Gobioid fishes are common in the tropics, but may also be found in subtropical and temperate regions. They are absent from polar regions. Most of the species are found in marine coastal waters and in estuaries. They are usually in shallow waters, although some species have been found at depths of about 2,625 ft (800 m). About one-tenth of the known species inhabit fresh waters, including the Orinoco and Amazon River basins in South America, and the Nile, Niger, and Congo River basins in Africa. Some species have very widespread distributions. For example, the dusky sleeper (Eleotris fusca) is found in fresh, brackish, and marine waters of the Indo-Pacific, from East Africa through to French Polynesia in the South Pacific. In contrast, some other species have very restricted distributions.

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