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Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

The Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus) is a brackish water member of the Gobiidae family that is found throughout northern India, Myanmar, Thailand, peninsular and insular Malaysia; and locally near the Ganges delta in India.

Not only are Indian Mudskippers able to breathe air through their skin, and the lining of their mouth and throat; they are also capable of “walking” on land using their modified pectoral and pelvic fins.

Because they can only breathe air through their skin when it is wet, their habitat is limited to very humid climates where they can easily keep themselves moistened when out of water. They posses enlarged gill chambers that allow them to retain a bubble of air.

When they are out of the water, the chamber is tightly closed off by a valve in the gill slit which allows their stiff gills to remain moist. Because their gill filaments are so stiff, and do not coalesce when out of water, the Mudskipper has the ability to function on land for extended periods of time.

This style of breathing, known as cutaneous air breathing, is similar to the mode used by amphibians.

The Indian Mudskipper‘s pectoral fins have two segments (the radials and the rays) and two movable hinge joints that act as a sort of movable shoulder joint. Their radial pectoral fins are elongated and protrude from their body which enables them to more easily walk on land.

The Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus) along with several other species, will dig deep burrows in the soft sediment that they live among which allow the fish to regulate their body temperature, avoid marine predators during high tides when the fish and the burrow are submerged, and to lay their eggs.

Several species of mudskipper will maintain an air pocket during high tides when their burrow is submerged so they can breathe in periods of very low oxygen concentrations.

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

The Indian Mudskipper has a grey to brownish background color which is paler towards the dorsal, and white along the ventral and throat areas.

The margins of the opercles are dark, and a brown stripe runs dorsally and posteriorly up to the caudal peduncle until it turns into a row of irregular dark blotches.

The two series of dark blotches form a pattern of 8 to 10 saddle like bars, and numerous small dark brown, pale red, and pale blue speckles are scattered on the snout.

The scales on the opercles have darker margins, black to dark blue with a reddish margin in males, dusky with series of dark speckles on rays and a red margin.   The pectoral fins are greyish with red speckles on rays and the caudal fin is dusky with a series of dark speckles on rays.   The anal and pelvic fins are dusky to a dark grey distally that is more bluish in males.

Although there are around 41 known species of mudskippers dispersed throughout the world, there are only 5 species that tropical fish keeping enthusiasts are easily able to procure in the ornamental fish trade with any regularity.

  • The Indian Mudskipper (Periopthalmodon septemradiatus)
    The Indian Mudskipper (Periopthalmodon septemradiatus) is often confused with and sold as the West African Mudskipper. It is a moderately sized species that grows to about 4 inches in length and is easy to keep.
  • The Blue-Spotted Mudskipper (Boleophthalmus boddarti)
    The Blue-Spotted Mudskipper is one of the larger of the mudskipper species that maxes out at about 8 inches in length. It has peculiar feeding habits and normally does not adapt well to captivity.
  • The Silver-Barred Mudskipper (Periophthalmus argentilineatus)
    Although Silver Barred Mudskippers grow to about 8 inches in length, they are one of the least aggressive of the mudskipper species.
  • The West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus)
    West African Mudskippers are the largest of the common mudskippers and grow up to 10 inches in length. They are intolerant of any kind of tankmate and must be housed in a single species biotope setting.
  • The Indian Dwarf Mudskipper (Periophthalmus novemradiatus)
    The Dwart Mudskipper is the smallest of the mudskippers and only grows to around 2 inches in length. It is highly territorial but because of their small size, are easiest to keep.

All Mudskippers are typically found in tropical, subtropical, and temperate intertidal habitats and are quite active during tidal recessions when they are out of the water.   They spend a lot of their time feeding, courting potential partners, and defending their territories against potential suitors.

Because Indian Mudskippers spend the majority of their time above the waterline when they feel safe in their surroundings, keeping them can be somewhat challenging.

Mudskippers are both skittish and predatory, which makes placing them with tankmates somewhat difficult.   If you house them with fish or inverts that are too small, their tankmates will likely end up on the menu.   If you house them with larger or fish that are too aggressive, the mudskippers could be intimidated enough to prevent them from entering the water as needed to keep their skin moist.

The best way to keep Indian Mudskippers is in a sufficiently large, specialized, single species brackish water biotope tank setting, with small fiddler crabs and/or guppies, mollies, smaller killifish, flagfish, etc. of the same size.   Larger crabs that could eat the mudskippers should obviously be avoided.

A 30 gallon aquarium is a good minimum tank size for housing Indian Mudskippers that only grow to a max length of 3 inches.   This will allow about 10 gallons of water space in the tank, which should be sufficient for keeping a few guppies or flagfish as tankmates.

Indian Mudskippers need high humidity in their tank to keep them from drying out, therefore a tightly fitting lid is a requirement.   In their natural environment they inhabit mud banks and muddy substrates which retain moisture, but in an aquarium environment, dealing with mud is a pain, to say the least.   Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts substitute fine play sand as an alternate to a muddy substrate with good results.

At least half of the aquarium should be above the water level and furnished with rocks, driftwood, flowerpots, etc. for the mudskippers to climb upon.   Live mangroves roots are almost an impossibility in an aquarium environment, but artificial mangrove root ornaments make an excellent substitute. Advanced aquarists have used live plants like Samolus valerandi (Brookweed) and various species of seagrasses with good results, but seagrasses require several inches of substrate to flourish.

Although some mudskippers are found inhabiting freshwater or marine areas in the wild, in an aquarium environment it is best to keep them in brackish water with a specific gravity between 1.005 and 1.015 for most of the commonly sold species.   The pH, temperature, and water hardness does not need to be exact, but hard water between 15-30 dH, a pH of 7.5 to 8.5, and a temperature between 72 and 80 degrees F. is recommended for most of the tropical species.

Indian Mudskippers are not sensitive to accumulated wastes in the water and although they can tolerate a wide range of water quality conditions, their tankmates cannot.   Provide them with a good quality filtration system and regular water changes in their tank to eliminate nitrates and ammonia, and maintain the parameters needed for the other fish that are being housed with them.

Indian Mudskippers have not been successfully bred in an aquarium environment.

Except for the Blue Spotted Mudskipper that is primarily herbivorous, Periophthalmus Septemradiatus and most of the other commonly traded species of mudskippers are omnivores that will accept a wide variety of foods.   Small omnivore pellets, algae flakes, and live, frozen, or freeze dried foods like mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, small pieces of earthworms, bloodworms, small pieces of seafood, and even small fruit flies will be eagerly accepted.

When purchasing Mudskippers do your due dilligence and remember that they are all extremely territroial. Some species like the Silver Barred Mudskipper are tolerant of conspecifics, but others like the West African Mudskipper are violent towards their tankmates and when kept in large groups will attack each other until only one is left in the tank.

The Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus) is somewhere in between, and although they are still aggressive towards conspecifics, given enough space for them to set up their own territories, their disputes are not usually damaging and they usually get along just fine with each other.

Indian Mudskippers can be purchased from specialty tropical fish keeping shops and online from dealers and importers at reasonable prices, but before you buy one we urge you to do some research on the fish you intend to purchase, especially on the basics of caring for these neat and very interesting animals.


Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)








Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: High
Temperament: Aggessive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy as adults
Water Conditions: 72.0 to 82.0° F, 15-30 dH, pH 7.5-8.5
Salinity: 1.005 – 1.015
Max. Size: 3″
Color: Brown, Tan, Blue
Tank Compatability: single species
Diet: Omnivore
Origin: India, Africa, Thailand, Malaysia
Family: Gobiidae
Lifespan: 6 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

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