Clarence River Cod, Maccullochella ikei Rowland 1986

Other Names: Cod, East Coast Cod, Eastern Cod, Eastern Freshwater Cod, Estuary Cod

A young Clarence River Cod, Maccullochella ikei. Source: Rudie H. Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved

A large, endangered species found only in the upper Clarence River system of New South Wales. Clarence River Cod have a concave forehead profile and pelvic-fin rays with elongate filaments.

A large olive to yellowish-green or golden cod, with a concave forehead profile, pelvic-fin rays with elongate filaments,  distinct reticulated mottling on the head and body; belly whitish.

Video of a Clarence River Cod amongst snags in the wild (also called the Eastern Freshwater Cod).

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson, Maccullochella ikei in Fishes of Australia, accessed 05 Dec 2020,

Clarence River Cod, Maccullochella ikei Rowland 1986

More Info


Historically endemic to and widely distributed in the Clarence, Richmond and Brisbane River systems of coastal north-eastern New South Wales and southern Queensland. The species is now thought to only exist naturally in the Clarence River System. 

Clarence River Cod inhabit pristine sections of clear, flowing, freshwater rocky streams with plenty of logs, woody debris and other in-stream cover.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin X-XII, 13-16; Anal fin III, 11-12; Pectoral fin 16-19; Lateral line distinct with 65-82 scales; 32-52 scale rows below lateral line.

Body relatively deep, and elongate, moderately compressed; greatest body depth 26.0-30.3% SL; depth of caudal peduncle 10.7-12.5% SL; head broad, width 46.0-66.2% HL; slope of head profile concave; mouth large reaching back to rear edge of eye; upper jaw protrudes over lower; eyes moderately large, eye diameter 12.0-19.0% HL; jaws, vomer and palatines with irregular rows of villiform, curved teeth; operculum with fleshy margin and 2 spines.

Scales small, mostly ctenoid, present on cheeks and operculum scaled, snout naked.

Dorsal fin origin behind pectoral and ventral fin bases; dorsal spines strong, soft dorsal rounded; anal fin rounded, opposite soft dorsal; pectoral fin large, upper rays longest; ventral fin inserted forward of pectoral fin base, 1st ray elongated into 2 filaments, 2nd long, tapering to a fine tip; caudal fin large, rounded.


To at least 66 cm SL and 41 kg.


Olive-green to yellowish with dark mottling on back, head, sides and bases of median fins; white ventrally; median fins with white edges.


Carnivore - feeds on fishes, crustaceans, molluscs, amphibians, aquatic birds and the occasional reptile.


Spawns in spring when water temperatures exceed 16°C; breeding season is short lasting only 8-10 weeks. Nest sites are vigorously cleaned by males until the day of spawning when females enter the site and a complex courting ritual to facilitate spawning occurs. Males guard and fan the eggs until hatching and then vigorously defend the larvae up until 12-14 days post-hatch when larvae disperse from the nest site.


This species is now protected making it illegal to target while fishing.


IUCN Red List: Endangered.
EPBC Act: Endangered.


Overfishing and habitat destruction during railroad construction, mining, agriculture and heavy flooding following a bushfire event have all been attributed to causing the decline of this species.

Similar Species

Differs from Maccullochella peelii in having longer pelvic fins, a larger orbit diameter, larger and morphologically distinct sagittal otoliths, and a distinctive colour pattern. 
Differs from Maccullochella mariensis in having a narrower caudal peduncle, a shorter post-orbital head length, a larger orbit, shorter inter-orbital width, more scale rows below the lateral line, longer fifth and sixth dorsal-fin spines, and a greater extension of the first anal-fin pterygiophore towards the vertebral column. 
Differs from Maccullochella macquariensis in having a concave head profile, protruding lower jaw, 15 precaudal vertebrae, greater extension of the first anal pterygiophore towards the vertebral column and distinctive colouration.


Species was named ikei by S.J. Rowland after his late grandfather, Isaac (Ike) Morgan Rowland, who was a great admirer and angler of Australian native inland fishes, in particular Murray cod.

Species Citation

Maccullochella ikei Rowland, S.J. (1986). Identification and conservation of the eastern freshwater cod. Biennial Report, July 1983-June 1985. Agricultural Research and Advisory Station, Grafton. Dept. Agric., N. S. W. pp. 16–17 [16].
Type locality: Nymboida R., junction with Mann R., NSW  [29°39'S, 152°30'E].


Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson


Clarence River Cod, Maccullochella ikei Rowland 1986


Allen, G.R. (1989). Freshwater Fishes of Australia.  Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications pp. 1–240 (as Maccullochella sp.)

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. (2002). Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia.  Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp.

Anon. (2006). Habitat rehabilitation for the endangered eastern freshwater cod (Maccullochella ikei) in the Richmond River Catchment and trout cod (Maccullochella macquariensis) in the Murray Catchment, NSW. Report to the New South Wales Environmental Trust. New South Wales Department of Primary Industries: Sydney. 

Butler, G.L. (2009). Biology and Conservation of the endangered eastern freshwater cod Maccullochella ikei Rowland. Ph.D. Thesis. Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Butler, G.L. & Rowland, S.J. (2009). Using underwater cameras to describe the reproductive behaviour of the endangered eastern freshwater cod Maccullochella ikei. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 18: 337-349. 

Butler, G.L. & I.J. Wooden. (2012). Dietary habits of a large, long-lived endangered Australian percichthyid, the eastern freshwater cod; Maccullochella ikei. Endangered Species Research 16: 199-209.

Faragher, R.A., P. Brown & J.H. Harris (1993). Population surveys of the endangered fish species trout cod (Maccullochella macquariensis) and eastern cod (M. ikei). NSW Fisheries Research Institute, Cronulla, 22 pp.

Ingram, B.A., C.G. Barlow, J.J. Burchmore, G.J. Gooley, S.J. Rowland & A.C. Sanger (1990). Threatened native freshwater fishes in Australia - some case histories. Journal of Fish Biology 37: 175-182.

Jerry, D.R., Elphinstone, M.S. & Baverstock, P.R. (2001). Phylogenetic relationships of Australian members of the family Percichthyidae inferred from mitochondrial 12S rRNA sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 18: 335-347.

Lintermans, M., Rowland, S., Koehn, J., Butler, G., Simpson, B. & Wooden, I. (2005). The status, threats and management of freshwater cod species Maccullochella spp. in Australia.pp. 15-29. In M. Lintermans & B. Phillips(eds). Management of Murray Cod in the Murray-Darling Basin: Statement Recommendations and Supporting Papers. Murray-Darling Basin Commission: Canberra.

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. (1984). Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management.  Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. (as Maccullochella sp.1)

Morris, S.A., Pollard, D.A., Gehrke, P.C. & Pogonoski, J.J. (2001). Threatened and potentially threatened freshwater fishes of coastal New South Wales and the Murray-Darling Basin. New South Wales Fisheries Final Report Series No.33. New South Wales Fisheries: Cronulla. 

Nock, C., Moore, A., Gartside, D. & Baverstock, P. (2003). Conservation genetics of the eastern freshwater cod (Maccullochella ikei): an interim report to New South Wales Fisheries. Southern Cross University: Lismore.

Nock, C.J., J.R. Ovenden, G.L. Butler, I. Wooden, A. Moore & P.R. Baverstock (2011). Population structure, effective population size and adverse effects of stocking in the endangered Australian Eastern Freshwater Cod (Maccullochella ikei). Journal of Fish Biology 78: 303-321.

Rowland, S.J. (1985). Aspects of the biology and artificial breeding of the Murray cod, Maccullochella peelii and the Eastern Freshwater Cod, M. ikei sp. nov. Ph.D. Thesis. Macquarie University, Ryde, NSW.

Rowland, S.J. (1993). Maccullochella ikei, an endangered species of freshwater cod (Pisces: Percichthyidae) from the Clarence River system, NSW and M. peelii mariensis, a new subspecies from the Mary River system, Qld. Rec. Aust. Mus. 45(2): 121–145.

Rowland, S.J. (1993). Maccullochella ikei, an endangered species of freshwater cod (Pisces: Percichthyidae) from the Clarence River system, NSW and M. peelii mariensis, a new subspecies from the Mary River system, Qld. Rec. Aust. Mus. 45(2): 121–145. PDF

Rowland, S.J. (1996). Threatened fishes of the world: Maccullochella ikei Rowland, 1985 (Percichthyidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 46: 350.

Threatened Species Unit, NSW Fisheries. (2004). Eastern Freshwater Cod (Maccullochella ikei) Recovery Plan. New South Wales Fisheries: Nelson Bay. 37 pp.

Wager, R. 1996. Maccullochella ikei. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. <>. Downloaded on 17 February 2012.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37311181

Conservation:EPBC Act Endangered; IUCN Endangered


Max Size:66 cm SL; 41 kg


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CAAB distribution map