Southern Purplespotted Gudgeon, Mogurnda adspersa (Castelnau 1878)

Other Names: Chequered Gudgeon, Purple Spotted Gudgeon, Purple-spotted Gudgeon, Southern Purple-spotted Gudgeon, Trout Gudgeon

Southern Purplespotted Gudgeon, Mogurnda adspersa. Source: Michael Hammer. License: All rights reserved


A dark-brownish to yellowish-brown gudgeon becoming paler below, with a row of dark blotches surrounded by red and white spots on the sides, and sometimes iridescent blue markings.

Males have 3-4 diagonal brownish to purple bars on the head from behind and below the eye to the pectoral-fin base, and red spots on the dorsal, anal and caudal fins.

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2018, Mogurnda adspersa in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Mar 2023,

Southern Purplespotted Gudgeon, Mogurnda adspersa (Castelnau 1878)

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Coastal drainages from the Pascoe River, Queensland to the Clarence River, New South Wales, and inland Murray-Darling drainages from the Macquarie River, New South Wales to the Onkaparinga River, South Australia. Although threatened in parts of its range, the Southern Purplespotted Gudgeon is common in coastal streams of central Queensland. 

As of 2017, the New South Wales Murray-Darling Basin population is confined to small remnant populations in the Macquarie, Gwydir and Border Rivers catchments and a self-sustaining population from captive-bred fish in the Castlereagh Catchment. Only two extant populations are known in eastern New South Wales: one in the Richmond catchment and the other in the Hunter Valley (possibly recently introduced to the Hunter River catchment). 

The species was on the verge of extinction in South Australia until the establishment of a captive breeding program. In recent years, captive bred Southern Purplespotted Gudgeons have been released into the lower Murray, and their numbers appear to be increasing.

Southern Purplespotted Gudgeons inhabit freshwater rivers, creeks and billabongs. They prefer still or slow-flowing deeper waters, and usually shelter among aquatic vegetation, rocks, snags and other woody debris. 


Dorsal fin VII-IX + I, 9-12; Anal fin I, 10-12; Pectoral fin 14-16; Caudal fin 14-15 (segmented), 12-15 (branched); Pelvic fin I, 5; Transverse scale rows 10-12; Vertebrae 14-15 + 15-18 = 30-32.

Body elongate, head and anterior part of body somewhat robust, more laterally compressed posteriorly; body depth at pelvic fin origin 24.5-28.0% SL, body depth at anal fin origin 23.7-25.5% SL, head length 32.1-36.2% SL, snout length 8.9-9.6% SL, eye diameter 6.0-8.2% SL; Mouth rather small, reaching below front part of eye; pointed, jaws with villiform, posteriorly curved teeth, in dense bands, outer row enlarged. Sensory pores absent on head, but well developed system of papillae arranged in multiserial bands. Gill opening extending nearly to below rear margin of eye. Sexual dimorphism generally inconspicuous.

Head and body covered with scales, except lips, snout tip, preorbital region, lower jaw, and chin; those on head, predorsal region, breast, uppermost part of back and bases of caudal and pectoral fins cycloid, remainder finely ctenoid; lateral line absent; longitudinal series 30-36; predorsal scales 16-21; transverse scales 10-12 (usually 11).

Two dorsal fins, first rounded and lower than second, with slender, flexible spines; second dorsal and anal fins similar and opposite. Pectoral fin rounded, pectoral fin length 21.3-24.0 % SL; Pelvic fins separate, pointed, pelvic fin length 19.0-22.5% SL. Caudal fin rounded, caudal fin length 25.3-30.1; caudal peduncle length 20.5-23.8, caudal peduncle depth 13.7-15.9.


To around 12 cm SL, commonly to 8 cm.


