LOCALLY extinct fish could soon find an unexpected haven in a large East Bendigo frog pond thanks to volunteers who spent their Saturday planting vegetation.
The move could help species that have lingered close to oblivion for years.
"They are in real trouble across the Murray basin," North Central Catchment Management Authority's project manager Peter Rose said.
Ecologists will decide whether to introduce southern pygmy perch and southern purple spotted gudgeon to the newly landscaped frog pond in the Riley Street natural reserve in spring.
The decision will hinge on how well native plants establish themselves over winter, following a community working bee in the area over the weekend.
"We will have to see how the habitat has developed there," Dr Rose said.
The fish species have been hit hard by feral predators and hard pressed floodplain habitats.
Climate change has also ravaged wild population numbers.
"The Millennium Drought was close to the final nail in the coffin for these species," Dr Rose said.
"There's about six species that we want to bring back and these two are probably the most suitable for this area."
The CMA has been breeding fish in a number of ponds and dams in recent years in the hope of releasing them back into the wild.
The trick is to find water bodies without feral predators like European perch and eastern gambusia, Dr Rose said.
The CMA has also tried to choose areas where there are no carp, which compete for the same food sources.
There have been other bright spots in the push to protect both species in recent times.
Last year, scientists were shocked to find 66 purple spotted gudgeon in a Kerang lake, decades after the species was declared extinct in Victoria.
Dr Rose thanked volunteers from the Friends of Riley Street Nature Reserve for their push to reintroduce native plants around and in the East Bendigo frog pond.
"It's a great opportunity to raise awareness about these fish. You know, they are pretty well unknown to a lot of people," he said.
"They are certainly undervalued as well.
"So it's great that there are groups like this, that can create these great habitats and look after these species."
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