Australia’s favourite fish


Illustration by Leigh Douglas

Illustration by Leigh Douglas

At night the sea, all around the ship, exhibited a most delightful sight. This appearance was occasioned by the gambols of an incredible number of various kinds of fish, who sported about us, and whose sudden turnings caused an emanation which resembled flashes of lightning darting in quick succession.
— John White, A Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales (1790)

When asked to name an iconic Australian animal, our minds usually tend towards mammals and birds. But our waters also host a veritable wealth of fish diversity: Australia is home to over 5000 species, from the magnificent whale shark at 10m in length to the miniscule red-finned blue-eye, which barely scrapes past 2.5cm.

Australia’s Favourite Fish is a celebration of this incredible diversity. Whether you’re a scientist, an angler, an aquarium hobbyist, or just a general lover of wildlife, there’s plenty to treasure about our native fish.

In this national poll, we hope to crown Australia’s most popular fish. In collaboration with the Australian Society for Fish Biology, we have whittled down Australia’s fish biodiversity to a 51-species shortlist (no easy task) for voting purposes.

Choose your favourite below, and feel free to champion your fish on social media to family and friends. #AusFaveFish

Voting ran from October 8th – October 31, 2018. The results are announced here.

the shortlist



Thunnus alalunga

Roaming-the-planet/Flickr    (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Roaming-the-planet/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A highly migratory, commercially important tuna species that is heavily fished throughout its range.

Other names: albacore tuna, long-fin tunny, long-finned albacore

Australian bass

Macquaria novemaculeata

Living up to 40 years, this migratory river species has in recent decades undergone drastic declines across its eastern Australian range.

Other names: Australian perch, eastern freshwater perch, freshwater perch

Australian lungfish

Neoceratodus forsteri    (CC BY-NC-SA) (CC BY-NC-SA)

This air-breathing Australian endemic is the most primitive of the six lungfish species that survive in the world today.

Other names: Queensland lungfish, Burnett River salmon

Baldchin groper

Choerodon rubescens

Endemic to Western Australia and iconic to the Abrohlos Islands, baldchin groper are arguably the state’s tastiest fish, and a favourite amongst recreational fishers and divers.

Other names: baldchin tuskfish, baldchin wrasse, tuskfish

Banded rainbowfish

Melanotaenia trifasciata

The banded rainbowfish is endemic to Queensland and Northern Territory, but has achieved popularity as an aquarium fish thanks to its brilliant and varied colouration.

Other names: bedjal, Goyder River rainbowfish, striped sunfish, three-banded sun-fish


Lates calcarifer

Barramundi are celebrated for their fighting ability on the fishing line. They are also sequential hermaphrodites, with most fish maturing as males and becoming female at 3-5 years old.

Other names: barra, barramunda, cock-up, palmer, Palmer perch, silver barramundi

Barrier reef anenomefish

Amphiprion akindynos

Like other members of its genus, the Barrier Reef anenomefish enjoys a mutualistic relationship with sea anenomes.

Other names: brown anemonefish, guarded anemone fish, two-banded anemonefish, two-banded anemone-fish

Black bream

Acanthopagrus butcheri

Black bream are estuary specialists: They can tolerate high levels of salinity, and usually spend their entire life cycle in estuaries and coastal lakes.

Other names: blue nose bream, Gippsland bream, golden bream, Perth bream, silver bream, southern black bream, southern bream, yellow-fin bream

Black cod

Epinephelus daemelii

A shy cod species that became a protected species in 1983, after spear and line fishing caused large population declines.

Other names: black rock cod, saddled cod, saddled rock-cod, saddletail cod

Blind cave eel

Ophisternon candidum

This enigmatic, faceless fish lives its entire life in complete darkness, in subterranean aquifers on Western Australia's Cape Range Peninsula.

Blue groper

Achoerodus viridis

John Turnbull/Flickr    (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

John Turnbull/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

New South Wales’ marine emblem is a curious, charismatic wrasse renowned for approaching and interacting with divers as they enter the water.

