Khaki Grunter, Hephaestus tulliensis De Vis 1884

Other Names: Khaki Bream, Tully Grunter

Khaki Grunter, Hephaestus tulliensis. Source: Gerald R. Allen. License: All rights reserved


An endemic grunter found only in Queensland's Wet Tropics region. The Tully Grunter is variable in colour ranging from overall dusky greyish-brown to khaki green, with narrow pale scale margins. Juveniles have darker fins. Like some other freshwater grunters, larger fish sometimes develop thick blubbery lips.

Video of Khaki Grunters (aka Tully Grunter) in the Russell River, Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, North Queensland, Australia.

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2018, Hephaestus tulliensis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 13 Jun 2024,

Khaki Grunter, Hephaestus tulliensis De Vis 1884

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Known only from easterly flowing drainages between the Daintree River and the Herbert River, in the wet tropics region of northeast Queensland. Inhabits fast flowing sections of freshwater rivers including riffles over gravel, cobble and rocky bottoms.


Dorsal fin XII-XIII, 11-12; Anal fin III, 7-10; Pectoral fin 15-16; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line 46-52; Transverse scales 7-8/1/16-17; Gill rakers 7+15; Vertebrae 10+15.

Body relatively deep, greatest depth 2.2-2.5 in SL, ovate, compressed; dorsal profile of head relatively steep and straight, sometimes slightly concave above eye; ventral profile gently curved from tip of lower jaw to pelvic origin, then more or less horizontal from pelvic base to anus. Head short, 2.7-3.2 in SL. Snout sharp, length 2.5-3.0 in HL. Nostrils surrounded by thin membranous skin flap, the anterior and posterior openings narrowly separated. Eye width 4.1-5.0 in HL. Least width of interorbital 2.9-3.8 in HL. Tip of upper jaw protruding slightly beyond lower jaw, jaw length 2.9-3.4; gape oblique; mouth relatively small, non-protractile; posterior end of maxillary reaching to about level of posterior nostril; maxillary width at posterior end 9.2-13.3 in HL; teeth of jaws villiform in multiple rows, those of outer row enlarged with brown tips; vomer and palatines without teeth. Lower edge of lachrymal smooth; least width 6.3-7.8 in HL. Preoperculum distinctly serrate along posterior margin. Lower opercular spine stronger and longer than other spines, usually extending beyond edge of opercular lobe, particularly in adult specimens. Posttemporal exposed, without scales, its posterior margin weakly serrate. Supracleithrum exposed with scales covering anterior portion.

Scales finely ctenoid; lateral line continuous, smoothly curved; sheath scale rows at base of dorsal fin 2-3; sheath scale rows at base of anal fin 3-4; transverse scale rows on cheek 7-8.

Dorsal fin continuous, base 1.6-1.8 in SL; spinous portion arched, first spine short, 6.4-10.6 in head length; fourth to sixth spines longest, 2.1-2.6 in head length, remaining spines gradually decreasing in length to penultimate which is shorter than last spine. Soft dorsal and anal fin rounded with elevated middle portions. Second anal spine about twice length of first anal spine, much stronger than third spine, which is about the same length or slightly longer. Pectoral fins pointed, fourth ray longest. Pelvic fins pointed, first soft ray longest and slightly filamentous, generally reaching anus or nearly this far posteriorly. Caudal fin emarginate, its length 1.1-1.3, and concavity (difference between shortest and longest rays) 3.3-6.8, both in head length.


To 30 cm SL.


Varying from overall dusky grey-brown to khaki green, scale margins narrowly whitish; fins grey-brown, similar to body, except soft rays of pelvic and anal fins sometimes pale yellowish, and pectorals mostly translucent; iris red. Young fish tending to have darker fins, particularly on posterior margins of dorsal and anal fins.


Omnivore - feeds on a range of  macroinvertebrates, including crustaceans, and aquatic and terrestrial insects, plus algae.


Males reach reproductive maturity at a small size (approximately 13cm). Spawning occurs from July to October when demersal eggs are produced and sink to the bottom amongst the gravel. Males guard and fan the developing eggs.

Similar Species

The similar Sooty GrunterHephaestus fuliginosus, has a dark band on the pectoral-fin base and a concave head profile. The Khaki Grunter also longer pelvic fins that extend to about the anus when depressed against the body, a sharper snout and a smaller mouth.


Species name tulliensis refers to the Tully River, the type locality.

Species Citation

Hephaestus tulliensis De Vis, 1884, Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. (1)9(2): 399. Type locality: Tully and Murray rivers, Queensland.


Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Khaki Grunter, Hephaestus tulliensis De Vis 1884


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

Allen, G.R. & Pusey, B.J. 1999. Hephaestus tulliensis De Vis, a valid species of grunter (Terapontidae) from fresh waters of north-eastern Queensland, Australia. aqua, Journal of Ichthyology and Aquatic Biology 3(4): 157-162 figs 1-2

Davis, A.M., Pusey, B. & Pearson, R.G. 2012. Trophic ecology of terapontid fishes (Pisces: Terapontidae): the role of morphology and ontogeny. Marine and Freshwater Research 63(2): 128-141. DOI: 10.1071/MF11105

Davis, A.M., Unmack, P.J., Pusey, B.J., Johnson, J.B. & Pearson, R.G. 2012. Marine–freshwater transitions are associated with the evolution of dietary diversification in terapontid grunters (Teleostei: Terapontidae). Journal of Evolutionary Biology 25: 1163–1179.

Davis, A.M., Unmack, P.J., Pusey, B.J., Pearson, R.G. & Morgan, D.L. 2014. Effects of an adaptive zone shift on morphological and ecological diversification in terapontid fishes. Evolutionary Ecology 28: 205-227.

Davis, A.M., Unmack, P.J., Pusey, B.J., Pearson, R.G. & Morgan, D.L. 2014. Evidence for a multi-peak adaptive landscape in the evolution of trophic morphology in terapontid fishes, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 113(1): 623–634, open access

De Vis, C.W. 1884. New Australian fishes in the Queensland Museum. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 9(2): 389-400. See ref at BHL

Jamandre, B.W., Real, K. & Hughes, J. 2011. Characterisation of polymorphic microsatellite loci in Hephaestus fuliginosus and cross-amplification in closely related Hephaestus tulliensisConservation Genetics 3: 4 pp.

Pusey, B.J., Bentley, A., Burrows, D., Perna, C., Davis, A. & Hughes, J. 2016. Contrasting and complex evolutionary histories within the terapontid grunter genus Hephaestus revealed by nuclear and mitochondrial genes. Marine and Freshwater Research 67: 1813-1825 abstract

Pusey, B.J., Kennard, M.J. & Arthington, A.H. 2004. Freshwater Fishes of North-eastern Australia. Collingwood, Victoria : CSIRO Publishing 684 pp.

Shelley, J.J., Delaval, A. & Le Feuvre, M.C. 2017. A revision of the grunter genus Syncomistes (Teleostei, Terapontidae, Syncomistes) with descriptions of seven new species from the Kimberley region, northwestern Australia. Zootaxa 4367(1): DOI:  Abstract

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

Vari, R.P. 1978. The terapon perches (Percoidei, Terapontidae) a cladistic analysis and taxonomic revision. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 159(5): 175-340 figs 1-94 (p. 280, as Hephaestus fuliginosus) See ref online open access

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37321034


Max Size:30 cm SL


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