Estuary Perch, Percalates colonorum (Günther 1863)

Other Names: Brackish Water Perch, Estuarine Perch, Gippsland Perch, Perch

Juvenile Estuary Perch, Percalates colonorum. Source: Tarmo A. Raadik / Arthur Rylah Institute. License: All rights reserved


A dark silvery-greyish to greenish-brown percichthyid, becoming paler below and fading to silvery-whitish on the belly, with darker fins, sometimes with a greenish tinge. Juveniles have a dark spot between the spines on the rear of the gill cover, and a similar spot on the head just behind the eye.

Estuary Perch are often confused with Australian Bass, Percalates novemaculeata. Adding to this confusion, the two species hybridise, especially in the Snowy River and Gippsland Lakes, Victoria.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2020, Percalates colonorum in Fishes of Australia, accessed 04 Dec 2020,

Estuary Perch, Percalates colonorum (Günther 1863)

More Info


Widespread in coastal drainages from the Richmond River, northern New South Wales, to the Gulf St Vincent, South Australia, and northern Tasmania. Reported introductions into Western Australia were unsuccessful.

The species is estuarine dependent. Adults inhabit brackish waters, preferring the upper reaches of estuaries and the lower tidal reaches of coastal lakes, rivers and streams in areas with low salinity. Juveniles occasionally enter freshwater. Adults migrate to the mouths of estuaries to spawn during winter.

In Victoria, Estuary Perch are abundant in coastal stream systems along the entire coast. Although also historically abundant in Port Phillip and Western Port, the species is now less common in these bays.


Dorsal fin VIII-IX, I, 8-11; Anal fin III, 7-9; Pectoral fin 12-16; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line scales 48-55; Vertebrae 25. 

Body elongate-oval, compressed laterally, greatest body depth 2.3-3.0 in SL; dorsal profile evenly arched from nape to tail; dorsal head profile concave; snout tapered, moderately long; eye moderately large, positioned laterally; mouth terminal, large, oblique; gape extending to below middle of eye; lower jaw protruding beyond upper jaw; teeth in jaws minute, villiform; vomer and palatines with fine teeth; preorbital and suborbital bones finely serrated; preoperculum finely serrated behind, with coarse forwardly-directed spines below; operculum with two spines, lower larger, fairly broad.

Scales mostly ctenoid, moderate sized; scales present on cheeks and opercula; snout without scales; 26-32 scales in horizontal row; lateral line complete, follows dorsal profile and continues on to base of caudal fin.

Single dorsal fin consisting of anterior spinous and posterior soft portions separated by moderate notch, 4th spine longest; anal fin opposite soft part of dorsal fin, with 3 stout spines; pectoral fins somewhat pointed, upper rays longer than lower rays; pelvic fins inserted just behind base of pectoral fins; caudal fin moderately forked.


To 75 cm and 10 kg, commonly to 40 cm and 3 kg.


Dark grey to olive-green, silvery on back, paler to yellowish-white below; head sometimes with a purplish or reddish tint; fins generally dark greenish.

Juveniles below about 11 cm have a dark spot between opercular spines and similar spot on head just behind eye.


Feeds on small fishes, shrimps and other crustaceans, bivalve molluscs and worms, mostly taken on or near the bottom. 


Spawns during in the mouths of estuaries, rivers and streams during winter and spring, in water temperatures of 14-19ºC. In Gippsland, Victoria, Estuary Perch usually begin spawning during July, whereas those in western Victoria do not usually spawn until mid October to early November. Females lay their eggs on submerged rocks and at the base of  aquatic plants.

Males mature at 22 cm SL and females at 28 cm. Fecundity is high, and increases with the length of the females. Eggs are 1.3-2.4 mm diameter, round, non-adhesive and semi-buoyant. Larvae hatch after 2-3 days. Larval development is described in Trnski et al. (2005).

The species hybridizes with  the Australian Bass, Percalates novemaculeata.


Targeted by recreation anglers as a food fish, and the species is aquacultured for conservation and stocking purposes.This popular angling fish is taken year round by recreational anglers in all Australian states. Estuary Perch are most easily caught at or after dusk on worms, live shrimp or prawns, insects such as grasshoppers, small fish, crabs and lures.

The flesh is reportedly good eating.

Historically, Estuary Perch were targeted commercially with seine nets during their winter spawning migrations. The species is now protected from commercial fishing.


The recent decline in numbers of Estuary Perch is likely due to a combination of factors such as overfishing, habitat change, flood mitigation work and water pollution. Estuary Perch are protected from commercial fishing.


This species was previously known as Macquaria colonorum. However, molecular studies showed that the Estuary perch did not belong in the genus Macquaria

Similar Species

Similar to the Australian Bass, Macquaria novemaculeata, differing in having a concave head profile, a lighter and more silvery body, and white anterior dorsal fin rays. 


