Banded Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia trifasciata (Rendahl 1922)

Other Names: Banded Rainbow Fish, Bedjal, Goyder River Rainbowfish, Striped Sunfish, Three-banded Sun-fish

Banded Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia trifasciata, Gulbuwangay Creek form, Northern Territory. Source: Dave Wilson / License: All rights reserved


This popular aquarium fish is variable in colour - often greenish to bluish on the back and sides, and silvery to whitish on the breast, belly and lower part of the head, with a dark midlateral stripe and yellowish to bright red dorsal, anal and caudal fins.

Video of Banded Rainbowfish in an aquarium

Video of Banded Rainbowfish in the Territory Wildlife Part, NT

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2017, Melanotaenia trifasciata in Fishes of Australia, accessed 16 May 2022,

Banded Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia trifasciata (Rendahl 1922)

More Info


Endemic to the Northern Territory and Queensland. Known from the Mary River,  the Goyder River, the Giddy River and Yirrkala in the Northern Territory, and the Archer River to the Jardine River on the western side of Cape York Peninsula extending down the east side to Iron Range, with isolated populations further south in the wet tropics.

The Banded Rainbowfish prefers small shady streams and deep shady pools with rocky or gravelly bottoms and thick vegetation.


Meristic features: Dorsal fin V-VI; I, 12-16; Anal fin I, 18-23; Pectoral fin 14-17
Body moderately elongate and compressed, greatest body depth (% SL) (adults > 50 mm SL): males 35.8-45.1, females 32.5-35.4; head length (% SL) 28.1-30.2; older males develop a very deep body and humped forehead; snout length (% SL)8.8-10.4; eye diameter (% SL)7.0-9.8; jaw teeth conical, vomer with a solid band of well-developed teeth; teeth present on palatines; lateral line absent
Scales cycloid to slightly crenulate with well-developed radii; large, horizontal scale rows 11 or 12; vertical scale rows 33 to 36; predorsal scales 13 to 16; preopercle-suborbital scales 8 to 12.
Two separate dorsal fins, the first originating about over the origin of the anal fin; posterior margin of second dorsal and anal fins elongate and pointed in males; anal fin long based; pectoral fins slightly pointed; caudal fin moderately forked.


To 13 cm SL, commonly to 8 cm.


Colour varies greatly with geographic locality; often greenish blue overall and silvery-white ventrally; indigo or blue black stripe often present mid-laterally; median fins various shades of yellow to bright red.


Omnivores - feed on filamentous algae, aquatic and terrestrial insects, micro-crustaceans and other small invertebrates.


Reproduction occurs throughout the year. Females spawn 60-70 eggs per spawning, depositing them into aquatic vegetation.
The spherical eggs are golden in colour with adhesive filaments.
Larvae hatch at a, and are well developed with a reduced yolk sac, a fully formed mouth and pectoral fins. Feeding commences within 24 hours of hatching.


The common name Bedjal is the Yolngu word for the Banded Rainbowfish from Gulbuwangay, a small creek running into the Arafura Swamp near Mirrngatja, a small village on the SE corner of the Arafura Swamp (Dave Wilson, Aquagreen). 

Species Citation

Rhombosoma trifasciata Rendahl, 1922,  Meddr. Zool. Mus. Kristiania 5: 182. Type locality: Mary River, Northern Territory


Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2017


Australian Faunal Directory

Banded Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia trifasciata (Rendahl 1922)


Allen, G.R. 1978. The rainbowfishes of northwestern Australia (family Melanotaeniidae). Tropical Fish Hobbyist 26(10): 91-102 figs 1-15 

Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 240 pp., 63 pls. 

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp. 

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

Larson, H.K., Williams, R.S. & Hammer, M.P. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293 

Larson, H.K. & Martin, K.C. 1990. Freshwater Fishes of the Northern Territory. Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences Handbook Series Number 1. Darwin : Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences 102 pp. 73 figs. 

Leggett, R. & Merrick, J.R. 1987. Australian Native Fishes for Aquariums. Artarmon : J.R. Merrick Publications 241 pp. 142 figs. 

Martin, K.C. & Barclay, S. 2013. New distribution records for the Cairns rainbowfish Cairnsichthys rhombosomoides (Melanotaeniidae): implications for conservation of a restricted northern population. Aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology 19(3): 155-164 

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management. Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. figs 280 col. figs.

Pollard, J. (ed.) 1980. G.P. Whitley's Handbook of Australian Fishes. North Sydney : Jack Pollard Publishing Pty Ltd 629 pp. 

Rendahl, H. 1922. A contribution to the ichthyology of north-west Australia. Meddelelser fra det Zoologiske Museum. Kristiania 5: 163-197 figs 1-6

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37245016

Fishing:Popular aquarium fish


Max Size:13 cm SL


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Species Maps

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