Melanotaenia sp. (Running River Rainbowfish)

Other Names: Burdekin Rainbowfish, Hidden Valley Rainbowfish, Zig Zag Rainbowfish

Running River Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia sp. Source: Dave Wilson / Aquagreen, License: All rights reserved


An undescribed yellow to greenish rainbowfish with reddish fins, a yellow midlateral stripe, and narrow black stripes forming a distinctive zig-zag pattern along the lower side. The species is restricted to the middle reaches of Running River in the Burdekin River catchment, north of Townsville.

Video documenting some of the work done to save the Running River Rainbowfish.

Video of male Running River Rainbowfish sparring.

Video from a news story on Running River Rainbowfish.

Although Running River Rainbowfish have been known since 1982, they were previously considered to be a variety of the Eastern Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia splendida splendida) or perhaps a distinct species. Research has now shown that the species is genetically distinct from other rainbowfishes.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Melanotaenia sp. (Running River Rainbowfish) in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 Jan 2023,

Melanotaenia sp. (Running River Rainbowfish)

More Info


Endemic to a small stretch of Running River between two gorges, in the Burdekin River catchment, north Queensland.






Australian Society for Fish Biology (ASFB): Critically Endangered
Unmack & Hammer (2016) found that Eastern Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia splendida splendida, had been introduced into the upper reaches of Running River, above the upper Gorge, and were rapidly moving downstream, hybridising and introgressing with the undescribed Running River Rainbowfish - which will eventually lead to the extinction of this species in Running River. 
In September 2016, as a result of this hybridisation threat, the Running River Rainbowfish was listed as Critically Endangered by the ASFB Threatened Fishes Committee.
A captive breeding program, initially established at the University of Canberra, and now also at James Cook University, is developing "insurance" populations that can translocated to other suitable creek systems - with the ultimate goal of re-establishing Running River Rainbowfish in Running River.


Species Citation


Bray, D.J. 2017

Melanotaenia sp. (Running River Rainbowfish)


Katsis, A. 2016. Watered down. Lateral Magazine Life Science Issue 16

Lintermans, M. 2016. Conservation Status of Australian Fishes – 2016. Australian Society for Fish Biology Newsletter 46(2): 142-144. (ASFB Threatened Fishes Committee Reports)

Martin, K.C. & Barclay, S. 2016. A review of the distribution and status of ‘Burdekin rainbowfish’ populations in north Queensland. Fishes of Sahul 30(1): 962–972.

Unmack, P.J. 2016. Update on saving Running River Rainbowfish. Fishes of Sahul 30(3): 1025–1032. 

Unmack, P.J. & Hammer, M.P. 2015. Burdekin Rainbowfish on the verge of disappearing from Running River! Fishes of Sahul 29(4): 933–936.

Quick Facts

Conservation:ASFB Critically Endangered


Max Size:6 cm


Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map