Tasmanian Smelt, Retropinna tasmanica McCulloch 1920

Tasmanian Smelt, Retropinna tasmanica. Source: Rudie H. Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved


A slender olive-green fish with a silvery belly. As adults, Tasmanian Smelt spend most of their lives at sea. During spring and summer they migrate to the lower reaches of rivers and streams to spawn, forming shoals in estuaries and freshwater. The newly hatched larvae are washed out to sea and develop in the open ocean.

Cite this page as:
M. Gomon, 2009, Retropinna tasmanica in Fishes of Australia, accessed 01 Mar 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3633

Tasmanian Smelt, Retropinna tasmanica McCulloch 1920

More Info


Known only from eastern and southern Tasmanian localities and a landlocked population at Richmond near Hobart (42°45’S, 147°25’E); anadromous, adults migrate from the sea into the lower reaches of coastal rivers and streams to spawn.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin 10-12; Anal fin 16-21; Pectoral fin 9-12; Gill rakers 18-23; Vertebrae 52-55; Scales in a longitudinal series 50-70.

Body elongate and slender, compressed; dorsal and ventral profiles even and gradually arched; eyes large; snout pointed; gill rakers long and slender; caudal peduncle long and slender; lateral line absent. Body scales small, thin and delicate, easily dislodged; head without scales. Dorsal fin originates just in front of vent; anal fin longer than dorsal fin, highest at front; small adipose fin behind dorsal fin; caudal fin moderately forked.


Maximum size about 7 cm, commonly 5-6 cm.


Olive overall with a silvery belly and largely unpigmented fins.


Schools in lowland streams feeding at or near the surface on mosquito and caddisfly larvae, amphipods, water bugs, beetle larvae, adult flies and zooplankton.


Adults migrate from the sea into the lower reaches of coastal rivers to spawn during spring and summer. Eggs are less than 1.0mm diameter. Newly hatched larvae are carried on tides out to sea where they develop to maturity.


Freshly caught fish emit a cucumber-like odour.

Similar Species

Most similar to Retropinna semoni but the two species do not co-occur.

Species Citation

Retropinna tasmanica McCulloch A.R. (1920) Studies in Australian fishes, No. 6 Rec. Aust. Mus. 13(2): 41-71, Huon River, TAS.


M. Gomon, 2009

Tasmanian Smelt, Retropinna tasmanica McCulloch 1920


Allen 1989

Allen et al 2002

Hoese et al Catalogue

McDowall 1980

Merrick & Schmida 1984

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37101002

Behaviour:Migrates from the sea to spawn

Max Size:7 cm

Max Size:Coastal marine to freshwater


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