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Mordacia mordax - Short-headed lamprey


  • Mordacia mordax - Short-headed lamprey

    Photo thanks to

    Scientific name: Mordacia mordax
    Common name: Short-headed lamprey
    AKA: Australian lamprey/ Murray lamprey

    Country of origin: Australia – SA, Vic, NSW, Tas

    Temperature: cm
    Water flow: standard
    Oxygenation: standard

    Maximum size: 50 cm as adults. Juveniles 14cm.

    Diet: Juveniles are filter-feeders, feeding on zooplankton & algae (up to 4 years).

    As an adult in the ocean they act as a parasite, on the sides of other fish (up to 2 years).

    Once they return to freshwater to spawn as adults they do not feed.

    They migrate to the sea for around 2 years, then back to freshwater to breed. They die after spawning.

    They can use their mouths to grasp, then swing their bodies up, to overcome obstacles when traversing upstream, or move cross-country when required. They are generally nocturnal when migrating, burying themselves in the silt during the day. Many die during migration.

    Tank companions:
    They are NOT good tankmates with shrimp.

    Not known to be kept in home aquaria.

    Confused with: Other lampreys – 30 species in all, most of which spend at least some of their time in freshwater.

    They are blue/ green/grey in fresh water or brown/dull grey in the ocean. They have eel-like bodies, with 2 dorsal fins (eels have 1) jawless mouths, with concentric rings of rasping teeth. Their eyes are on the top of their heads. Their cloaca is half way along their second fin – the pouched lamprey’s is further forward.

    They are ancient creatures, dating to 50 million years before the dinosaurs, and not closely related to fish.

    Mordacia mordax are NOT legal imports to Australia as of 21/10/2013:
    however, as Australian natives, they can legally be purchased from Australian stock.

    The IUCN Red List reports Mordacia mordax as a species which has not yet been assessed at 22/10/2013:
    The main threats appear to be blocks to their migration (dams, run-offs leading to dry areas & drains, etc).

    It is very important not to release any aquarium specimens into our waterways. Any that are not sold or re-homed/ given away, can often be re-sold to aquarium stores. If they are homed in ponds, care should be taken that they cannot escape in run-off into our waterways. Even if fish are native & local they should not be moved from one waterway to another, as this can transfer disease. If they are not local fish, they can both spread disease and either out-compete or eat local fish, shrimp & plants, causing their demise.

    It is a good fish for beginners +1.

    Tasmanian government site:

    Murray river basin govt site


    SANFA – Native fish, Translocated natives & introduced fish
    SANFA - Mordacia mordax

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