The specific name colonorum means 'from the mountains', possibly in reference to the winter spawning migrations.

Species Citation

Lates colonorum Günther 1863, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (3)11(17): 114. Type locality: Victoria.


Bray, D.J. & Thompson, V.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Estuary Perch, Percalates colonorum (Günther 1863)


Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 240 pp., 63 pls.(as Macquaria colonorum)

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp.(as Macquaria colonorum)

Beckman, D.C. 1999. Effect of salinity on hatchability and early development of estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum). B.Sc. Honours Thesis, Deakin University, Warrnambool, Victoria.

Bice, C.M., Hammer, M.P., Wedderburn, S.D., Ye, Q. & Zampatti, B.P. 2018. Fishes of the Lower Lakes and Coorong: an Inventory and Summary of Life History, Population Dynamics and Management. pp. 371-399 in Shepard, S.A., Ye, Q. & Mosely, L.M. (eds) Natural History of the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth region (Yarluwar-Ruwe). Adelaide: Royal Society of South Australia. (as Macquaria colonorum)

Brown, P. & Neira, F.J. 1998. Percichthyidae: basses, perches, cods. pp 259-265 in Neira, F.J., Miskiewicz, A.G. & Trnski, T. (eds) Larvae of temperate Australian fishes: laboratory guide for larval fish identification. Perth : University of Western Australia Press. (as Macquaria colonorum)

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

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. (described as Lates antarcticus and Lates victoriae)

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. (described as Lates curtus) See ref online

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Families Percichthyidae and Acropomatidae. pp. 532-533 in Gomon, M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. (as Macquaria colonorum)

Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds) 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs. (as Macquaria colonorum)

Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe: E.M. Grant Pty. Limited 9th ed 880 pp. (as Macquaria colonorum)

Günther, A. 1863. On new species of fishes from Victoria, South Australia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3 11(17): 114-117 See ref at BHL

Hammer, M.P. & Walker, K.F. 2004. A catalogue of South Australian freshwater fishes, including new records, range extensions and translocations. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 128(2): 85-97 (as Macquaria colonorum)

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. (as Macquaria colonorum)

Howell, T. 1999. Diet and growth of estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum) in the Hopkins River. Honours Thesis, Deakin University, Australia

Howell, T., Laurenson, L.J., Myers, J.H. & Jones, P.L. 2004. Spatial, temporal and size-class variation in the diet of estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum) in the Hopkins River, Victoria, Australia. Hydrobiologia 515(1-3): 29-37.

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

Jerry, D.R., Raadik, T.A., Cairns, S.C. & Baverstock, P.R. 1999. Evidence for natural interspecific hybridization between the Australian bass (Macquaria novemaculeata) and estuary perch (M. colonorum). Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 50: 661–666.

Kirwin, M.L. 2000. Age and growth of estuary perch, Macquaria colonorum (Perciformes: Percichthyidae) in the Bemm River, Eastern Victoria. Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute Internal Report No. 16.

Klunzinger, C.B. 1872. Zur Fische-fauna von Süd Australien. Archiv für Naturgeschichte 38(1): 17-47 pl. 2 (described as Dules novemaculeatus alta) See ref at BHL

Kuiter, R.H. 2013. Pictorial Guide to Victoria's Freshwater Fishes. Seaford, Victoria : Aquatic Photographics 178 pp. (as Macquaria colonorum)

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

Lintermans, M. 2007. Fishes of the Murray-Darling Basin — An Introductory Guide. Canberra : Murray-Darling Basin Commission Vol. MDBC Publication Number 10/07 157 pp. (as Macquaria colonorum)

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 (as Macquaria colonorum)

Macleay, W.J. 1881. Descriptive catalogue of the fishes of Australia. Part 1. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 1 5(3): 302-444 (described Lates ramsayi)

McCarraher, D.B. & McKenzie, J.A. 1986. Observations on the distribution, growth, spawning and diet of estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum) in Victorian waters. Technical Report Series Number 47. Melbourne : Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands, Melbourne. (as Macquaria colonorum)

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management. Sydney: J.R. Merrick 409 pp. (as Macquaria colonorum)

Near, T.J., Sandel, M., Kuhn, K.L., Unmack, P.J., Wainwright, P.C. & Smith, W.L. 2012. Nuclear gene-inferred phylogenies resolve the relationships of the enigmatic pygmy sunfishes, Elassoma (Teleostei: Percomorpha). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 63: 388–395.

Ramsay, E.P. & Ogilby, J.D. 1887. Notes on the genera of Australian fishes. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 2 2(2): 181-184

Schwartz, T.S. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2008. Using genotype simulations and Bayesian analyses to identify individuals of hybrid origin in Australian bass: lessons for fisheries management. Journal of Fish Biology 72: 435–450. (as Macquaria colonorum)

Schwartz, T.S., Jenkins, F. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2005. Microsatellite DNA markers developed for the Australian bass (Macquaria novemaculeata) and their cross amplification in estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum). Molecular Ecology Notes 5: 519–520.

