8 Colorful Species of Rainbowfish

Boesemani rainbowfish

Ko Hungyu / Eyeem / Getty Images

Rainbowfish are a family of beautifully colored freshwater fish. You may not have known that there are over 50 species of rainbow fish around the world, and more than a handful can be found for your own aquarium right here in the U.S. Below, learn more about eight different species of rainbow fish, specific characteristics of each, and their requirements as pets.

  • 01 of 08

    Axelrods Rainbowfish

    Axelrods Rainbowfish
    Axelrods Rainbowfish. Shirlie L Sharpe

    Hailing from the land down under, Australian Rainbowfish are hugely popular due to their beautiful colors and peaceful nature. New species are regularly being discovered and offered for sale in the aquarium trade.
    Rainbowfish are believed to have evolved from the same evolutionary line as the marine silverside species. In fact, some Rainbowfish species still favor a brackish environment, with some even living in fully marine environments. All species of Rainbowfish have two separate dorsal fins that are narrowly separated. Another distinguishing feature of Rainbowfish is the fact that they lack a lateral line.
    Most species of Rainbowfish are schooling fish, a fact that is often overlooked by owners. They also enjoy a well-planted habitat (preferably live plants) as well as live foods. In their native habitats, they are known for keeping the mosquito population in check.

    • Scientific Name: Chilatherina axelrodi
    • Family: Melanotaeniidae
    • Origin: New Guinea
    • Adult Size: 4 inches (10 cm)
    • Social: Peaceful, suitable for community tanks
    • Lifespan: 5 years
    • Tank Level: Top, Mid dweller
    • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon
    • Diet: Omnivore, eats from surface
    • Breeding: Egglayer
    • Care: Easy to Intermediate
    • pH: 7.5 - 7.8
    • Hardness: up to 15 dGH
    • Temperature: 77-81 Farenhight (27-30 Celcius)
  • 02 of 08

    Boeseman's Rainbowfish

    Boeseman's Rainbowfish
    Boeseman's Rainbowfish. Shirlie L Sharpe
    • Scientific Name: Melanotaenia boesemani
    • Family: Melanotaeniidae
    • Origin: New Guinea
    • Adult Size: 4 inches (10 cm)
    • Social: Peaceful, suitable for community tanks
    • Lifespan: 5 years
    • Tank Level: Top, Mid dweller
    • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon
    • Diet: Omnivore, enjoys live foods
    • Breeding: Egglayer
    • Care: Intermediate
    • pH: 7.0
    • Hardness: 8-15 dGH
    • Temperature: 81-86 Farenhight (27-30 Celcius)
  • 03 of 08

    Desert Rainbowfish

    Desert Rainbowfish
    Melanotaenia splendida tatei Desert Rainbowfish. Shirlie L Sharpe
    • Scientific Name: Melanotaenia splendida tatei
    • Family: Melanotaeniidae
    • Origin: Australia
    • Adult Size: 4 inches (9 - 10 cm)
    • Social: Peaceful schooling fish
    • Lifespan: 5 years
    • Tank Level: Top, Mid dweller
    • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon
    • Diet: Omnivore
    • Breeding: Egglayer
    • Care: Intermediate
    • pH: 6.0 - 8.0
    • Hardness: up to 30 dGH
    • Temperature: 68-86 Farenhight (20-30 Celcius)
  • 04 of 08

    Lake Kutubu Rainbowfish

    Lake Kutubu Rainbowfish
    Lake Kutubu Rainbowfish. Shirlie L Sharpe
    • Scientific Name: Melanotaenia iacustris
    • Family: Melanotaeniidae
    • Origin: New Guinea
    • Adult Size: 5 inches (12 cm)
    • Social: Peaceful schooling fish
    • Lifespan: 5 years
    • Tank Level: Top, Mid dweller
    • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon
    • Diet: Omnivore
    • Breeding: Egglayer
    • Care: Intermediate
    • pH: 7.0 - 8.0
    • Hardness: up to 10 dGH
    • Temperature: 68-75 Farenhight (20-24 Celcius)
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Lake Wanam Rainbowfish

    Lake Wanam Rainbowfish
    Lake Wanam Rainbowfish. Shirlie L Sharpe
    • Scientific Name: Glossolepis wanamensis
    • Family: Melanotaeniidae
    • Origin: New Guinea
    • Adult Size: 3 inches (8 cm)
    • Social: Peaceful
    • Lifespan: 5 years
    • Tank Level: Top, Mid dweller
    • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon
    • Diet: Omnivore
    • Breeding: Egglayer
    • Care: Intermediate
    • pH: 7.5 -7.8
    • Hardness: more than 10 dGH
    • Temperature: 79-86 Farenhight (26-30 Celcius)
  • 06 of 08

    Madagascar Rainbowfish

    Madagascar Rainbowfish
    Madagascar Rainbowfish. Shirlie L Sharpe
    • Scientific Name: Bedotia geayi
    • Family: Bedotiidae
    • Origin: Madagascar
    • Adult Size: 6 inches (15 cm)
    • Social: Peaceful
    • Lifespan: 5 years
    • Tank Level: Top, Mid dweller
    • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon
    • Diet: Omnivore
    • Breeding: Egglayer
    • Care: Intermediate
    • pH: 7.0 - 7.5
    • Hardness: more than10 dGH
    • Temperature: 68-75 Farenhight (20-24 Celcius)
  • 07 of 08

    Neon Rainbowfish

    Neon Rainbowfish
    Neon Rainbowfish. Shirlie L Sharpe
    • Scientific Name: Melanotaenia praecox
    • Family: Melanotaeniidae
    • Origin: New Guinea
    • Adult Size: 2.5 inches (6 cm)
    • Social: Peaceful
    • Lifespan: 3-4 years
    • Tank Level: Top, Mid dweller
    • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallon
    • Diet: Omnivore
    • Breeding: Egglayer
    • Care: Intermediate
    • pH: 6.5 - 7.0
    • Hardness: soft
    • Temperature: 75-82 Farenhight (22-28 Celcius)
  • 08 of 08

    Red Rainbowfish

    Red Rainbowfish
    Red Rainbowfish. Shirlie L Sharpe
    • Scientific Name: Glossolepis incisus
    • Family: Melanotaeniidae
    • Origin: New Guinea
    • Adult Size: 6 inches (15 cm)
    • Social: Peaceful
    • Lifespan: 5 years
    • Tank Level: Top, Mid dweller
    • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon
    • Diet: Carnivore
    • Breeding: Egglayer
    • Care: Intermediate
    • pH: 7.0 - 7.5
    • Hardness: 18-25 dGH
    • Temperature: 72-79 Farenhight (22-24 Celcius)