Western Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca vittata (Castelnau 1873)

Other Names: Western Pigmy Perch, Westralian Pygmy Perch

Western Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca vittata. Source: Rudie H. Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved


A small freshwater fish endemic to the south-west of Western Australia. The mottled body colouration of olive, brown and green usually includes two orange stripes down the sides. Males become brightly coloured  during the breeding season with golden mottling on sides, a reddish-orange belly and dark fins. Females become slightly bluish at this time.

This common and widespread species occurs in a range freshwater habitats usually amongst aquatic vegetation, and will also tolerate slightly brackish waters.

Video of Western Pygmy Perchin the wild.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2019, Nannoperca vittata in Fishes of Australia, accessed 29 May 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/4454

Western Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca vittata (Castelnau 1873)

More Info


Known only from the south west coast of Western Australia from the Waychinicup River east of Albany (118°20'E) to the Arrowsmith River (29°S) 300 km north of Perth.

Inhabits permanent fresh water bodies including clear to tannin stained flowing or still rivers, creeks, wetlands and lakes. Usually found around aquatic vegetation along the margins of streams or lakes. Inhabits fresh to slightly brackish water that may be clear to tannin-stained.


Dorsal Fin VII-VIII, 9-11; Anal fin III, 8-10; Pectoral fin 12-13;
Pelvic fin I, 5; Gill rakers 11-12; Lateral line scales 8-11 (interrupted); Mid-lateral scales 29-32; Transverse scale rows 13.

Body relatively slender, greatest body depth 2.9-3.3 in SL; mouth small, jaws not reaching to below front of eye; rear edge of preorbital fully exposed, its margin crenulate to serrate. Body scales ctenoid.

Single deeply notched dorsal fin; posterior part of dorsal fin, anal and caudal fins rounded.


To around 6.8 cm SL; 8 cm TL.


Overall brownish above grading to pink or whitish on belly, a pair of whitish stripes sometimes evident along middle of side; scales with dusky margins forming a network pattern; fins clear to dusky. The sexes exhibit distinct colour differences during the breeding season. Males develop black fins (except the pectorals remain transparent) with a narrow transparent band basally. In addition, the dark markings become more vivid and the sides become orange-ish. Females, which are usually larger than males, develop a bluish tinge on the upper sides. Males can be determined outside the breeding season by their generally darker fins.


Feeds mainly on bottom-dwelling micro-crustaceans, mosquito larvave, caddisfly larvae and other insects.


Reproductive maturity is attained after 1 year. Spawning occurs in small side creeks and flooded streams from July to November with a peak in September and October. Females release adhesive eggs in batches over several weeks amongst aquatic vegetation or the substrate. Eggs are 1.1-1.2mm diameter, transparent with numerous oil globules and sink to the bottom. Larvae hatch after 2-4 days at 3.0-3.2 mm TL. Larvae poorly developed at hatching without a mouth or vent and under-developed eyes; larval development is complete after 28 days. 

Reach a maximum age of 5 years. 


A popular fish for aquaria and ponds.


  • EPBC Act 1999 : Not listed
  • IUCN Red List : Not Evaluated
  • Remarks

    This species was previously known as Edelia vittata.

    Similar Species

    The combination of the small mouth, mottled coloration and 8-11 tubed scales in the lateral line distinguishes this species from other species of Pygmy Perch in Western Australia


    The specific name vittata is derived from the Latin vittatus (banded).

    Species Citation

    Edelia vittata Castelnau, 1873, Proc. Zool. Acclim. Soc. Vict. 2: 124. Type locality: interior of Western Australia.


    Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2019


    Australian Faunal Directory

    Western Pygmy Perch, Nannoperca vittata (Castelnau 1873)


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

    Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia.  Neptune, New Jersey: T.F.H. Publications pp. 1-240

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

    Beatty, S.J., Morgan, D.L., Rashnavadi,  M. & Lymbery, A.J. 2011. Salinity tolerances of endemic freshwater fishes of south-western Australia: implications for conservation of a biodiversity hotspot. Marine & Freshwater Research 62: 91-100.

    Buckley, S.J., Domingos, F.M.C.B., Attard, C.R.M., Brauer, C.J., Sandoval-Castillo, J., Lodge, R., Unmack, P.J. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2018. Phylogenomic history of enigmatic pygmy perches: implications for biogeography, taxonomy and conservation. Royal Society Open Science http://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.172125

    Castelnau, F.L. de 1873. Contribution to the ichthyology of Australia. 8. Fishes of Western Australia. Proceedings of the Zoological and Acclimatisatoin Society of Victoria 2: 123-149

    Jerry, D.R., Elphinstone, M.S. & Baverstock, P.R. 2001. Phylogenetic relationships of Australian members of the family Percichthyidae inferred from mitochondrial 12S rRNA sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 18(3): 335–347.

    Lake, J.S. 1971. Freshwater Fishes and Rivers of Australia. Melbourne : Nelson 61 pp. (as Edelia vittata)

    Lake, J.S. 1978. Australian Freshwater Fishes. Melbourne : Thomas Nelson 160 pp. 140 figs. (as Edelia vittata)

    Leggett, R. & Merrick, J.R. 1987. Australian Native Fishes for Aquariums.  Artarmon: J.R. Merrick Publications 241 pp.

    McDowall, R.M. 1996. Freshwater Fishes of South-eastern Australia.  Sydney: Reed Books 2nd Edn  247 pp.

    Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management.  Sydney: J.R. Merrick 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. SERCUL & Freshwater Fish Group & Fish Health Unit (Murdoch University), Murdoch, Western Australia. 80 pp.

    Morgan, D.L., Gill, H.S. & Potter, I.C.  1998. Distribution, identification and biology of freshwater fishes in south-western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 56: 1-97 pp.

    Pen, L.J. & Potter, I.C. 1991. Biology of the western pygmy perch, Edelia vittata, and comparisons with two other teleost species endemic to southwestern Australia. Environmental Biology of Fishes 31(4): 365-380.

    Shipway, B. 1949. Notes on the natural histroy of the pygmy perch Nannoperca vittata. The Western Australian Naturalist 2: 1-9.

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

    Unmack, P.J., Hammer, M.P., Adams, M. & Dowling, T.E. 2011. A phylogenetic analysis of pygmy perches (Teleostei: Percichthyidae) with an assessment of the major historical influences on aquatic biogeography in southern Australia. Systematic Biology 60(6): 797–812 https://doi.org/10.1093/sysbio/syr042

    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37311222

    Fishing:Popular aquarium fish

    Habitat:Fresh & slightly brackish waters

    Max Size:8 cm TL


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