Australian lungfish

The Australian lungfish, also known as Barramunda or Burnett Salmon, is a real living fossil. It has been around for almost 400 million years and was once believed to be the missing link between aquatic and terrestrial animals. The lungfish from Queensland Australia is the only surviving member of the family Ceratodontidae.

Can the Australian lungfish breathe outside of water?

It sure can! This fish can breathe outside of the water for extended periods of time, but unlike their African and South American counterparts it has gills and has to keep its skin wet in order to survive out of the water. The Queensland lungfish has only one dorsal lung, that is actually more like a swim bladder that has modified over time. Its usage is to supplement oxygen supply through the gills when the temperature is high and the water is less oxygenated. In periods of drought the lungfish can go to the surface to grasp air into its lung.

Natural habitat

The Queensland lungfish is native to the Mary and Burnett River systems in the southeast region of Queensland but has also been successfully introduced into other Australian rivers and reservoirs. They like calm, slow moving waters of various rivers and reservoirs with some vegetation. They like to live together in small groups. They can tolerate colder water of around 15 °C but prefer warmer waters between 20 to 25 °C. They have a real under water home, because they live in a small area their entire lives.


They spawn and live in freshwater their entire lives. Reproductive maturity is reached at 17 years for males and 22 years for females. They are not just sedentary species but also nocturnal, meaning they are more active in the late afternoon and evening, when the sun begins to set. They form spawning pairs from August to December and have quite an elaborated mating ritual. They lay their eggs on aquatic plants in flowing streams at a depth of at least 1 meter and the males quickly fertilize them. They do not demonstrate any parental care or protection for the eggs or young.

A female can lay up to several hundreds of eggs but in a course of an entire lifetime they seldom produce more than a few hundred eggs. They spawn around every 5 years. The eggs look like frog eggs and hatch after 4 weeks. The young are born with an egg sack and grow extremely slow in the early stages of their live.

Keeping an Australian lungfish

The Australian lungfish is an extremely rare fish to find in captivity because they come with high costs as there is only one licensed commercial breeder. They are prohibited to be caught in the wild. The commercially bred ones are micro-chipped and registered with CITES. This species is best kept in public aquariums due to their very big adult size.

Neoceratodus forsteriUp to 1 meter and more with some specimens reaching an impressive 2 meters in length and 50 kg.
Various rivers in south-eastern Queensland AustraliaAn extremely hardy fish, but preferred water parameters:
Temperature: 20 – 28 °C
pH: 6,0 – 7,5
KH: 1 – 15
A real living fossil, as it has been around for almost 400 million years and was once believed to be the missing link between aquatic and terrestrial animals.Between 50 to 100 years. In fact, the oldest living Australian lungfish in captivity is in a public aquarium in San Francisco named Methuselah, at around a respectable 90 years of age.

Before her there was an Australian lungfish living in the Chicago Shedd aquarium that passed away at 95 years of age.

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