Percichthyids are fresh to brackish water fishes found in temperate regions of Australia (except for the tropical Guyu wujalwujalensis) and South America.

Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii at Sydney Aquarium
Murray Cod Maccullochella peelii at Sydney Aquarium Image: Stuart Humphreys
© Australian Museum

J.M. Leis & T. Trnski, modified from Brown & Neira (1998)

Johnson (1984) altered the generic composition of the family and it is now regarded as containing 10 genera and about 24 species (Nelson, 1994; Allen et al. 2002). Percichthyidae sensu Johnson includes Gadopsis (Nelson, 1994; Eschmeyer, 1998), but we have retained this genus in its own family until further taxonomic review of the group (Jerry, et al. 2001). Edelia is considered a junior synonym of Nannoperca (Kuiter et al ., 1996; Jerry et al., 2001). Excluding Gadopsis and its two species, the Percichthyidae is represented in Australia by 6 genera and 15 species (Paxton and Hanley, 1989; Rowland, 1993; Nelson, 1994; Harris and Rowland, 1996; Allen et al. 2002; Hoese et al., in press). Additionally, several cryptic species are yet to be described (Jerry et al., 2001; Allen et al., 2002. Adults (3.5 cm to 1.8 m) have a single, continuous dorsal fin with or without a notch, and, in some species, two blunt opercular spines. Reproductive habits are highly variable. Eggs are either pelagic and semibuoyant, or demersal and adhesive, and are spherical and between 1.2 and 4.2 mm in diameter (Lake, 1967; Johnson, 1984; Ingram and Rimmer, 1992). Larvae of species with pelagic eggs (e.g. Macquaria spp) hatch at <5 mm BL and have a brief yolk-sac stage, whereas those of species with demersal eggs (e.g. Maccullochella spp) hatch at >5 mm BL and have an extended yolk-sac stage. Larvae have been described for Maccullochella peelii, Maccullochella macquariensis and Macquaria ambigua (Dakin and Kesteven, 1938; Lake, 1967; Brown and Neira, 1998). Percichthyid larvae have no obvious specialisations to pelagic life; the preopercular spines that develop in the larvae of some species are retained in juveniles.

Meristic characters of percichthyid genera of temperate Australia

Meristic characters of percichthyid genera of temperate Australia
(n) Dorsal Anal Pectoral Pelvic Caudal Vertebrae
Bostockia (1) VII-VIII, 16-17 III, 11-12 13-15 I, 5 17 32-33*
Maccullochella (3) X-XII, 13-16 III, 10-13 16-20 I, 5 17 34-36
Macquaria (4) VIII-XIII, 8-14 III, 7-11 12-18 I, 5 17 24-31
Nannatherina (1) VII-VIII, 9-11 III, 8-10 12-13 I, 5 17 32-34
Nannoperca (5) VII-IX, 7-10 III, 6-9 11-15 I, 5 17 27-31*

Note: *Unpublished counts provided by G.D. Johnson

Main characters of percichthyid larvae

  • 24-37 myomeres
  • Body elongate to moderately deep (BD 9-35%)
  • Preopercular spines and 1 opercular spine in larvae or transforming larvae, depending on species; a second smaller opercular spine may develop in small juveniles of some species
  • Supracleithral spine present in some species, and forms after settlement
  • Gut moderate to long (PAL 39-71%), straight to coiled
  • Small to moderate gap between anus and origin of anal fin until anal fin is fully formed
  • Continuous dorsal fin with VII-XIII, 7-17
  • Melanophores along ventral midline of tail

References to percichthyid larvae

  • Dakin & Kesteven (1938), Lake (1967), Johnson (1984), Brown and Neira (1998), Neira et al. (1998), Jerry et al. (2001), Trnski et al. (2005).

