Top 10 Amazing Rainbowfish for your Next Freshwater Aquarium


Top 10 Amazing Rainbowfish for Your Next Freshwater Aquarium

Rainbowfish and blue-eyes are a unique group of colorful, community fish that can be found primarily in the freshwater habitats of Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and Australia. These energetic schooling fish usually hang out in the top half of the fish tank, so make sure to keep a tight aquarium lid to prevent them from jumping out. We recommend that you keep more females than males because they are more vibrant than their male counterparts.

Having both sexes also means that you can have fun breeding them at home. Rainbowfish are egg-spreading fish that can spawn when they get enough food and water. Just add a spawning mop or two into the aquarium for a week, and then either remove the eggs or the entire mop into a separate grow-out container to prevent the adults from predating on their offspring. The smaller blue-eyes tend to be fairly short-lived, so breeding will help keep your colony going. Although larger rainbowfish take longer to mature, their stunning appearance is well worth the effort. Let’s discuss 10 species that are very popular in aquarium hobby. Which one is best for you?

Nano Rainbowfish (Smaller Than 2.5 inches or 6 cm)

1. Forktail Rainbowfish

Pseudomugil furcatus

Furcata rainbowfish, also known as the forktail blueeye, is a 2-inch (5.5 cm) beauty. It’s well-known for its bright blue eyes, yellow-tipped fins and distinctive forked tail. As a native of Papua New Guinean rainforests, they enjoy temperatures between 75-80degF (24-27degC), slightly alkaline pH above 7.0, and at least 5deg (90 ppm) GH. Because of their active lifestyle, we like to keep them in a 20-gallon tank or bigger with other peaceful community fish like cory catfish, tetras, and rasboras. Read the full care guide for more details.

2. Red Neon Rainbowfish

Pseudomugil luminatus

As one of the newest nano rainbowfish introduced to the aquarium trade, the red neon blue-eye is a highly sought-after commodity. Males have a bright red-orange body with an iridescent blue line running along the back and spotting at the fins. At only 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in length, you could keep a school of 8-10 red neons in a 10-gallon planted aquarium. Their fiery colors look truly stunning when swimming in front of a lush forest of green aquarium plants. They can be kept at a pH of 6.0 to 7.4 and temperatures between 68 and 78 degrees F (20 and 26 degrees C) since they were originally taken from Papua in Indonesia. Breeding is encouraged as a species with a short life span. It can be started as early as 6 months old.

3. Threadfin and Featherfin rainbowfish

Iriatherina werneri

The threadfin rainbowfish, which measures in at 2 inches (5 cm), is one of the more robust specimens among the nano rainbowfish. Their common name derives from the male’s long, wispy tail and beautiful lyretail. Depending on the locale they were found, their coloration can include yellow, black, blue, and even reddish-pink. Getting a mix of both males and females will encourage the fish to show their most vibrant hues. Featherfin rainbows inhabit slow-moving waterways in New Guinea and Australia that are choked with plant life, so they will appreciate a gentle filter, pH between 6.0-7.5, and tropical temperatures of 74-80degF (23-27degC).

4. Gertrude’s Spotted-Blue-Eyed Rainbowfish

Pseudomugil gertrudae

This 1.25-inch (3 cm) rainbowfish has a striking appearance because of its yellowy body, bright blue eyes, and pale fins speckled with dark spots. Their natural habitats consist of swampy, vegetation-filled waters of Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia and the Aru Islands. These waters often contain lots of driftwood, fallen leaves, and other debris. They are surprisingly hardy enough to live in a wide range of parameters, including pH from 5-8, 70-82degF (21-28degC), and soft to hard water. To compensate for their short life expectancy, they will reproduce quickly so make sure to have plenty of yarn mops and floating plants.

