Australian Smelt, Retropinna semoni Click to enlarge image
An Australian Smelt, caught at a depth of 0.3 metres at Maguires Creek, New South Wales,7th December 2002. Image: Mark McGrouther
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    May reach 10 cm in length but fish of 5 cm to 6 cm in length are more common.
Australian Smelt, Retropinna semoni
An unusual smelt collected near Alstonville. It closely resembles an Australian Smelt Retropinna semoni; however it has bright orange fins and several other unusual characteristics. This fish will be the subject of a new research program on the genus in Australia. Image: M. McGrouther
© Australian Museum


The Australian Smelt is a small Australian freshwater species that is most common in slow flowing streams.


The Australian Smelt has a tubular-shaped body with a dorsal fin placed in the posterior half. Behind this is a small adipose fin. The fish is usually olive greenish above and white below, but there is considerable colour variation and work is required to clarify the taxonomic status of the species.


The Australian Smelt is usually found in slow flowing streams where it schools near the surface. It is also known from some brackish waters.


The species is endemic to Australia. It has a widespread distribution, from the Fitzroy River, southern Queensland to the Murray River Mouth eastern South Australia. It also penetrates inland up the Murray and Darling Rivers.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.


  1. Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia. T.F.H. Publications. Pp. 240.
  2. Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & M. Allen. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 394.