Common Galaxias, Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns 1842)

Other Names: Common Jollytail, Eel Gudgeon, Eel-gudgeon, Inanga, Lananga, Minnow, Native Trout, Pulangi, Slippery Tarki, Spotted Minnow, Turket, Whitebait

Common Galaxias, Galaxias maculatus. Source: Neil Armstrong. License: All rights reserved


A slender, elongate olive-grey to amber Galaxias with irregular darker spots or blotches on the back and sides, silvery-olive to white eyes, gill cover and belly, and translucent fins. The species has a small mouth, a long, slender caudal peduncle with a slightly forked tail, and the dorsal and anal fins are positioned  opposite each other near the rear of the body. 

Video of Common Galaxias stranded in pools left by high spring tides in the lower reaches of the Thurra River in Croajingolong National Park, Victoria.

Common Galaxias and Pygmy Perch (Nannoperca) in Darlot Creek, Western Victoria, April 2017.

Video of Common Galaxias in Western Australia.

Video of Common Galaxias embryos.

Video of Common Galaxias whitebait in New Zealand.

A Common Galaxias close-up.

Spotted Galaxias (Galaxias truttaceus), Common Galaxias (Galaxias maculatus), Freshwater Flathead, Tupong (Pseudaphritis urvillii) and Southern Shortfin Eel (Anguilla australis) in Fotheringate Creek, Flinders Island, Tasmania.

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2021, Galaxias maculatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 20 Jul 2024,

Common Galaxias, Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns 1842)

More Info


In Australian waters, Common Galaxias inhabit temperate coastal flowing streams and rivers east and south of the Great Dividing Range, from Brisbane, Queensland, to Albany, Western Australia, including on Flinders Island and King Island, Bass Strait, and low elevations in Tasmania; also the Lord Howe Province in the Tasman Sea.

In the Murray-Darling Basin the species is known from Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert near the Murray River mouth to about Mannum on the Lower Murray and streams of the Mt Lofty Ranges in South Australia. The species is thought to have been introduced into the Wimmera, Loddon and Campaspe river catchments in Victoria.

The species has one of the world's largest natural distributions for a freshwater fish. It is known from New Zealand (Chatham Is., North Is., South Is.), Argentina (Tierra del Fuego, Rio Negro), Chile, and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).

Common Galaxias inhabit a wide range of environments, usually in still or slow-flowing waters such as streams, rivers and lakes within a short distance of the sea. The species can tolerate salinities up to 50 ppt and may also occur in brackish streams. Some populations are landlocked while others are diadromous, migrating downstream to spawn in estuaries.


Dorsal fin 9-15; Anal fin 13-21; Pectoral fin 10-15.

Body elongate, slender; depth at vent 9.0-14% SL; head small, bluntly pointed, not depressed; snout blunt and rounded; mouth small reaching back to front of eyes; jaws equal in length; eyes relatively large, diameter 17-31% HL; caudal peduncle long and slender. Scales absent.

Fins thin, membranous, caudal fin emarginate to slightly forked, anal fin origin directly below dorsal fin origin.


Maximum size 19 cm TL; usually to around 8-12 cm TL


Body a translucent grey-olive to amber, with irregular greenish-grey blotches or spots on back and upper sides, belly, gill covers and eyes a bright silvery-olive to silvery-white, fins largely unpigmented.


Feeds on a variety of aquatic and terrestrial insects, and crustaceans, taken from the bottom and throughout the water column.


laying their eggs amongst dense vegetation. 

The sexes are separate and fertilisation is external. Adults migrate downstream to spawn in estuaries. Females spawn with a few hundred to several thousand tiny adhesive eggs (1 mm diameter) onto on dense terrestrial vegetation either in flooded banks of streams or estuaries flooded by the high spring tides. When the tides recede, the eggs survive and develop aerially in these moist environments for two to four weeks until the next spring tides.

On hatching, the larvae (about 7 mm long) are washed out to sea and develop in the open ocean for 4-6 months. They eventually migrate back to shore, and the following spring, unpigmented juveniles known as whitebait return to the rivers and streams where they hatched.

