Threatened Species Day Fact Sheet
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2003
The Finke Goby is a small greyish desert fish that grows up to 55 millimetres long and has a distinguishing bright blue patch on its front fin. Finke Goby do not have swim bladders to keep them afloat, so they mostly rest on sandy or gravely bottoms of shallow pools where they feed on insect larvae, small crustaceans and algae.
Finke Goby are restricted to the Finke River system in the southern part of the Northern Territory. The Finke River is a very ancient river system and is one of the few rivers in Central Australia that has permanent waterholes. Finke Goby only live in the upper reaches of this river, in waterholes west of Alice Springs. Although it has a very limited distribution, the Finke Goby is fairly common within its known range and there is no evidence that it was previously more wide spread in Central Australia.
Having such a limited distribution makes the Finke Goby susceptible to the introduction of non-native fish such as the Mosquito Fish, a highly aggressive fish which preys on a number of native fish species. Mosquito Fish are rapidly colonising freshwater habitats in Central Australia.
The best way to help fish like the Finke Goby is to be very careful when you visit desert waterholes and rivers. Avoid swimming in small waterholes, especially if you are wearing sunscreen, as fish, frogs and insect larvae are all affected by the chemicals on your skin. Make sure all your washing up is done away from rivers and waterholes, and avoid using detergents or shampoos.
If you have fish or snails in your aquarium at home, never let these go into rivers or waterways. Many of these introduced species can survive in the wild, and will often cause serious problems for our native freshwater species.
Inland Australia is well known for its sand dunes, hot summers and low, erratic rainfall. It is less well known for its many different types of wetlands. Claypans temporarily fill after rains in summer and teem with shrimps and tadpoles. Torrents of frothy water rush along normally dry riverbeds after a big downpour. Rock-enclosed waterholes range in size from a puddle to a small lake, and salt-pans fill with floodwaters and become short-term homes for millions of fish and waterbirds.
The temporary nature of some of these aquatic ecosystems and their isolation from other river systems, means that there are lots of species of plants and animals that are particular to these desert wetlands. Two thirds of the 33 native fish species recorded in the Lake Eyre Basin occur nowhere else in the world!
The aquatic ecosystems of the Australian desert areas are still reasonably intact. However, over-extraction of water and invasion by non-native species are beginning to impact on aquatic habitats in desert Australia.
Introduced fish like the Mosquito Fish, Goldfish and Carp are starting to be found in rivers and waterholes in inland Australia. These fish can threaten our native fish by competing for food, shelter and breeding resources and through predation.
Highly invasive weeds like Athel Pine and Parkinsonia Weed are already affecting floodplain biodiversity in the Channel Country in Queensland and along the Finke River in the Northern Territory. These exotic trees form dense thickets along rivers and around waterholes, displacing native plants and making the habitat unsuitable for native animals.
Overuse of water resources has put river systems like the Murray-Darling in critical danger. It is important that lessons learnt from wetland decline in the more populated parts of Australia are applied in desert Australia before these impacts start to affect our unique inland river systems.
Phone: (08) 8952 1541
You can also find out more information about Australia's threatened species by calling the Department of the Environment and Heritage Community Information Unit on free call 1800 803 772 or by visiting www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened