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Retropinna semoni - Australian smelt


  • Retropinna semoni - Australian smelt

    Photo thanks to Plantnut

    Video thanks to saratoga

    Scientific name: Retropinna semoni
    Common name: Australian smelt
    AKA: Kantari, Smelt, Victorian Smelt
    Mistakenly or previously labelled: Retropinna victoria (a sub-species)

    Country of origin: Australia – SA, Vic, NSW, QLD, Tas
    pH: 6.0 – 9.1
    Temperature: 10 - 25c
    Hardness: ppm
    Water flow: low
    Oxygenation: high

    Maximum size: 4.0 - 10.0 cm, depending on locality they are originally caught from

    Diet: Live, frozen, flake & pellet foods – it is a carnivore. It does best with daily live food, but can acclimatise readily to the usual aquarium food.

    Males: colour up in spring after it has been cool and can vary from golden to almost red and develop breeding tubercles

    They are an egg scatterer, and if provided with a mop or sufficient moss or plants, they can lay eggs, however they need to be kept from them by a division in the tank, or removal of the eggs or fish. They will not provide any care, so removal of the parents is still the best plan, as they will eat their eggs and fry. Breed in a separate tank in a pair or a group.

    Ray Leggett’s book outlines how to breed them. They have been bred in captivity before.

    Lifespan: 1 – 2+ years

    Tank companions:

    They are NOT good tank companions with shrimp – these make up part of their diet in their natural habitat. They do naturally occur with riffle shrimp.

    They are a schooling species. They should be kept in groups of 12+.

    They should be considered for a single species tank, rather than a community setting, as they can die if harassed by other species.

    As with any fish they will eat any fish small enough to fit in their mouths, and equally can be eaten by any fish large enough to eat them. This should be taken into account when choosing tankmates.

    They naturally occur with honey blue-eyes, rhads and crimson-spotted rainbowfish, amongst others.

    Stocking plans can be checked with

    Minimum tank size is 4 ft for a small group. More room is needed for a larger group and/or tankmates, as they do not respond well to overcrowding.

    They could be kept in a heavily planted tank with open areas for swimming, floating plants for cover, dark substrate and driftwood, or a biotype with sand (or 2Tone’s DIY substrate), rounded rocks, driftwood, plants and floating plants.

    They need lids on the tank, as they are known to jump.

    Consider keeping them in a tank placed low in the room to minimise temperature rises.

    They could be kept in ponds where the outflow does not escape into waterways. They are very useful in ponds with frogs, as they will not predate on tadpoles. They are excellent at mosquito control.

    Confused with:
    Although there are 2 recognised 2 species, genetic testing has shown there are 5 or more species known as Australian smelt, but only one in the Murray-Darling river system – R. semoni.

    R.victoria, the Victorian smelt, was previously classed as a separate species, but is now a sub-species of R. semoni.

    In some regions the males become red in the breeding season.

    This is one of the most common Australian Native fish, occurring in schools of thousands in their native habitat.

    R. semoni smell of cucumber when they are first caught. They do not tolerate handling well, and often die afterwards. Adding some salt to the water they are transported in and using freezer blocks to keep the water cool during transport may increase the chances of survival. They need a long acclimatisation when adding them to a tank. They are a fish which is easily damaged in capture & transport – consider scooping them out with a plastic cup, rather than removing them from the water with a net.

    Retropinna semoni are NOT legal imports to Australia as of 03/02/2014 (list last updated 16/10/13).
    however, as Australian natives, they can legally be purchased from Australian stock.

    The IUCN Red List reports Retropinna semoni as a species which has not been assessed yet, at 03/02/2014:
    Native Fish Australia reports that the species is “widespread & abundant throughout its range, and not threatened”.

    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.

    They are good fish for experienced hobbyists.

    Relevant threads:

    Keeping in aquariums:

    Video of smelt:

    Laws re: collecting in NSW:

    Suitable plants:


    Australian Museum:

    E-book – Freshwater Fishes of North-Eastern Australia:


    Fishes of the Murray Darling Basin:

    Native Fish Australia:

    Seriously Fish:


    Pics & threads with pics:

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