Chequered Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia splendida inornata (Castelnau 1875)

Other Names: Remu

Chequered Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia splendida inornata, Mary RIver form, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory. Source: Dave Wilson / Aquagreen, License: All rights reserved

One of three subspecies in the Melanotaenia splendida complex. Chequered Rainbowfish are overall olive-green to yellowish with a purplish sheen on the sides, a yellowish mid-lateral stripe that becomes bluish-green to brownish-green on the tail base, yellow to reddish stripes along the sides and an orange to yellow spot on the gill cover. The orange-yellow dorsal, anal and caudal fins have bright red spots, or a red and yellow chequered pattern, and a faint black fin margin. Females and juveniles are silvery with translucent or faintly coloured fins.

Males are larger, deeper bodied and more brightly-coloured, with elongate rays on the rear of the dorsal and anal fins. 

Chequered Rainbowfish in the Finniss River, NT.

Video of Chequered Rainbowfish from the Adelaide River, NT

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2017, Melanotaenia splendida inornata in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Sep 2023,

Chequered Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia splendida inornata (Castelnau 1875)

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Found in the Arafura Sea drainage east of Mary River, Northern Territory, also in streams flowing into Gulf of Carpentaria including those of western Cape York Peninsula to the Jardine River, Queensland, also in Torres Strait on Prince of Wales Island and Badu Island.

Occurs in most freshwater habitats, including slow-moving streams, wetland swamps, lagoons and clear flowing rivers, usually in areas with dense aquatic vegetation. They are generally found in waters with moderately thick vegetation.


Feeds on algae, and a range of invertebrates including microcrustaceans, and aquatic and terrestrial insects. 


Chequered Rainbowfish spawn mainly during the early-wet season, although juveniles may be found year-round. Females lay relatively large demersal eggs that are attached to aquatic vegetation by fine threads.


The common name Remu is the Yolngu word for Chequered Rainbowfish from Gulbuwangay, a small creek that runs into the Arafura Swamp near Mirrngatja, a small village on the SE corner of this vast wetland (Dave Wilson, Aquagreen).

Species Citation

Aida inornata Castelnau 1875, Intercolonial Exhibition Essays: 10. Type locality: Gulf of Carpentaria drainage.


Bray, D.J. 2017


Australian Faunal Directory

Chequered Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia splendida inornata (Castelnau 1875)


Allen, G.R. 1978. Chasing Rainbows. Tropical Fish Hobbyist 26: 89-98.

Allen, G.R. 1978. The Rainbowfishes of northwestern Australia. (Family Melanotaeniidae). Tropical Fish Hobbyist 26: 91-102.

Allen, G.R. 1980. A Generic Classification of the Rainbowfishes (Family Melanotaeniidae). Records of the Western Australian Museum 8(3): 449-490.

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.

Beumer, J.P. 1979. Reproductive cycles of two Australian freshwater fishes, the spangled perch, Therapon unicolor Gunther, 1895 and the east Queensland rainbowfish Nematocentris splendida Peters 1866. Journal of Fish Biology 15: 111-34.

Bishop, K.A., S.A. Allen, D.A. Pollard & M.G. Cook. 2001. Ecological studies on the freshwater fishes of the Alligator Rivers Region, Northern Territory; Autecology. Supervising Scientist Report 145, Supervising Scientists, Darwin.

Castelnau, F.L. de 1875. Researches on the fishes of Australia. Intercolonial Exhibition Essays. 2. pp. 1–52 in, Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876 : Official Record. Melbourne.

Crowley, L.E.L.M. & W. Ivantsoff. l982. Reproduction and early stages of development in two species of Australian rainbowfishes Melanotaenia nigrans (Richardson) and Melanotaenia splendida inornata (Castelnau). Australian Zoologist 21(1): 85-95.

Grant, E.M. 1975. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane : Queensland Government, Co-ordinator General’s Department 640 pp.

Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 pp.

Ivantsoff, W., L.E.L.M. Crowley, E. Howe & G. Semple. 1988. Biology and early development of eight fish species from the Alligator Rivers Region. Technical memorandum 22, Supervising Scientist for the Alligator Rivers Region, AGPS, Canberra.

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.

Whitley, G.P. 1935. Studies in Ichthyology No. 9. Records of the Australian Museum 19(4): 215-250 figs 1-11 pl. 18

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37245013

Fishing:Popular aquarium fish


Max Size:12 cm


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CAAB distribution map