Nematalosa erebi
bony bream


image 29KK jpeg 150mm (6in) TL. Murray River, South Australia. Ross Felix photo.


In the Murray River, they have been recorded as growing to 470 mm (19in) TL, however in Cooper Creek bony bream don't grow as large (J. Puckridge pers. comm.).

Conservation Status


Distribution & Abundance

Widespread throughout Central Australia. It also occurs throughout the Murray-Darling Drainage Basin and most of northern Australia. It is Australia's second most widespread freshwater fish species. They are typically abundant in most places they occur.

Habitat & Ecology

Found in waterholes in all of the larger rivers and in many of the smaller, more ephemeral tributaries. Bony bream are apparently fill a very similar ecological niche to the North American genus of Dorosoma (J. Puckridge pers. comm.). They are usually more commonly associated with still water environments (which is what central Australia is like for most of the time). They are one of the few Australian fishes which are primarily herbivorous when mature. Their diet consists of mainly algae and plant material, although some crustaceans and insects are also ingested. They can survive a wide range of temperatures, between 9 and 38C (46-100F), and pH values from 4.8 to 8.6 (Merrick & Schmida 1984). Annual kills are common during winter. This has been attributed to several causes such as achlya infections (Puckridge, Walker, Langdon, Daley, & Beakes 1989), parasitic infections (Langdon, Gudkovs, Humphrey, & Saxon 1985), and low water temperatures (Merrick & Schmida 1984).


Spawning occurs in early summer independent of flooding. They are highly fecund, producing 33,000 eggs for 199mm (8in) fish to 880,000 for fish 403mm (16in) TL (Puckridge & Walker 1990). In Cooper Creek, they have a much broader spawning period (J. Puckridge pers. comm.). They probably spawn at temperatures around 24-26C (75-79F).



Conservation Action

Not warranted

Conservation Recommendations


Important References

Langdon, J. S., Gudkovs, N., Humphrey, J. D. & Saxon, E. C. 1985. Deaths in Australian freshwater fishes associated with Chilodonella hexasticha infection. Australian Veterinary Journal. 62(12): 409-413.

Merrick, J. R. & Schmida, G. E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes: Biology and Management. Griffith Press Ltd. 409pp.

Puckridge, J. T., Walker, K. F., Langdon, J. S., Daley, C & Beakes, G. W. 1989. Mycotic dermatitis in a freshwater gizzard shad, the bony bream, Nematalosa erebi (Gunther), in the River Murray, South Australia. Journal of Fish Diseases. 12(3): 205-221.

Puckridge, J. T. & Walker, K. F. 1990. Reproductive biology and larval development of a gizzard shad, Nematalosa erebi (Gunther) (Dorosomatinae: Teleostei). in the River Murray, South Australia. Australian Journal of Freshwater and Marine Research. 41: 695-712.

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This file was last modified:  18 March 2003