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Red m boesemani.jpg
Boeseman's rainbowfish, Melanotaenia boesemani, male, red variety
Scientific classification


The rainbowfish are a family (Melanotaeniidae) of small, colourful, freshwater fish found in northern and eastern Australia, New Guinea, islands in Cenderawasih Bay, and the Raja Ampat Islands in Indonesia.

The largest rainbowfish genus, Melanotaenia, derives from the ancient Greek melano (black) and taenia (banded). Translated, it means "black-banded", and is a reference to the often striking lateral black bands that run along the bodies of those in the genus Melanotaenia.


Rainbowfish are usually less than 12 cm (4.7 in) in length, with some species measuring less than 6 cm (2.4 in), while one species, Melanotaenia vanheurni, reaches lengths of up to 20 cm (7.9 in). They live in a wide range of freshwater habitats, including rivers, lakes, and swamps. Although they spawn all year round, they lay a particularly large number of eggs at the start of the local rainy season. The eggs are attached to aquatic vegetation, and hatch seven to 18 days later. Rainbowfish are omnivorous, feeding on small crustaceans, insect larvae, and algae.[1]

Rainbowfish are popular aquarium fish along with Pseudomugil blue-eyes, which are another small, colourful fish found in a similar range and habitats. In the wild, some rainbowfish populations have been severely affected by the aggressive introduced eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), tilapia cichlids, and pollution.

Duboulay's rainbowfish Melanotaenia duboulayi (also crimson-spotted rainbowfish)

Behavior in captivity[edit]

Rainbowfish usually do best with tropical community fish, such as tetras, guppies, and other rainbowfish. However, two males may sometimes fight at breeding season if there are not enough females. Rainbowfish usually eat floating flakes in captivity, because in the wild they will often eat insects floating on the surface.


  1. ^ Allen, Gerald R. (1998). Paxton, J. R.; Eschmeyer, W.N. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 155–156. ISBN 0-12-547665-5.

External links[edit]

  • ANGFA – Australia New Guinea Fishes Association, an international organization responsible for the quarterly publication of the color journal Fishes of Sahul and a quarterly newsletter devoted to the keeping and discussion of native fishes in Australia and New Guinea (the geographical region known as Sahul)
  • Home of the Rainbowfish – Adrian Tappin's extensive information pages which promote the aquarium keeping, study and conservation of the rainbowfish species of Australia and New Guinea, and provide free and valuable information to the general public
  • Rainbowfish Species Easy to use information on keeping rainbowfish in the aquarium
  • Rainbowfish discussion forum
  • Rainbowfish discussion forum (mostly Europeans & Australians)