Utchee Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia utcheensis McGuigan 2001

Utchee Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia utcheensis. Source: Keith Martin. License: All rights reserved

A small silvery-blue rainbowfish with a bluish to blackish mid-lateral stripe towards the rear of the body, narrow orange stripes along the sides, and often a reddish cheek patch. The anal, dorsal, pelvic and caudal fins range from translucent, to dusky brown with reddish spots, to a deep red in breeding males, and males often have a narrow black margin on the anal, second dorsal and pelvic fins. Males are more brightly-coloured, deeper bodied and have longer pelvic, dorsal and anal fins than females.

Video of Utchee Rainbowfish in an aquarium

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2017, Melanotaenia utcheensis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Apr 2024, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/4091

Utchee Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia utcheensis McGuigan 2001

More Info


Known only from coastal tributaries of the North and South Johnstone Rivers, and tributaries of the North Johnstone River on the Atherton Tableland, Queensland - including the Utchee, Fisher, Rankin and Short Creeks in the North and South Johnstone River catchments. 

Inhabits small freshwater streams with pools, rapids and shallow riffles and runs with moderate to high water flow over cobbles and boulders.


Dorsal fin V-VII +  I, 10-12; Anal fin I, 16-20; Pectoral fin 11-15. 
Body relatively elongate, laterally compressed; greatest body depth 31-38 in SL; head length in SL 34-42; eye diameter in HL 24-32; snout length in HL 34-43; upper an lower jaws equal, oblique with an abrupt bend in the premaxilla between the anterior horizontal and lateral portions; lips thin; jaw teeth conical, vomer with a solid band of well-developed teeth; teeth present on palatines; lateral line absent.
Scales large with slightly crenulate posterior edges, arranged in regular horizontal rows; horizontal scale rows (9-11); vertical scale rows 32-35
Two separate dorsal fins, 1st originating just forward of the origin of the anal fin; 2nd dorsal fin originating behind anal fin origin; posterior margin of 2nd dorsal and anal fin elongated and pointed in males; anal fin long based; pectoral fins rounded; caudal fin moderately forked.


6.5 cm SL, rarely larger than 6 cm SL.


Silver overall often with an orange cast near the midline; head and gill region silver to pink and often with a reddish patch on cheek; scales with a slight purple irridescence, especially dorsally; obvious orange stripe between horizontal scale rows; mid-lateral band is dark bluish-black at the tail and fades towards the head; fin colour ranges from translucent to deep red, darkest in males which usually also have black margins.


Omnivore - feeds on filamentous algae, aquatic and terrestrial insects, micro-crustaceans and other small invertebrates.


Little is known of reproduction in this species, however it is likely to be oviparous depositing adhesive eggs onto vegetation.

Similar Species

Melantaenia utcheensis is similar to and broadly sympatric with M. eachamensis and M. splendida. M. utcheensis differs in having more first dorsal-fin spines, fewer vertical scale rows and anal-fin rays than M. splendida, and fewer soft second dorsal-fin rays and more pectoral-fin rays than M. eachamensis. M. utcheensis is also generally smaller than the other species, and intermediate between them in eye diameter, predorsal length, head depth and body depth.


Named for the type locality, Utchee Creek and in recognition of the history in the aquarium trade of Utchee Creek Type.

Species Citation

Melanotaenia utcheensis  McGuigan, 2001,  Mem. Qld Mus. 46(2): 648, fig. 3. Type locality: Utchee Creek, North Johnstone River. [17°38'30"S, 145°56'20"E].


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

Utchee Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia utcheensis McGuigan 2001


Flint, N. 2005. Sublethal effects of diel fluctuations in dissolved oxygen saturation on freshwater fishes from tropical Queensland. PhD thesis, James Cook University. PDF

Martin K.C. & S. Barclay, S. 2017. Factors influencing distribution and form of the Utchee Rainbowfish Melanotaenia utcheensis (Melanotaeniidae). Fishes of Sahul 31(2): 1095-1117.

McGuigan K.L. 2001. An addition to the rainbowfish (Melanotaeniidae) fauna of north Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 46: 647-655.

McGuigan K.L., D. Zhu, G.R. Allen & C. Moritz. 2000. Phylogenetic relationships and historical biogeography of melanotaeniid fishes in Australia and New Guinea. Marine and Freshwater Research 51: 713-723.

Pusey, B.J., Kennard, M.J. & Arthington, A.H. 2004. Freshwater Fishes of North-eastern Australia. Collingwood, Victoria : CSIRO Publishing 684 pp.

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

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37245025

Habitat:Flowing freshwater streams

Max Size:8.5 cm SL


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CAAB distribution map