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Lates calcarifer (Family Centropomidae)




In Australia, Barramundi are found in the Mary River in southern Queensland northwards throughout Queensland, the Northern Territory and into Western Australia as far south as Carnarvon. They are also found throughout the Asian Indo Australian region. Barramundi can be found from marine areas and estuaries upstream to the headwaters of rivers (QLD, NT, WA).


Barramundi can grow to 1800 mm and 60 kg although they are more commonly much smaller. Individuals over 1200mm are rare. Their colour varies with the habitat they are found in. The back is blue-grey to greenish-brown, the sides are silvery and the belly is whitish. All the fins are grey except the caudal fin may be yellow in some individuals. Juveniles and stressed adults have a white line from the snout to the dorsal fin. Adults are unlikely to be confused with any other species, although juveniles are often confused with the Mouth Almighty (Glossamia aprion) (which has 2 anal fin spines, compared with three anal fin spines in the Barramundi) and the Sand Bass (which has bony teeth on its tongue).

Ecology/Way of Life:

Barramundi migrate from upstream areas to river mouths for spawning. The spawning season is from September to March in the north, but is shorter in the southern parts of the distribution. They require a water temperature of between 25°C and 30°C and salinity of between 17 and 34 parts per thousand for spawning. Several million small (1 mm diameter) pelagic eggs are released and hatch in 15–20 hours. The fry are very small and feed on microscopic plankton. They can grow to 300 mm in one year and they start to look like adults at about 10 mm long. Most of the smaller fish are male and these mature at 550–690 mm length. The males may change sex at about 700 mm. Most large fish are female. Adults feed on other fish and crustaceans but are opportunistic.

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Interaction with Humans/Threats:

Barramundi are one of the most popular recreational angling species in northern Australia. They are also one of the most important commercial species. As a result they are well managed and remain common and abundant. Barramundi fingerlings are also bred and raised on fish farms. Some are released into impoundments and rivers to enhance commercial and recreational fishing. Others are grown in aquaculture operations for food.

Other Comments:

Lates calcarifer was named by Bloch in 1790.

Further Reading:

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

Herbert, B. W. & Peeters, J. (1995). Freshwater Fishes of Far North Queensland. Department of Primary Industries Queensland. 74pp.

Larson, H. K. & Martin, K. C. (1990). Freshwater Fishes of the Northern Territory. Northern Territory Museum Handbook Series No. 1. Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences, Darwin. 102pp.


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

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Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/gif 49138 bytes Lates calcarifer
Distribution Map  
image/jpeg 64132 bytes Distribution of Lates calcarifer

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