Desert Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia splendida tatei (Zietz 1896)

Other Names: McDonald Ranges Rainbow Fish

A Desert Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia tatei, from the Finke River on Henbury Station, Northern Territory, May 2013. Source: Robert Whyte / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives

One of three subspecies in the Melanotaenia splendida complex. 
The species has two colour forms. Males are either overall purple or bluish-green, usually with paler stripes on the sides. Both forms have yellowish-green fins with dark flecks and a dark margin. Females and juveniles are silvery with clear fins.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Melanotaenia splendida tatei in Fishes of Australia, accessed 26 Sep 2023,

Desert Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia splendida tatei (Zietz 1896)

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Endemic to streams feeding into the Lake Eyre basin, including the Georgina River, Diamantina River, Cooper Creek, Lake Frome and the Finke River drainages; also at Barkly Tableland and Lake Wood, NT.

Inhabits freshwater rivers, streams, billabongs, ponds, reservoirs, drains and artesian bores at temperatures from 12-26°C. Often forms schools in open water or around nearshore weeds and woody debris.


Named for the botanist and geologist Ralph Tate who participated in the 1894 Horn Expedition to Central Australia when this subspecies was collected.

Species Citation

Nematocentris tatei Zietz, 1896, Report Horn Scient. Exped. 2. Zoology: 178. Type locality: Finke River, Ellerys Creek, Red Bank Creek, central Australia.


Bray, D.J. 2017


Australian Faunal Directory

Desert Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia splendida tatei (Zietz 1896)


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.

Balcombe S.R., Bunn, S.E., Mckenzie-Smith, F.J. & Davies, P.M. 2005. Variability of fish diets between dry and flood periods in an arid zone floodplain river. Journal of Fish Biology 67: 1552-1567.

Gates, K., Sandoval-Castillo, J., Bernatchez, L. & Beheregaray, L.B. 2017. De novo transcriptome assembly and annotation for the desert rainbowfish (Melanotaenia splendida tatei) with comparison with candidate genes for future climates. Marine Genomics, Available online 22 May 2017, ISSN 1874-7787, ( Abstract

Hammer, M.P., Adams, M. & Foster, R. 2012. Update to the catalogue of South Australian freshwater fishes (Petromyzontida & Actinopterygii). Zootaxa 3593: 59–74.

Lake, J.S. 1971. Freshwater Fishes and Rivers of Australia. Melbourne : Nelson 61 pp.

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.

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

Unmack, P.J. 2001. Biogeography of Australian freshwater fishes. Journal of Biogeography 28: 1053-1089.

Wager, R. & Unmack, P.J. 2000. Fishes of the Lake Eyre Catchment of Central Australia. Brisbane : Department of Primary Industries and Queensland Fisheries Service 88 pp.

Zietz, A.H.C. 1896. Pisces. pp. 176–180 pl. 16 in Spencer, B. (ed.) Report on the Work of the Horn Scientific Expedition to Central Australia. Part 2. Zoology. London (as Nematocentris tatei and N. winneckei)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37245015

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Freshwater streams

Max Size:10 cm TL


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CAAB distribution map