Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Endangered
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans Recovery Plan: Tasmanian Galaxiidae 2006-2010 (Threatened Species Section (TSS), 2006k) [Recovery Plan].
Policy Statements and Guidelines Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened fish. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.4 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011i) [Admin Guideline].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
State Government
    Documents and Websites
TAS:Threatened Species Listing Statement-Swan Galaxia, Galaxias fontanus (Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (TAS DIPWE), 1998b) [Information Sheet].
TAS:Galaxias fontanus (Swan Galaxias): Species Management Profile for Tasmania's Threatened Species Link (Threatened Species Section (TSS), 2014sm) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
TAS: Listed as Endangered (Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 (Tasmania): September 2012 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Critically Endangered (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Galaxias fontanus [26167]
Family Galaxiidae:Salmoniformes:Actinopterygii:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Fulton, 1978
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Galaxias fontanus

Common name: Swan Galaxias

The Swan Galaxias is a small to medium-sized galaxiid fish species, growing to a maximum length of approximately 135 mm (generally 65—70 mm) (TSS 2006k). The species is brownish-olive in colour, its back and sides are covered with dense, irregular blotches or bands, it has a cream to silvery white belly and clear or slightly dusky fins (Allen 1989a; McDowall 1996). The head is broad and flattened dorsally, with top and lower jaws approximately equal in length.

The Swan Galaxias is endemic to Tasmania and is curently known to only occur in streams free of trout species. It is likely that the species was widespread in the Swan and Macquarie River catchments prior to the introduction of the Brown Trout (Salmo trutta). However, this cannot be confirmed as the species was only discovered after trout were established (Crook & Sanger 1997).

The Swan Galaxias now occurs naturally (i.e. not due to translocation) only in the headwaters of the Swan River, above Hardings Falls and tributaries of the Macquarie River in eastern Tasmania.

Translocations of adult Swan Galaxias were carried out between 1989-1995 within the Macquarie River catchment, in trout-free tributaries, in an attempt to secure the species survival in the wild (Sanger & Fulton 1991; Jackson pers. comm. 2002). This species is quite resilient and has the ability to maintain large populations in small streams that often have very low flows (Sanger 1993).

The natural range of the Swan Galaxias is now restricted to about 11 km of narrow stream, with the translocated range adding approximately 30 km (TSS 2006k). The densities of the translocated populations are extremely variable (ranging from <0.05—1.35 fish/m) due to differences in the availability of suitable habitat at the translocation sites (Crook & Sanger 1998a). The total extent of occurrence of the species is approximately 960 km2 (TSS 2006k).

The Swan Galaxias currently exists in nine natural populations and nine translocation populations. The location, linear extent of stream occupied and status of each population is detailed in the Recovery Plan for Tasmanian Galaxidae (2006k).

All populations (including translocated populations) are considered to be important for the long-term survival of the species (TSS 2006k).

The Swan Galaxias is confined to freshwater habitats (Fulton 1978a) located at elevations between 300—500 m above sea level (Sanger 1993). Individuals have been observed free-swimming or sheltering beneath rocks or marginal cover in gently to moderately swiftly flowing waterways. Lower numbers have been recorded in the more swiftly flowing waters and the species is thought to prefer slower moving streams and pools (McDowall 1980a; McDowall & Frankenberg 1981). In the Macquarie River, some of the populations exist in very narrow headwaters of creeks (some as small as 1 m in width), which barely flow for most of the year, but contain permanent water. Natural barriers to the influx of trout and other introduced predatory fish are likely to be critical to the ongoing viability of habitat currently inhabited by the species.

The streams occupied by the Swan Galaxias are generally shallow (less than 1 m deep) with gravel, cobble, boulder or bedrock substrates, and abundant streamside vegetation. Several populations occur in areas where the streams flow through gently-sloping valleys, with small pools linked either by shallow riffles or small cascades. The Swan Galaxias appears well adapted to survival in small streams with very low summer flows and all the attendant challenges they pose (elevated temperatures, lowered dissolved oxygen levels, chemical variability and complete evaporation) (Sanger 1993). The larvae occupy shallow, slow-flowing water in small groups (Crook & Sanger 1997).

The Swan Galaxias is hardy, fecund and has a simple life history free of many of the ontogenetic complexities (changes throughout life) shown by diadromous (migratory) galaxiids (Sanger 1993). The species also lacks a marine, juvenile, pelagic phase, exhibited by the other Tasmanian river-dwelling galaxiid species (Fulton 1978a). Individuals mature in their second year (Sanger & Fulton 1991), with gonad development occurring around April (Crook & Sanger 1998a). Adults then spawn for the first time at around two years of age (Sanger & Fulton 1991) over an extended period in spring between August and October (Crook & Sanger 1998a; Fulton 1978a; Sanger & Fulton 1991). Individuals live for at least three years (McDowall & Fulton 1996).

