Invasion History

First Non-native North American Tidal Record: 1960
First Non-native West Coast Tidal Record: 1960
First Non-native East/Gulf Coast Tidal Record:

General Invasion History:

Tridentiger trigonocephalus (Chameleon Goby) is native to the northwest Pacific from Gwangzhou in southern China to the Amur River and Peter the Great Bay (Lever 1996; Froese and Pauly 2018). It is rare at salinities below 22 PSU (Fuller et al. 1999), but has been collected at 16 PSU (California Academy of Sciences 2009). North American introductions of T. trigonocephalus are limited to California, but it has also been introduced to Australia and Ukraine and Mediterranean Sea.

North American Invasion History:

Invasion History on the West Coast:

The first collection of Chameleon Goby, Tridentiger trigonocephalus, in North America was from in Los Angeles Harbor in 1960, where it is established (Haaker 1979). A couple years later in 1962, a specimen was caught in Redwood City harbor. It was later collected in relatively saline parts of San Francisco Bay, including Lake Merritt, Berkeley, and the Alviso Salt Ponds, on the South Bay (Cohen and Carlton 1995; California Academy of Science 2014; Mejia et al. 2008). Between 1978 and 1992 specimens were collected along the coast of southern California from Ventura to Laguna (USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2014), and a few have been found in San Diego Bay (Pondella and Chin 2005). Many of these fish were found among piers, riprap, and discarded bottles. This fish appears to be established in San Diego Bay, but is rare (Williams et al 2016). It has been collected in the brackish Napa River at a salinity of 16 PSU (2001, California Academy of Sciences 2009). Most of the early reports of the Chameleon Goby's occurrence in the upper San Francisco estuary probably refer to the similar T. bifasciatus, which is more of a freshwater species (Matern and Fleming 1995).

Invasion History Elsewhere in the World:

In 1973 a specimen of Tridentiger trigonocephalus was collected in Sydney Harbour, New South Wales (Hoese 1973), where they are established. In 1977 they were found in Port Philip Bay, Victoria and from the Swan River Estuary, Western Australia in 1976 (Lockett and Gomon 1999). In Australia this goby is most common on hard bottoms in commercial port areas and can reach densities of 10-20 fish per 10 m-2 (Lockett and Gomon 2001).

In 2006, a single specimen of T. trigonocephalus was collected in Sevastopol Bay, Ukraine, on the Black Sea (Boltachev et al. 2007). That same year, 2006, one specimen was collected in the Mediterranean Sea (Goren et al. 2009). In 2008, 17 individuals with eggs and nests were found in Sevastopol Bay, indicating an established population (Boltachev and Karpova 2010). Ballast water is the likeliest vector for the Australian populations and the Israeli occurrence (Lockett and Gomon 2001; Goren et al. 2009). However, ballast water discharges from the Pacific are rare in Sevastopol Bay, while Pacific Oyster transplants (Crassostrea gigas) occurred outside the Bay. An unauthorized aquarium release could have been the source of the Sevastopol population Boltachev and Karpova 2010).


Tridentiger trigonocephalus (Chameleon Goby; Striped Goby) is a coastal marine fish. It has the typical features of the family Gobiidae, including the two pelvic fins united to form a conical sucking disk, a spiny anterior and a soft posterior dorsal fin, and eyes near the top of the head. The dorsal fins have 6-7 spines and 11-14 rays, respectively, which are separated by a gap. The uppermost ray of each pectoral fin is free and covered with conical projections. The lateral line is not noticeable. This is a relatively fat goby with a wide flat head. There are large sensory canal pores on the top of the head in the interorbital region (Matern and Fleming 1995). Colors are highly variable, but there is usually a black spot at the upper base of the caudal fin and a dark bar followed by a clear area at the base of the caudal fin. This fish usually has two broad dark-brown stripes from head to tail on a yellowish-gray background but can also be a marbled pattern made up of vertical bars. While guarding eggs, males become predominantly black (Boltachev and Karpova 2010). There are large, white speckles on the head, which do not extend to the ventral surface. The dorsal and anal fins are edged with white (Matern and Fleming 1995). This fish reaches a maximum length of 110 mm (Miller and Lea 1972; Eschmeyer et al. 1983; Froese and Pauly 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:   Tridentiger
Species:   trigonocephalus


Triaenophorus trigonocephalus (Gill, 1859)
(None, None)

Potentially Misidentified Species

Tridentiger barbatus
Tridentiger barbatus (Shokihaze Goby) is marked by conspicuous barbels around the snout. It ranges into brackish and tidal fresh waters (Froese and Pauly 2018).

