Variegated Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca variegata Kuiter & Allen 1986

Other Names: Ewen Pygmy Perch, Ewens Pygmy Perch

Variegated Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca variegata. Source: Michael Hammer. License: All rights reserved

Ewens Pygmy Perch has a restricted distribution, limited to the Glenelg river system in south-west Victoria and Ewens Ponds in South Australia. This small, slender bodied species varies in colour from pale tan to brownish, olive and orange but always with dark scale margins. Prefers swift flowing creeks with a good cover of vegetation.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2019, Nannoperca variegata in Fishes of Australia, accessed 02 Mar 2024,

Variegated Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca variegata Kuiter & Allen 1986

More Info


Known only from coastal ponds and streams between Winnap, Victoria, and Ewens Ponds, South Australis. Inhabits small, swiftly flowing, cool freshwater creeks with abundant vegetation.


Dorsal fin VIII-IX (usually VIII), 9-10; Anal fin III, 8-9; Pectoral fin 14-15; Pelvic fin I, 5; Causal fin 13-14.

Body relatively slender and laterally compressed, greatest depth 2.7-3.1 in SL; head relatively short, length 3.1-3.4 in SL; snout pointed, length 4.4-5.4 in HL; jaw reach back to front of pupil; jaws with numerous, slender villiform teeth; vomer and palatines with a band of villiform teeth; eye width 2.8-3.3 in HL; enlarged, paired nostrils on each side of snout, anterior nostrils with elevated rim, posterior twice size of anterior, above front of eye; small, inconspicuous sensory pores on each side of head; gill rakers poorly developed; margins of preorbital bone, preoperculum, and operculum smooth.

Scales on head and near midline of nape cycloid; body scales ctenoid; scales absent from anterior portion of nape, entire interorbital, snout, lips, chin, and fins; horizontal scale rows above lateral line at level of dorsal fin origin 3 (3 or 4), horizontal scale rows below lateral line at level of anal fin origin 8 (8 or 9); transverse scale rows on cheek 2 (2 or 3); lateral line an interrupted series of tubed scales

Single dorsal fin with an anterior spiny section and posterior soft section separated by deep notch, 1st dorsal spine about « (or slightly less) length of tallest (3rd) dorsal spine, dorsal spines gradually increasing in length to 3rd spine, then gradually decreasing, soft dorsal fin slightly lower than spinous dorsal, its maximum height about equal to distance from snout to rear edge of eye; anal fin opposite and similar to soft part of dorsal fin, 1st first anal spine about « (or slightly more) length of 2nd anal spine, 3rd anal spine about equal to 2nd anal spine; ventral and pectoral fins similar to each other in length; caudal fin moderately large, truncate or rounded.


To 6.5 cm SL


Males are reddish-orange ventrally with a golden mid-lateral band and two primary rows of brown blotches along the side. Females are less brightly coloured, being mostly whitish ventrally with 2-3 rows of irregular brown blotches along the side. Both sexes have a brown band from the front of the eye to the snout and a golden sheen on the operculum. Juveniles are mainly pale olive grading to white ventrally with a dark mid-lateral stripe and black spot at the base of the caudal fin.


Feeds mainly on aquatic insects and benthic microcrustaceans.


Breeding occurs from spring to early summer and males become territorial during this period; females deposit small batches of eggs among aquatic vegetation or over the substrate every few days over several weeks. Non-adhesive, demersal eggs. Larvae hatch after around 2-4 days.


Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Listed as Vulnerable under the Australian EPBC Act.


Often found around woody debris accumulated after a flood event. Although Ewens Pygmy Perch co-occurs with Nannoperca australis in Ewen Ponds, South Australia, it generally prefers faster flowing streams rather than ponds

Similar Species

Nannoperca variegata is similar to N. australis but easily separated on the basis of colour pattern, predorsal scalation and counts for gill rakers and pectoral rays. They also differ in the number of predorsal bones with N. variegata having 4 compared to 3 for N. australis. Furthermore, there is also a difference in habitat with N. variegata preferring faster flowing water.


Nannoperca means dwarf perch and comes from the Latin nannus meaning small, and the Greek perke meaning Perch. Species is named variegata in reference to the blotchy colour pattern.

Species Citation

Nannoperca variegata Kuiter & Allen 1985, Rev. Fr. Aquariol. 12: 111. Type locality: Glengulin Creek, Winnap, Victoria.


Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2019


Australian Faunal Directory

Variegated Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca variegata Kuiter & Allen 1986


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

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

Buckley, S.J., Domingos, F.M.C.B., Attard, C.R.M., Brauer, C.J., Sandoval-Castillo, J., Lodge, R., Unmack, P.J. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2018. Phylogenomic history of enigmatic pygmy perches: implications for biogeography, taxonomy and conservation. Royal Society Open Science

Fisher, J.T. 1993. Action Statement No. 42 Variegated (Ewen's) Pygmy Perch Nannoperca variegata. [Online]. Melbourne: Dept. Natural Resources & Environment. Available from:

Growns, I. 2004. A numerical classification of reproductive guilds of the freshwater fishes of south-eastern Australia and their application to river management. Fisheries Management and Ecology 11: 369?377.

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

Koehn, J.D. & W.G. O'Connor, W.G. 1990. Biological Information for the Management of Native Freshwater Fish in Victoria. ARI, Victoria. Dept CFL, Victoria.

Kuiter, R.H. 2013. Pictorial Guide to Victoria's Freshwater Fishes. Seaford, Victoria : Aquatic Photographics 178 pp. 

Kuiter, R.H. & Allen, G.R. 1986. A synopsis of the Australian pygmy perches (Percichthyidae), with the description of a new species. Revue Française d'Aquariologie et Herpétologie 12(4): 109-116

Kuiter, R.H., Humphries, P.A. & Arthington, A.H. 1996. Family Nannopercidae. pp. 168-175 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.

Unmack, P.J. 2001. Biogeography of Australian freshwater fishes. Journal of Biogeography 28: 1053-1089

Unmack, P.J., Hammer, M.P., Adams, M. & Dowling, T.E. 2011. A phylogenetic analysis of pygmy perches (Teleostei: Percichthyidae) with an assessment of the major historical influences on aquatic biogeography in southern Australia. Systematic Biology 60(6): 797–812

Wager, R. & Jackson, P. 1993. The Action Plan For Australian Freshwater Fishes. Canberra, ACT: Australian Nature Conservation Agency.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37311221

Conservation:EPBC Act & IUCN - Vulnerable


Max Size:6.5 cm


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