Common name: Rainbowfishes



Colourful freshwater fishes confined to New Guinea and Australia. Males are often more brightly coloured with longer fins than females.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Rainbowfishes, MELANOTAENIIDAE in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 May 2024,

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Family Taxonomy

The Family Melanotaeniidae comprises more than 75 species in 7 genera, with more than 18 species in 4 genera known from Australian waters.

Family Distribution

The family occurs in Australia, New Guinea and on several surrounding islands. Most species inhabit freshwater streams, lakes, and swamps.

Family Size

To about 12 cm standard length; a few less than 5 cm standard length.

Family Commercial

Many species are popular aquarium fishes.


Dianne J. Bray


Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater fishes of Australia. T.F.H. Publications, Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey.

Allen, G.R. & Cross, N.J. 1982. Rainbowfishes of Australia and Papua-New Guinea. New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 142 pp. figs.

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field guide to the freshwater fishes of Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp.

Crowley, L.E.L.M. & Ivanstoff, W. 1991. Genetic similarity among populations of rainbowfishes (Pisces : Melanotaeniidae) from Atherton Tableland, Northern Queensland. Icthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 2: 129-137.

Crowley, L.E.L.M., Ivanstoff, W. & Allen, G.R. 1986. Taxonomic position of two crimson-spotted rainbowfish, Melanotaenia duboulayi and Melanotaenia fluviatilis (Pisces : Melanotaeniidae) from eastern Australia, with special reference to their early life-history stages. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 37: 385-398.

Kadarusman, H.N., Hadiaty, R.K., Sudarto, Paradis E. & Pouyaud, L. 2012. Cryptic diversity in Indo-Australian rainbowfishes revealed by DNA barcoding: implications for conservation in a biodiversity hotspot candidate. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40627. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040627a

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes: Biology and Management. J. R. Merrick: (Sydney)

McGuigan K, Zhu D, Allen GR, Moritz C (2000) Phylogenetic relationships and historical biogeography of melanotaeniid fishes in Australia and New Guinea. Marine & Freshwater Research 51: 713–723.