Fecundity ranges from 150—500 eggs per female. The eggs are 2.2—2.5 mm in diameter and strongly adhesive. The normal site of egg deposition has not been discovered (Sanger 1989; Crook & Sanger 1998a), but it is presumed to be within the vicinity of the normal home range of the individual (Fulton 1990). Artificially fertilised eggs took 17 days to hatch in aquaria at 11.5—18.5°C (Crook & Sanger 1998a; Sanger & Fulton 1991). Newly hatched embryos were about 8 mm in length (Crook & Sanger 1998a).

There is a relatively brief larval stage (at least five weeks) between hatching and recruitment into the main population (Sanger 1989; Sanger & Fulton 1991). Recruitment into the juvenile population occurs in early summer (Sanger & Fulton 1991).

The Swan Galaxias feeds on insects, insect larvae, small crustaceans and algae (Allen 1989a). It is an opportunistic omnivore that may consume a large amount of terrestrial food when available (Sanger & Fulton 1991).

No known migrations of the Swan Galaxias have been recorded. Considering that adults and juveniles occupy very similar habitats, only local, small-scale movements would be expected (Crook & Sanger 1997; Sanger 1993).

The major threat to the Swan Galaxias is predation and competition from introduced fish, in particular the Brown Trout, Redfin Perch (Perca fluviatilis) and also from the native Jollytail (Galaxias maculatus). This is evidenced by the fact that the downstream limit of the Swan Galaxias is limited by upstream limit of the Brown Trout (Fulton 1990). The succeptibility of the species to predation by trout is thought to be due to the open-water schooling habit of juvenile fish (Fulton 1990).

Predation by Brown Trout is only limited by natural barriers, such as waterfalls and marshes. These barriers require regular monitoring to ensure that upstream movement of trout has not occurred (Sanger & Fulton 1991). Illegal introduction of Brown Trout above Hardings Falls on the Swan River demonstrated the severe impact trout predation can have, with galaxiids eliminated from a major part of their former range in this stream within a 10 year period (Jackson pers. comm. 2002).

The Macquarie River tributaries containing populations of the Swan Galaxias all have self-maintaining populations of Brown Trout downstream from the galaxiid populations. The small size and temporary flows of some of these headwaters are not preferred habitat of the Brown Trout and this is probably the reason for the existing galaxias populations in some of these streams (Sanger & Fulton 1991).

Introduced fish populations are an ongoing threat to the survival of this species. Where possible, steps are being taken to further strengthen barriers to Brown Trout dispersal into habitats occupied by the Swan Galaxias and Brown Trout are also being actively removed from these areas (Sanger & Fulton 1991). The Redfin Perch is also known to occur in some of the Macquarie River tributaries previously inhabited by the Swan Galaxias and has been implicated in the extinction of local populations in the upper Macquarie River (Sanger 1993). Similarly, trout have been implicated in the near-extinction of another natural population in the Macquarie River (Sanger 1993).

Habitat alteration, sedimentation and water pollution due to timber harvesting is also a threat (Allen 1989a; Sanger & Fulton 1991), but some areas where populations occur have gained protection as specially managed forestry areas (Crook & Sanger 1997). All known habitats occupied by this species are recorded in forestry management plans.

Road building and bridgeworks also potentially impact streams inhabited by this species (Sanger & Fulton 1991).

Existing actions

The Swan Galaxias has been included on three recovery plans:

  • The Swan Galaxias Recovery Plan: Management Phase (Sanger 1993)
  • Recovery Plan for the Pedder, Swan, Clarence, Swamp and Saddled Galaxias - 1999-2004 (Crook & Sanger 1997)
  • Recovery Plan: Tasmanian Galaxiidae 2006-2010 (TSS 2006k)

Recovery actions identified in these plans include a translocation program, the construction of barriers to introduced fish, the monitoring of populations, establishment of refuge captive populations and actions to increase public awareness of this threatened species.

Translocation has been proven effective, with nine self-sustaining populations now established (TSS 2006k). Barriers have been constructed at more than four sites, with introduced fish removed from areas upstream of the barriers via electrofishing and netting. A number of measures have been undertaken to engage and inform the community about the Swan Galaxias, such as brochures, interactive talks, posters, presentations and liaison with land managers (TSS 2006k).

