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Moving day for Australia’s smallest freshwater fish

Dr Pippa Kern (Ecologist)
Published 16 Feb 2021 by Dr Pippa Kern (Ecologist)

I’m very pleased to report that last week, 27 fish from our captive breeding program at Edgbaston Reserve on Iningai country in central west Queensland were successfully translocated into one of the naturally occurring artesian springs on the property.

It's a major milestone for this tiny fish, which is only found on Edgbaston and in pretty unlikely conditions – picture a big expanse of arid country with a few little ponds and puddles in the middle!

But Red-finned Blue-eyes are hardy and have evolved to live in this extreme and very specific habitat, where temperatures fluctuate wildly (from near freezing in the winter up to 40 degrees in the summer) and average water depth is just 5cm.

We estimate there are only 2000-3000 fish occurring in a small group of springs that collectively span just 0.5 hectares of this 8000-ha reserve.

So you can understand my excitement as I prepared the bags to carefully move the fish from one location to another (yes, just like they do at the pet shop!)

Then, plop! A flash of their red fins, a flick of their silvery tails and the fish were off to acquaint themselves with their new environment.

Alongside the 27 captive-bred fish, which have been living their best life in one of the three artificial springs we constructed on the reserve a few years back, I also translocated 53 fish from other translocated populations in different natural springs.

Bush Heritage has been working to help conserve this special species since we purchased Edgbaston back in 2008.

Last week’s efforts were part of a long-standing captive breeding program supported by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science to help secure new populations of Red-finned Blue-eye in the wild.

My hopes are that the conservation efforts that we're putting in place today will continue to conserve the species, and that the research and innovation that we're investing in with our research partners will produce more solutions to overcome the threats that they face.

I visited the translocated fish in their new spring earlier this week and they looked right at home! I'll be sure to keep you updated as we continue to do our best to preserve this unique and irreplaceable species. 

Ready to translocate some fish on beautiful Iningai country. Photo by Pete Wallis Ready to translocate some fish on beautiful Iningai country. Photo by Pete Wallis
Team effort. With the Bush Heritage team at Edgbaston – Rowan Hinchley (Edgbaston and Pullen Pullen Reserve Manager) and Stephen Brown (Bush Heritage’s Indigenous Field Officer). Photo by Pete Wallis Team effort. With the Bush Heritage team at Edgbaston – Rowan Hinchley (Edgbaston and Pullen Pullen Reserve Manager) and Stephen Brown (Bush Heritage’s Indigenous Field Officer). Photo by Pete Wallis
Happy fish. Photo by Pete Wallis Happy fish. Photo by Pete Wallis
Spot the ecologist! In the middle of an artesian spring at Edgy. Photo by Pete Wallis Spot the ecologist! In the middle of an artesian spring at Edgy. Photo by Pete Wallis

A translocation first for the Red-finned Blue-eye gets a smile from me. Photo by Pete Wallis

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