Other names: blue groper, brown groper, eastern blue wrasse, giant pigfish, red groper

Blue tang

Paracanthurus hepatus

A striking coral reef surgeonfish, popular in the aquarium trade, and known to many younger viewers as the forgetful Dory from Finding Nemo and its sequel.

Other names: wedgetail blue tang, blue surgeon, blue surgeonfish, dory, flagtail surgeonfish, flag-tail surgeon-fish, hepatus tang, Indo-Pacific bluetang, palette surgeonfish, palette tang, regal blue surgeonfish, regal blue tang

Common coral trout

Plectropomus leopardus

Jan Messersmith/Flickr    (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Jan Messersmith/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A large, fish-eating reef predator that has been observed hunting cooperatively with moray eels, Napoleon wrasses and octopuses.

Other names: bluedotted coraltrout, blue-spot trout, coral trout, leopard cod, leopard coral grouper, leopard coral-trout, leopard trout

Crimsonspotted rainbowfish

Melanotaenia duboulayi

The original “Australian rainbowfish”, popular with aquarium hobbyists since the early 20th century and first exported internationally in 1927.

Other names: Doublay's rainbowfish, Australian rainbowfish

Desert gobY

Chlamydogobius eremius

Klaus Stiefel/Flickr    (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Klaus Stiefel/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Colourful males attract females using a distinctive courtship display that involves jerky body movements and raising their dorsal and anal fins.

Other names: Central Australian goby

Dusky flathead

Platycephalus fuscus

This oddly-shaped estuarine fish is popular with anglers along Australia’s east coast, but beware those venomous spines.

Other names: black flathead, dusky, estuary flathead, flattie, frog, lizard, mud flathead, river flathead

Eastern blue devil fish

Paraplesiops bleekeri

Taso Viglas/Flickr    (CC BY 2.0)

Taso Viglas/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This unmistakable electric-blue reef fish is found in caves and under ledges. It was once a target for the aquarium trade but is now protected across much of its range.

Other names: Bleeker's devilfish, blue-tipped long-fin

Eastern clown anenomefish

Amphiprion percula

One of the reef’s most recognisable fish, with a suite of fascinating behaviours. When the breeding female in a group dies, the largest male undergoes a rapid sex transformation.

Other names: clown anemonefish, orange anemonefish, orange anemone-fish, orange clownfish

Empire gudgeon

Hypseleotris compressa

stephenmahony/ (CC BY-NC)

stephenmahony/ (CC BY-NC)

A popular aquarium fish, males become especially vibrant during the breeding season in order to attract a mate.

Other names: carp gudgeon, empire fish, northern carp-gudgeon

Freshwater moray

Gymnothorax polyuranodon

© Brendan Ebner

© Brendan Ebner

A shy but stunning moray that occupies tropical Pacific rainforest streams and is the only confirmed freshwater species of the moray family.

Other names: manytoothed moray

Golden perch

Macquaria ambigua

Gunther Schmida/ (CC BY-NC-SA)

Gunther Schmida/ (CC BY-NC-SA)

A favourite catch amongst anglers in the Murray-Darling River system, and subject to widespread stocking efforts.

Other names: callop, freshwater bream, Murray bream, Murray perch, tarki, white perch, yellowbelly, yellowfin perch

Great white shark

Carcharodon carcharias

A powerful marine predator that feeds largely on seals, penguins, fish and seabirds. Although a highly migratory fish, Australia’s eastern and western populations remain quite distinct.

Other names: great white, white shark, white pointer, white death

Gummy shark

Mustelus antarcticus

The humble, bottom-dwelling gummy shark provides much of the ‘flake’ served in your local fish-and-chip shop.

Other names: Australian smooth hound, flake, smooth dog-shark, sweet William, white-spotted gummy shark

Hoodwinker sunfish

Mola tecta

© Kane Fleury/Otago Museum, Dunedin (CC BY-NC 2.0)

© Kane Fleury/Otago Museum, Dunedin (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This new species, which can weigh several hundred kilograms, was hiding in plain sight for over a century, before it was formally described last year by PhD student Marianne Nyegaard.

King George whiting

Sillaginodes punctatus

Julian K. Finn/Museum Victoria (CC BY-NC)

Julian K. Finn/Museum Victoria (CC BY-NC)

South Australia’s most popular recreational fish, and great eating by most accounts.

