Redfin Blue Eye, Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis Ivantsoff, Unmack, Saeed & Crowley 1991

Other Names: Redfin Blue-eye, Redfinned Blue-eye, Red-finned Blue-eye

A male Redfin Blue Eye, Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis. Source: Adam Kerezsy. License: All rights reserved


Australia's smallest freshwater fish is found only in a few ancient springs on Edgbaston Reserve in central-western Queensland. This tiny rare blue eye was recently placed on the IUCN list of the 100 most endangered species on earth.

A tiny golden to silvery blue-eye with the rear of the body almost transparent, a brilliant metallic blue ring around the eye, and iridescent spangles along the sides. Males have bright reddish-orange outer parts on the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins, and red horizontal bars on the tail.

Cite this page as:

Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson, 2011, Redfin Blue Eye, Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis, in Fishes of Australia, accessed 29 May 2016,

Redfin Blue Eye, Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis Ivantsoff, Unmack, Saeed & Crowley 1991

More Info


Known only from a few shallow marshy spring-fed pools on Edgbaston Reserve, northeast of Longreach in central western Queensland (Lake Eyre basin) - the in the upper reaches of Pelican Creek, at the top part of the Lake Eyre Catchment.

These ancient pools and wetlands, with their unique vegetation of tussock grass, sedges and other plants, are part of a cluster of shallow springs permanently fed by water bubbling up from the Great Artesian Basin. The complex of about 40 springs is spread over about 50m2, and the springs are very shallow, to a depth of about 50 cm.

The former pastoral property of Edgbaston Station (now Edgbaston Reserve) including its unique spring complex, is now owned and protected by Bush Heritage Australia, a national non-profit organisation.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin I, 3-4 + 6-7; Anal fin I, 3-4; Pectoral fin 10-11; Gill rakers 9-12; Vertebrae 26-27.

Body relatively long and compressed, maximum depth 4.6 in SL. Head length 3.3-4.0 in SL, snout length in SL 1.2-2.0. Mouth large, oblique, small canine teeth visible in jaws.

Two separate dorsal fins with no elongate fin rays or filaments. First dorsal, anal and pectoral fins with a single spine preceding the soft finrays; pectoral fins low on the body; caudal fin emarginate.

Scales relatively large, almost round with complete circuli; cheek scales obvious; 24-28 scales in the mid-lateral row along the body 24-28, transverse scales 6.


To 3 cm total length (TL).


Overall golden to silvery anteriorly, to translucent posteriorly with an obvious swimbladder and iridescent spangles forming a midlateral band along the body. Eyes of both sexes with a brilliant metallic blue ring around the eye and with a darker vertical stripe through the centre. The blue coloration continues onto the gill covers and the anterior part of the abdomen. The head and dorsal part of body is dusky above the midlateral scales, snout with a pair of black spots. Adult males are brilliantly coloured. The outer edges of the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins are orange-red (vermilion), and the caudal fin has horizontal red bars on the top and bottom. Females usually lack the red colour on the fins. Small juveniles appear bluish anteriorly and yellowish posteriorly.


Redfin Blue Eyes are thought to be omnivores, feeding on tiny invertebrates and aquatic plants. Indviduals have been observed picking food from aquatic vegetation, the substrate, and from the water column.


The sexes are separate, fertilisation is external and individuals mature at about 15 mm TL. Redfin Blue Eyes breed year round and males defend small open-water territories against other males. During courtship, they intensify their brilliant colours and males perform displays by swimming around a female and spreading their fins. Females lay 1-10 spherical eggs (1.2-1.5 mm diameter) per day. The eggs are demersal and have filaments that attach to aquatic vegetation and algae on the substrate.

Larvae hatch at 4-5 mm after 1-2 weeks.

The population in each spring varies in size due to rainfall, pool size and whether the pool contains Gambusia holbrooki.


IUCN: Listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In September 2012, the Redfin Blue Eye was placed on the IUCN list of the 100 most endangered species on the planet. 

EPBC Act: Listed as Endangered on the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). EPBC Act List of Threatened Fauna

Queensland: Listed as Endangered on the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NCA Qld).

The Redfin Blue Eye has been seriously threatened by the introduced Eastern Gambusia, Gambusia holbrooki. Gambusia were introduced from Central America to many regions throughout Australia during the 1930's and 1940's. It was thought that Gambusia would combat malaria by feeding on mosquito larvae. Although they have had little effect on mosquito populations, Gambusia have had a devastating effect on many Australian native fishes. They are live-bearers and agressive predators that give birth to fully developed fry, and feed on the eggs, fry and small juvenile Redfin Blue Eyes.

The species has also been affected by habitat and degradation from water extraction practices and damage to its unique habitat from stock and feral animals drinking from the springs, grazing and tramping the area around the springs.

