Climbing Galaxias, Galaxias brevipinnis Click to enlarge image
A Climbing Galaxias photographed at night in Manly Dam, Sydney, New South Wales, December 2008. Image: Jodi Rowley
© Jodi Rowley

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    The Climbing Galaxias is a relatively large species that is known to grow to about 28 cm in length, although it is more commonly observed at lengths around 15 cm to 17 cm.


The Climbing Galaxias is an Australian native freshwater fish. It is a relatively large galaxid species which is known to grow to at least 28 cm in length.


The Climbing Galaxiasis can be recognised by a combination of characters including a tubular body shape, with a large head, a large mouth and a lower jaw shorter than the upper. Its fins are thick and fleshy, with the dorsal fin origin in front of the anal fin origin.

The colouration of the species is variable. It is greyish-brown to dark olive dorsally with lighter coloured sides, often with chevron-shaped bands or irregular blotches. A dark blue-black blotch is often present above the pectoral fin base. The belly is light olive to dull silver. In bright sunlight, the back and upper sides of the Climbing Galaxias often have golden iridescence.

Climbing Galaxias, Galaxias brevipinnis
A Climbing Galaxias photographed at night in Manly Dam, Sydney, New South Wales, December 2008. Image: Jodi Rowley
© Jodi Rowley


It prefers clear, tumbling waters in the headwaters of streams flowing through forested land.


The Climbing Galaxias is an Australian native freshwater fish which has a discontinuous distribution. It is recorded primarily in coastal drainages from the Sydney region to Adelaide, South Australia. It is also widespread in Tasmania. The distribution of the species has probably been fragmented by habitat deterioration over much of its range.

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.

Feeding and diet

This species eats a range of invertebrates including aquatic insects such as mayfly and caddis fly larvae, terrestrial invertebrates such as millipedes, flies and beetles, and crustaceans such as amphipods.

Other behaviours and adaptations

The common name comes from the Climbing Galaxias' ability to climb damp rock faces and waterfalls tens of metres high. The fish achieves this by facing up the incline, spreading the large pectoral and pelvic fins against the substrate, and wriggling the body with lizard-like movements.

Economic impacts

During 1999 the Climbing Galaxias was the focus of a major conflict between conservationists and developers in one area of northern Sydney. The fish in the image are from Curl Curl Creek, a feeder creek which drains into Manly Dam, situated in the Manly Warringah Memorial Park in Manly Vale, Warringah Shire. These fish are part of the only confirmed landlocked population of Climbing Galaxias occuring in the Sydney area, and one of the most northern Australian populations recorded in the databases of the Australian Museum.


  1. Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia. T.F.H. Publications. Pp. 240.
  2. McDowall, R.M & W. Fulton in McDowall, R.M. 1996. Freshwater Fishes of South-Eastern Australia. Reed Books. Pp. 247.
  3. McDowall, R.M & R.S. Frankenburg. 1981. The Galaxiid Fishes of Australia. Records of the Australian Museum. 33(10): 443-605.
  4. Merrick, J.R. & G.E. Schmida. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes. Biology and Management. John R. Merrick. Pp. 409.