Other names: Australian whiting, black whiting, pussies, South Australian whiting, spotted sillago

Largetooth sawfish

Pristis pristis

Northern Australia is one of the few remaining strongholds for the largetooth sawfish, which is rapidly disappearing across its global range and is considered critically endangered.

Other names: freshwater sawfish, common dawfish, Leichhardt's sawfish, smalltooth sawfish, wide sawfish

Leafy seadragon

Phycodurus eques

Elaborate leaf-like protrusions help this fish camouflage itself amongst the kelp and seagrass. The leafy seadragon has been South Australia’s marine emblem since 2001.

Other names: Glauert's sea-dragon, leafy sea-dragon

Macquarie perch

Macquaria australasica

A combination of factors — among them overfishing, habitat destruction, infectious disease and introduced species — caused massive declines in Macquarie perch from the 1980s.

Other names: black bream, black perch, bream, Gouldburn bream, macca, mountain perch, Murray bream, Murray perch, silvereye, white-eye

Mahi mahi

Coryphaena hippurus

The mahi mahi can reach 1-2 metres in length, has brilliant colouration, and is considered excellent eating. A prized gamefish.

Other names: common dolphinfish, dolphin, dolphin fish, dorado, mahimahi, mahi-mahi

Manta ray

Mobula alfredi

Although the smaller of the two manta ray species, this fish is no slouch in the size department — boasting a disc width of up to 5 metres.

Other names: Alfred manta, Australian devil ray, coastal manta ray, devilfish, inshore manta ray, munguna, Prince Alfred's ray, reef manta ray, resident manta ray

Murray cod

Maccullochella peelii

Australia’s largest freshwater bony fish. Once widespread through the Murray-Darling River system, the Murray cod is now rare in many places and large individuals are seldom caught.

Other names: cod, codfish, east coast cod, goodo, goodoo, green fish, Mary River cod, Murray perch, ponde, pondi, Queensland freshwater cod

Northern river shark

Glyphis garricki

The northern river shark is exceedingly rare, and we know next to nothing about it. It has been sporadically recorded in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Other names: New Guinea river shark

Orange roughy

Hoplostethus atlanticus

This distinctive deep-sea fish has been historically overfished due to its slow life history and low fecundity, with major harvest restrictions now in place in Australia.

Other names: deepsea perch, orange ruff, red roughy, sea perch

Port Jackson shark

Heterodontus portusjacksoni

© David Harasti

© David Harasti

These small, friendly sharks have been described as the “puppy dogs of the ocean”. Some individuals undertake annual migrations of up to 600km along Australia’s eastern coast.

Other names: bullhead, dogshark, horn shark, oyster crusher, pigfish, tabbigaw

Purple spotted gudgeon

Mogurnda adspersa

Although still common in central Queensland, this species is threatened in other parts of its range. The South Australian population was almost extinct prior to a successful captive breeding program.

Other names: purple-spotted gudgeon, southern purple-spotted gudgeon, trout gudgeon

Queensland groper

Epinephelus lanceolatus

Thomas Hawk/Flickr    (CC BY-NC 2.0 )

Thomas Hawk/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

One of Australia’s largest fish, the Queensland groper can grow up to 2.7 m and over 400kg. Juveniles have beautiful black and yellow colouration and are found on inshore reefs.

Other names: giant grouper, groper, grouper, Queensland grouper

Red-finned blue eye

Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis

© Adam Kerezsy

© Adam Kerezsy

Australia’s smallest freshwater fish is critically endangered and found only in Central Queensland in a few artesian springs on Edgbaston Reserve.

Other names: Redfin blue-eye

Running River rainbowfish

Melanotaenia sp.

© Steve Hume

© Steve Hume

This undescribed rainbowfish, confined to a 7km stretch of river near Townsville, Queensland, was recently rescued from extinction by an eleventh hour captive breeding program.

Other names: Burdekin rainbowfish, Hidden Valley rainbowfish, zig zag rainbowfish

Sevenspot archerfish

Toxotes chatareus

Dinh D. Tran, FiMSeA/ (CC BY)

Dinh D. Tran, FiMSeA/ (CC BY)

Found in the northern parts of Australia, this archerfish spits water at insect prey to knock them within reach.

