Salamanderfish, Lepidogalaxias salamandroides Mees 1961

Other Names: Dwarf Pencilfish, Long-finned Galaxias, Mud Minnow, Scaled Galaxias

A male Salamanderfish, Lepidogalaxias salamandroides. Source: Gerald R. Allen / Western Australian Museum. License: All rights reserved


The remarkable Salamanderfish is a small elongate freshwater fish found only in southwestern Australia. 

Salamanderfish live in small semi-permanent (ephemeral) pools and streams and are uniquely adapted to survive the desiccation of their habitat. When pools dry out, they burrow into the damp bottom sand which remains moistened by ground water. Here they aestivate, breathing through their skin and being sustained by the fat reserves of their body. They even store the urea they produce until they emerge when the rains arrive.

YouTube video of Salamanderfish by the Freshwater Fish Group of Murdoch University, Western Australia

YouTube clip of a Salamanderfish by Heiko Bleher.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Lepidogalaxias salamandroides in Fishes of Australia, accessed 16 Apr 2024,

Salamanderfish, Lepidogalaxias salamandroides Mees 1961

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Endemic to temperate freshwaters of south-west Western Australia, and known only from heathland peat flats between the Blackwood and Kent Rivers - and area that experiences winter rains and summer droughts.

Salamanderfish inhabit small semi-permanent heathland pools and streams that are usually acidic (pH ~3-6) and high in tannins, with a marked variation in daily water temperature (16-34 °C). By late summer, most pools have evaporated and usually remain dry until late autumn when the rains return.

To survive these times of drought,  Salamanderfish 'aestivate' by burrowing into the sandy bottom which remains moistened by ground water. Even during summer, they will remerge if rains arrive, only to burrow back down when the pools again dry up.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin 5-7; anal fin 11-12; Pectoral fin 10-12; Pelvic fin 4; Caudal fin 12-14.

Body very slender, elongate, scaled; head blunt; dorsal fin tall, short-based, situated above the anal fin posterior to the pelvic fins; no adipose fin; pelvic fins abdominal; anal fin of male with a scaly sheath and modified rays for internal fertilisation; caudal fin rounded or lanceolate. All fin rays are finely segmented and unbranched except for one or two anal-fin rays.


To 67 mm standard length, 74 mm toal length.


Back and sides greenish-brown with black blotches, silvery-white below, fin membranes clear. The blotches on males form a dark mid-lateral stripe that extends through the eye.


Carnivore - feeds mainly on aquatic insect larvae.


The sexes are separate and fertilisation is internal. Salamanderfish spawn during winter months when water levels are highest in the pools and streams in shich they live. Males have a modified anal fin for copulation, and produce a sticky mucous to join to females.

Females produce between 100-400 eggs with a diameter of 1.1-1.3 mm. The larvae and juveniles grow rapidly in readiness for summer drought. Larvae hatch at 5.5 mm and immediately become bottom-dwellers. At hatching, larvae are elongate, and have a functional mouth, well-developed and pigmented eyes, and a moderate yolksac, which appears to be partially enclosed by a thin layer of muscles and well-developed pelvic fins. Notochord flexion starts at about 7.5 mm and is complete by approximately 11.5 mm (Gill & Morgan 1999).

Females are larger than males and  individuals may reach 5 years of age.


IUCN Red List : Near Threatened (Lower Risk)


Lepidogalaxias is from the Greek lepis, -idos, meaning scale and galaxias meaning milk or milky. The species is named salamandroides due to its resemblance to a salamander.


Bray, D.J. 2017

Salamanderfish, Lepidogalaxias salamandroides Mees 1961


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37102022

Biology:Aestivates during drought

Conservation:IUCN Near Threatened; WA Endangered

Conservation:IUCN: Near Threatened

Habitat:Semi-permanent freshwaters

Max Size:6.7 cm SL; 7.5 cm TL


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