Oxleyan Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca oxleyana Whitley 1940

Other Names: Oxleyan Pigmy Perch

Oxleyan Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca oxleyana, from a small "acid" coast wallum creek at Eastern Beach, Moreton Island National Park, Queensland. Source: John Esdaile / Atlas of Living Australia. License: CC BY Attribution


A small pale brown to olive pygmy perch with a distinctive orange-rimmed, black spot on the tail base, and relatively large eye encircled with blue. The fins are transparent for most of the year, with the anal fin becoming black and that caudal fin scarlet when breeding.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thmopson, V.J. 2020, Nannoperca oxleyana in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Jan 2021,

Oxleyan Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca oxleyana Whitley 1940

More Info


Endemic to eastern Australia, with a patchy distribution from Tin Can Bay, southern Queensland, to Corindi in northern New South Wales, including Fraser Island, Moreton Island and Stradbroke Island, Queensland. 

Inhabits slightly acidic and tannin-stained water in slow-flowing densely-vegetated pools, streams, river channels, lakes and swamps, especially in Banksia-dominated heathlands or 'wallum' habitats. Individuals, pairs and occasionally small groups usually shelter near or among emergent vegetation and plant roots growing into the water from undercut or vertical banks.


Dorsal fin VII, 8-9; Anal fin III, 7-9; Pectoral fin 12; Gill rakers 9-12.

Body relatively deep, compressed; mouth relatively small, jaws reaching to below anterior part of pupil; eyes relatively large; rear edge of preorbital smooth; teeth in front of lower jaw enlarged; lateral line absent.

Scales ctenoid, lateral-line scales absent, mid-lateral scales 25 to 26, transverse scale rows 13.

Single notched dorsal fin with anterior spinous section and posterior soft rayed section; anal fin similar and opposite to posterior portion of dorsal fin; caudal fin truncated.


To 6cm SL, commonly to 4cm.


Pale brown to olive, darker on back; eye encircled with blue; scales with dusky outlines; prominent round black spot with orange margin at base of caudal fin; fins mainly clear.

During the breeding season, the body and caudal fin of males becomes more intensely red, and the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins darken.


Feeds mostly on aquatic insects and their larvae, but also consumes microcrustaceans and some algae.


Individuals mature after 4-5 months, and spawn mostly between September and December (but may extend into April or May) when average water temperature and day length reaches or exceeds 16.6 C and 10.7 hours, respectively.

Males defend patches of aquatic vegetation into which pairs spawn and fertilise eggs. Females continually produce small batches of eggs during the breeding period.


IUCN Red List: Endangered

EPBC Act 1999: Endangered

NSW Fisheries Management Act 1994 : Endangered

QLD Nature Conservation Act 1992: Vulnerable

The species is threatened by habitat loss and degradation (land clearing, coastal development, mining) and competition and predation by Eastern Gambusia, Gambusia holbrooki. Populations are also isolated by large land distances, preventing gene flow.

Similar Species

Easily distinguished from other species in the genus Nannoperca by the lack of a lateral line and the orange-edged black spot on the caudal peduncle.


Nannoperca is from the Latin nannus meaning small, and the Greek perke meaning perch = dwarf perch, in reference to the small size of this species.

Species Citation

Nannoperca oxleyana Whitley 1940, Aust. Zool. 9(4): 419. Type locality: Moreton Island, Queensland.


Bray, D.J. & Thmopson, V.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Oxleyan Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca oxleyana Whitley 1940


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37323008

Conservation:IUCN & EPBC Act Endangered


Max Size:7.5 cm SL


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