Other names: common archer fish, seven-spot archerfish, spotted archerfish


Chrysophrys auratus

One of Australia’s most popular recreationally-caught fish. If they avoid the hooks, snapper can live up to 40 years in the wild.

Other names: Australasian snapper, cockney, cockney bream, eastern snapper, nobblers, pink snapper, pinkie, queen, red bream, silver seabream, squire, tamure, western snapper, white snapper

Sooty grunter

Hephaestus fuliginosus

Tony Rodd/Flickr    (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Tony Rodd/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The sooty grunter can be found in fast-flowing freshwater streams in northern Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Other names: black bream, blubberlips, northern grunter, purple grunter

Southern bluefin tuna

Thunnus maccoyii

These large, commercially-prized fish are also physiologically fascinating — unlike most fish, they can maintain their body temperature well above that of the surrounding water.

Other names: bluefin, Japanese Central Pacific bluefin tuna, southern tuna, southern tunny

Southern shortfin eel

Anguilla australis

The southern shortfin eel was subject to the world’s earliest known aquacultural operation, 7000 years ago at the Budj Bim eel traps in southwest Victoria.

Other names: Australian shortfinned eel, freshwater eel, river eel, silver eel, yellow eel

Spotted handfish

Brachionichthys hirsutus

The spotted handfish, confined to a few small sites in Tasmania’s Derwent River Estuary, is one of the world’s rarest marine species. A captive breeding program is helping to secure its long-term survival.

Other names: prickly-skinned handfish, red handfish, tortoiseshell fish

Tasselled wobbegong

Eucrossorhinus dasypogon

Jon Hanson/Flickr    (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Jon Hanson/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

One of 10 wobbegong species found in Australian waters. These carpet sharks are known for their excellent camouflage and shaggy, beard-like growths around the mouth.

Other names: bearded wobbegong, Ogilby's wobbegong

Tiger shark

Galeocerdo cuvier

Tiger sharks are solitary, nocturnal hunters, capturing their prey with brutal efficiency. They have a reputation for eating almost anything that gets within biting distance.

Trout galaxias

Galaxias truttaceus

David Paul/Museum Victoria (CC BY)

David Paul/Museum Victoria (CC BY)

This galaxias is endemic to southern parts of the continent, including Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, with a genetically distinct (and endangered) population in Western Australia.

Other names: minnow, mountain trout, native trout, ocellated mountain trout, spotted galaxias, spotted minnow, spotted mountain trout, spotted trout, spotted trout minnow, trout minnow, western mountain trout, Yarra trout

Weedy seadragon

Phyllopteryx taeniolatus

Klaus Stiefel/Flickr    (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Klaus Stiefel/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Victoria’s marine emblem is a carnivore, sucking up small crustaceans and other invertebrates through its tubular snout.

Other names: common seadragon

Whale shark

Rhincodon typus

The ocean's largest fish is a slow-moving filter-feeder, providing divers at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, with some of their most memorable close encounters.

White’s seahorse

Hippocampus whitei

© David Harasti

© David Harasti

Recent population declines in Port Stephens, New South Wales, have been partly addressed by installing simple ‘seahorse hotels’ to replace lost habitat.

Other names: common seahorse, New Holland seahorse, Sydney seahorse

Yellowtail kingfish

Seriola lalandi

The yellowtail kingfish supports important commercial and recreational fisheries in Australia, and has also been successfully aquacultured.

Other names: albacore, amberjack, bandit, Californian yellowtail, hoodlum, kahu, king amberjack, kingfish, kingie, silver king, southern yellowtail, Tasmanian yellowtail, yellowtail amberjack

ASFB Logo HighRes.png

The Australia’s Favourite Fish poll is supported by the Australian Society for Fish Biology. Species descriptions were contributed by Andrew Katsis, Lachlan Fetterplace, David Harasti, Katherine Cure, Brendan Ebner and David Boseto. We are also indebted to Museum Victoria’s Fishes of Australia database, curated by Dianne Bray, for additional species information and alternative names.