Tridentiger bifasciatus
Tridentiger bifasciatus (Shimofuri Goby) was formerly considered conspecific with T. trigonocephalus. It differs in patterns of coloration, the size of sensory canals on the head, and the structure of pectoral fin rays. The Shimofuri Goby does not tolerate marine salinities (Matern and Fleming 1995).



Tridentiger trigonocephalus (Chameleon Goby) is a coastal marine fish. Males are territorial and guard nests in oyster or mussel shells. Females can spawn up to 10 times in a summer. Eggs hatch in 7-10 days and are guarded by the male. The planktonic larvae are about 3 mm long. The fish grow to 35-50 mm in their first year and spawn in their second year when they are 55-75 mm long. Fish larger than this 75mm are rare (Hirose and Kubo 1983, cited by Lockett and Gomon (1999), however, some specimens can reach 110 mm (Froese and Pauly 2018). Females on the south coast of South Korea had fecundities of 3,448 to 9,654 eggs over a size range of 40-60 mm (Hwang and Baek 2013).

Tridentiger trigonocephalus (Chameleon Goby) ranges from cold-temperate to tropical climates in coastal marine waters (Froese and Pauly 2018). It has been collected at salinities as low as 15 PSU (Boltachev et al. 2007). Records of this fish from more brackish or fresh water probably refer to the similar species T. bifasciatus (Shimofuri Goby), formerly considered synonymous (Matern and Fleming 1995). Habitats include piers, bridge pilings, riprap, discarded bottles, and rocky coasts (Haaker 1979; Lockett and Gomon 1999; Boltachev and Karpova 2010). Food of T. trigonocephalus was mainly amphipods, but also copepods, polychaetes, and shrimps (Ye et al. 2014, Ye et al identified this fish as T. bifasciatus but it was from a marine habitat). Tridentiger trigonocephalus was an occasional prey item of Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) in San Francisco Bay (Gibble and Harvey 2015).


Amphipods, copepods, polychaetes, shrimps


Larger fishes, Harbor Seals


Acanthogobius flavimanus

Trophic Status:




General HabitatMarinas & DocksNone
General HabitatCoarse Woody DebrisNone
General HabitatRockyNone
General HabitatOyster ReefNone
Salinity RangeMesohaline5-18 PSU
Salinity RangePolyhaline18-30 PSU
Salinity RangeEuhaline30-40 PSU
Tidal RangeSubtidalNone
Vertical HabitatNektonicNone
Vertical HabitatEpibenthicNone

Life History

Tolerances and Life History Parameters

Minimum Temperature (ºC)5Australia? NIMPIS 2018
Maximum Temperature (ºC)35Australia? NIMPIS 2018
Minimum Salinity (‰)15Field, Sevastopol, Ukraine, Sevastopol Gulf (Boltachev et al. 2009); Field, 16 PSU, in Napa River, California (California Academy of Sciences 2009). Rare at salinities below 22 PSU (Fuller et al. 1999). Records before ~ 1994 from oligohaline and fresh waters refer to T. bifasciatus (Fuller et al. 1999).
Maximum Salinity (‰)36.8San Diego Bay (Pondella and Chinn 2005).
Minimum Reproductive Temperature18Hirose and Kubo 1983, cited by NIMPIS 2018
Maximum Reproductive Temperature26Hirose and Kubo 1983, cited by NIMPIS 2018
Minimum Length (mm)40Minimum size at spawning, females (Hwang and Baek 2013).
Maximum Length (mm)110Froese and Pauly 2014
Broad Temperature RangeNoneCold temperate-Warm temperate
Broad Salinity RangeNoneMesohaline-Euhaline

General Impacts

No impacts have been reported for Tridentiger trigonocephalus in its introduced habitats. In Australia, its range in estuaries is restricted to harbor areas (Lockwood and Gomon 2001).

