Freshwater Fish and Invertebrates

How can you help?

Around three-quarters of our native fish and a quarter of our aquatic invertebrates are threatened or at risk in New Zealand. In Canterbury we have around 30 native freshwater fish, and several sports fish. Many of our iconic native fish species, such as whitebait and eels, need to move between the sea and rivers to complete their lifecycles. They also migrate upstream and downstream between different habitats within freshwater.

See how you can generally help our freshwater fish -

One key threat facing our fish is if their movements are delayed or blocked (dams, weirs, culverts not installed correctly or maintained). Fish may be unable to reach critical habitats for completing their lifecycle. As a result their numbers can be reduced, or they may be lost from a stream completely. There are many ways you can help fish keep moving in our waterways see

However things are always not straight forward and there are some exceptions. In particular areas, some of our threatened native fish, some only found in Canterbury e.g. lowland longjaw galaxias, Canterbury mudfish, bignose galaxias, that live all their life in freshwater, cannot compete with some invasive species. In this situation, barriers actually help protect these key locations by keeping invasive species out and providing a safe area above the barrier for native fish.

If you wish to learn more about what is happening with fish passage in New Zealand you can sign up to the wider interest group to keep up to date with New Zealand Fish Passage Advisory Group's progress email 

Also you can volunteer with Working Waters Trust or other organisations on local projects, or ask Working Waters Trust for native fish advice about your property (email

The Landcare Trust fish resource 'Hooked on Native Fish' is beautiful and informative on what can be done in farming areas in particular:

Nature Watch where records of which fish you have found can be shared with others.

General fish and invertebrate information:

Freshwater fish:

Canterbury mudfish:

Freshwater invertebrates:

Identification of freshwater fish and others:

The best guides to freshwater fish in New Zealand are three books written by Bob McDowall McDowall, R.M. 1990.

New Zealand freshwater fishes. A natural history and guide. Heinemann Reed, Auckland. 553 p. McDowall, R.M. 2000.

The Reed field guide to New Zealand freshwater fishes. Reed Books, Auckland. 224 p. McDowall, R. M. 2001.

Freshwater fishes of New Zealand - A smaller version of the field guide above

Stella McQueen's recent Reed field guide is a good resource also

Some cool videos of fish: