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AUSTRALIAN RAINBOWFISH

Above: M. duboulayi, Kin Kin River.

This is not an exhaustive list but a showing of those species that I have kept and found suitable to my aquarium conditions.

The material on these pages referring to Rainbowfish and their relatives was compiled from various sources, as part of my own learning experience, getting to know my fish from what other sources had to say about them. Pictures and text are used for educational purposes and used with thanks. Additional comments are based on my own experience. I have placed these notes online as an adjunct to the educational material that I wrote on Ancient Gondwana Land cichlids and rainbowfish.

Quick Index

Melanotaenia australis

Melanotaenia duboulayi
Melanotaenia eachamensis

Melanotaenia fluviatilis

Melanotaenia maccullochi

Melanotaenia nigrans

Melanotaenia solata

Melanotaenia splendida

Melanotaenia s. inornata

Melanotaenia tatei
Melanotaenia trifasciata
Melanotaenia utcheensis

Click here for New Guinea species of Rainbows

 

Western Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia australis (Castelnau, 1875) syn.  Neoatherina australis (Castelnau1875)
Blackmore River form

Melanotaenia australis [Blackmore River] - photo© Günther Schmida

Melanotaenia australis [Drysdale River] - photo© Günther Schmida

Description:  a colourful rainbowfish with a red tail. Castelnau first described this species as Neoatherina australis in 1875. In earlier days they were commonly known as the 'Westralian Sunfish'. In 1964 another species of rainbowfish collected from the Northern Territory was named Melanotaenia solata. After Gerald Allen's review of the rainbowfish family these two species were considered as one and he placed them both in the large "Splendida group" as a sub-species, and named them Melanotaenia splendida australis, but recent DNA studies indicate that M. splendida, M. australis and M. solata are distinct species.

Distribution: widespread in north western Australia; throughout the Pilbara region of Western Australia between the Ashburton and DeGrey Rivers and in the Kimberley region in the extreme northern part of Western Australia between the Fitzroy River and the Northern Territory border. Its natural range does not coincide with that of M. solata.

Natural Habitat: freshwater rivers and swamps;  benthopelagic; pH range: 6.5 - 8.0 Climate: tropical; 22 - 28°C;  hardness not tested, but varies with location and season (as does pH).

Conservation Status: Not in IUCN Red List.
Threats:  Habitat degradation, mining pollution, feral animal (trampling swamps).
Size: Max. size: 10.0 cm TL; 8.0 cm TL (female)
Water Requirements: freshwater tropical, pH 6.5- 8.0; ? dGH 10.

Tank Habitat: large tank with free swimming space, well planted and with some plant cover at the surface.

Diet: Omnivorous. Small crustaceans and insect larvae, vegetable matter- algae and Duck Weed; will eat flake foods, blood worms and daphnia; adaptable to flakes and granules.
Sexing: Males have a deeper body shape and larger dorsal fins.
Reproduction: Scatterer, non-guarder; spawns in plant growth.
Tank Community: Keep in shoals of 6 or more.
Incompatible Species: Unknown
Comments:  An easy to keep fish, needing plenty of room and floating weed cover to overcome timidity.  Keep in shoals of 6+.

 


Eastern Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia duboulayi (Castelnau,1878; Allen, Midgley, Allen 2002) syn. Atherinichthys duboulayi; Duboulay's Rainbowfish; Melanotaenia splendida splendida (Peters, 1866); Splendid Rainbowfish.

Eastern Rainbowfish from Burnett River, photo© Neil Armstrong
Rainbow
Eastern Rainbows from Gin Gin Creek. photo© Günther Schmida

Description: Large, deep bodied Rainbowfish, with small head, iridescent scales.

Distribution: NE Australia: river systems east of the Great Dividing Range of Queensland, Australia, from the vicinity of Gladstone (Boyne River) north to the eastern watershed of Cape York Peninsula.
 Natural Habitat: benthopelagic; depth range 1 - 0 m;  inhabits rivers, creeks, streams ,lakes, drains, ponds, dune lakes and reservoirs, often forming large schools at the surface. Temperatures in their environments range from 20 to 29 °C and pH from 5.3 to 8.5 and the water varies from clear to turbid. Usually occurs in still or slow-flowing conditions near the surface or around vegetation, log snags, or other debris.