5. Celebes Rainbowfish

Marosatherina ladigesi

The celebes rainbow is similar to the furcata rainbowfish. It has a yellow fork at its tail and yellow and black fins with fringes and a horizontal stripe running down its back half. At 2-2.5 inches (5-6 cm) long, these speedy swimmers would appreciate a 20-gallon long tank or larger that will give them sufficient space to zoom around. These fish are from Sulawesi (Indonesia), and they live in harder water with an alkaline pH higher than 7.0, tropical temperatures of 72-82degF (22-28degC). Like most nano rainbowfish, they are not picky eaters but do prefer tiny foods that can fit in their mouths – such as crushed flakes, nano pellets, baby brine shrimp, daphnia, and Easy Fry and Small Fish Food.

Medium-Sized Rainbowfish (More than 2.5 inches or 6cm)

6. Boesemani Rainbowfish

Melanotaenia boesemani

Boeseman’s rainbowfish, which are members of the Melanotaeniidae famiy, are perhaps the most popular rainbowfish. Their bodies have an almond-shaped profile compared to their torpedo shaped cousins. The males can reach 4 inches (10 cm) in length and have a bicolored, shiny blue body and an orange back half. Therefore, these lively fish need a fish tank of at least 4 feet (1.2 m) in length with a heater set to 75-82degF (24-28degC). These fish were discovered in West Papua, Indonesia. They can tolerate pH levels of 6-8 and hard water temperatures of 8-20deg (140 – 360 ppm) GH. Read our full care article to learn more about this wonderful species.

7. Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish

Melanotaenia praecox

The praecox rainbowfish measures 3 inches (8cm) in length. It is one of the smaller rainbows within the Melanotaeniidae Family. This makes it a good choice for stocking a medium-sized aquarium, 29-gallon in size. Males have large, iridescent, blue scales and bright red-orange fins. Females have a silvery, yellow body with fins. Although they are able to handle a broad range of pH and GHG, their habitat in New Guinea rainforests is more alkaline, ranging between 74-80degF (23-25degC). If you have soft water, consider dosing their tank with mineral supplements like Wonder Shell and Seachem Equilibrium to increase the GH. See the complete article about dwarf neons.

8. Turquoise Rainbowfish

Melanotaenia lacustris

The Lake Kutubu rainbowfish or blue rainbowfish displays two colors that are divided by a black horizontal line – vivid, turquoise on top and a silvery-yellow abdomen. They grow to 4 inches (10 cm) long and can be kept in an aquarium that is at least 4 ft (1.2 m) high. They are found in Lake Kutubu in Papua New Guinea. The water has an alkaline pH higher than 7.0 and is more hardy. They can withstand tropical temperatures between 70-78degF (22-26degC) and they get along well with other fast-swimming community species.

9. Red Rainbowfish

Glossolepis incisus

The New Guinea Rainbowfish comes from the alkaline, hard waters in Western New Guinea, Indonesia. It’s known for its brightly colored body and scattered of shiny scales at the lateral. They are one of the largest rainbowfish in the hobby and can grow to almost 12 inches (12 cm) in length. To be able to care for a school of six or more, you will need a minimum of a 4 foot aquarium. They are similar to the rest of the rainbowfish in our second half, but have a smaller appetite. Therefore, they need a 4-foot aquarium at minimum.

10. Lake Tebera Rainbowfish

Melanotaenia herbertaxelrodi

Lake Tebera is surrounded by mountainous jungles in Papua New Guinea, where the waters are alkaline, high in minerals, tropical in temperature (68-79degF or 20-26degC), and full of aquatic plants. While M. herbertaxelrodi is harder to find at pet stores, its golden yellow body, black horizontal stripe, and red-orange fins make it well-worth the search. It measures 3.5 inches (9cm), and can be kept in a 40-gallon tank with other friendly tank mates. This includes other rainbowfish, loaches, barbs, gouramis, giant danios, bigger livebearers, and peaceful catfish.

Given their love for protein, avoid putting them with dwarf shrimp, baby fish, and anything small enough to fit in their mouths.

While Aquarium Co-Op does not ship live fish, you can check out the amazing selection of rainbowfish offered by our preferred online retailers. Enjoy setting up a fun, action-packed aquarium filled with your favorite species of rainbowfish.