General Description

Adults and young (elvers) distinctly mottled, spotted or marbled with olive-green to brown markings; paler on the underside. Adults returning to sea are silvery overall. Fins brownish above and mottled below. Pectoral fins often yellowish. Larvae (leptocephali) mostly transparent. Body large, slender and cylindrical eel. Mouth large, extending back to just beyond the eye. Dorsal, caudal and anal fins united, with the dorsal fin originating well before the level of the anal fin. Body up to 156 cm.


Adults may remain in freshwater environments for more than 50 years before migrating to the Coral Sea to breed. The transparent leaf-like larvae (leptocephali) are carried southwards on the East Australia Current and change into tiny eels called elvers before migrating back upstream. This nocturnal predator preys on fishes, crustaceans, molluscs and insects and occasionally juvenile waterfowl. It is fished commercially in Australia. Most of the catch is exported overseas.


Southwest Pacific. Eastern and southern Australia from northern Queensland to central Victoria, and northern and eastern Tasmania.


Slow-flowing coastal rivers, streams, lakes and swamps; often around undercut banks and large woody debris.

More Information

  • Animal Type


  • Animal SubType


  • Brief Id

    Large slender, cylindrical eel with broad head and large mouth extending just beyond the eye.

  • Colours

    Brown, Olive-green, Yellow

  • Maximum Size

    300 cm

  • Habitats

    Freshwater, Estuarine, Marine

  • Where To Look


  • When Active

    Nocturnal, Diurnal

  • Diet


  • Diet Categories

    Fishes, Crustaceans, Molluscs, Insects

  • Endemicity

    Native to Australia

  • Commercial


  • Depths

    Shore (0-1 m), Shallow (1-30 m)

  • Water Column Locations

    On or near seafloor