Land-locked individuals migrate upstream to spawn in the tributaries during late winter to early spring when water levels rise. After hatching, the larvae are washed downstream into lakes, usually developing amongst near-shore vegetation.

Individuals mature after about one year, and usually die after spawning.


Commonly known as whitebait, juveniles Galaxias species form the basis of a commercial and recreational fishery in New Zealand, Chile and Argentina. Although no longer fished commercially in Australia, whitebait were commercially fished in Tasmania until the 1970's.


The Common Galaxias has the largest natural distribution of any freshwater fish species.

Species Citation

Mesites maculatus Jenyns 1842, Zool. voyage H. M. S. Beagle, 1832 to 1836, Part 4 Fishes: 119, Pl. 22 (figs. 4, 4a). Type locality: fresh water brook on Hardy Peninsula, Tierra del Fuego and Río Santa Cruz, Patagonia.


Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Common Galaxias, Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns 1842)


Allen, G.R. 1982. Inland Fishes of Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 86 pp. 6 figs 20 pls.

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

Allen, G.R., Midgley, H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum: I-xiv + 1-394.

Barbee, N.C., R. Hale, J. Morrongiello, A. Hicks, D. Semmens, B.J. Downes & S.E. Swearer. 2011. Large-scale geographic variation in the life history traits of a diadromous fish. Marine and Freshwater Research 62(7): 790-800.

Barbee, N.C. & S.E. Swearer. 2007. Characterizing natal source population signatures in the diadromous fish, Galaxias maculatus, using embryonic otolith chemistry. Marine Ecology Progress Series 343: 273-282.

Becker, A., Laurenson, L.J.B., Jones, P.L. & Newman, D.M. 2005. Competitive interactions between the Australian native fish Galaxias maculatus and the exotic mosquitofish Gambusia holbrooki, in a series of laboratory experiments. Hydrobiologia 549: 187–196.

Berra, T.M., L. Crowley, W. Ivantsoff & P.A. Fuerst. 1996. Galaxias maculatus: an explanation of its biogeography. Mar. Freshw. Res. 47: 845–849.

Bice, C., Raadik, T., David, B., West, D, Franklin, P., Allibone, R, Ling, N., Hitchmough, R. & Crow, S. 2019. Galaxias maculatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T197279A129040788. Downloaded on 17 September 2021.

Cadwallader, P.L. & G.N. Backhouse. 1983. A guide to the freshwater fish of Victoria. Government Printers. Melbourne. 249 pp.

Castelnau, F.L. de 1872. Contribution to the ichthyology of Australia. 1. The Melbourne fish market. Proceedings of the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria 1: 29-242 1 pl. (described as Galaxias versicolorGalaxias cylindricusGalaxias amaenus and Galaxias delicatulus)

Chapman, A., Morgan, D.L., Beatty, S.J. & Gill, H.S. 2006. Variation in life history of land-locked lacustrine and riverine populations of Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns 1842) in Western Australia. Environmental Biology of Fishes 77: 21–37.

Chapman, A., Morgan, D.L. & Gill, H.S. 2009. Description of the larval development of Galaxias maculatus in landlocked lentic and lotic systems in Western Australia. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 43: 563–569.

Chessman, B.C. & Williams, W.D. 1975. Salinity tolerance and osmoregulatory ability of Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns) (Pisces, Salmoniformes, Galaxiidae). Freshwater Biology 5: 135-140.

Günther, A. 1866. Catalogue of the Fishes of the British Museum. Catalogue of the Physostomi, containing the families Salmonidae, Percopsidae, Galaxidae, Mormyridae, Gymnarchidae, Esocidae, Umbridae, Scombresocidae, Cyprinodontidae, in the collection of the British Museum. London : British Museum Vol. 6 368 pp. (described as Galaxias krefftii and Galaxias punctatus)

Hale, R., Downes, B.J. & Swearer, S.E. 2008. Habitat selection as a source of inter-specific differences in recruitment of two diadromous fish species.Freshwater Biology 53: 2145–2157.

