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Neochanna cleaveri (Family Galaxiidae)

Tasmanian Mudfish, Australian Mudfish


The Tasmanian Mudfish is found along low-lying coastal areas in the north, west, south, and south-east of Tasmania, on Flinders Island, in southern, coastal Victoria, Wilsons Promontory, Otway Ranges, and near Geelong and Melbourne) and far eastern South Australia and Naracoorte (VIC, TAS, SA).


The Tasmanian Mudfish is a small elongate, tubular and scaleless. It grows to 140 mm in length. Features that distinguish this species from other galaxiids are the presence of large, long tubular nostrils, a small head and eyes, large round pectoral fins and small pelvic fins, large flanges on the caudal peduncle, and a low, rounded to ovoid dorsal fin, elongated posteriorly.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Tasmanian Mudfish is mostly found in well-vegetated, still waters, such as drains, ditches, swamps, and riverside billabongs. They can survive for a period of time when their habitat dries up by burying in the mud, or under logs or rocks. Spawning is thought to occur during winter, and in some populations the young are washed downstream to the estuary or sea, where they feed for two to three months before migrating back upstream to adult habitat. Aquarium observations indicated that Tasmanian Mudfish are nocturnal, with individuals relatively inactive during the day, resting either on the substrate or up in the water column amongst dense aquatic vegetation. Activity increased during the night, when individuals moved around more open areas, presumably browsing for food. Very little additional biological information is available for this species, such as diet, number of eggs or their size, or the maximum age attained. This appears to be the only native Australian fish that has a migratory phase to its life cycle and can also survive periods without water.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This is a cryptic, little known fish, due to its propensity for habitats with abundant aquatic vegetation. They are not listed as threatened nationally due to their broader distribution in Tasmania, but are listed as threatened on mainland Australian in Victoria, where they have been recorded from only five areas. The major threat to this species is the elimination of low-lying wetland areas near the coast, the continuing degradation of remaining wetlands by urban and agricultural development, instream barriers to migration, and cattle trampling. Predation by alien fish species at known sites may also be a threat.

Other Comments:

Neochanna cleaveri was named by Scott in 1934. Originally described as Galaxias cleaveri, and moved to the genus Neochanna by McDowall (1997). The genus is derived from Neos (Greek) meaning new and Channa a genus of Asian fishes which are known to aestivate. The species name is cleaveri, in honour of its collector, Mr. F. Cleaver.

Further Reading:

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

Koehn, J. D. & Raadik, T. A. (1991). The Tasmanian mudfish, Galaxias cleaveri Scott, 1934, in Victoria. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 103: 77–86.

Andrews, A. P. (1991). Observations on the Tasmanian mudfish, Galaxias cleaveri (Pisces: Galaxiidae). Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 125: 55–59.

Fulton, W. (1986). The Tasmanian mudfish Galaxias cleaveri Scott. Fishes of Sahul 4: 150–151.

McDowall, R. M. (ed.). (1996). Freshwater Fishes of South–eastern Australia. Reed, Sydney. 2nd edition. 247pp.

McDowall, R. M. (1997). Affinities, generic classification and biogeography of the Australian and New Zealand mudfishes (Salmoniformes: Galaxiidae). Records of the Australian Museum 49: 121–137.

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


Text: Tarmo A. Raadik. Distribution map: Peter J. Unmack. Photographers: Tarmo A. Raadik & Neil Armstrong.

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