McCulloch's Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia maccullochi Ogilby 1915

Other Names: Dwarf Rainbowfish, McCulloch's Rainbow Fish, McCulloch's Rainbow-fish, McCulloch's Sun-fish

A very small silvery-white to yellowish rainbowfish, with 6-8 reddish-brown to blackish stripes along the sides. The dorsal and anal fins are variable in colour with a black submarginal band.

Video of Macculloch's Rainbowfish from Skull Creek.

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2022, Melanotaenia maccullochi in Fishes of Australia, accessed 02 Mar 2024,

McCulloch's Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia maccullochi Ogilby 1915

More Info


Occurs on the narrow coastal plain between Cairns and Cardwell, NE Queensland: 100 km north in small creeks flowing into the northern side of the Daintree River; and in the Mclvor River - Hopevale area about 80 km north of Cooktown.

Inhabits clear freshwater creeks and Pandanus swamps with abundant  shelter of aquatic vegetation and woody debris.


Dorsal fin IV-VII; I, 7-12; Anal fin I, 13-19; Pectoral fin 11-14

Body slender, greatest body depth (specimens 30-50 mm SL): males 30.3-37.8 % SL, females 28.1-32.3 % SL; head length 25.3-31.0 in SL; snout length 7.0-9.3 in SL; eye diameter 9.0-12.5 in SL; 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 9 or 10; vertical scale rows 31 to 35.

Two separate dorsal fins, 1st originating just forward of the origin of the anal fin; anal fin long based; caudal fin forked.


To 6-7 cm SL


Silvery-white to yellowish with 6-8 narrow reddish-brown lateral stripes, head and nape dark brown/black, dorsal and anal fins pale to bright red with various dark lines. There is geographic variation in colouration, particularly in the intensity of dark body stripes, markings on the dorsal and anal fins and the bright ’courtship’ stripe on the nape of males.


Feeds on aquatic insects, microcrustaceans and algae.


Spawns over several days with females laying between 150-200 adhesive eggs that likely to attach to aquatic vegetation.
Eggs have short adhesive filaments.
Larvae hatch after 7-9 days depending on water temperature and grow to 12 mm in 60 days.


A very popular and peaceful aquarium fish that is mostly captive bred, but also rarely taken from the wild.


  • IUCN Red List : Least Concern
  • Etymology

    The species is named in honour of Ogilby's friend and colleague Allan R. McCulloch, then Curator of Fishes at the Australian Museum, “whose excellent papers on our southern and deep-water fishes have become the leading feature in Australian ichthyology”.

    Species Citation

    Melanotaenia maccullochi Ogilby, 1915, Mem. Qld Mus. 3: 118. Type locality: Barron River, N Queensland.


    Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2022


    Atlas of Living Australia

    McCulloch's Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia maccullochi Ogilby 1915


    Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia.  Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications pp. 1–240.

    Allen, G.R. 1991. Field guide to the freshwater fishes of New Guinea. Publication, no. 9. 268 pp. Christensen Research Institute, Madang, Papua New Guinea.

    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.

    Cook, B.D., P.J. Unmack, J.A. Huey & J.M. Hughes. 2014. Origin of relict populations of freshwater fishes in northern Australia with common disjunct distributions (Pseudomugil gertrudae, Denariusa australis and Melanotaenia maccullochi). Freshwater Science 33: 263–272.

    Hammer, M. 2019. One becomes three: research behind the naming of two new dwarf rainbowfishes in the Melanotaenia maccullochi species complex. Fishes of Sahul 33(4): 1492–1500

    Hammer, M. 2020. Melanotaenia maccullochi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T163435336A163435363. Accessed on 22 February 2022.

    Hammer, M.P., Allen, G.R., Martin, K.C., Adams, M. & Unmack, P.J. 2019. Two new species of dwarf rainbowfishes (Atheriniformes: Melanotaeniidae) from northern Australia and southern New Guinea. Zootaxa 4701(3)

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

    Martin, K. & Barclay, S. 2019. McCulloch’s Rainbowfish Melanotaenia maccullochi (Melanotaeniidae) in the Queensland Wet Tropics. Fishes of Sahul 33(2): 1404–1416

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

    Ogilby, J.D. 1915. On some new or little-known Australian fishes. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 3: 117–129 figs 29–30

    Pusey, B., Kennard M. & Arthington, A. 2004. Freshwater fishes of north-eastern Australia. Collingwood, Victoria : CSIRO publishing, 684 pp.

    Unmack, P.J., Allen, G.R. & Johnson, J.B. 2013. Phylogeny and biogeography of rainbowfishes (Melanotaeniidae) from Australia and New Guinea. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 67: 15–27.

    Quick Facts

    CAAB Code:37245009

    Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

    Fishing:Aquarium fish

    Habitat:Freshwater streams

    Max Size:7 cm SL


    Species Maps

    CAAB distribution map