Empire Gudgeon, Hypseleotris compressa (Krefft 1864)

Other Names: Carp Gudgeon, Empire Fish, Northern Carp-gudgeon

A male Empire Gudgeon, Hypseleotris compressa. Source: Dave Wilson. License: All rights reserved

Non-breeding males are mostly olive-brown with a white-edged black band on the outer half of the reddish dorsal and anal fins, and pale basal spots on the second dorsal fin. Breeding males develop a hump on the head, and have a bright orangy-red head and lower sides, with a large black spot above the pectoral-fin base.

Video of Empire Gudgeons - males in breeding coloration vying for the attention of females.
Video of Empire Gudgeons spawning in an aquarium.
Video of male Empire Gudgeons

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2022, Hypseleotris compressa in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 Apr 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/4145

Empire Gudgeon, Hypseleotris compressa (Krefft 1864)

More Info


Widespread, mostly in the northern half of Australia, from the Chapman River, NE of Geraldton, Western Australia, around the tropical north to the Genoa River, eastern Victoria, including islands in the Torres Strait, and Fraser, Moreton, Bribie and Stradbroke islands, Queensland. The species also occurs in West Papua, Indonesia, and southern Papua New Guinea.
Inhabits the lower reaches of slow-flowing coastal rivers and streams, swamps, lagoons, including the upper parts of estuaries. Empire Gudgeons prefer flowing waters, and often shelter around aquatic plants and woody debris. Juveniles frequently occur in swift-flowing waters or estuaries. The species is tolerant of high salinities, water temperatures up to 35ºC and somewhat acidic to alkaline waters with a pH 5.0-9.1.


Dorsal fin VI + I, 9-10; Anal fin I, 9-11; Caudal fin (segmented rays) 15; Pectoral fin 14-17; Pelvic fin I, 5; Transverse scales 9-10; Gill rakers 3-4 + 1 + 9-11 = 13-16; Vertebrae 14-15 + 10-12 = 24-26.
Head and body distinctly compressed, body relatively deep, depth at pelvic fin origin 4.2-5.9 in SL. Adult males with prominent forehead hump from above upper end of opercular margin to snout. Mouth small, very oblique, reaching to about middle of eye; both jaws with small teeth in several rows; tongue tip truncate. Gill opening moderately broad, reaching forward to below posterior end of preoperculum. Head pores absent, except for two pores connected by short tube above dorsoposterior margin of eye and 2-5 preopercular pores. Cheek sensory papillae normally in longitudinal rows, with few vertical rows.
Body scales large and ctenoid, lateral line absent; longitudinal series 25-29; ctenoid scales between first dorsal fin base and upper attachment of opercular membrane; scales often cycloid on belly and nape; predorsal scales forward to above middle of eye, 14-18 on dorsal midline; cheek with 4-6  rows of small embedded cycloid scales’ operculum covered with medium-sized cycloid scales.
Two dorsal fins; males usually with more elongate posterior second dorsal and anal fin rays, a higher first dorsal fin, and dorsal fins closer together. Pelvic fins separate, short. Pectoral base narrow, rays developed ventrally; free fold of skin extending to upper attachment of opercular membrane above uppermost ray.


To around 12 cm SL, males slightly larger than females.


Sides of body often with about 7-8 brown vertical bars, forming X-shaped marks on midside; base of caudal fin with vertically elongate dark brown spot just below midside; distinct dark mark near posterior end of the second dorsal fin. Dorsal fins with 2 black stripes; second dorsal with round white spots posteriorly, surrounded by black.


The species forages amongst detritus, leaf litter and aquatic vegetation, feeding mostly on microcrustaceans, small aquatic insects, insect larvae and algae.


Individuals mature within one year, at lengths of 5.5-7.5 cm. Males establish breeding territories and display bright colours to attract a mate during the warmer months. Spawning occurs every 2-7 days over several weeks from January to March. Females deposit adhesive eggs (0.26-0.28 mm X 0.30-0.32 mm) onto rocks, sand or weeds where they are guarded and fanned by the male. Larvae hatch at around 1.0 mm TL after 10-14 days and commence swimming at, or soon after hatching. Spawning occurs in freshwater, and the larvae are carried downstream to estuaries where they develop before migrating back to freshwater.

Similar Species

Distinguished from other Western Australian Hypseleotris by a combination of characters including the presence of preopercular pores, predorsal scales extending to above the middle of the eyes, ctenoid scales between the first dorsal-fin base and the upper attachment of opercular membrane, and the second dorsal fin modally 1,9.


The specific name is from the Latin compressa (= pressed, squeezed together) in reference the the 'compressed' body of this species.

Species Citation

Eleotris compressus Krefft, 1864, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. 1864: 184. Type locality: Clarence River, NSW, and creeks near Port Denison (Bowen), Queensland.


Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Empire Gudgeon, Hypseleotris compressa (Krefft 1864)


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37429023

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Fishing:Popular aquarium fish

Habitat:Freshwater streams, estuaries

Max Size:12 cm SL

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