184

Simon, Carol A. (2011) Polydora and Dipolydora (Polychaeta: Spionidae) associated with Molluscs on the south coast of South Africa, with descriptions of two new species, African Invertebrates 52: 39-50

Swift, Camm C., Haglund, Thomas R., Ruiz, Mario, Fisher, Robert N. (1993) The status and distribution of the freshwater fishes of southern California, Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences 92(3): 101-167

2003-2022 Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, FL.

Williams, Gregory D., Desmond, Julie S., Zedler, Joy B. (1998) Extension of 2 nonindigenous fishes, Acanthogobius flavimanus and Poecilia latipinna, into San Diego Bay marsh habitats, California Fish and Game 84(1): 1-17

Workman, Michelle L.; Merz, Joseph E. (2007) Introduced yellowfin goby, Acanthogobius flavimanus: Diet and habitat use in the lower Mokelumne River, California, San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 5(1): 1-13