Ongoing actions

The future strategy for the Swan Galaxias is to focus on the protection of known populations (natural and translocated). Natural populations are considered to be of particular importance, as they are repositories of genetic diversity. Specific actions to be undertaken include (TSS 2006k):

  • regular population monitoring at each site (and monitoring for the occurrence of introduced fish);
  • surveys for additional populations in suitable habitat;
  • rehabilitation of habitat known or likely to have been occupied by the species, to allow population expansion or re-introduction;
  • research into the genetic structure of populations.

Documents relevant to the management of the species can be found at the start of the profile.

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat loss and modification due to clearance of native vegetation and pasture improvements The Impact of Global Warming on the Distribution of Threatened Vertebrates (ANZECC 1991) (Dexter, E.M., A.D. Chapman & J.R. Busby, 1995) [Report].
Biological Resource Use:Logging and Wood Harvesting:Habitat disturbance due to foresty activities Freshwater Fishes of Australia (Allen, G.R., 1989a) [Book].
Ecosystem/Community Stresses:Indirect Ecosystem Effects:Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat and/or subpopulations Recovery Plan for the Pedder, Swan, Clarence, Swamp and Saddled Galaxias - 1999-2004 (Crook, D. & A. Sanger, 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Perca fluviatilis (Redfin, Redfin Perch) Recovery Plan for the Pedder, Swan, Clarence, Swamp and Saddled Galaxias - 1999-2004 (Crook, D. & A. Sanger, 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
The Swan Galaxias Recovery Plan: Management Phase Page(s) 23. (Sanger, A.C., 1993) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Salmo trutta (Brown Trout) Recovery Plan for the Pedder, Swan, Clarence, Swamp and Saddled Galaxias - 1999-2004 (Crook, D. & A. Sanger, 1997) [State Recovery Plan].
Conservation of Endangered Species of Tasmanian Freshwater Fish. Occasional Report 91-01. Page(s) 29. (Sanger, A.C. & W. Fulton, 1991) [Report].

Allen, G.R. (1989a). Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Brookvale, NSW: T.F.H. Publications.

Crook, D. & A. Sanger (1997). Recovery Plan for the Pedder, Swan, Clarence, Swamp and Saddled Galaxias - 1999-2004. [Online]. TAS Inland Fisheries Commission. Available from:

Crook, D. & A. Sanger (1998a). Threatened Fishes of the world: Galaxias fontanus Fulton, 1978 (Galaxiidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes. 53:32.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011i). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened fish. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.4 . [Online]. EPBC Act policy statement. Canberra, ACT: DSEWPAC. Available from:

Fulton, W. (1978a). A new species of Galaxias (Pisces: Galaxiidae) from the Swan River, Tasmania. Records of the Queen Victoria Museum. 63:1-8.

Fulton, W. (1990). Tasmanian Freshwater Fishes. Page(s) 80. Uni. Tasmania, Hobart.

Jackson, J. (2002). Personal communication.

McDowall, R.M. (1980a). Family Galaxiidae Galaxiids. In: McDowall, R.M., ed. Freshwater Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Page(s) 55-69. Sydney, NSW: Reed Books.

McDowall, R.M. & R.S. Frankenberg (1981). The Galaxiid Fishes of Australia. Records of the Australian Museum. 33(10):443-605.

McDowall, R.M. & W. Fulton (1996). Chapter 10 Family Galaxiidae Galaxiids. In: McDowall, R.M., ed. Freshwater Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Rev. ed:52-77. Reed Books, Sydney.

McDowall, R.M. ed (1996). Freshwater Fishes of South-Eastern Australia rev. edn. Chatswood, NSW: Reed Books.

Sanger, A.C. (1989). Endangered Fish Study. Newsletter of the Inland Fisheries Commission of Tasmania. 18(2):4.

Sanger, A.C. (1993). The Swan Galaxias Recovery Plan: Management Phase. Page(s) 23. Inland Fisheries Commission, Hobart.

Sanger, A.C. & W. Fulton (1991). Conservation of Endangered Species of Tasmanian Freshwater Fish. Occasional Report 91-01. Page(s) 29. Final Report by Inland Fisheries Commission to WWF. Tasmanian Inland Fisheries Commission, Hobart.

Threatened Species Section (TSS) (2006k). Recovery Plan: Tasmanian Galaxiidae 2006-2010. [Online]. DPIW. Department of Primary Industries, Water: Hobart, Tasmania. Available from:

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Galaxias fontanus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Fri, 1 Aug 2014 10:11:10 +1000.