Murray Hardyhead

Scientific name

Craterocephalus fluviatilis

How to identify a Murray Hardyhead

Status in NSW

Critically endangered.


The Murray Hardyhead is distinguished by:

  1. Small mouth
  2. Large, silvery eye
  3. Colour ranges from silver to dark gold in colour, with a pale silvery belly and a silver mid-lateral stripe
  4. Second dorsal fin directly above the anal fin
  5. Forked caudal fin

Species similar in appearance

Murray Hardyhead are similar in appearance to several other closely related species. Small individuals of any of these species can sometimes also be mistaken for Southern Smelts or Eastern Gambusia.


It can grow to about 76 mm in length.

A Murray Hardyhead in a hand


Murray Hardyhead is a species of small freshwater fish, native to inland parts of south-eastern Australia. They were once widespread and abundant in the Murray and Murrumbidgee river systems in southern NSW and northern Victoria; however, they have suffered a serious population decline, and now seem to be limited to a few sites, mainly in northern Victoria. There are very few recent records of Murray Hardyhead in NSW.


Murray hardyhead prefer brackish water but can survive in saline environments. They tend to form schools, and can be found along the sheltered edges of lakes, billabongs, backwaters and wetlands, often in areas with abundant submerged vegetation.

Why is the Murray Hardyhead threatened?

  • Habitat degradation
  • Poor water quality
  • Altered flow regimes (decreasing connectivity with floodplain lakes)
  • Impacts of introduced species such as Eastern Gambusia.
A Murray Hardyhead (Photo: G.Schmida)

More information

Watch a video about our Murray Hardyhead reintroduction program (4 mins 19 sec)