Honey blue eye
Common name: honey blue eye
Scientific name: Pseudomugil mellis
Conservation status: This species is listed as Vulnerable in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and nationally (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). It is ranked as a critical priority under the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Back on Track species prioritisation framework.
The honey blue eye is a small freshwater fish about 3 cm long, which makes it one of the smallest threatened species in Queensland. In addition to its characteristic blue eyes, they are amber to orange in colour. The females have clear fins and in males the first dorsal fin is mainly black and the second dorsal fin and tail fin are orange with a black band near the edge.
Habitat and distribution
The honey blue eye lives in slightly acidic, tannin-stained lakes and streams in coastal heath (wallum) areas in south-east Queensland. It prefers sheltered areas near emergent vegetation.
Its distribution is almost exclusively between the Noosa River drainage system and Caboolture. There is a population on Fraser Island and Shoalwater Bay. It is totally endemic to Queensland (only occurs in Queensland). The total number of localities for the honey blue eye is 19.
Life history and behaviour
Honey blue eyes form schools of up to 30 individuals and move about emergent vegetation in search of food. They are generalist feeders, feeding on insect larvae and small crustaceans, and also eat large quantities of desmids and diatoms (microscopic algae).
At the onset of the breeding season in September, males become solitary and establish territories amongst the vegetation. Females and juveniles remain in schools.
Females lay between 42 and 125 eggs within a male's territory over a period of about one week. The eggs are attached to plants. When the young hatch they are initially surface feeders but eventually move to the middle or the bottom of the water column.
Large areas of this species' coastal habitat have been cleared for residential development, forestry and agriculture. Honey blue eyes are also collected for aquariums and this is believed to be an added threat. It is also likely that the introduced mosquito fish Gambusia holbrooki could compete with the honey blue eye for resources. The mosquito fish is more likely to be found where the habitat has been disturbed.
Actions to help recover this species include:
- Habitat protection and the protection of individual populations to help maintain genetic diversity.
- Maintain healthy habitat through the restoration of waterways where the species occurs.
- Determine the extent of the distribution and impact of the mosquito fish on honey blue eye and manage appropriately.
Allen GR, Midgley SH, Allen M 2002. Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria.
Wagner R and Jackson P (1993). The Action Plan for Australian Freshwater Fishes. Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Endangered Species Program, Project Number 147.