Climbing Galaxias, Galaxias brevipinnis Günther 1866

Other Names: Broad-finned Galaxias, Cox's Mountain Galaxias, Cox's Mountain Trout, Lake Trout, Lowland Galaxias, Mersey Jollytail, Mountain Trout, Pieman Galaxias, Pieman Jollytail, Short-fin Galaxias, St. Claire Trout

Climbing Galaxias, Galaxias brevipinnis. Source: Rudie H. Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved


A large robust Galaxias with a large head, large thick fleshy pelvic and pectoral fins that are ventrally-oriented, the upper jaw slightly overhanging the short lower jaw, the dorsal fin origin before the anal-fin origin, and a short and stout caudal peduncle.

Climbing Galaxias are greyish-brown to dark olive above, paler below, with a golden iridescence in sunlight, and a highly variable pattern of darker bars, blotches or fine mottling on the sides, and often a dark grey to greyish-purple blotch immediately above and behind the pectoral-fin base.

The species is renowned for its climbing ability. Video of Climbing Galaxias at Wilsons Promontory, Victoria.

Climbing Galaxias on Flinders island, Bass Strait.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Gomon, M.F. 2020, Galaxias brevipinnis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 22 Jun 2024,

Climbing Galaxias, Galaxias brevipinnis Günther 1866

More Info


In streams draining east and south from the Great Dividing Range: from the Hunter/Williams River system, New South Wales, to north of Port Lincoln and Kangaroo Island, South Australia, also Flinders Island and King Island, Bass Strait, and widespread in Tasmania. Elsewhere the species occurs in the south-west Pacific (New Zealand including Chatham, Auckland and Campbell islands). 

As a result of inter-basin transfer of water, this species is becoming widespread in catchments of the upper Murray River, and mid-upper Murrumbidgee River.

As the common name suggests, individuals can easily climb over most  moist surfaces.

The species is migratory, with larvae and juveniles likely to be found in adjacent seas. Adults prefer clear fast-flowing shady streams with rocks, boulders and logs, usually well-upstream in the headwaters. They usually swim near the bottom around rocks and logs. Migratory, can climb over moist surfaces out of the water.


Dorsal fin 11-15; Anal fin 12-17; Caudal fin 16; Pectoral fin 12-16; Pelvic fin 7; Vertebrae 55-63; Gill rakers 11-17.

Body elongate, stout, almost tubular; body depth at vent 6.5-9.1 in SL; head large, dorsoventrally flattened, snout slender; lower jaw distinctly shorter than upper; mouth of moderate size reaching below eyes; gill rakers long, slender.

Fins well developed, pelvic fins with thick, fleshy bases; single dorsal fin; anal fin short, origin distinctly behind origin of dorsal fin; pectoral fins large, low and downward facing; caudal fin truncate to emarginate.


Maximum size to around 28 cm TL, commonly to 15cm.


Greyish-brown, darker above with a golden iridescence, and a highly variable pattern of dark bars, rows of spots, blotches or fine mottling on the sides; dark grey to greyish-purple blotch often present immediately behind the pectoral-fin base, and dark fin margins in adults.


Feeds mostly on aquatic invertebrates including mayfly and caddis fly larvae, and small crustaceans. They will also prey on terrestrial insects such as flies, beetles, millipedes and amphipods from the surface.


In coastal streams breeding occurs during autumn and winter. Eggs are scattered amongst vegetation on the stream edge above the normal flow level, presumably when streams are in flood; fecundity is high up to 23676 eggs have been reported with an average of 7000 per individual.

Eggs are round, adhesive, 1.8-2.1 mm diameter. Develop out of water in damp habitats for days or weeks before hatching on the next flood.

Larvae are swept downstream to the sea where they develop for 5-6 months before migrating back into estuarine and freshwater habitats.


Climbing Galaxias historically formed part of the Tasmanian whitebait industry.


Renowned for its ability to climb vertical waterfalls and rock faces using its broad pectoral and pelvic fins. Individuals can navigate most upstream barriers, including vertical cliff faces, by using their thick fleshy pelvic and large downward facing pectoral fins to 'wriggle' up damp rocky surfaces. This ability allows Climbing Galaxias to inhabit the headwaters of streams that are inaccessible to introduced species such as trout.

Similar Species

Raadik (2005, 2014) determined that Galaxias brevipinnis is a cryptic species complex comprising at least three taxa. 

Species Citation

Galaxias brevipinnis Günther 1866, Catalogue of the Fishes of the British Museum Vol. 6: 213. Type locality: New Zealand.


Bray, D.J. & Gomon, M.F. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Climbing Galaxias, Galaxias brevipinnis Günther 1866


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. 

Cadwallader, P.L. & Backhouse, G.N. 1983. A Guide to the Freshwater Fish of Victoria. Melbourne : F.D. Atkinson Government Printer 249 pp. figs. 

Chilcott, S. J. & Humphries, P. 1996. Freshwater fish of northeast Tasmania with notes on the dwarf galaxias. Records of the Queen Victoria Museum, Launceston 103: 145-149

David, B., West, D, Franklin, P., Crow, S., Ling, N., Allibone, R & Hitchmough, R. 2014. Galaxias brevipinnis . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T197277A2481005. Downloaded on 20 January 2020.

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 See ref at BHL

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. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2427.2008.02037.x Abstract

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

Johnston, R.M. 1883. General and critical observations on fishes of Tasmania with a classified catalogue of all known species. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 1882: 53-144 (described as Galaxias atkinsoni and Galaxias weedoni) See ref online

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

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Lucas, A.H.S. 1892. A new species of freshwater fish from Lake Nigothoruk, Mount Wellington, Victoria. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria ns 4(1): 27-28 (described as Galaxias nigothoruk)

Macleay, W.J. 1880. Description of a new species of Galaxias from Mt Wilson with remarks on the distribution of the genus. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 5(1): 45-47 (described as Galaxias coxii)

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. & 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.

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

O'Connor, W.G. & Koehn, J.D. 1998. Spawning of the broad-finned Galaxias Galaxias brevinpinnis Gunther (Pisces: Galaxiidae) in coastal streams of southeastern Australia. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 7: 95-100.

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. 2005. Dorrigo Plateau – a biodiversity “hot-spot” for galaxiids. Fishes of Sahul, Journal of the Australian New Guinea Fishes Association 19(1): 97-107 

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. pp. 217-222 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. 

Raadik, T.A. 2011. Systematic revision of the Mountain Galaxias, Galaxias olidus Günther, 1866 species complex (Teleostei: Galaxiidae) in eastern Australia. Ph.D thesis, University of Canberra. pp. i-xxiii, 1-493 

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

Regan, C.T. 1906. A revision of the fishes of the family Galaxiidae. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1905(2, 2): 363-384 figs 10-13  (described as Galaxias affinis)

Scott, E.O.G. 1936. Observations on fishes of the family Galaxiidae. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 1935: 85-112 figs 1-4 (described as Galaxias (Galaxias) parkeri)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37102002

Behaviour:An excellent climber

Biology:Migratory - larvae carried out to sea

Danger:IUCN Least Concern

Habitat:Freshwater to marine

Max Size:28 cm TL

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map