The Empire Gudgeon is a small freshwater species. Males are vibrantly coloured during the breeding season.
Females are brown to golden and whitish below. In the breeding season males become bright orange-rea on the head and belly. The dorsal and anal fins become bright red-orange basally and with a dark sub-marginal stripe and lighter margins.
Normally found in the lower reaches of coastal rivers and streams in still or flowing waters with juveniles occurring in fast flowing water and often schooling in estuaries. Tolerant of salinity levels equal to sea water.
The species is known from Australia and Papua New Guinea. In Australia it occurs primarily in in the lower reaches of coastal drainages from central Western Australia, around the tropical north, and south on the east coast to southern New South Wales. Normally found in still or flowing waters with juveniles occurring in fast flowing water and often schooling in estuaries. Tolerant of salinity levels equal to sea water and temperatures up to 35°C.