SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium Successfully Breed the Once-Extinct Zombie Fish

SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium has successfully bred the native southern purple spotted gudgeon, declared extinct in Victoria in 1998.


For more than 20 years, the southern purple-spotted gudgeon was thought to be extinct until two were discovered near Kerang in 2019. Since then, the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) has been determined to restore a thriving population of the so-called “zombie fish” and established a breeding program with SEA LIFE Melbourne.


In July 2022, SEA LIFE Melbourne partnered with the NCCMA to house a population of the Endangered fish and create the perfect environment for breeding while also educating visitors on the importance of wetland conservation. The first purple spotted gudgeon eggs were laid around 27 December 2022 and hatched on 1 January 2023. The fry are currently around 15mm in size and thriving on a diet of live and premade foods.

“We are thrilled to announce the success of our purple-spotted gudgeon breeding program. For the second time, SEA LIFE Melbourne has worked with the NCCMA and Middle Creek farm to successfully raise native freshwater fish onsite with the aim to release them into the wild. We look forward to continuing to empower the visitors of SEA LIFE Melbourne to share our passion for freshwater and marine conservation projects, particularly those endemic to Victoria,”

Sam Fawke, Curatorial Supervisor at SEA LIFE Melbourne

This announcement marks an exciting milestone for the NCCMA partnership with SEA LIFE Melbourne. Following the release of the previously declared extinct olive perchlet in March, the Southern purple spotted gudgeon fry will be grown from newly hatched fry to around 2.5-3cm before being released back into Victorian waterways.

“We are really excited to be involved in breeding programs such as this. It’s a terrific opportunity to raise the profile of the southern purple-spotted gudgeon and provides visitors to the aquarium a glimpse into the work we do to protect and enhance the environment across 13 per cent of Victoria,”

Peter Rose, Project Manager at NCCMA