Golden Perch, Macquaria ambigua (Richardson 1845)

Other Names: Callop, Freshwater Bream, Murray Bream, Murray Perch, Perch, Tarki, White Perch, Yellowbelly, Yellowfin Perch

Golden Perch, Macquaria ambigua. Source: Gunther Schmida / via the Atlas of Living Australia. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike


A deep-bodied freshwater fish with a concave head profile, a pointed snout, a large mouth and a protruding lower jaw in larger fish.  

Golden Perch vary in colour depending on their habitat - ranging from dark brown, dark green, or almost black, to olive-green, bronze, golden, yellow or cream, paler below, with yellow pectoral fins and often a reddish or white margin on the anal and caudal fins. Juveniles tend to be more silvery with greyish mottling on the sides.

Golden Perch in the wild.

Video of Golden Perch in the wild

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2022, Macquaria ambigua in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 May 2024,

Golden Perch, Macquaria ambigua (Richardson 1845)

More Info


Inhabits inland rivers and lakes in lowland regions of temperate southeastern Australia. Golden Perch are found naturally throughout the Murray-Darling Basin, in the Fitzroy River catchment near the central Queensland coast, and in the Lake Eyre and Bulloo River catchments. Introductions in NT, QLD and NSW have confused the study of natural distributions, but those to WA have been unsuccessful.


Single dorsal fin, long-based, without distinct notch between anterior spiny and posterior soft-rayed portions, spines strong, robust, 4th & 5th spines longest; anal fin op­posite soft portion of dorsal fin, with 3 spines, 2nd spine longest, most robust; pectoral fins rounded; ventral fins inserted below pectoral fin bases, 1st ray elongated into 2 filaments; caudal fin rounded.


Maximum weight about 23 kg, although most fish caught weigh less than 2.5 kg.


Adult Golden Perch feed on fishes and macrocrustaceans.


Golden Perch reach sexual maturity between 2-4 years of age, when they weigh about 0.5-1.5 kg). The maximum recorded age is 26 years (Harris & Rowland 1996; Stuart 2006). Spawning occurs in flooded backwaters at night after spring and summer rains.


A very popular and highly-prized angling finsh. Until relatively recent times, Golden Perch supported a significant commercial fishery (Reid et al. 1997).


Listed as Vulnerable under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG). Golden Perch are also part of the threatened “Lowland Riverine Fish Community of the Southern Murray Darling Basin” under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.


Genetic work has indicated that the golden perch is a composite of several subspecies or species (Allen et al. 2000; Pusey et al. 2004). Macquaria ambigua oriens is currently recognised as a subspecies from eastern Queensland, and a distinct form is found in the Lake Eyre Basin.


The specific name is from the Latin ambiguus (= ambiguous, doubtful, uncertain) in reference to Richardson’s doubt about placing his new species in the genus Datnia (Terapontidae) or Dules (Serranidae). He described the species as Datnia? ambigua.

Species Citation

Datnia ambigua Richardson 1845, Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Erebus and Terror Vol. 2: 25, pl. 19 [as Datnia? ambigua]. Type locality: Western Australia (probably in error).


Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Golden Perch, Macquaria ambigua (Richardson 1845)


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.  

Anderson JR, Morison AK, Ray DJ (1992) Validation of the use of thin-sectioned otoliths for determining the age and growth of golden perch, Macquaria ambigua (Percifomes: Percichthyidae), in the lower Murray-Darling Basin, Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 43: 1103–1128. 

Attard, C.R.M., Sandoval-Castillo, J., Gilligan, D.M. et al. 2022. Genomics outperforms genetics to manage mistakes in fisheries stocking of threatened species. Biodiversity Conservation 31: 895–908.

Beheregaray, L.B., Pfeiffer, L.V., Attard, C.R.M., et al. 2017. Genome-wide data delimits multiple climate-determined species ranges in a widespread Australian fish, the golden perch (Macquaria ambigua). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 111:65-75  doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2017.03.021

Booth, E.J., Sandoval-Castillo, J., Attard, C.R., Gilligan, D.M., Unmack, P.J. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2022. Aridification-driven evolution of a migratory fish revealed by niche modelling and coalescence simulations. Journal of Biogeography 00: 1– 13.