Regional Distribution Map

Bioregion Region Name Year Invasion Status Population Status
NWP-4a None 0 Native Estab
NWP-3a None 0 Native Estab
NWP-2 None 0 Native Estab
NEP-V Northern California to Mid Channel Islands 1962 Def Estab
AUS-X None 1973 Def Estab
AUS-VIII None 1977 Def Estab
AUS-IV None 1976 Def Estab
NWP-4b None 0 Native Estab
NWP-3b None 0 Native Estab
NEP-VI Pt. Conception to Southern Baja California 1960 Def Estab
P090 San Francisco Bay 1962 Def Estab
P020 San Diego Bay 1995 Def Unk
P050 San Pedro Bay 1960 Def Estab
MED-IX None 2006 Def Estab
MED-V None 2006 Def Unk
AUS-VII None 2001 Def Unk
P064 _CDA_P064 (Ventura) 1982 Def Estab
P027 _CDA_P027 (Aliso-San Onofre) 1978 Def Estab
P060 Santa Monica Bay 1980 Def Estab
EAS-III None 0 Native Estab
P056 _CDA_P056 (Los Angeles) 1980 Def Estab
P058 _CDA_P058 (San Pedro Channel Islands) 2019 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

Belkoski, David J.; Drzewicki, Maya; Scharf, Frederick S. (2021) Specialized feeding patterns and marine resource use by nonnative catfishes in a coastal river ecosystem revealed by dietary and stable isotopic analyse, Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science 13: 564–582
DOI: 10.1002/mcf2.10180

Boltachev, A. R.; Vasil’eva, E. D.; Danilyuk, O. N. (None) The First Finding of the Striped Tripletooth Goby Tridentiger trigonocephalus (Perciformes, Gobiidae) in the Black Sea (the Estuary of the Chernaya River, Sevastopol Bay)., Journal of Ichthyology 47: 847-850.

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

Chapman, Gee (2020) Not simply accept relationships: editorial comment on the article “Accidental associates are not symbionts: the absence of a non?parasitic endosymbiotic community inside the common periwinkle Littorina littorea (Mollusca: Gastropoda)” by J. T. Carlton et , Marine Biology 97(98): Published online

Cohen, Andrew N.; Carlton, James T. (1995) Nonindigenous aquatic species in a United States estuary: a case study of the biological invasions of the San Francisco Bay and Delta, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Sea Grant College Program (Connecticut Sea Grant), Washington DC, Silver Spring MD.. Pp. <missing location>

Cragg, S.M.; Jumel, M.-C.; Al-Horani, F.A.; Hendy, I.W. (2009) The life history characteristics of the wood-boring bivalve Teredo bartschi are suited to the elevated salinity, oligotrophic circulation in the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 375: 99-105

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

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

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

Froese, R.; Pauly, D. (Editors). 2002-2024 FishBase.(World Wide Web electronic publication).. <missing URL>

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

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

Guzmán-Méndez, Irán A. And 5 authors (2017) First Genetically Confirmed Record Of The Invasive Devil Firefish Pterois mles (bennett, 1828) In The Mexican Caribbean, BioInvasiob=ns Records 6(2): 99–103

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

Hewitt, C.L.; Campbell, M.L.; Thresher, R.E.; Martin, R.B. (1999) Marine Biological Invasions of Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, In: (Eds.) . , Hobart, Tasmania. Pp. <missing location>

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

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

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

Looby, Audrey; Ginsburg, David W. (2021) Nearshore species biodiversity of a marine protected area off Santa Catalina Island, California, Western North American Naturalist 81(1): 113-130

Matern, Scott A.; Fleming, Kevin J. (1995) Invasion of a third Asian goby, Tridentiger bifasciatus, into California., California Fish and Game 81(2): 71-76

NIMPIS (National Introduced Marine Pest Information System). 1998-2015 NIMPIS (National Introduced Marine Pest Information System). <missing URL>

Pondella, Daniel J.; Chinn, Zachary K. J. (2005) Records of chameleon goby, Tridentiger trigonocephalus, in San Diego Bay, California., California Fish and Game 91(1): 57-59

Scuchert, Peter (2010) The European athecate hydroids and their medusae (Hydrozoa, Cnidaria): Capitata Part 2, Revue Suisse de Zoologie 117(3): 337-355

USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2003-2024 Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database.

Wiltshire, K.; Rowling, K.; Deveney, M. (2010) <missing title>, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Adelaide. Pp. 1-232