Hale, R. & S.E. Swearer. 2008. Otolith microstructural and microchemical changes associated with settlement in the diadromous fish Galaxias maculatus. Marine Ecology Progress Series 354: 229-234.

Hale, R., B.J. Downes & S.E. Swearer. 2008. Habitat selection as a source of inter-specific differences in recruitment of two diadromous fish species. Freshwater Biology 53: 2145-2157.

Hale, R., S.E. Swearer & B.J. Downes. 2009. Is settlement at small spatial scales by diadromous fish from the Family Galaxiidae likely to be passive or active in a small coastal river? Marine and Freshwater Research 60(9): 971-975.

Hale, R., Swearer, S. & Downes, B. 2009. Separating natural responses from experimental artefacts: habitat selection by a diadromous fish species using odours from conspecifics and natural stream water. Oecologia 159: 679-687.

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

Hickford, M.J.H., Cagnon, M. & Schiel, D.R. 2010. Predation, vegetation and habitat-specific survival of terrestrial eggs of a diadromous fish, Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns, 1842). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 385: 66–72.

Hicks, A., N.C. Barbee, S.E. Swearer & B.J. Downes. 2010. Estuarine geomorphology and low salinity requirement for fertilisation influence spawning site location in the diadromous fish, Galaxias maculatus. Marine and Freshwater Research 61: 1252-1258.

Hicks, A.S., G.P. Closs & S.E. Swearer. 2010. Otolith microchemistry of two amphidromous galaxiids across an experimental salinity gradient: A multielement approach for tracking diadromous migrations. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 394: 86-97.

Jenyns, L. 1842. Part 4 Fishes. pp. 97-172 pls 21-29 in Darwin, C. (ed.) The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle under the command of Captain Fitzroy, R.N. during the years 1832 to 1836. London : Smith, Elder & Co. (described as Mesites attenuatus and M. maculatus)

Jung, C.A., N.C. Barbee & S.E. Swearer 2009. Post-settlement migratory behaviour and growth-related costs in two diadromous fish species, Galaxias maculatus and Galaxias brevipinnis. Journal of Fish Biology 75(3): 503-515.

Klunzinger, C.B. 1872. Zur Fische-fauna von Süd Australien. Archiv für Naturgeschichte 38(1): 17-47 pl. 2 (described as Galaxias obtusus)

Krefft, G. 1868. Descriptions of some new Australian freshwater fishes. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1867: 942-944 (described as Galaxias waterhousei)

Lintermans, M. 2007. Fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin : an introductory guide. Canberra : Murray-Darling Basin Commission, 157 pp.

Macleay, W.J. 1881. Descriptive catalogue of the fishes of Australia. Part 4. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 6(2): 202-387 (described as Galaxias nebulosa)

McCoy, F. 1867. On the recent zoology and palaeontology of Victoria. pp. 309–330 in, Intercolonial Exhibition of Australia, Melbourne. 1866–67. Melbourne : Blundell. (described as Galaxias pseudoscriba)

McDowall, R.M. 1967. Some points of confusion in galaxiid nomenclature. Copeia 1967(4): 841-843

McDowall, R.M. 1972. The species problem in freshwater fishes and the taxonomy of diadromous and lacustrine populations of Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns). J. R. Soc. N. Z. 2: 325–367.

McDowall, R.M. (ed.) 1980. Freshwater fishes of south-eastern Australia (New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Terrey Hills, N.S.W.: Reed, 208 pp.

McDowall, R.M. 1994. Families Retropinnidae, Prototroctidae, Galaxiidae. pp. 232-239 figs 207-212 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

McDowall, R.M. 2006. Crying wolf, crying foul, or crying shame: alien salmonids and a biodiversity crisis in the southern cool-temperate galaxioid fishes? Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 16: 233-422

McDowall, R.M. & Charteris, S.C. 2006. The possible adaptive advantages of terrestrial egg deposition in some fluvial diadromous galaxiid fishes (Teleostei : Galaxiidae). Fish and Fisheries 7: 153–164.