Shaddick, K., Burridge, C.B., Jerry, D.R., Schwartz, T.S., Truong, K., Gilligan, D.M. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2011. A hybrid zone and bidirectional introgression between two catadromous species: Australian bass Macquaria novemaculeata and estuary perch Macquaria colonorum. Journal of Fish Biology 79: 1214-1235 

Shaddick, K., Gilligan, D.M., Burridge, C.P., Jerry, D.R., Truong, K. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2011. Historic divergence with contemporary connectivity in a catadromous fish, the estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 68: 304-318.

Stoessel, D.J., Morrongiello, J.R., Raadik, T.A., Lyon, J. & Fairbrother, P.F. 2018. Is climate change driving recruitment failure in Australian bass Macquaria novemaculeata in southern latitudes of the species range? Marine and Freshwater Research 69: 24-36.  

Stoessel, D.J., Morrongiello, J.R., Raadik, T.A., Lyon, J. & Nicol, M. 2018. Determinants of year class strength and growth of estuary perch Macquaria colonorum in a highly-regulated system. Marine and Freshwater Research 69: 1663–1673.

Stoessel, D., Walsh, C. & Van Der Meulen, D. 2019. Percalates colonorum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T123387810A129085998. Downloaded on 18 June 2020.

Stoessel, D.J., van Rooyen, A.R., Beheregaray, .L.B., Raymond, S.M.C., van Wyk, B., Haddy, J., Lieschke, J. & Weeks, A.R. (2020) Population genetic structure of estuary perch (Percalates colonorum Gunther) in south-eastern Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research , -.

Trnski, T. 2002. Behaviour of settlement-stage larvae of fishes with an estuarine juvenile phase: in situ observations in a warm-temperate estuary. Marine Ecology Progress Series 242: 205−214. (as Macquaria colonorum)

Trnski, T., Hay, A.C. & Fielder, D.S. 2005. Larval development of estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum) and Australian bass (M. novemaculeata) (Perciformes: Percichthyidae), and comments on their life history. Fishery Bulletin 103: 183-194.

van der Meulen, D.E., Walsh, C.T., Taylor, M.D. & Gray, C.A. 2014. Habitat requirements and spawning strategy of an estuarine-dependent fish, Percalates colonorum. Marine and Freshwater Research 65: 218–227Abstract

Van Wyk, B. 2015. Reproduction, Growth and Population Dynamics of Estuary Perch (Percalates colonorum) in the Arthur River, Tasmania. Honours thesis. Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania.

Walsh, C.T. 2012. Ecology and movement behaviour of two co-occurring estuary-dependent fishes, Macquaria colonorum and M. novemaculeata. Ph.D. thesis, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong.  

Walsh, C.T., Gray, C.A., West, R.J., van der Meulen, D.E. & Williams, L.F.G. 2010. Growth, episodic recruitment and age truncation in populations of a catadromous percichthyid, Macquaria colonorum. Marine and Freshwater Research 61: 397–407.  

Walsh, C.T., Gray, C.A., West, R.J. & Williams, L.F.G 2011. Reproductive biology and spawning strategy of the catadromous percichthyid, Macquaria colonorum (Günther, 1863). Environmental Biology of Fishes 91(4): 471-486. 

Walsh, C.T., Reinfelds, I.V., Gray, C.A., West, R.J., van der Meulen, D.E. & Craig, J.R. 2012. Seasonal residency and movement patterns of two co-occurring catadromous percichthyids within a south-eastern Australian river. Ecology of Freshwater Fish 21: 145–159. (as Macquaria colonorum)

Walsh, C.T., Reinfelds, I.V., Ives, M.C., Gray, C.A., West, R.J. & van der Meulen, D.E. 2013. Environmental influences on the spatial ecology and spawning behaviour of an estuarine-resident fish, Macquaria colonorum. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 118: 60–71.

Williams, J., Hindell, J.S., Jenkins, G.P. Tracey, S., Hartmann, K. & Swearer, S.E. 2017. The influence of freshwater flows on two estuarine resident fish species show differential sensitivity to the impacts of drought, flood and climate change. Environmental Biology of Fishdoi:10.1007/s10641-017-0632-z (as Macquaria colonorum

Williams, N.R. 1970. A comparison of two species of the genus Percalates Ramsey and Ogilby (Percomorphi : Macquariidae), and their taxonomy. NSW State Fisheries Bulletin 11: 1–61.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37311033

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-15 m

Fishing:Recreational fish

Habitat:Estuaries, freshwaters

Max Size:75 cm SL; 10 kg


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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map