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Elizabeth Springs goby

Common name: Elizabeth Springs goby

Scientific name: Chlamydogobius micropterus

Family: Gobiidae

Conservation status: The Elizabeth Springs goby is listed as Endangered in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992) and nationally (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). It is considered a critical priority for conservation under the department's Back on Track species prioritisation framework.


The Elizabeth Springs goby is a small freshwater fish, about the size of a small goldfish (60 mm long), with a greyish-olive back, lighter sides and a cream to white belly. Mature males become golden olive. The first dorsal (back) fin is grey with a gold yellow edge and an iridescent blue spot towards the tail. The remaining fins and tail are blue grey with a whitish blue margin.

Habitat and distribution

Elizabeth Springs gobies are only found in Elizabeth Springs, which is a ‘spring complex' 1 in western Queensland protected within the Elizabeth Springs Conservation Park. Within the spring complex there are about 40 spring wetlands in an area of about 1500 m by 400 m, which are fed by the Great Artesian Basin. The springs range from dry or non-flowing mounds with little or no vegetation, to well-vegetated springs with open water.

The Elizabeth Springs goby only occurs in some of the larger springs where the water depth is less than 100 mm. Regular monitoring has observed gobies in as few as 5 spring pools to as many as 14 spring pools, and indicates that gobies disperse between springs during times of flooding or heavy rainfall.

Life history and behaviour

Elizabeth Spring gobies shelter in emergent vegetation (vegetation that sits above the water level) during daylight. At night they have been observed some distance from cover, and were probably foraging. The long, coiled intestine of the goby suggests that it eats mostly algae. However, captive populations have been observed eating small planktonic crustaceans.

Spawning (egg laying) usually occurs at night at temperatures above 20°C, and lasts about one hour. The male selects a site, often beneath a rock, and attempts to attract females by extending his fins and making jerky swimming movements. After spawning, the male is left to guard approximately 40-100 eggs (each between 2.5-3.0 mm long), which are attached to the ceiling of the cave. Hatching commences after 9-10 days and newly hatched larvae are 5-6mm long.

Threatening processes

The Elizabeth Springs goby is threatened by a decline in the rate of water flowing out of the Elizabeth Springs. This flow rate is about 70 per cent less than what it was over 100 years ago. This decline is probably due to the artificial extraction of groundwater through bores, in western Queensland and elsewhere, to provide water for people and stock. The capping of bores may result in enhanced spring flows and expansion of spring wetland habitat within the Great Artesian Basin, which may result in the expansion of goby habitat at Elizabeth Springs. Grazing and trampling of spring wetlands by people, stray cattle, and feral pigs and goats threatens the goby by polluting and destroying the pools in which it lives. There is also the potential for exotic mosquitofish Gambusia holbrooki to be transported to the site (through flooding events), and out-compete Elizabeth Springs goby.

Recovery actions

  • Almost all of the springs were fenced to exclude cattle in 1993-94.
  • Support a national program aimed at protecting Elizabeth Springs water flow rate through controlling the flow of artesian bores and capping free flowing bores.
  • Control feral pigs in the area around Elizabeth Springs Conservation Park.
  • Monitor the Elizabeth Springs goby and their habitat.
  • Control any invasions of exotic mosquitofish.
  • Help prevent further spread of pest fish by never releasing these species into natural waterways and reporting sightings to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Related information

Commonwealth of Australia 2017. Threat abatement plan for predation, habitat degradation, competition and disease transmission by feral pigs (Sus scrofa) (2017). Department of the Environment and Energy, Canberra.

Department of the Environment and Energy (DOEE). 2017. Chlamydogbius micropterus Elizabeth Springs Goby. Species Profile and Threats Database. DOEE, Canberra.

Fairfax RJ and Fensham RJ. 2003. Great Artesian Basin springs in southern Queensland 1911-2000. Memoirs of the Queensland. Museum 49: 285-93.

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 Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Brisbane.

1. In Queensland, a 'spring complex' is considered a group of springs where neighbouring pairs of springs are not more than 6km apart and all occur on similar landforms (Fensham & Fairfax 2003).

Last updated
12 July 2017