Common name: Glassfishes


Cite this page as:
Glassfishes, AMBASSIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 17 Jun 2024,

More Info

Family Taxonomy

The glassfishes of Australia were recently reviewed by Allen & Burgess (1990). This work includes a key and diagnostic illustrations for all species. The family contains approximately 40 species belonging to about eight genera; 14 species and three genera are known from Australia. One undescribed species is known from the Lake Eyre basin and northern Australia (Allen et al., 2002). That species was previously referred to as Ambassis muelleri. A number of species are figured in Whitley (1935) and lectotypes selected for several species.

Family Distribution

The family is confined to the tropical Indo-West Pacific, although about two-thirds of this total dwell in fresh waters of India, southeast Asia and the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Five of the Australian species are restricted to fresh water. The remainder are estuarine dwellers which are sometimes found in the lower reaches of freshwater streams. Glassfishes are apparently nocturnal, and  congregate amongst plants or other shelter during daylight hours.

Family Size

Most species are small in size, usually under 100 mm, with the exception of Parambassis which may grow in excess of 250 mm.

Family Feeding

The diet includes micro-crustaceans, aquatic insects, small arachnids, terrestrial insects and small amounts of fishes and algae.


Allen, G.R. & Burgess, W.E. (1990). A review of the glass-fishes (Ambassidae) of Australia and New Guinea. Rec. West. Aust. Mus. Suppl. 34: 139–206

Whitley, G.P. (1935). Fishes from Princess Charlotte Bay, North Queensland. Rec. S. Aust. Mus. 5(3): 345–365 figs 1–11