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Honey blue eye

Common name: honey blue eye

Scientific name: Pseudomugil mellis

Family: Pseudomugilidae

Conservation status: This species is listed as Vulnerable 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's Back on Track species prioritisation framework.


The honey blue eye is a small freshwater fish about 3 cm long, with characteristic blue eyes. The males are honey to copper-coloured with the first dorsal fin mainly black and the second dorsal fin and tail fin orange with a black band near the edge. The females are plain amber with clear fins. Non-breeding fish of both sexes are greyish.

Habitat and distribution

The honey blue eye lives in slightly acidic, tannin-stained lakes and streams in coastal heath (wallum) areas in south-east Queensland. It prefers sheltered areas near emergent vegetation.

This species is endemic to Queensland (only occurs in Queensland). Its distribution is patchy between the Bundaberg area and Caboolture, including Fraser Island and Shoalwater Bay.

Life history and behaviour

Honey blue eyes form schools of up to 30 individuals and move about emergent vegetation in search of food. They are generalist feeders, feeding on insect larvae and small crustaceans, as well as large quantities of microscopic algae.

At the onset of the breeding season in September, males become solitary and establish territories amongst the vegetation. Females and juveniles remain in schools.

Females lay between 42 and 125 eggs within a male's territory over a period of about one week. The eggs are attached to plants. When the young hatch they are initially surface feeders but eventually move to the middle or the bottom of the water column.

Threatening processes

Large areas of this species' coastal habitat have been cleared for residential development, forestry and agriculture. Honey blue eyes are also collected for aquariums and this is believed to be an added threat. It is also likely that the introduced mosquito fish Gambusia holbrooki could compete with the honey blue eye for resources. The mosquito fish is more likely to be found where the habitat has been disturbed.

Recovery actions

Actions to help recover this species include:

  • Habitat protection and the protection of individual populations to help maintain genetic diversity.
  • Maintain healthy habitat through the restoration of waterways where the species occurs.
  • Determine the extent of the distribution and impact of the mosquito fish on honey blue eye and manage appropriately.

Related information

Allen GR, Midgley SH, Allen M 2002. Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria.

Curtis, LK, Dennis, AJ, McDonald, KR, Kyne, PM and Debus, SJS (eds) 2012. Queensland’s Threatened Animals, CSIRO Publishing, Victoria.

Wagner R and Jackson P 1993. The Action Plan for Australian Freshwater Fishes. Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Endangered Species Program, Project Number 147.

Last updated
12 July 2017