What is a Mudfish?

Pamela Pleasant

A mudfish is a type of fish that lives and thrives in mud or muddy water. There are more then a few kinds of these fish and they can even be unrelated. They inhabit swampy areas and they prefer heavily weedy drains and wetlands. If these areas become dry, a mudfish can survive by living under a decaying log or leaves. All they need is leaves or other debris to keep them moist and they can live out of the water for as long as two months.

The mudfish is on the endangered species list in some areas of the world.
The mudfish is on the endangered species list in some areas of the world.

The mudfish has this adaptation ability which allows it to survive in places other fish can’t. In some areas of the world, the mudfish is on the endangered species list. This is a result of diminishing wetlands and swamps, which are the animal’s natural habitat. Most of the endangered mudfish are located in New Zealand and Australia, but they can also be found in other parts of the world.

The mudfish can survive by living under a decaying log or leaves.
The mudfish can survive by living under a decaying log or leaves.

There are many types of mudfish and they can look different from each other, depending on where they are found. For example, in New Zealand the Canterbury mudfish resembles an eel. They have longer thick bodies and are a dark brown with yellow specks that can be seen on the underbelly of the fish. In North America, these fish are referred to as bowfins and they are longer, thick fish. The bowfin has dorsal fins and a green speckled color. They resemble an average fish but their jaws are exceptionally large and powerful and they also have very sharp teeth.

Mudfish may be found in New Zealand and Australia.
Mudfish may be found in New Zealand and Australia.

This fish typically spawns in the early spring and the female can produce as many as 2,000 eggs. They will stay in a fresh water habitat and will not leave unless the water dries up. These fish are only active at night because they are nocturnal. When the natural habitat completely dries more than a few times, the fish can be stunted in growth.

In places where the mudfish are on the endangered species list, it is illegal to attempt to try to catch them. They are not considered a popular choice for most fisherman, but they can be eaten. The mudfish can taste similar to catfish and it can be grilled, stewed or pan-fried. Along with a strong fishy taste, this fish has an unusual texture. Prepared meat has a slippery feel even after it has been rinsed off and it also has the consistency of a thick gel.

Mudfish most commonly live in wetlands and swamps.
Mudfish most commonly live in wetlands and swamps.

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Discussion Comments


Mudfish are endangered animals. They eat mosquitoes, worms, mosquito larvae and snails. Mud fish are carnivores. They eat small bugs in the water. The scientific name is neochanna. The body covering of a mudfish is scales.


I have known a few people who fished a lot, and they really did not even recommend eating mud fish for the most part. If you ask about the best way to cook a mud fish, these friends of mine would most like answer with "Use it as bait and get a real fish."


My son spent a semester in New Zealand as part of his college education. He sent us a postcard that had a picture of a mud fish on it, and it explained a little bit of its history.

When he came home, he showed us many more pictures he had taken with his camera. I found it very interesting to learn more about them and why they have been considered endangered.

When you know someone who has seen this first hand, it makes you more interested in how this happened, and what can be done to make sure they are protected and thrive in their natural habitat.


My sister moved to New Zealand for work, and her property contains a mudfish habitat. She asked for advice from an environmentalist group on how to maintain the area, and they had a few suggestions for her.

First of all, they told her that the land must be in good condition for the mudfish to be there in the first place. They told her to keep it as it is as much as possible. The overhanging culverts help to keep out predators, and the aquatic plants and weeds provide shelter, plus a place to lay eggs.

They told her never to remove the plants in late winter or the beginning of spring because the little, transparent eggs might be all over them. If she got rid of the plants, she could eliminate a whole generation!


I have family in South Carolina who love to fish, and they once told me all about the bowfin mudfish. They have one mounted on their wall, and it is weird looking. The dorsal fin covers more than half of the entire fish.

Though bowfins do breathe through gills, they have an added breathing feature. These fish have a primitive lung that allows them to breathe air! If you see one coming to the surface, you might actually see it gulping air. I guess this feature is good for a mudfish, because if the water supply gets low, it can survive by breathing air.


Some mudfish are considered endangered but it's kind of different than what we are used to. We know of panda bears and tiger species that are endangered. There is only a certain number of these species are left on earth.

Mudfish are endangered in a different way. Some are considered endangered because they are found in a one or two locations on earth. But the actual numbers of mudfish at these locations can be pretty big.

It is still a threat to the species though because if something happened to that habitat, that population of mudfish could be wiped out. So mudfish are kind of on a thin line. They are not as close to extinction as some other species as animals in the traditional way, but they still require protection for their survival.


@burcidi-- Mudfish eat worms, mosquitoes, mosquito larvae and snails. They are carnivores, so I think they can eat all small bugs and animals in the water.

They don't migrate to the sea but I know that many mudfish species are starting to live in manmade waterways because the wetlands are starting to dry out or the water is taken from them intentionally. So some mudfish have had to adapt to various manmade habitats. Like the article said, as long as there is water and moisture, they will be fine.

It's a different story when the water is unclean or if there are no plants in the water that provide enough oxygen for them. These factors threaten mudfish and if they can't find a better place, they could die.


I want to write an essay on mudfish for school and there is a lot of information here that I was looking for.

Can you also tell me what mudfish eat?

I heard that some sweet water fish migrate to the sea after they are a certain age. Do mudfish ever do that? Or do they always stay in the swamps and wetlands where they were born?

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