Freshwater fish habitat

Australian native fish need a range of habitats to complete their life cycle.

Widespread, healthy and protected fish habitats:

  • supply food for a variety of aquatic animals
  • ensure safe fish movement between habitats during their lifecycle
  • reduce the impact of invasive pest fish (e.g. carp, tilapia and gambusia) and weeds by giving native species a competitive advantage
  • increase the distribution and abundance of native fish
  • improve water quality
  • increase biodiversity
  • help native fish adapt to changing environmental conditions (e.g. fire, drought and floods)
  • support fisheries resources.

Habitat zones

Freshwater fish habitats are habitat zones in the upper, middle and lower sections of:

  • rivers
  • lakes
  • wetlands
  • creeks
  • catchments
  • swamps.


Freshwater habitat zones include microhabitats within them:

  • banks
  • snags
  • rocks
  • channels
  • substrates
  • riffles
  • macrophytes (aquatic plants)
  • riparian vegetation zones.

Riparian vegetation

Riparian vegetation zones include plants growing on the water's edge along the banks of rivers, creeks, and the edges of wetlands.

Healthy riparian vegetation means a healthy fish habitat.

Riparian vegetation:

  • protects against erosion
  • gently filters water, improving its quality
  • regulates water temperature through shade and cover
  • buffers against surrounding land use
  • provides food sources (detritus and insects)
  • Includes logs, roots, branches and leaves that form fish habitats.

Protect fish habitats

  • Maintain and protect aquatic and riparian vegetation.
  • Protect and restore the natural water flow and the connectivity of waterways.
  • Increase buffer zones.
  • Maintain and re-introduce snags.
  • Don’t erect unauthorised waterway barriers that slow or stop fish passage.
  • Avoid introducing any weeds or invasive fish species.
  • Report pest fish.
  • Avoid damage or removal of instream habitat (e.g. sediments and aquatic vegetation).
  • Revegetate the riparian zone.