Peter Unmack first discovered Redfin Blue Eyes in eight springs on Edgbaston Station in 1990. At the same time, he also found gambusia in several of the springs. Gambusia are thought to have caused the extinction of redfin blue eyes from several springs and Dr Adam Kerezsy of Bush Heritage reported that the endangered red fins are now only found in four springs. Gambusia, however, are thought to invade springs during floods and have now colonised 25 springs.

Bush Heritage Australia are are restoring habitat and working to control gambusia and feral pigs.


Edgbaston Reserve is owned by the conservation charity Bush Heritage Australia (BHA). Currently six springs contain blue eyes, and 25 springs contain gambusia. Work is underway to control the spread of noxious gambusia via overland flow during times of flood and to eradicate them from several other springs - with the aim of having healthy blue eye populations in 10 springs. 

The water temperature in each spring varies greatly over a 24 hour period. As a result, these amazing little fishes have evolved to withstand extreme temperature ranges, from almost zero to more than 40°C.

Similar Species

Redfin Blue Eyes, the only member of the genus Scaturiginichthys, differs from other members of the family Pseudomugilidae in having 5 branchiostegal rays (versus 6 in others), in having very reduced gill rakers, a rounded caudal fin and reduced pelvic fins - and a different colour pattern.


Scaturiginnis is from the Latin scaturginis, meaning bubbling spring or full of springs, and ichthys meaning fish, in reference to their habitat in spring water that bubbles up from the Great Artesian Basin. The species name vermeilipinnis is from vermeil meaning old French red or vermilion, and the Latin pinnis meaning fins in reference to the brilliant red-orange colour of the fins of the males.

Species Citation

Scaturginichthys vermeilipinnis Ivantsoff, Unmack, Saeed & Crowley 1991, Fishes of Sahul, J. Aust. New Guinea Fish. Assoc. 6(4): 278. Type locality: Edgbaston, NW of Armanac, central western Queensland [22º44'S, 145º25'E].


Dianne J. Bray & Vanessa J. Thompson

Redfin Blue Eye, Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis Ivantsoff, Unmack, Saeed & Crowley 1991


Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum, 394pp.

Baillie, J.E.M. & E.R. Butcher. 2012. Priceless or worthless? The world's most threatened species. Zoological Society of London, UK.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. 2010. Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Available from:

Fairfax, R., Fensham, R., Wager, R., Brooks, S., Webb, A. & Unmack. P. 2007. Recovery of the red-finned blue-eye: an endangered fish from springs of the Great Artesian Basin. Wildlife Research 34: 156-166.

Fensham, R.J, Ponder, W.F. & Fairfax, R.J. 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 Resource Management, Brisbane. Available online at

IUCN 2012 Priceless or Worthless

Ivanstoff, W., Unmack, P., Saeed, B. & Crowley, L.E.L.M. 1991. A redfinned blue-eye, a new species and genus of the family Pseudomuglidae from central western Queensland. Fishes of Sahul. J. Aust. New Guinea Fish. Assoc. 6(4): 277-282.

Kerezsy, A. & Fensham, R. 2013. Conservation of the endangered red-finned blue-eye, Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis, and control of alien eastern gambusia, Gambusia holbrooki, in a spring wetland complex. Marine and Freshwater Research 64: 851–863.

The Saturday Age Good Weekend article, 21 May 2011

Unmack, P. 1992. Further observations on the conservation status of the redfinned blue-eye. Australian and New Guinea Fishes Association Bulletin. 12: 8-9.

Unmack, P. & C. Brumley, 1991. Initial observations on spawning and conservation status of red-finned Blue-eye (Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis). Fishes of Sahul. J. Aust. New Guinea Fish. Assoc. 6(4): 282-284.

Wager, R. 1994. The distribution of two endangered fishes in Queensland, Part B, The distribution and conservation status of the red-finned blue-eye. Final Report to the Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra.

Wager,R. 1995. Recovery plan for Queensland artesian spring fishes. Report to the Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra, 54 pp +2 appendices.

Wager, R. 1996. Recovery Plan for Edgbaston Springs and Elizabeth Springs in Central Western Queensland (Updating and revising the Recovery Plan for Queensland Artesian Spring Fishes by Rob Wager 1995). Report to the Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra, 55pp.

Wager, R. 1996. Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.3.

Wager, R. 1998. Progress Report to the Australian Nature Conservation Agency in relation to consultancy services for the Artesian Spring Fishes Recovery Plan in Queensland (July 1997 to March 1998) ANCA Project Number 529. 24pp.

Wager, R. & P.J. Unmack. 2000. Fishes of the Lake Eyre Catchment of central Australia. Department of Primary Industries and Queensland Fisheries Service, Queensland, Brisbane. 40pp.

Wager, R.N.E. & P.J. Unmack. 2004. Threatened fishes of the world: Scaturiginichthys vermeilipinnis (Ivanstoff, Unmack, Saeed & Crowley 1991) (Pseudomugilidae). Env. Biol. Fishes 70: 330.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37245023

Conservation:IUCN Critically Endangered; EPBC Act Endangered

Habitat:Small, shallow springs

Max Size:3 cm TL


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