Inanga (Galaxias maculatus) are the most common of the five whitebait species. They are usually found in lowland freshwater habitats including coastal creeks and streams, rivers, lagoons, lakes, estuaries and wetlands. Inanga are often found swimming in shoals. They are commonly seen during the daytime, often feeding on tiny insects.
The life cycle of the inanga is the best understood of the five species of whitebait. Inanga migrate to estuaries to spawn on autumn/winter king tides. They lay their eggs within the vegetation at the estuary edges. Their eggs stick to damp grasses, rushes, sedges and flax and hatch around 4 weeks later on the next set of high tides. Floods and ebbing tides induce the larvae to hatch before being carried by the current out to sea where they spend 4–6 months feeding on microscopic plankton. They then return to freshwater between early spring and early summer, swimming upstream together as whitebait.
However, some inanga can ‘lake-lock’ and carry out their entire life cycle in freshwater – this is termed lacustrine.
They don’t tend to travel long distances inland as they have difficulty swimming through swift-flowing rapids and cannot climb past waterfalls.
Acknowledgement: Stella McQueen