Caring for Your New Australian Rainbowfish
The inside scoop on Melanotaenia splendida (mostly)

 
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Australian Rainbowfish Factoids

Origin

If you guessed Australia …

Maximum Size

Usually four inches.  Males slightly larger

Housing

20L aquarium best, 10 okay

Security

Not necessary, but likes planted tanks

Temperature

75 to 80o

Attitude

Good natured.  Eager eater.

Foods

Loves all foods

Water

Avoid pH changes.  Add salt.

Sexing

Males more colorful

Spawning Method

Plant or mop spawners

Egg Incubation

Six days

Number of Young

Dozens

LA 
Australian rainbowfish males grow larger and display longer fins than the females.

LA 
More Australian rainbowfish.

LA
All rainbowfish improve with age. 

LA
Young boesmani rainbowfish are now getting more affordable.

LA
Older males just get better looking.

LA
Definitely nice looking species.

Name:  Rainbowfish come in a variety of species, sizes, and colors.  But their name more likely comes from the way they flash their iridescent colors -- apparently at will – especially at breeding time.

Origins: Australia prohibits the export and import of live animals (including fishes).  However, several species of rainbowfishes “escaped” from Australia before the ban took effect.  And it is now legal to export some tank-raised fishes and eggs.  Some rainbowfish species come from New Guinea, Indonesia, and other countries.

        LA
Rainbowfish color and display best in planted aquaria.

LA
Not sure what species probably New Guinea.

LA
Another one.

Water Conditions:  Rainbowfish can adapt to widely varying pH levels.  They prefer a pH above neutral.  Our 7.5 Des Moines water works great.  They also like salt in their water – one teaspoon per gallon.  Keep it around 75o although they can stand it colder or hotter.  They love the tannic acids and vitamins in Tetra’s Blackwater Tonic.  They don’t need this additive, but show better colors when you use it.  Rainbows seem to prefer subdued lighting.

LA 
Rainbowfish flash great colors -- when they feel like it.

Appeal:  Action and color add to the pleasure of keeping rainbowfish.  Their inexpensive price (for most of them) also adds to their appeal.

LA
Madagascar rainbowfish look entirely different. 

Size:   Many rainbowfish grow to four or five inches in a big tank.  You usually find them for sale at about 1.5 to 2 inches.  They show only a hint of their color potential at this size.

LA
Young Australian rainbowfish.

Attitude:  Fast-swimming, peaceful, hearty eaters about wraps it up.  Rainbowfish show off best in planted aquaria.

Foods:   Rainbowfish will eagerly eat whatever you feed them.  They especially love frozen and live foods.  They respond very well to color foods.

LA 
Young dwarf rainbowfish.

LA
This dwarf rainbowfish looks better with a little age on him.

LA
Male dwarf rainbowfish on left.  Female on right.  Fairly easy to sex.

Conditioning:  If you decide to breed them, separate the sexes (if possible) and feed them well.  The female rainbowfish will get chubby from the eggs developing inside.  The males develop much brighter colors.  Start warming them up a few degrees.

LA
Male (top) and female young Australian rainbowfish.

LA
As they mature, they look more attractive.

 

LA
Even young boesmani rainbowfish look colorful.

LA
Boesmanis get more colorful as they mature.

LA
And some get more colorful than others.

Breeding:  Mix your conditioned breeders in a non-brightly lit planted tank.  Add Black Water Tonic to their tank.  Keep them well fed.  Rainbowfish usually spawn every morning for a week.  The eggs stick to the plants (like killifish eggs).  Most breeders ignore the eggs.  Take out the parents after a week or they will likely eat the hatching fry.  Some people say they don’t.  Some people say lots of things.  I see little reason to believe they wouldn’t eat their eggs also.  Keep them well fed.

Saving More Fry:  Make a long mop of Orlon or Nylon strands.  Attach the strands to a cork or anything that floats.  Use this as their spawning site and remove the mop when you have enough eggs.  Hatch them in their own 10-gallon tank.  Or you can do the same thing with a bunch of hornwort -- with a lot less hassle.

Fry Foods:  Baby rainbowfish do best on infusoria.  Some breeders feed them the powdered dry foods.  After one or two weeks feed newly hatched shrimps or microworms.   Add big snails to clean up the excess.

Filtration:  Baby rainbowfish fish need clean water.  Use an undergravel or sponge filter.  Sponge filters clean their water, grow extra food, and prevent scum from building up on the water’s surface.

Summary:  Rainbowfish make good additions to nearly any tank.  They seldom bother smaller fish.  Their speed makes them good mixers with rougher fish – even some of the cichlids.  LA.

Carolyn Coffee, Torrington, WY, December 11, 2007
I was reading your article on Australian Rainbows, and I have to say that they can actually be quite nasty. I had to move mine from a community tank to the cichlid tank. The rainbow actually chases the Africans and keeps the green terror “looking over his shoulder.”

A:  If they are nasty to African cichlids, that's just one more point in their favor.  I've never seen them pick on African cichlids, but I'll add your comments to my Australian Rainbowfish page.  LA

Some Turquoise Rainbowfish:

LA
2-inch turquoise rainbowfish.

LA
Same guy.

LA
2-inch turquoise rainbowfish.

LA
3-inch turquoise rainbowfish.

LA
They like to school.

LA
New strains and colors keep popping up.

LA

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