As you pull out rods and waders and head to the south-west for the trout season, spare a thought for our native freshwater fish.
Our little suite of freshwater fishes in south-west waters includes 11 native species, nine of which are endemic. Some are so tiny that if you blink you could miss them, but they are vital to the health of our aquatic ecosystems.
A group of endemic, perch-like fishes with slender bodies and no longer than a credit card are the pygmy perches: the western pygmy perch (Edelia vittata) pictured above, the rarer Balston’s pygmy perch (Nannatherina balstoni) and the recently discovered and possibly rarest little pygmy perch (Nannoperca pygmaea sp. nov). The solitary nightfish (Bostockia porosa), also a member of this family, resembles a shrunken Murray cod with a preference for the night life!
Next up are the galaxiids (family Galaxiidae), commonly known as minnows and jollytails. The south-west is home to the endemic western minnow (Galaxias occidentalis), mud minnow (Galaxiella munda) and black stripe minnow (Galaxiella nigrostriata). While the latter two are no bigger than your pinky finger, the western minnow appears Goliath in proportion, reaching a maximum of 19 cm. The common jollytail (Galaxias maculatus) and trout minnow (Galaxias truttaceus) also call the south-west home, although they occur elsewhere.
Shaped like the galaxiids but unique in appearance and lifecycle is the salamanderfish (Lepidogalaxias salamandroides), which spends the dry months sleeping in damp burrows awaiting the rain.
Last but not least is Big Daddy Tandanus, more commonly known as the freshwater cobbler (Tandanus bostocki) – the largest freshwater fish in the south-west. Growing over 50 cm long, it protects itself with an array of venomous spines on its dorsal and pectoral fins.
So spare a thought for these unique WA fish that are just surviving in a changing world.