Freshwater Sole, Brachirus selheimi (Macleay 1882)

Other Names: Fresh Water Sole, Selheim's Sole

Freshwater Sole, Brachirus selheimi. Source: Keith Martin. License: All rights reserved

A brown freshwater to estuarine sole with numerous dark brown to blackish spots and blotches that extend onto the fins, and a whitish underside.

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2018, Brachirus selheimi in Fishes of Australia, accessed 06 Feb 2023,

Freshwater Sole, Brachirus selheimi (Macleay 1882)

More Info


Known only from northern Australia between the Adelaide River, NT (131°06'E) and Cardon River, QLD (142°E). Lives on the bottom in clear or turbid, brackish estuaries and fresh water rivers, both in shallow sandy areas and deeper rock pools.


Dorsal fin 70-75; Anal fin 55-60; Caudal fin 18-20; Pectoral fin 5-8; Pelvic fin 6; Lateral line scales 77–81; Transverse scales 33/1/42.
Head and body extremely compressed (flattened); body depth 3 in total length (33.3%), ovate. Snout projecting well in front of mouth. Eyes on right side of body, interorbital twice eye diameter; skin flaps forming tassels on dorsal and anal fins and on dorsal surface of breast, abdomen, and head (visible under magnification).
Scales finely ctenoid on both sides; preopercle hidden by scales; lateral-line curving downward from near dorsal margin of head to above opercular opening, then straight on lateral midline to base of tail
Dorsal fin origin on snout in front of upper eye; anal fin origin below pectoral fin base; dorsal and anal fins united with basal part of caudal fin; pectoral fins small, right pectoral fin longer, but shorter than eye diameter; pelvic fins small, opposite, right one longer, separated from anal fin; caudal fin rounded.


Reaches about 15 cm TL, common to 10 cm TL.


Brown with numerous dark brown to blackish spots that extend onto fins; ventral surface whitish.


An ambush predator whose flattened body and colouration provides excellent camouflage particularly on sandy substrates. Feeds on small fishes, crustaceans and aquatic insects.


Oviparous, likely to produce small pelagic eggs. Larvae start out with eyes on either side of the head as in other fishes but as they develop one eye migrates over the top of the head to the other side and they become benthic.

Similar Species

Differs from the similar Brachirus salinarum in having a more pointed rather than a rounded caudal fin.


The species is named for P.F. Selheim, goldfield warden in 1874 for the Palmer River goldfields, Cape York, Queensland (Holthouse 1967: 27).

Species Citation

Synaptura selheimi Macleay 1882, Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. (1)7(1): 71. Type locality: Palmer River, Queensland.


Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Freshwater Sole, Brachirus selheimi (Macleay 1882)


Allen, G.R. (1989). Freshwater Fishes of Australia.  Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 240 pp. pls 1–63.

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

Holthouse, H. 1994. River of Gold. Sydney : Angus & Robertson, 217 pp.

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

Larson, H.K. & Martin, K.C. (1990). Freshwater Fishes of the Northern Territory. Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences Handbook Series Number 1.  Darwin : Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences 102 pp. 73 figs.

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

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37462026

Habitat:Freshwater rivers and brackish estuaries

Max Size:15 cm TL


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