Blackbanded Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia nigrans (Richardson 1843)

Other Names: Black Striped Rainbow Fish, Black-banded Jewelfish, Black-banded Jewel-fish, Black-banded Rainbow Fish, Black-banded Rainbowfish, Black-striped Rainbowfish, Common Freshwater Sunfish, Mauve Rainbow-fish, Spotted Sunfish, Yalgurnda

A Blackbanded Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia nigrans, from George Creek, south of Darwin, Northern Territory. Source: Dave Wilson / License: All rights reserved


A slender bluish-lavender rainbowfish with a very distinctive dark midlateral stripe, a narrow red stripe on the belly to the front part of the tail, a bright reddish spot on the gill cover and pale orange pectoral fins.

Blackbanded Rainbowfish in a tributary of the South Alligator River in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory.

Cite this page as:
Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2020, Melanotaenia nigrans in Fishes of Australia, accessed 03 Dec 2023,

Blackbanded Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia nigrans (Richardson 1843)

More Info


Endemic to northern Australia and known from three isolated populations: Napier Broome Bay in the eastern Kimberly,  Western Australia, coastal streams of the Northenr Territory from the Daly River eastwards across Arnhem Land to Groote Eylandt, and the northern tip of Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, including some Torres Strait islands. 

Considered locally common in habitats ranging from rainforest streams, lagoons, small swampy creeks, and backwaters and slow-flowing areas of larger rivers and streams. Although the species is usually found within 40 km of the ocean, it has been recorded up to 130 km inland.


Dorsal fin IV-VI; I, 8-11; Anal fin I, 15-16; Pectoral fin 12-14; Pelvic fin I, 5.
Body laterally compressed, relatively deep, greatest body depth (adults > 50 mm SL): males 25.0-33.3,females 25.0-28.0; head length 24.3-27.1; snout length 7.1-8.3; eye diameter 7.2-10.5; 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 10-12; vertical scale rows 33 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 8.5 cm SL, commonly to 6cm.


Grey-brown with bluish tinges dorsally, whitish ventrally with a prominent, broad black mid-lateral stripe extending though the eyes and a pinkish spot on opercle. During the breeding period males may have a bright yellow caudal fin, orange to mauve on the top of the head and the spot on the opercle intensifies. Mature males generally have a reddish second dorsal fin and black margins on the anal fin.


Feeds on aquatic and terrestrial insects, and filamentous green algae.


Spawning occurs year-round in favourable conditions, with a peak during the wet season (December-March). throughout the year. Females spawn 50-70 adhesive eggs onto aquatic vegetation. The eggs are spherical with adhesive filaments.

Larvae hatch after around 6-7 days and are well developed with a reduced yolk sac and fully formed mouth and pectoral fins. Feeding commences within 24 hours of hatching.


Yalgurnda was the indigenous name for this species on the Port Essington area when the type specimens were collected (Richardson 1843).


The specific name nigrans (= black, darkly coloured) in reference to the black midlateral stripe of this species.

Species Citation

Atherina nigrans Richardson, 1843, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 1 11(69): 180. Type locality: Port Essington, Northern Territory.


Gomon, M.F. & Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Australian Faunal Directory

Catalog of Fishes

Blackbanded Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia nigrans (Richardson 1843)


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Crowley L.E.L.M. & Ivantsoff, W. 1982. Reproduction and early stages of development in two species of Australian rainbowfishes Melanotaenia nigrans (Richardson) and Melanotaenia splendida inornata (Castelnau). Australian Zoology 21(1): 85-95.

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Richardson, J. 1843. Contributions to the ichthyology of Australia. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 1 11(69): 169-182. See ref at BHL

Steindachner, F. 1867. Ichthyologische Notizen (6).1. Über eine Sammlung von Fischen von Cap York in Australien. Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien 56(1): 307-320 (as Nematocentris nigricans)

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Whitley, G.P. 1960. Fresh water fishes of Australia. 18. Finchat February: 12-13, 25

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37245010

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Fishing:Popular aquarium fish


Max Size:8.5 cm SL


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