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Redfin blue eye

Common name: red-finned blue-eye

Scientific name: Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis

Family: Pseudomugilidae

Conservation status: This species is listed as Endangered, both 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 (EHP) Back on Track species prioritisation framework.


The red-finned blue-eye is a small Pseudomugilid fish that grows to a total length of 28 mm. The scientific name is a reference to the unique habitat (scaturginis is latin for bubbling spring or full of springs; ichthys is a latin word relating to fish), and the red colouration on the margins of the dorsal and anal fins (vermeil is old French for red or vermilion; pinnis is latin for fins). At present this is the only species in the genus and the only genus in the sub-family Scaturiginichthyinae.

Adult red-finned blue-eye are semi-transparent and their head and abdomen is silver. The margins of fins on the males are red (vermilion). Both sexes have a sky blue ring round each eye.

Habitat and distribution

Red-finned blue-eyes are endemic to Queensland and are known only from springs in the Edgbaston Spring Complex near Aramac. The species may have once occurred in artesian springs throughout the Lake Eyre Drainage Division. Estimating the population size of red-finned blue-eye is difficult due to the movement of fishes. In September 2006 the total population was estimated at no more than 3000 individuals in five springs.

In the Edgbaston Spring Complex, red-finned blue-eyes are found in clear shallow spring-fed pools, with the average depth up to 50 mm. These pools are clear and well oxygenated, with grasses and other plants growing throughout the springs. Water temperatures are extremely variable from 37°C to 3°C. Red-finned blue-eye are usually only found in areas of the springs that exceed 16°C (Curtis et. al., 2012).

Life History and behaviour

Adult red-finned blue-eye occur in depths greater than 10-15 mm, while newly hatched fry and juveniles (less than 12 mm total length) are generally found in shallower water.

When approached, red-finned blue-eyes form loose schools of up to several hundred individuals. It is possible that this schooling behaviour is a predator avoidance response. If undisturbed the schools disperse into smaller groups, which begin feeding and displaying.

Mature males defend a 'personal space'. Males display at any females encountered within this personal space. Courtship displays are of variable duration and involve a male swimming around a female with outspread fins. Pairs align side by side and the male can be observed shimmying - probably at the time of egg release and fertilisation. Eggs are released over a substrate or onto submerged vegetation. Displays are observed in all months and are more frequent in the mornings and early afternoons. Newly hatched fry are observed in all months but more commonly during warmer months.

The diet of red-finned blue-eyes has not been studied in depth. It is suspected that they are facultative omnivores, meaning they eat whatever is available.

Threatening processes

Major threats to the red-finned blue-eye are:

  • land degradation by feral animals, in particular feral pigs
  • competition with mosquito fish Gambusia holbrooki

Recovery actions

The property containing the Edgbaston Spring Complex was purchased by Bush Heritage Australia in 2008 for conservation. It was subsequently destocked and two springs fenced off. Currently six relocated red-finned blue-eye populations have been established at Edgbaston Reserve (Faulks 2017).

  • control mosquito fish Gambusia holbrooki to prevent competition
  • control all bores affecting groundwater flows to the springs
  • monitor existing populations and maintain genetic diversity

Related information

Brooks, S 2012 ‘Red-finned blue-eye’ in Queensland’s threatened animals (Curtis, L eds.) CSIRO Publishing, Victoria.

Faulks, LK, Kerezsy, A, Unmack, PJ, Johnson, JB & Hughes, JM 2017, 'Going, going, gone? Loss of genetic diversity in two critically endangered Australian freshwater fishes, Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis and Chlamydogobius squamigenus, from Great Artesian Basin springs at Edgbaston, Queensland, Australia', Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 39-50.

Fensham, RJ, Ponder, WF and Fairfax, RJ 2010 Recovery plan for the community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin Report to the Department of the Environment, Water Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, Brisbane.

Last updated
12 July 2017