Round Goby

Scientific Name: Neogobius melanostomus

Center for Great Lakes and Aquatic Sciences Archive, University of Michigan, Bugwood.orgCopyright Info

Identification: The round goby is a small, bottom-dwelling fish with raised eyes. Young round gobies are solid-slate gray. Older fish are mottled with black and brown and have a greenish dorsal fin with a black spot. Males may be entirely black when spawning. The round goby is very similar to a native fish called the mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdii). These species can be easily distinguished by their pelvic fins, which are a pair of fins located on the underside of a fish. The round goby has fused pelvic fins that resemble a suction cup, while the mottled sculpin has two separate pelvic fins. The round goby can also be distinguished from the similar non-native tubenose goby (Proterorhinus semilunaris) by its larger size, protruding eyes, and lack of tube-shaped nostrils.

Size: The round goby in the United States can grow up to 7 inches (18 cm) in length.

Native Range: This species is native to the Black, Caspian, and Azov seas (and their tributaries) in eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Table 1. Great Lakes region nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Neogobius melanostomus are found here.

Full list of USGS occurrences

State/ProvinceYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Illinois199320183Lake Michigan; Little Calumet-Galien; Pike-Root
Indiana199420162Lake Michigan; Little Calumet-Galien
Michigan1990201941Au Gres-Rifle; Au Sable; Betsie-Platte; Birch-Willow; Black-Macatawa; Boardman-Charlevoix; Brevoort-Millecoquins; Carp-Pine; Cass; Cedar-Ford; Cheboygan; Clinton; Detroit; Fishdam-Sturgeon; Flint; Huron; Kalamazoo; Kawkawlin-Pine; Lake Erie; Lake Huron; Lake Michigan; Lake St. Clair; Lake Superior; Little Calumet-Galien; Lone Lake-Ocqueoc; Lower Grand; Manistee; Muskegon; Ottawa-Stony; Pere Marquette-White; Pigeon-Wiscoggin; Pine; Raisin; Saginaw; Shiawassee; St. Clair; St. Joseph; St. Marys; Tacoosh-Whitefish; Thunder Bay; Upper Grand
Minnesota199620153Baptism-Brule; Lake Superior; St. Louis
New York1998201814Buffalo-Eighteenmile; Chaumont-Perch; Headwaters St. Lawrence River; Irondequoit-Ninemile; Lake Erie; Lake Ontario; Lower Genesee; Niagara; Oak Orchard-Twelvemile; Oneida; Oswego; Raisin River-St. Lawrence River; Salmon-Sandy; Seneca
Ohio199320199Ashtabula-Chagrin; Black-Rocky; Cedar-Portage; Chautauqua-Conneaut; Cuyahoga; Grand; Lake Erie; Lower Maumee; Sandusky
Pennsylvania199620122Chautauqua-Conneaut; Lake Erie
Wisconsin1995201812Beartrap-Nemadji; Door-Kewaunee; Duck-Pensaukee; Lake Michigan; Lower Fox; Manitowoc-Sheboygan; Menominee; Milwaukee; Oconto; Peshtigo; Pike-Root; St. Louis

Table last updated 12/6/2019

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for areas where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).

Means of Introduction: The Great Lakes introduction of the round goby appears to be the result of ballast water discharge from transoceanic ships into the St. Clair River and the vicinity along the Michigan-Ontario border. The first sightings occurred around 1990, and by 1994, the round goby had spread to the north end of Lake St. Clair. Freighters operating within the Great Lakes then spread this species among the lakes.

Status: The round goby is present in all five Great Lakes and many rivers that flow into them. Large populations are established in Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and Lake Michigan, while only a few individuals have been reported in Lake Superior.

Remarks: The distribution of the round goby around the inshore areas of the Black and Caspian seas indicates its potential for widespread occupation of inshore habitats in all of the Great Lakes.

Author: Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

Contributing Agencies:
NOAA Sea Grant GLRI Logo

Revision Date: 9/25/2012

Citation for this information:
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, 2019, Round Goby: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI,, Revision Date: 9/25/2012, Access Date: 12/6/2019

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.