Conservation Status: Unknown. Not in IUCN Red List.

Economic use: Commercial aquarium trade.
Threats
: habitat destruction.
Size: Max. size: 9.0 cm SL; 6.5 cm SL (female).
Water Requirements: Subtropical, freshwater conditions,  pH 6.5 - 8; water temperature 20o - 22oC; pH 7.0 - 7.5 ideal; dGH 10-12; temperature 20 - 25°C.

Tank Habitat: large, tropical freshwater tank, with good aeration and a fitted cover plate in place. Sandy substrate, well planted with surface plant cover if possible; duck weed cover is ideal.

Diet: Omnivourous; mainly small insects and crustaceans. Feed flakes, small pellets; most small live foods, beef-heart.
Sexing: Difficult in young fish; adult females have deeper body outline, males slimmer, colour more intense.
Reproduction: dioecism, external, non-guarders. Spawns in plant growth; scatterer, non-guarders.
Tank Community: Peaceful with other fish, older males may chase similar sized fish; compatible with quiet fishes. Keep in small shoals of at least 6 fish.
Incompatible Species: Small fish fry!!
Comments: Colour varies with environment and mood. An easy fish to keep: ideal for beginners at keeping Rainbowfish; keep the tank well covered to prevent them jumping out.  

Due to some members of the fish trade still calling this fish Melanotaenia splendida splendida, it is confused with M. australis, M. fluviatilis and M. solata. I suspect that hybrids also exist under the name Melanotaenia splendida.

This species tolerates low levels of nitrite and can be used in new tanks, with care.


Lake Eacham Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia eachamensis (Allen & Cross, 1982)

 

Description: Laterally compressed, small-headed, golden bronze Rainbowfish. Considered a "sister species" to M. utcheensis

Distribution: occurs in Lake Eacham, a circular, crater lake situated on the Atherton Tableland in northern Queensland, Australia, where it is extinct; also discovered  in nearby Lake Euramoo and some local streams.

Natural Habitat: benthopelagic; freshwater Climate: subtropical; 24 - 30C.  Lives in clear, shallow water along the shoreline of Lake Eacham. Often found among aquatic vegetation, fallen logs or branches.
Conservation Status: Not in IUCN Red List: it must be consider to be vulnerable due to its limited distribution and threats. The species was declared extinct in Lake Eacham in 1980; it exists in captive populations and in new locations found near Lake Eacham.

Size: Max. size to 6.5 cm SL
Water Requirements: freshwater; temperature ranging from 23-27 C and pH 7.0 respectively.

Threats: Habitat destruction; introduction of the native predator fishes
Mouth Almighty (Glossamia aprion), Barred Grunter (Amniataba percoides)
and Archerfish (Toxotes chatareus).

Tank Habitat: well planted tank, with neutral pH.
Diet:  Small aquatic insects and crustacea.


Melanotaenia eachamensis inhabits a crater lake.

Sexing:  Females less deep in body shape.
Reproduction:   dioecism, external, egg layer: not much is known of the biology of this fish.
Tank Community:  As for other rainbows; with plant cover.
Incompatible Species: Does best in a species only tank as a conservation project.
Comments: The golden colour of the Lake Eacham Rainbow is very attractive. In the interests of saving Australia's biodiversity, this species needs protection.

 


River Murray Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia fluviatilis (Castelnau,1878,et al.)  syn. Aristeus fluviatilis, Nematocentris fluviatilis, Melanotaenia splendida fluviatilis; Australian Rainbowfish, Crimson-spotted Rainbowfish, Pink-ear, River Murray Rainbowfish, Murray-Darling Sunfish.

