In this research, we compared the anatomy and biomechanics of two species of mudskipper vs an aquatic sandgoby in view of terrestrial locomotion. Of particular interest was the relationship (if any) of pectoral fin movement with pelvic fin movement. We show that the pelvic fins of the terrestrial mudskippers studied herein, are retractable and move antagonistically with the pectoral fins. The pelvic fin of the sandgoby studied here is contrarily non-retractable and drags on any underlying substrate that the sandgoby tries to crawl across. We find that the pelvic and pectoral fin muscles of all fish are separated, but that the pectoral fins of the mudskipper species have bulkier radial muscles than the sandgoby. By coupling a detailed morphological investigation of pectoral-pelvic fins musculature with finite element simulations, we find that unlike sandgobies, the mudskipper species are able to mechanically push the pelvic fins downward as pectoral fins retract. This allows for an instant movement of pelvic fins during the pectoral fin backward stroke and as such the pelvic fins stabilize mudskippers through Stefan attachment of their pelvic fins. This mechanism seems to be efficient and energy saving and we hypothesize that the piston-like action might benefit pelvic–pectoral fin antagonism by facilitating a mechanical down-thrust. Our research on the biomechanics of tree-climbing fish provides ideas and greater potential for the development of energetically more efficient systems of ambulation in biomimetic robots.