Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri)

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Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri) belongs to the Family Ceratodontidae in class Sarcopterygii (fleshy-finned fishes). It is also known as Queensland lungfish and is endemic to Australia.

The Australian lungfish was found only in the Mary and Burnett River systems in south-eastern Queensland. It has been successfully introduced in the Brisbane, Albert, Stanley and Coomera Rivers. The Australian lungfish can survive out of water for a few days, if its skin is kept moist. Its South American and African counterparts can survive for several months in mucous cocoon in dry conditions.


Australian lungfish has a stout and elongate body with circular cross section. The body is covered with large, bony, overlapping scales. The head is somewhat flattened. The mouth is anterior and reaches up to half the distance to small eyes.

The dorsal fin originates on the middle of the back and merges with caudal fin. Similarly, the anal fin originating behind the anal opening merges with the caudal fin. The pectoral fins are located ventral just behind the head. Both pectoral and pelvic fins are large and flipper-like.

Other behaviors and adaptations

Australian lungfish, though generally uses gills for breathing, is a facultative air-breather and has a single lung adapted to breathe air. However it is not adapted for aestivation during long dry spells.

Australian lungfish - Neoceratodus forsteri - facts
Australian lungfish facts

Habitat and ecosystem

The Australian lungfish is endemic to Burnett and Mary River systems. It is sluggish and prefers stagnant or slow flowing waters and deep pools. It inhabits mud, sand or gravel bottoms with dense aquatic vegetation.

Australian lungfish - Neoceratodus forsteri - aquarium
Australian lungfish in aquarium


The Australian lungfish was native to the Mary and Burnett River systems in south-eastern Queensland. It has been successfully introduced in the Brisbane, Albert, Stanley and Coomera Rivers and reservoirs in south-eastern Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales.

Reproduction and development

The lungfish is known to spawns from August to October. Lungfish pairs spawn among aquatic plants. The fish may pair and move together for sometime. Then the male starts following the female, nudging her flanks. The female dives through the aquatic plants and scattering the eggs. The male following the female fertilizes the eggs.

The eggs are found attached to the aquatic plants. About 50 to 100 eggs are released during spawning. The eggs have adhesive jelly coating and are around 3 mm in diameter. The lungfish do not guard their eggs and fry. The lungfish fry and juveniles are highly vulnerable to predation by insect larvae, shrimps, fish and water birds.

Life cycle

The Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco had a specimen of more than 65 years of age.

Diet and feeding habits

The Australian lungfish is primarily a carnivore, feeding on fish, shrimp, frogs, tadpoles, mollusks, worms, aquatic larvae and crustaceans. Its diet also includes detritus, aquatic plants, weeds, algae and fruits fallen from the overhanging trees.

Conservation status

The Australian lungfish is listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 of Australia. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has strict regulations on the export of the Queensland Lungfish. Being a protected species, they may not be captured without a permit.

They are not readily available for aquarium keeping. Aquarium enthusiast may view page and media on ‘lungfish quick facts‘ and ‘Australian lungfish aquarium‘.

1.Image source:,_2014-09-19.JPG
Image author: Mitch Ames / License: CC BY-SA 4.0
2.Image source:
Image author: Vassil / License: CC0 1.0
Current topic in Aquarium fish pictures: Australian lungfish.

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