            Melanotaenia fluviatilis (male) photo© Günther Schmida

      Melanotaenia fluviatilis Goldburn River photo© Günther Schmida

Description: a small, slightly laterally compressed fish with small head and iridescent, green-blue body colour (reflects available light); silver below, olive above; faint lines of red spots between the rows of scales; very faint lateral line stripe and reddish tail. Dorsal and anal fins edged in black.

Distribution: endemic to Australia, in the Murray-Darling system.

Natural Habitat: benthopelagic; freshwater tropical, riverine; 10-30C (seasonal variations tolerated, av. is 22 - 25°C in summer and down to 10C in winter; pH range: 7.0+; dGH range: av. 10.0.  Found in rivers, billabongs and creeks, drains, ponds, dams (introduced) and reservoirs. Occurs usually in still or slow-flowing conditions.

Conservation Status: Not in IUCN Red List.
ThreatsPollution, river salinisation and habitat destruction; extinct in much of its former range due to agricultural pollution, draining, and development. Survives in unpolluted rivers, billabongs, creeks, drains, ponds, dams (introduced) and reservoirs. NEEDS PROTECTION.

Economic use: Commercial aquarium trade and aquaculture for stocking dams.
Size: Max. size: 9.0 cm SL; 7.0 cm SL (female)
Water Requirements: freshwater pH 7.0- 7.4, dGH10.0., 24°C.

Tank Habitat: still freshwater, well planted, sandy substrate, plenty of swimming room. Cover the tank, as this fish jumps when startled.

Pond Habitat: large pond, at least 60 cms deep, with good aeration and planting; duck weed cover is ideal.  Can be kept in dams and as an ornamental pond fish in warmer climates (water temp. never less than 10C.
Diet: Omnivorous.  Feed beef-heart mix, blood worms, black worms, mosquito larvae, flakes, small pellets, Tetra Bits.
Sexing:  Females have deeper body outline, males larger, slimmer, with fins more colourful than females.
Reproduction: dioecism, external, spawns in plant growth; non-guarders.
Tank Community: An active, schooling species best kept in groups of 6 or more; suits community tank with Blue-eyes, Red-tailed gudgeons and other large Rainbows.
Incompatible Species: Carp (ruin habitats); large cichlids.
Comments: An active, shy fish, that requires a covered tank (leaps well if startled), and best kept in schools of 8+. Can be kept without additional heating in homes in Sth Australia and in areas of the the Murray-Darling basin. Natural light makes the colours appear far better than artificial light. This is the ideal Australian native fish for use in mosquito control in Australian dams: help get rid of the feral fishes. Adapts well to culture in dams and is the preferred species to keep instead of feral pests such as European Carp and "Dambusia" (Gambusia sp.), the so-called Mosquito Fish.

Macculloch's Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia maccullochi (Ogilby, 1915)  Macculloch's Dwarf Rainbow, Cairns Red-finned Rainbowfish.

 

Description:

A small rainbowfish, with laterally compressed body. Several geographically isolated populations are found in New Guinea, Northern Territory, northern Queensland. So far, genetic data separate Melanotaenia maccullochi into three groups, Burtons Creek, Etty Bay and Cape York populations. Male specimens of the variety found between Cairns and Innisfail have deep, black, irregular, horizontal stripes along a silver body. The dorsal and anal fins are orange-red with a lower black margin running along the body line. The caudal fin has a fan of orange-red colouration. Females are much less colourful, though some do show a hint of the male's coloration. The Harvey Creek and Cairns Red- Finned varieties are similar.

The variety found in the drainage division of the Jardine River are characterised by a series of fine black stripes on the sides, with black submarginal bands and white to yellowish margins on the dorsal and anal fins. Females generally have the stripes less defined. They are also much smaller than the other varieties, both in length and body depth.

Species Diagnosis: Dorsal spines (total): 5-8; Dorsal soft-rays (total): 7-12; Anal spines: 1-1; Anal soft-rays: 13-19.
Distribution: Australasia; Papua New Guinea (lower and middle sections of the Fly River westward to the Bensbach River) and northeastern Australia (3 separate populations as noted above).

