Gobius ophiocephalus
   (Pallas, 1811)

Common names: English: Grass goby
German: Grasgrundel, Schlangenkopfgrundel

Common synonyms: Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Pallas, 1811).

Length: 18 - 25 cm.

Yellow-green (especially ventral side) to olive with irregular dark bands across body. Dark spot on upper base of pectoral fin. Dots arranged in lines on dorsal and caudal fins.

Predorsal area and head scaled, cheek naked. Fin rays of D2 are elongated in parental males.
59-64 (53-68) scales in lateral series.
Fins: D1 VI (V-VII); D2 I+14-15 (13-16); A I+14-15 (12-16); P 18-19 (17-20).

Carnivorous; juveniles feed on small crustaceans, polychaets and molluscs. Adults on larger crustaceans (shrimps) and fish.

Spawning season February to May. Males dig large holes in Zostera sea grass meadows --> photographs. Reproductive behaviour: goby pattern. Characteristic display behaviour (threatening, loop swimming, sand spitting) with sound production. The male puts trails of spermatozoa on substratum onto which the female deposits its eggs. Female has 10,000 - 45,000 eggs (2.6 x 0.8 mm). Up to 5 years old.

0.1 - 2 m. Lagoons, brackish water. Sometimes on fish markets (Trieste) --> photograph. Common in certain regions.

Gobius ophiocephalus
Photograph: Robert A. Patzner ©
Northern Adriatic, Italy, aquarium (caught in 0.2 m), March 1987


Species list
General info


Mediterranean; Black Sea.


Literature on Gobius ophiocephalus

Acquavita A., & N. Bettoso (2018): Mercury and selenium in the grass goby Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Pisces: Gobiidae) from a mercury contaminated Mediterranean lagoon. Marine Pollution Bulletin 135: 75-82.

Bilecenoglu M., Taskavak E., Mater S. 6 Kaya M., 2002: Checklist of the marine fishes of Turkey. Zootaxa 113: 1-194.

Casaretto L. & et al., 1988: Prime osservazioni sul comportamento aggresivo di Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Pisces, Gobiidae). Cong. Naz. Camerino 12-16.

Casaretto L. & et al., 1990: Osservazioni preliminari sul comportamento riproduttivo di Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Gobiidae, Perciformes). Oebalia 2: 619-622.

Dolgii V.N., 1962: Data on the biology of the travyanik goby Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Pallas) in the conditions of the Tutzlov group of estuaries. Uch. Zap. Kishinevks. Gosuniv. 62: 129-135 (in Russian).

Fiorin R., S Malavasi, S. Granzotto, F. Pranovi & P. Torricelli, 2001: Growth of grass goby (Zosterisessor ophiocephalus) in Venice lagoon and relationship with habitat quality. 10. Europ. Congr. Ichthyol, Prague. p. 103.

Franco A, F. Riccato,S. Malavasi, P. Franzoi & T. Torricelli, 2006: Food resource utilization by gobies (Pisces, Teleostei) in the shallows of the Venice Lagoon. Biol. Mar. Medit. 13: 866-868.

Franco A., Malavasi S., Pranovi F. et al., 2012: Age and reproductive investment in grass goby females in the Venice lagoon. Environmental Biology of Fishes 93: 419-425.

Hajji F., Ouannes-Ghorbel A., Ghorbel M. et al., 2011: Reproductive cycle and life history traits of the grass goby, Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Gobiidae), in the Gulf of Gabes (Central Mediterranean). Cahiers de Biologie Marine 52: 79-88.

Hajji F., Ouannes-Ghorbel A., Ghorbel M. et al., 2013: Age and growth of the grass goby Zosterisessor ophiocephalus Pallas, 1811 in the Gulf of Gabes (Tunisia, Central Mediterranean). Acta Adriatica 54: 27-39.

Kovacic M., 2005: An annotated checklist of the family Gobiidae in the Adriatic Sea. Annales Ser. hist. nat. 15: 1-24.

Kovacic M., 2020: Checklist of gobies (Teleostei: Gobiidae) of the Mediterranean Sea and a key for species identification. Zootaxa 4877: 075-101.

Kovacic M. & Patzner R.A., 2011: North-Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Gobies. In: The Biology of Gobies. (Eds: Patzner R.A. et al.) Science Publishers: 177-206.

Lahnsteiner F. & Patzner R.A. et al., 1992: The seminal vesicle of the male grass goby Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Teleostei, Gobiidae). Zoomorphology 111: 239-248.

Lanzoni M., Gavioli A., Aschonitis V., Merighi M., Fano E.A. & G. Castaldelli, 2016: Length-weight relationships of three estuarine species in the Comacchio Lagoon, Po River delta, Italy. J. Appl. Ichthyol. 32: 1284-1285.

Lombarte A., Miletic M. & Kovacic M. et al., 2014: Identifying Mediterranean Sea gobies using otoliths. 5th Int. symp. fish otolith res. appl., Peguera, Mallorca: Poster.

Louiz I., Ben-Attia M., & O.K. Ben Hassine, 2018: Reproductive disorders in Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Pisces, Gobiidae) in a polluted lagoon (Bizerta, Tunisia). Revue d'Ecologie la Terre et la Vie 73: 227-241. [in French]

Louiz I., Palluel O., Ben-Attia M. et al., 2018: Liver histopathology and biochemical biomarkers in Gobius niger and Zosterisessor ophiocephalus from polluted and non-polluted Tunisian lagoons (Southern Mediterranean Sea). Mar. Poll. Bull. 128: 248-258.