Generally brown above, paler on sides and pale tan on belly, with 3 diagonal, reddish stripes on head across cheek and operculum; sides covered with numerous red, pupil-sized or smaller, spots and 6-8 large, grey to blackish blotches along middle of side, usually faint except posterior-most ones; fins dusky grey to yellowish-brown, except whitish or dusky grey to translucent pectorals and pelvics; dorsal fins with broad outer margin of yellow and scattered red spots on lower half of fin, increasing in size towards base of fin; anal fin with narrow white outer margin and white basal stripe punctuated with red spots; caudal fin with small red spots, larger and more concentrated on basal portion.


Carnivore - an ambush predator that feeds on aquatic macroinvertebrates such as insect larvae, worms, glass shrimps, small fishes, tadpoles and small yabbies.


Oviparous, benthic spawners. Spawning occurs between pairs in Spring from November to March. Females mawhen water temperatures reach 20oC. Females batches of 30-1300 sticky eggs per breeding season, depositing them onto rocks, logs or broad-leafed aquatic vegetation. The male parent guards the eggs and continuously fans them with his pectoral and anal fins until they hatch after 3-9 days.

Eggs are transparent, elongate and pointed at both ends, and measure 2.0-3.8 mm by 1.1-1.3 mm.

Larvae hatch after 3-9 days at 3.5-4.0mm TL; yolk is fully absorbed and feeding on zooplankton commences around 6 days post hatching.


The Southern Purplespotted Gudgeon is currently listed as: 

·Critically Endangered in South Australia and is protected under the Fisheries Management Act 2007
·Threatened (regionally extinct) in Victoria 
·Endangered in New South Wales. 

Threats include:
·Predation by non-native fishes such as Eastern Gambusia, Gambusia holbrooki, and Redfin, Perca fluviatilis
·Habitat degradation including the loss of aquatic vegetation and increasing siltation
·Water level fluctuations due to river regulation and drought.
By the 1970s, the Southern Purplespotted Gudgeon was thought to be extinct in South Australia - until 2004, when a small remnant population was discovered in a wetland near Mannum.


Mogurnda adspersa is most likely a species complex consisting of at least two separate species (Adams et al. 2013). 

Species Citation

Eleotris adspersa Castelnau 1878, Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. (1)3(2): 142. Type locality: Australia.


Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Southern Purplespotted Gudgeon, Mogurnda adspersa (Castelnau 1878)


Adams, M., Page, T.J., Hurwood, D.A. & Hughes. J.M. 2013. A molecular assessment of species boundaries and phylogenetic affinities in Mogurnda (Eleotridae): a case study of cryptic biodiversity in the Australian freshwater fishes. Marine and Freshwater Research 64(10): 920-931.

Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 240 pp., 63 pls.

Allen, G.R. & Jenkins, A.P. 1999. A review of the Australian freshwater gudgeons, genus Mogurnda (Eleotridae) with descriptions of three new species.  Aqua, J. Ichthyol. Aquat. Biol. 3(4): 141–155.

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

Boxall, G.D., Sandberg, J.J. & Kroon, F.J. 2002. Population structure, movement and habitat preferences of the purple-spotted gudgeon Mogurnda adspersa. Marine and Freshwater Research 53: 909-917

Briggs, G. 1998. Murray-Darling Mogurnda adspersa. Fishes of Sahul 12: 543-556.

Cadwallader, P.L. & Backhouse, G.N. 1983. A Guide to the Freshwater Fish of Victoria.  Melbourne : F.D. Atkinson Government Printer 249 pp.

Carvalho CD, Sasaki M, Hammer MP, Beheregaray LB (2012) Development of 18 microsatellite markers for the southern purple-spotted gudgeon (Mogurnda adspersa) from the lower Murray-Darling Basin through 454 pyrosequencing. Conservation Genetic Resources 4(2): 339–341 doi:10.1007/s12686-011-9542-0 Abstract

Castelnau, F.L. de 1878. On some new Australian (chiefly) freshwater fishes. Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. (1)3(2): 140–144.