Natural Habitat: benthopelagic; freshwater; pH range: 7.0; dGH range: 10.0; Climate: tropical; 20 - 25C.  Inhabits lowland swamps and small streams, usually in clear, acidic waters with ample cover in the form of log debris or aquatic vegetation.
Conservation Status: Not in IUCN Red List.

Threats:  Habitat degradation.
Size: Max. size: 6.0 cm SL

Water Requirements: tropical freshwater 20 - 25C.; pH range: 7.0; dGH range: 10.0;
Tank Habitat: dense planting and logs.
Diet: Omnivorous. Adapts to flakes.

Sexing: Males have a deeper body profile and longer fins. Females tend to grow larger and have more rounded bodies than males.
Reproduction: dioecism, external, non-guarders.

 

picture

M. maccullochi, Harvey Creek.

Tank Community: The Australian form from Harvey Creek seems adaptable to water conditions from soft to moderately hard, pH adjusted to 70. - 7.4. Makes a good community fish with other rainbows and gudgeons requiring similar water conditions. If kept with  M. praecox the males may display aggression but do no damage in such displays..
Incompatible Species: Large fishes, rainbowfish that prefer alkaline water, Arowanas (Yes, mine swallowed them in one gulp when he grew big enough and decided that his tank mates were food).
Comments:  I have found that in a community tank they shoal with Tetras and dwarf rainbows of a similar size.

The fish from the Jardine River and the Etty Bay populations blue and black.

M. maccullochi, Jardine River                 M. maccullochi, Etty Bay


Black Banded Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia nigrans (Richardson, 1843)

 

Description: Colourful rainbowfish; deep bodied, with prominent black lateral line stripe. They can be recognised by a more slender body than most other rainbowfishes. This is the type species for Genus Melanotaenia.
Distribution: Melanotaenia nigrans has a discontinuous distribution across northern Australia, from the Kimberley region in Western Australia, across the northern part of the Northern Territory to Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland, including a number of offshore islands such as Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria and Prince of Wales Island in Torres Strait.
Natural Habitat: benthopelagic; freshwater; brackish; pH range: 5.2 - 5.6; dGH range: 10.0 Melanotaenia nigrans has been found in a variety of freshwater environments
but seem to prefer slow-flowing clear water streams, billabongs, and swamps with abundant aquatic vegetation.
Climate: subtropical; 18 - 24°C. Inhabits rainforest streams, lily lagoons and small streams. Also occurs in larger streams, usually in backwaters or along the shoreline where there is minimal flow and grassy vegetation. Often found in brackish, coastal waters.
Conservation.Status: Not in IUCN Red List. Importance: aquarium: commercial.
Threats: Threatened: commercial over harvesting for aquarium trade; habitat degradation.

Size: Max. size: 10.0 cm TL; may reach a maximum size of 12 cm, but usually less than 7 cm.
Water Requirements: freshwater OR brackish water; pH range: 5.2 - 6.7; dGH range: 10.0; temperature 20°C- - 24°C.  Known in water to 35°C.
Tank Habitat: Well planted, depending on water conditions (brackish or freshwater) to provide adequate hiding places among submerged roots and branches; plant with Java Fern in brackish conditions.

Black Banded Rainbow


Diet: Feeds mainly on aquatic and terrestrial insects and their larvae, and also filamentous green algae.

SexingMelanotaenia nigrans is sexually dimorphic. In males, the spines of the first dorsal are usually extended and may lie well past the origin of the second dorsal when not erect. The posterior rays of the second dorsal and anal fins are extended caudally and may extend past the origin of the caudal fin. In females, the first dorsal spines are short, not reaching the origin of the second dorsal. The posterior rays of the anal and second dorsal fin are not extended. The spines and outer rays of the ventral fins of some males are also extended and may reach past the vent and the origin of the anal fin. Males larger than females. They can be recognised by a more slender body than most other rainbowfishes and may reach a maximum size of 12 cm, but usually less than 7 cm.
Reproduction: dioecism, external, non-guarders.
Tank Community: species tank is best; community fresh water tanks OK; Keep in shoals of 6 or more.
Incompatible Species: larger fish.