Mabrouk L., Guarred T., Hamza A. et al., 2014: Fluctuating asymmetry in grass goby Zosterisessor ophiocephalus Pallas, 1811 inhabiting polluted and unpolluted area in Tunisia. Marine Pollution Bulletin 85: 248-251.

Malavasi S., J. Coppola, F. Pranovi, A. Granzotto, A. Franco & P. Torricelli, 2002: Habitat riproduttivo di Zosterisessor ophiocephalus Pall. (Pisces, Gobiidae) in laguna di Venezia e osservazioni sulle caratteristiche dei riproduttori. Soc. Venez. Scienz. Natur. Lavori 27: 47-56.

Marconato A., M.B. Rasotto & C. Mazzoldi, 1996: On the mechanism of sperm release in three gobiid species (Teleostei: Gobiidae). Envir. Biol. Fish. 46: 321-327.

Mazzoldi C. & Scaggiante M. et al., 1996: Mode of fertilization and alternative male mating strategies in a Mediterranean goby. ASIH.

Medvedev D.A., Sorokin P.A, Vasil'ev V. P., Chernova N.V. & Vasil'eva E.D., 2013: Reconstruction of phylogenetic relations of Ponto-Caspian gobies (Gobiidae, Perciformes) based on mitochondrial genome variation and some problems of their taxonomy. J. Ichthyol. 53: 702-712.

Miller P.J., 1986: Gobiidae. In: Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Volume III. (Eds.: Whitehead P.J.P. et al.) pp. 1019-1085. UNESCO, Paris.

Ota D., Francese M. & Ferrero E.A., 1994: Feeding in the grass goby (Zosterisessor ophiocephalus, Teleostei, Gobiidae) under different light intensities: a behavioural and morphological study. Boll. Zool. Suppl. 36.

Ota D., Francese M. & Ferrero E.A., 1999: Vision in the grass goby, Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Telostei, Gobiidae: a morphological and behavioural study. Ital. J. Zool. 66 125-139.

Ota D., Marchesan M., Casaretto L. & Francese M., 1997/98: Life style and ethogram of the grass goby Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Pisces, Gobiidae). Boll. d. soc. Adriatica d. scienze LXXVIII 183-206.

Ota D., Marchesan M. & Ferrero E.A., 1996: Sperm release behaviour and fertilization in the grass goby. J. Fish Biol. 49 246-256.

Pallas P.S., 1811: Zoographia rosso-asiatica, sistens omnium animalium in extenso Imperio Rossico et adjacentibus maribus observatorum recensionem, domiclia, mores et descriptiones anatomen atque icones plurimorum, 3 vol. Petropoli 3: 428.

Patzner R.A., M. Seiwald, S. Angerer, E.A. Ferrero & P.G. Giulianini, 1991: Genital system and reproductive cycle of the male grass goby, Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Teleostei, Gobiidae), in the northern Adriatic Sea. Zool. Anz. 226: 205-219. 

Patzner R.A. & H. Moosleitner, 1997: Die Grundeln des Mittelmeeres. Teil 2. Große Grundeln des Weichbodens 1. Das Aquarium 342: 43-46.

Pilati C., 1950: Osservazioni sull`apparato riproduttore e sulla gametogenesi nel Gobius ophiocephalus. Arch. Zool. ital. 35: 171-183.

Pinchuk V.I., Vasil'eva E.D., Vasil'ev V.P. & Miller P.J., 2004: Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Pallas, 1814). In: The freshwater fishes of Europe. Vol. 8/II Gobiidae 2 (Ed.: Miller P.J.) pp. 5-32. Aula-Verlag, Wiebelsheim.

Privileggi N. & Ferrero E.A., 1995: Esperimenti pilota di schiusa a allevamento larvale e post-larvale de Zosterisessor ophiocephalus. Hydrores XLL, 13: 31-40.

Privileggi N. & Ota D. et al., 1997: Embryonic and larval development of the grass goby Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Teleostei, Gobiidae). Ital. J. Zool. 64: 201-207.

Scaggiante M., C. Mazzoldi, C.W. Petersen, & M.B. Rasotto, 1999: Sperm competition and the mode of fertilization in the grass goby, Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Teleostei: Gobiidae). J. exp. Zool. 283: 81-90.

Torricelli P., S. Malavasi, N. Novarini, F. Pranovi & D. Mainardi, 2000: Elongation of fin rays in parental males of Zosterisessor ophiocephalus (Pisces, Gobiidae). Envir. Biol. Fish. 58: 105-108.

Zucchetta, M., Cipolato, G., Pranovi, F.; et al., 2012: The relationships between temperature changes and reproductive investment in a Mediterranean goby: Insights for the assessment of climate change effects. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 101: 15-23.



Photographs of Gobius ophiocephalus

Gobius ophiocephalus
Northern Adriatic, Istria, July 2018
Photograph: Roberto Pillon ©
Gobius ophiocephalus
Northern Adriatic, Istria, July 2018
Photograph: Roberto Pillon ©
Gobius ophiocephalus, spawning hole in Zostera grass
Northern Adriatic, Italy, March 1987
Photograph: Robert A. Patzner ©
Gobius ophiocephalus
Northern Adriatic, Italy, fishmarket
Photograph: Robert A. Patzner ©





Drawings of Gobius ophiocephalus


Drawings from Miller (1986)

Copyright © 2019 - Robert A. Patzner, Department of Biosciences, Univ. Salzburg, Austria.
State: 2019-06-11
E-mail: robert.patzner@sbg.ac.at