De Vis, C.W. 1884. New fishes in the Queensland Museum. No. 4. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 9(3): 685-698 (as Eleotris mimus  & Eleotris concolor)

Faulks, L.K., Gilligan, D.M. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2008. Phylogeography of a threatened freshwater fish (Mogurnda adspersa) in eastern Australia: conservation implications. Marine and Freshwater Research 59: 89-96. 

Gale, A. 1914. Notes on the breeding habits of the purple-spotted gudgeon, Krefftius adspersus. Australian Zoologist 1: 25-26.

Gilligan, D. 2005. Fish Communities of the Murrumbidgee Catchment: Status and Trends. NSW Department of Primary Industries – Fisheries final report series No. 75.

Hammer, M.P., Adams, M. & Foster, R. 2012. Update to the catalogue of South Australian freshwater fishes (Petromyzontida & Actinopterygii). Zootaxa 3593: 59–74

Hammer, M.P. & Walker, K.F. 2004. A catalogue of South Australian freshwater fishes, including new records, range extensions and translocations. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 128(2): 85-97

Hammer, M., Wedderburn, S. & Van Weenen, J. 2009. Action plan for South Australian freshwater fishes. Native Fish Australia (SA), Adelaide.

Hoese, D.F., Larson, H.K. & Llewellyn, L.C. 1980. Family Eleotridae: gudgeons.  pp. 169–185 19 figs in McDowall, R.M. (ed.) Freshwater Fishes of South-eastern Australia.  Sydney : A.H. & A.W. Reed 208 pp. figs.

Hughes, J.M., Real, K.M., Marshall, J.C., & Schmidt, D.J. (2012). Extreme genetic structure in a small-bodied freshwater fish, the purple spotted gudgeon, Mogurnda adspersa (Eleotridae). PLoS ONE 7, e40546. Open access DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040546

Hurwood D.A. & Hughes J.M. 1998. Phylogeography of the freshwater fish, Mogurnda adspersa, in streams of northeastern Queensland, Australia: evidence for altered drainage patterns. Molecular Ecology 7: 1507–1517.

Lake, J.S. 1978. Australian Freshwater Fishes.  Melbourne : Thomas Nelson 160 pp. 140 figs.

Larson, H.K. & Hoese, D.F. 1996. Family Gobiidae, subfamilies Eleotridinae and Butinae. pp. 200-219 in McDowall, R.M. (ed.) Freshwater Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Sydney : Reed Books 247 pp.

Leggett, R. & Merrick, J.R. 1987. Australian Native Fishes for Aquariums.  Artarmon : J.R. Merrick Publications 241 pp. 142 figs.

Lintermans, M. 2009. Fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin — An Introductory Guide. Canberra : Murray-Darling Basin Commission 157 pp. [MDBC Publication Number 10/07]

Llewellyn, L.C. 2006. Breeding and development of the endangered - Purple-spotted Gudgeon Mogurnda adspersa population from the Murray Darling. Australian Zoologist 33(4): 480-510.

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management.  Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. figs 280 col. figs

Ogilby, J.D. 1898. On some Australian Eleotrinae. Part 2. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 22(4): 783-793 (as Krefftius adspersa)

Pusey, B.J., Kennard, M.J. & Arthington, A.H. 2004. Freshwater Fishes of North-eastern Australia. Collingwood, Victoria : CSIRO Publishing 684 pp. 

Sasaki, M., Hammer, M.P., Unmack, P.J., Adams, M. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2016. Population genetics of a widely distributed small freshwater fish with varying conservation concerns: the southern purple spotted gudgeon, Mogurnda adspersa. Conservation Genetics 17(4): 875-889.

Threatened Species Unit, DPI NSW. 2017. Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon – Mogurnda adspersa. Primefact 1275, 2nd Ed.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37429033

Conservation:Protected NSW, SA, Vic

Fishing:Aquarium fish


Max Size:12 cm SL


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