Northern Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia solata (Taylor, 1964) Darwin Rainbowfish, Adelaide River Rainbowfish.  

 

Description:  a colourful rainbowfish with a red tail; similar to M. splendida rubrostriata but paler in colour, with black and red stripes; some geographic variation exists, with deeper colours in some forms. In specimens from Yirrkala, the dorsal and anal fins are red; the caudal fin yellowish is orange; the pelvic fins are deep red; lower side bluish silvery; scale centres on side generally golden bronze; they form about five longitudinal rows, the lowermost of which is approximately on a level with the ventral surface of the caudal peduncle.

Distribution: Occurs in the north-western Northern Territory from the Fitzroy River to the Adelaide River, just east of Darwin. Confined primarily to Arnhem Land, Northern Territory between the South Alligator and Walker Rivers. Also found on the larger offshore islands of the Gulf of Carpentaria including Groote Eyland and Bickerton Island. This species was common in lowland tributaries and flood plains around submerged vegetation and swamps, of the Adelaide River, Northern Territory, and in associated swamps and tannin rich pools. When viewed from above their deep, red tails flashed like beacons. Also common in the Alligator River, southern Arnhem Land.

Natural Habitat: benthopelagic; freshwater rivers and swamps; pH range: 6.5 - 8.0 Climate: tropical; 22 - 28°C;  hardness not tested, but varies with location and season (as does pH).
Conservation Status: Not in IUCN Red List.
Threats:  Habitat degradation, mining pollution, feral animals (trampling of swamps).
Size: Max. size: 10.0 cm TL; 8.0 cm TL (female).

Habitat & Ecology: A stream dwelling rainbowfish mainly found around sub-surface vegetation, submerged logs, or branches in small tributary streams, but can also occur in swamps and lagoons. Their natural environment is subjected to seasonal variations with water temperature, pH, and hardness levels varying considerably. There is often a large fluctuation in water conditions between the dry and wet seasons. Males are easily distinguished from females by their brighter colours and longer and more elongated dorsal fin rays. Growing to a length of around 10 to 12 cm, males are usually much larger and deeper bodied than females. Spawning occurs from October to December, with females producing between 100 and 200 eggs. Eggs adhere to water plants and hatching occurs around 6 to 10 days. Growth is rapid reaching 2-3 cm in 10 to 12 weeks.

Tank Habitat: large tank with free swimming space, well planted. Water parameters pH 7.0 8.0; dGH 10, temperature 25-27oC. I found that pH and water hardness was not a concern with M. solata, however the water needed to be well aerated and nitrite free. Cover the tank with a cover plate. An easy to keep fish, needing plenty of room and floating weed cover to overcome timidity.  Keep in shoals of 6+.
Diet: Omnivorous. Small crustaceans and insect larvae, vegetable matter- algae and Duck Weed; will eat flake foods, blood worms and daphnia; adaptable to flakes and granules.

Sexing: Males have a deeper body shape and larger dorsal fins.
Reproduction: Spawns in plant growth.

Water Requirements: freshwater tropical, pH 6.5- 8.0; ? dGH 10.
Tank Community: An active fish; keep in shoals of 6 or more; OK with other rainbows; suitable for community tanks.
Incompatible Species: Larger fish.

Melanotaenia solata

Comments: This was the first Rainbowfish that I kept, with the specimens coming from swamps near the Adelaide River, N.T.  I found that they varied in colour from billabong to billabong, some having a deeper brown to black longitudinal, lateral line stripe running from the eye to the tail and more or less prominent, golden stripes on either side of the lateral line stripe. Others showed variation in the red colouring on the tail, dorsal and anal fins. The waters were usually tannin-rich and deep, with the fish swimming near the surface and among sunken vegetation. They were very active fish, hard to catch in daylight but adapted to aquarium life easily.