Families with similar larvae

  • Apogonidae (deep-bodied species) - 24 myomeres; large, conspicuous gas bladder; separate spinous and soft dorsal fins.
  • Gadopsidae - 45-51 myomeres; no head spines; long-based dorsal fin, 28-44 elements; pelvic fins jugular each with a single bifid ray.
  • Latidae - 25 myomeres; small size at notochord flexion (3.0-3.8 mm); dorsal fin VII-VIII + I, 10-12; pectoral fin 16-18; tropical distribution.
  • Kyphosidae - 25-26 myomeres; long-based dorsal fin, 23-27 elements; long-based anal fin, 13-14 elements; supracleithral spine forms by 6.1 mm.
  • Microcanthidae - 25-26 myomeres; long-based dorsal fin, 27-32- elements; long-based anal fin, 16-22 elements.
  • Sciaenidae - 24-29 myomeres; species co-occuring in area with 25-31dorsal soft rays and 7-9 anal soft rays; large gap between anus and origin of anal fin; pigment externally or internally at nape.
  • Note: families in bold text are dealt with in Neira et al., 1998.


  • Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. and Allen, M. (2002). Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia, 394 pp. Western Australian Museum, Perth.
  • Brown, P. and Neira, F.J. (1998). Percichthyidae: basses, perches, cods. In Neira, F.J., Miskiewicz, A.G. and Trnski, T. eds. Larvae of temperate Australian fishes: laboratory guide for larval fish identification. University of Western Australia Press, Perth. pp 259-265.
  • Dakin, J.W. and Kesteven, G.L. (1938). The Murray cod (Maccullochella macquariensis (Cuv. And Val.)). Bulletin of New South Wales State Fisheries, 1:1-18.
  • Eschmeyer, W.N. (ed.) (1998). Catalogue of Fishes. Special Publication 1, Centre for Biodiversity Research and Information, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco. 2905 pp.
  • Harris, J.H. and Rowland, S.J. (1996). Family Percichthyidae: Australian freshwater cods and basses. In R. M. McDowall, ed. Freshwater fishes of south-eastern Australia. Reed Books, Chatswood, New South Wales. pp 150-163.
  • Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Allen, G.R., Allen, C.J., Cross, N.J. and Paxton, J.R. (in press). Pisces: Mugilidae to Molidae. Zoological Catalogue of Australia, Vol. 7 part 2. Australian Biological Resources Survey, Canberra.
  • Ingram, B.A. and Rimmer, M.A. (1992). Induced breeding and larval rearing of the endangered Australian freshwater fish trout cod, Maccullochella macquariensis (Cuvier) (Percichthyidae). Aquaculture and Fisheries Management 24: 7-17.
  • Jerry, D.R, Elphinstone, M.S. and Baverstock, P.R. (2001). Phylogenetic Relationships of Australian Members of the Family Percichthyidae Inferred from Mitochondrial 12SrRNA Sequence data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Vol. 18, No. 3, 225-347.
  • Johnson, G.D. (1984). Percoidei: development and relationships. In: Moser, H.G., Richards, W.J., Cohen, D.M., Fahay, M.P., Kendall, A.W. and Richardson, S.L. (eds). Ontogeny and Systematics of Fishes. Special Publication 1, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Lawrence, Kansas, p. 464-498.
  • Lake, J.S. (1967). Rearing experiments with five species of Australian Freshwater fishes. II. Morphogenesis and ontogeny. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 18:155-173.
  • Neira, F.J., Miskiewicz, A.G. and Trnski, T. (eds). (1998). Larvae of temperate Australian fishes: laboratory guide for larval fish identification. University of Western Australia Press, Perth. pp 259-265.
  • Nelson, J.S. (1994). Fishes of the world, Third edition. John Wiley and Sons, New York, 600p.
  • Paxton, J.R. and Hanley, J.E. (1989). Percichthyidae. Pp. 509-515 In: Paxton, J. R., Hoese, D. F., Allen, G. R. and Hanley, J. E. (eds.) Zoological Catalogue of Australia Volume 7: Petromyzontidae to Carangidae. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.
  • Rowland, S.J. (1993). Maccullochella ikei, an endangered species of freshwater cod (Pisces: Percichthyidae) from the Clarence River system, NSW and M. peelii mariensis, a new subspecies from the Mary River system, Qld. Records of the Australian Museum 45: 121-145.
  • Trnski, T., Hay, A.C. and Fielder, D.S. (2005). Larval development of estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum) and Australian bass (M. novemaculeata) (Perciformes: Percichthyidae), and comments on their life history. Fishery Bulletin, 103: 183-194.