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Macquaria ambigua (Family Percichthyidae)

Golden Perch, Yellowbelly, Callop


Golden Perch are found throughout the Murray-Darling Basin, Fitzroy River, Lake Eyre Basin and Bulloo River. Although there are no specific records, Golden Perch almost certainly occurs in the portion of the Georgina River basin of the Northern Territory. (SA, VIC, NSW, QLD, NT)


Golden Perch grow to at least 760 mm and 23 kg. They have thick deep bodies, especially at larger sizes. They tend to have a cream coloured body when in turbid water and in clearer streams they have a yellow-golden colour, sometimes with a greenish hue. They are rarely found to be dark all over. Percichthyids can usually be recognised by their larger size, the presence of spines in their fins and their rounded tails. Golden Perch can be identified based on their shape and large mouth.

Ecology/Way of Life:

Golden Perch are mostly found in larger rivers and their associated permanent waterholes, which are typically extremely turbid in northern areas. They are carnivorous and will consume shrimp, other invertebrates and fish. Spawning occurs during the warmer months and is induced by a rise in water level (flooding) when temperatures are over 24°C. Large female Golden Perch can produce several million eggs that are pelagic, meaning they float downstream in the water column. The eggs hatch in around 30 hours. Males mature around 200 mm long, females at 400 mm. Golden Perch are known to undertake some of the longest migrations of any strictly freshwater fish in the world. They have been recorded migrating up to 2,300 km.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

Golden Perch are one of the most popular native angling species. They readily bred in hatcheries and have been widely stocked. They also make excellent aquarium pets, although large aquaria are required. They have no national conservation listing, although they have declined substantially in some areas such as Victoria due to the effects of dams. One major threat to this species is the translocation of Golden Perch between drainages (via hatchery released fish) as populations within the Murray-Darling and Lake Eyre basins are quite different both ecologically and genetically.

Other Comments:

Macquaria ambigua was named by Richardson in 1845. The genus Macquaria is named after the Macquarie River, where the genus was first described and the species name is based on the Latin word ambigu meaning doubtful.

Further Reading:

Allen, G. R., Midgley, S. H. & Allen, M. (2002). Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum. Perth. 394pp.

Merrick, J. R. & Schmida, G. E. (1984). Australian Freshwater Fishes: Biology and Management. Griffith Press Ltd. 409pp.

Unmack, P. J. (2003). Australian Desert Fishes.

Wager, R. & Unmack, P. J. (2000). Fishes of the Lake Eyre Catchment of Central Australia. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane. 90pp.


Text: Peter J. Unmack & Rob Wager. Distribution map: Peter J. Unmack. Photographer: Peter J. Unmack.

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