I found that small, wild-caught specimens adapted well to an aquarium and showed good colour development as they aged. The tanks were well planted and had leaf cover at the surface, as the fish were easily frightened.

Billabong in Kakadu- a typical habitat for M. Solata.


Melanotaenia splendida  (Castelnau 1875)

The taxon, Melanotaenia splendida (Castelnau 1875, 1878) included species that are no longer placed in that taxon (e.g. M. australis, M. duboulayi, M. fluviatilis, M. solata, M. tatei). 

However, while  the name 'splendida' is still widely used to refer to several species that may appear similar, recent DNA studies and some aspects of reproduction habits differ sufficiently for different species status to be given.  Hence M. australis, M. duboulayi, M. fluviatilis, M. solata, M. tatei are removed from the former "splendida complex".

I currently keep M. splendida and the captive bred fish resemble those known as
Melanotaenia splendida inornata.  I also keep M. fluviatilis and the two species are distinctly different in appearance.


M. splendida is a variable species, and specimens from different creeks and streams are now being sold in Australia under the name of their place of origin.

Splendida

Melanotaenia splendida

Dawson River Rainbowfish - a form of Melanotaenia splendida splendida OR M. fluviatilis?

Description: a small, slightly laterally compressed fish with small head and iridescent, green-blue body colour; silver below, bluish above; faint lines of orange-red spots between the rows of scales; very faint lateral line stripe anteriorly and bluish tail. Dorsal and anal fins edged in blue-black. This fish has been grouped in as a Melanotaenia splendida splendida, but some scientists believe it may be related to a M. fluviatilis.

Distribution: endemic to Australia, in the upper, Fitzroy-Dawson River system, Queensland, which drains a large portion of Central Queensland and empties into the sea at Rockhampton, on the Tropic of Capricorn.

Natural Habitat: benthopelagic; freshwater tropical, inland riverine; 10-30C. Although found in the tropics, its occurrence in the inland reaches, where it is very cold during winter and at night, means that this species is adapted to long periods of cool temperatures. They regularly endure temperatures around 11C and are able to tolerate very high temperatures as well. They are reputedly are very robust fish.

The  Dawson River Rainbowfish

 

They are available by this name and make beautiful aquarium fish for unheated conditions in Australian homes. They should be kept so as not to hybridise with other Rainbows, to keep the form pure.

Melanotaenia splendida inornata (Castelnau 1875) Chequered RainbowFish.
Description:
Large rainbowfish, with small head; blue iridescence to body and scales which appear in a chequered pattern, with red lines between each row of scales; lateral line is dark blue-black; males have dorsal fins chequered yellow and black, with bluish-black edges; females are coloured paler versions of the male with less chequered patterns on fin. Some geographic variation exists, with colours deeper or with redder fins, similar to M. splendida rubrostriata but paler in colour; every river seems to sport its own colour form.
Distribution: They inhabit the river systems of the Northern Territory and Queensland, which flow into the Arafura Sea and Gulf of Carpentaria, and the Prince of Wales and Badu Islands in the Torres Strait. Northern Australian occurrence ranges from Darwin to Cape York Peninsula, in coastal streams east of the Mary River and flowing into the Gulf of Carpentaria, to the Jardine R. and western Cape York Peninsula and extending down the east coast to around the Lockhart and Stewart Rivers.

Natural Habitat: benthopelagic; riverine; freshwater rivers and swamps; pH range: 6.5 - 8.0 Climate: tropical; 22 - 28C;  hardness dGH range 9.0 - 19.0., varies with location and season (as does pH).
Conservation Status: Unknown.
I suspect that the trade offers hybrids of this species under a variety of trade names, including M. splendida.
Threats
:  Unknown.
Size: Approx. 6.0 cms.
Water Requirements: Freshwater; Soft and slightly acidic (6.8 - 7.0); adaptable to near neutral water.  Temperature 25- 27oC.  Good filtration required.
Tank Habitat
: Planted tank with open swimming spaces. 

