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Melanotaenia trifasciata (Family Melanotaeniidae)

Banded Rainbowfish


Banded Rainbowfish are found from just east of Darwin in the Mary River to near Nhulunbuy (NT) and on Cape York from the Archer River north to the tip and south down the east coast until just south of Cooktown (QLD).


Banded Rainbowfish grow to 120 mm. Colour can vary greatly depending on location (at least 20 varieties have been recognised, each river system tends to have a different colour form) as well as with the mood or spawning condition of the fish. Banded Rainbowfish have a thick, dark, mid lateral band running along the length of their body. The rest of the fish is typically a shade of colour between yellow to red or green to purple, although they can be silvery if scared. The fins are typically some combination of the above colours. During spawning these colours greatly intensify. Females can be recognised by their lesser colouration and a shorter first dorsal fin. Juveniles tend to be plainer with silvery bodies and clean fins. Rainbowfishes can be recognised by their thin deep body and bright colours (usually). Banded Rainbowfish can be identified relative to several other Australian rainbowfish species by the dark midlateral band and their deeper bodies.

Ecology/Way of Life:

Banded Rainbowfish tend to be found mostly in flowing creeks and larger rivers. Almost nothing is known of their ecology in the wild. They are omnivorous and will consume algae, aquatic plants and various invertebrates. Spawning typically takes place during the warmer months of the year. Banded Rainbowfish lay 10's of eggs daily that hatch in around 7 days. Spawning more commonly occurs in the morning with eggs being scattered over vegetation. They probably mature within a few months at around 30–50 mm.

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

Banded Rainbowfish are one of the most commonly kept rainbowfishes in the world due to their striking colouration. They are easily bred and raised. They have no conservation listing due to their widespread occurrence.

Other Comments:

Melanotaenia trifasciata was named by Rendahl in 1922. The genus name is based on Greek, melano meaning black and taenia meaning band. The species name is based on Latin, tri meaning three and fasciat meaning banded.

Further Reading:

Allen, G. R., Midgley, S. H. & Allen, M. (2002). Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum. Perth. 394pp.

Leggett, R. & Merrick, J. R. (1987). Australian Native Fishes for Aquariums. J. R. Merrick Publications. Sydney. 245pp.

Merrick, J. R. & Schmida, G. E. (1984). Australian Freshwater Fishes: Biology and Management. Griffith Press Ltd. 409pp.


Text: Peter J. Unmack & Rob Wager. Distribution map: Peter J. Unmack. Photographer: Neil Armstrong.

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