McDowall, R.M. & Frankenberg, R.S. 1981. The galaxiid fishes of Australia. Records of the Australian Museum 33(10): 443-605 figs 1-47

McDowall, R.M. & Fulton, W. 1996. Chapter 10. Family Galaxiidae — galaxiids. pp. 52-77 in McDowall, R.M. (ed.) Freshwater Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Sydney : Reed Books 247 pp.

McDowall, R.M. & Stewart, A.L. 2015. Family Galaxiidae. pp. 383-408 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 2 pp. 1-576.

McLean, F., S.E. Swearer & N.C. Barbee. 2007. The role of olfaction in the avoidance of native versus non-native predators by recruits of the common galaxiid, Galaxias maculatus. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 41: 175-184.

Merrick, J.R. & G.E. Schmida. 1984. Australian freshwater fishes: biology and management. Griffin Press Ltd., South Australia. 409 pp.

Morgan, D.L., Beatty, S.J., Klunzinger, M.W., Allen, M.G. & Burnham, Q.E. 2011. A Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes, Crayfishes & Mussels of South-Western Australia. Murdoch, Western Australia : SERCUL & Freshwater Fish Group & Fish Health Unit (Murdoch University) 80 pp.

Pollard, D.A. 1971. The biology of a landlocked form of the normally catadromous salmoniform fish Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns). I. Life cycle and origin. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 22: 91–123.

Pollard, D.A. 1971. The biology of a landlocked form of the normally catadromous salmoniform fish Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns). II. Morphology and systematic relationships. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 22: 125–137. 

Pollard, D.A. 1972. The biology of a landlocked form of the normally catadromous salmoniform fish Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns). III. Structure of the gonads. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 23: 17–38.

Pollard, D.A. 1972. The biology of a landlocked form of the normally catadromous salmoniform fish Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns). IV. Nutritional cycle. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 23: 39–48. 

Pollard, D.A. 1973. The biology of a landlocked form of the normally catadromous salmoniform fish Galaxias maculatus (Jenyns). V. Composition of the diet. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 24: 281–295.

Raadik, T.A. 1992. Distribution of freshwater fishes in east Gippsland, Victoria, 1967–1991. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 104: 1-22

Raadik, T.A. 2006. Chapter 13. Freshwater fishes. pp. 133-148 in Museum Victoria and CSIRO Publishing. Melbourne's Wildlife. A Field Guide to the Fauna of Greater Melbourne. Melbourne : CSIRO Publishing 348 pp.

Raadik, T.A. 2008. Family Galaxiidae: Galaxiids, Mudfishes, Whitebaits. p. 217-222 in Gomon, M.F., D.J Bray & R.H. Kuiter. Fishes of Australia's southern coast. Chatswood, N.S.W. : Reed New Holland, 928 pp.

Raadik, T.A. 2014. Fifteen from one: a revision of the Galaxias olidus Günther, 1866 complex (Teleostei, Galaxiidae) in south-eastern Australia recognises three previously described taxa and describes 12 new species. Zootaxa 3898(1): 1-198

Stokell, G. 1964. A new species of Galaxias from Victoria, Australia. Records of the Dominion Museum 5(6): 45-48 1 fig. (described as Galaxias parrishi)

Stokell, G. 1966. A preliminary investigation of the systematics of some Tasmanian Galaxiidae. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 100: 73-79 figs 1-4 (described as Galaxias maculatus ignotus)

Waters, J.M. & C.P. Burridge. 1999. Extreme intraspecific mitochondrial DNA divergence in Galaxias maculatus (Osteichthyes: Galaxiidae), one of the world’s most widespread freshwater fish. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 11:1–12.

Valenciennes, A. in Cuvier, G.L. & Valenciennes, A. 1846. Histoire Naturelle des Poissons. Paris : Levrault Vol. 18 505 pp. pls 520-553. (described as Galaxias scriba)

Whitley, G.P. 1960. Freshwater fishes of Australia. Brisbane : Jacaranda Press 127 pp. (as Austrocobitis attenuatus)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37102006

Biology:Amphidromous - marine larvae

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Habitat:Freshwater, estuarine, marine

Max Size:19 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map