Diet: Small crustaceans and insect larvae; brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, red midge larvae, blood worms and daphnia serve as live foods for captive fish; will eat flake foods, adaptable to flakes and granules. Eats Duck Weed (Lemna minor).

Inornata
  M. splendida inornata

 

Sexing: Males brighter and deeper bodied; first dorsal fin longer in males and reaches the second dorsal fin- females do not. All fins more colourful in the male, with more pronounced yellow and black chequered pattern.

Reproduction: Spawn in plant growth.
Tank Community: Peaceful, active in shoals. Keep in shoals of 6 or more.
Comments:  Adult males can be aggressive towards other Rainbows. Keep these fish in shoals of 6+ with plant cover.

Considered a difficult fish to keep in water with an elevated temperature, as this species is subject to Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome or 'red spot' disease.


Melanotaenia tatei (Zietz, 1896, et al) Desert Rainbowfish Syn. Melanotaenia splendida tatei

 

Description: Large rainbowfish, similar to M. australis but more silvery in colour; some geographic variation exists.

Distribution: inland Northern Territory, Queensland and N. E. South Australia, in permanent waterholes, springs and rivers.

Natural Habitat: benthopelagic; freshwater; pH range: 6.0 - 8.0; dGH range: 10 - 30.0, varies with seasonal rains; climate: tropical; 20o - 30C. Night temperatures can drop quite low, to near freezing.
Conservation Status:  Not in IUCN Red List.
Threats: Unknown; may be at risk due to desertification and climate change.
Size: Max. size: 10.0 cm TL
Water Requirements: freshwater, 20o - 25oC; pH range 6.0 - 8.0; dGH < 30.0; adaptable to a wide range of conditions due to its habitat being seasonally flooded. Water is usually hard and high pH, varying after heavy rains and floods.

Tank Habitat: a well lit, large tank, tropical, 20o - 25oC, hard water, pH above 7.2; well provided with hiding places among logs, plants and pebbles. This species can be kept indoors without heating in the tank in most places in Australia, making it adaptable as an aquarium species for unheated tanks. Cover the tank well, as this fish jumps.


Tate's Desert Rainbowfish

Diet: Omnivorous, opportunistic. Small crustaceans and insect larvae; will eat flake foods, blood worms and daphnia; adaptable to flakes and granules.
Sexing: Males brighter in colour; slender; females deeper bodied.
Reproduction: egg layer, probably scatterers; little biology and ecology is available for this fish.
Tank Community: species tank; keep in shoals of 6 or more.
Incompatible Species:
Comments: An adaptable, shoaling species that is becoming more readily available in Australia from captive fish farmed from stock from the Barcoo. I have found that a surface cover of floating plants (Duck Weed) helped with timid fish.


Melanotaenia trifasciata (Rendahl, 1922) Banded Rainbowfish

 

Description:  Deep bodied fish with marked longitudinal stripes, wide black lateral line stripe, red fins edged in black and iridescent scales. 

Distribution: Northern Territory and Queensland, Australia.

Natural Habitat: benthopelagic; freshwater; pH range: 7.0 - 8.0; dGH range: 9.0 - 19.0; occurs at temperatures ranging from 22-30 C. Lives mainly in small streams and waterholes in clear to moderately turbid water. Occurs over rocky or gravel bottoms or in well-vegetated areas, frequently around submerged logs and branches.
Climate: tropical; 25 - 30C. 
Conservation Status: Unknown.

Threats: Unknown.

Size: Max. size: 11.0 cm SL.
Water Requirements: hard freshwater, tropical, temperature range 25 - 30C, pH 7.0 - 8.0; dGH range 9.0 - 19.0.

Tank Habitat: gravel substrate and rocks or well planted and landscaped with rocks and branches.  Cover.
Diet: Omnivorous; takes small crustaceans, black worms and flake foods.


 Melanotaenia  trifasciata

Sexing:  Males larger than females, with deeper colours.
Reproduction: Spawns in plant growth.