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

Castelnau, F.L. de 1872. Contribution to the ichthyology of Australia. 1. The Melbourne fish market. Proceedings of the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria 1: 29-242 1 pl. (as Dules auratus)

Castelnau, F.L. de 1875. Researches on the fishes of Australia. Intercolonial Exhibition Essays. 2. pp. 1–52 in, Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 : Official Record. Melbourne. (as Dules flavescens)

Crook, D.A., O’Mahony, D.J., Gillanders, B.M., Munro, A.R., Sanger, A.C., Thurstan, S. & Baumgartner, L.J. 2015. Contribution of stocked fish to riverine populations of golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) in the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research 67: 1401-1409. Abstract  

Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 pp. (as Plectroplites ambiguus)  

Günther, A. 1871. Description of a new percoid fish from the Macquarie River. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1871: 320 pl. 33 (as Ctenolates macquariensis)

Harris, J.H. & Rowland, S.J. 1996. Family Percichthyidae. pp. 150-163 in McDowall, R.M. (ed.) Freshwater Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Sydney : Reed Books 247 pp.  

Kailola, P.J., Williams, M.J., Stewart, P.C., Reichelt, R.E., McNee, A. & Grieve, C. 1993. Australian Fisheries Resources. Canberra : Bureau of Resource Sciences and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation 422 pp. 

Kuiter, R.H. 2018. Pictorial guide to Victoria's freshwater fishes. E-version Part 1. Seaford, Victoria : Aquatic Photographics: 1-110

Lintermans, M. 2009. Fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin — An Introductory Guide. Canberra : Murray-Darling Basin Commission 157 pp. [MDBC Publication Number 10/07]

Lintermans, M. & Kerezsy, A. 2019. Macquaria ambigua. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T123358536A123382796. Accessed on 07 June 2022.

MacDonald, C.M. 1978. Morphological and biochemical systematics of Australian freshwater and estuarine percichthyid fishes. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 29(5): 667-698 figs 1-11

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management. Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. figs 280 col. figs  

Morrongiello, J.R., D.A. Crook, A.J. King, D.S.L. Ramsey & P. Brown. 2011. Impacts of drought and predicted effects of climate change on fish growth in temperate Australian lakes. Global Change Biology 17: 745–755.  

Musyl, M.K. & Keenan, C.P. 1992. Population genetics and zoogeography of Australian freshwater golden perch, Macquaria ambigua (Richardson 1845) (Teleostei: Percichthyidae), and electrophoretic identification of a new species from the Lake Eyre Basin. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 43(6): 1585-1601 (as Macquaria ambigua oriens)

Pritchard, J.C. 2004. Linking fish growth and climate across modern space and through evolutionary time: Otolith chronologies of the Australian freshwater fish, golden perch (Macquaria ambigua, Percichthyidae). PhD Thesis, The Australian National University, Canberra. 

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

Reid DD, Harris JH, Chapman DJ (1997) NSW inland commercial fishery data analysis. Fisheries Research and Development Council 94/027.  

Reynolds LF (1983) Migration patterns of five fish species in the Murray-Darling River system. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 34: 857–871.

Richardson, J. 1845. Ichthyology. 17-52 pls 7-8 (parts), 11-30 in Richardson, J. & Gray, J.E. (eds). The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Erebus and Terror under the Command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross, R.N., F.R.S., during the years 1839–43. London : E.W. Janson Vol. 2 139 pls 1-60.  

Roberts JD, Duivenvoorden LJ, Stuart IG (2008) Factors influencing recruitment patterns of Golden Perch (Macquaria ambigua oriens) within a hydrologically variable and regulated Australian tropical river system. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 17: 577–589.  

Roughley, T.C. 1951. Fish and Fisheries of Australia. Sydney : Angus & Robertson 343 pp.

Stuart IG (2006) Validation of otoliths for determining age of golden perch, a long-lived freshwater fish of Australia. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 26: 52–55.

Unmack PJ (2001) Biogeography of Australian freshwater fishes. Journal of Biogeography 28: 1053–1089. 

Wager, R. & Unmack, P.J. 2000. Fishes of the Lake Eyre Catchment of Central Australia. Brisbane : Department of Primary Industries and Queensland Fisheries Service 88 pp.

Yearsley, G.K., Last, P.R. & Ward, R.D. (eds) 1999. Australian Seafood Handbook. Hobart : CSIRO Marine Research 460 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37311075

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Fishing:Popular angling fish


Max Size:76 cm TL; 23 kg


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CAAB distribution map