Tank Community: Keep in shoals of 6 or more.
Incompatible Species:  Unknown.
Comments:  Needs space and cover. Reportedly found associated with Melanotaenia splendida inornata and  Melanotaenia nigrans.

A tank of Wonga River M. trifasciata and the Cato River form at right, shows the variation in this species.

The rare, Cato River form, of M. trifasciata

Melanotaenia trifasciata Cato River is one of the new rainbows being developed in Australia.  It is a very colourful form of the species and will probably be much sort after. It comes from the Cato River near Dhalinbuy, in the Northern Territory and is a tropical species.

The future looks bright for Rainbow enthusiasts in Australia.


Utchee Creek Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia utcheensis (McGuigan 2001)

 

Description: small, Australian, laterally compressed rainbowfish; deep body body golden olive above, paler below, with silvery blue iridescent scales; has distinctive, bluish, mid-lateral stripe edged in orange/red stripes; four red stripes, 2 above and 2 below the lateral stripe, are prominent in adults. Compared to M. splendida, this species has a somewhat larger eye (indicating its darker, rainforest origins). The species was previously regarded as being a colour variety of either the Regal Rainbowfish, M. trifasciata or the Eastern Rainbowfish, M. splendida splendida. However, following mtDNA sequencing (McGuigan et al, 2000) and morphometric analysis (McGuigan 2001), it was elevated to species status.
Distribution:  limited to the coastal tributaries of the North and South Johnstone Rivers, and to tributaries of the North Johnstone on the Atherton Tableland, Queensland, Australia. Collected from Utchee, Fisher, Rankin and Short Creeks in the North and South Johnstone River catchments in north Queensland.
Natural Habitat: benthopelagic; freshwater; found in sites with moderate to high water flow over cobbles and boulders. Climate: subtropical; 24 - 30C. The surrounding, natural vegetation was tropical rainforest, but this has been cleared to the stream banks. The waters of Utchee creek are on the coastal plain and grazing and dairying on the Tablelands. The impacts of clearing and agriculture on water quality are...

  • increased sunlight onto water and rocks increases water temperature locally and downstream,
    upsetting the timing of seasonal events like spawning
  • a decrease in the amount of leaves and fruits falling into the water
  • a decrease in the amount of terrestrial insects falling into the water
  • a decrease in the numbers of snags and overhangs on the stream banks,
    where small fish find shelter
  • an increase in sediments from run-off events
  • an increase in fertilisers from run-off events
  • an increase in pesticides from run-off events
  • an increase in spray drift from aerial spraying of bananas. [Source]

Given the habitat denudation, this species MUST be protected and conserved.

Melanotaenia utcheensis - photo Gnther Schmida

 

Conservation Status: Not in IUCN Red List: it must be consider to be vulnerable due to its limited distribution and severe threats. Local groups are lobbying for endangered species status.

Size: Max. size to 6.5 cm SL
Water Requirements: freshwater; temperature ranging from 23-27° C and pH 7.0 respectively.

Threats:  introduced fishes (Tilapia); habitat and water degradation- the habitat environment has been developed for intensive sugarcane and banana growing and grazing, removing the rainforest and affecting the creek.
Tank Habitat: well planted tank, with neutral pH; adapts to pH to 7.4 OK.

Diet:  Small aquatic insects and crustaceans. Adjusts to flake foods.

Sexing:  Females less deep in body shape; body colour golden yellow
Reproduction:   dioecism, external, egg layer: not much is known of the biology of this fish.
Tank Community:  As for other Australian rainbows; with plant cover.
Incompatible Species: Does best in a species only tank as a conservation project.
Comments: Peaceful. Needs conservation and protection. Shoals with other rainbows in captivity and may hybridise.  Breeders should not allow hybrids to develop and displace fish that are true to breed.


Link to Notes of Keeping New Guinea Rainbows

A Flashing Blaze in Rainbowfish

Link to Notes on Keeping Australasian Blue-eyes- fishes also related to the the Rainbows.

Breeding and Raising Rainbowfish Fry

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