There are many types of rainbowfish in existence. These freshwater fish have beautiful rainbow-colored scales making them one of the most sought-after pet fish. They are schooling fish and prefer to be with six or more fish of the same species. Rainbowfish feed on algae, insect larvae, and small crustaceans. You can also supplement their diet with tropical fish flakes.

Australian Rainbowfish

The Australian rainbowfish or Murray River rainbowfish is native to Australia. These rainbowfish are peaceful and thrive in larger tanks. They can live in varying water conditions, which makes them fit for beginner tanks.

The Australian rainbowfish vary in color (depending on the river they live in, in the wild). But, it is usually olive green or bluish brown, sometimes with a dark horizontal stripe mid-body.

Melanotaenia fluviatilis known commonly as the Australian rainbowfish, crimson-spotted rainbowfish, or Murray River rainbowfish
Australian Rainbow Fish.

Boeseman’s Rainbowfish

Boeseman’s rainbowfish have varying colors that range from blue to orange. It usually has a bluish-purple head and an orangish-yellow back. These little fish have a calm personalities. They thrive in larger fish tanks as they need ample space to swim around in schools.

Boeseman's rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani), also known as the Boesemani rainbowfish.
Boeseman’s rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani).

Neon Rainbowfish

The dwarf rainbowfish species or the neon rainbowfish are native to Indonesia. It is one of the most petite rainbowfish types growing to 2 – 2 1/2 inches. They go by a lot of names because of the different shades of color that they can have. For example, some exhibit peacock-like colors and have the name Peacock Rainbowfish.

Dwarf rainbowfish species (Melanotaenia praecox).
Neon/Dwarf Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia praecox).

These popular rainbowfish are very active and jump out of the water, so a covered tank is advisable. Dwarf Rainbowfish do best in a large aquarium, which gives the fish enough space to swim around.

Threadfin Rainbowfish

The threadfin rainbowfish is a tropical fish that has its long beautiful fins. It’s also known as the feather fin rainbowfish. These rainbowfish are schooling fish and do well with groups of 6 or more. They are usually peaceful most of the time unless there is more than one male in the tank with too few females.

Threadfin rainbowfish (Iriatherina werneri).
Threadfin rainbowfish (Iriatherina werneri).

Axelrod’s Rainbowfish

Axelrod’s rainbowfish is a bluish-grey and silvery-white fish. It inhabits the northwestern part of Papua New Guinea. In the wild, they prefer to live in narrow flowing streams with muddy/cloudy water.

Axelrod's rainbowfish (Chilatherina axelrodi).
Axelrod’s Rainbowfish (Chilatherina axelrodi).

They grow to around four inches long, making them one of the largest rainbowfish. To keep these types of rainbowfish in tanks requires little effort as they are hardy fish.

They get along fine with other fish of the same size but need lots of plants to provide enough hiding places—Axelrod’s Rainbowfish like a varied diet that includes algae and live food.

Celebes Rainbowfish

The Celebes Rainbowfish is a beautiful and active fish. These fish are endemic to Indonesia, and they thrive in a shoal of at least 6-8 fish with one male to 4 female ratio.

These rainbowfish show off their colors better when competing with males of the same species in a tank. Larger tanks are preferable to house these fish.

Celebes Rainbowfish (Marosatherina ladigesi).
Celebes Rainbowfish (Marosatherina ladigesi).

Bleher’s Rainbowfish

Bleher’s rainbowfish are beautiful colored fish with silvery or bluish-green body color (upper side) that often fades to yellow or red (lower side).

Bleher's rainbowfish (Chilatherina bleheri)
Bleher’s Rainbowfish (Chilatherina bleheri)

Red Rainbowfish

The red rainbowfish is one of the largest species of rainbowfish, growing up to 6 inches. Other names are Salmon Red Rainbowfish, Red Irian Rainbowfish, and New Guinea Red Rainbowfish.

Although it’s big, red rainbowfish are peaceful and do well in schools of 6 or more other red rainbowfish. Given its size and need for schooling, these types of rainbowfish need large tanks.

red rainbowfish (Glossolepis incisus).
Red Rainbowfish (Glossolepis incisus).

When the Salmon Red Rainbowfish is kept in a mixed school of male and female fish, you will see a constantly changing show of crimson and silver in the male. The color of the female is less inspiring, but without a female to display to the males will be a dull dusty brown.

Animal World

Lake Kutubu Rainbowfish

The Lake Kutubu rainbowfish (Melanotaenia lacustris) is also known as the turquoise rainbowfish. They are native to Lake Kutubu in Papua New Guinea and grow up to 5 inches in length.

These types of rainbowfish are cobalt blue to teal on their top that fades to green to silver or yellow on the bottom. These fish can change their colors and will do so throughout the day.

Lake Kutubu rainbowfish (Melanotaenia lacustris).
Lake Kutubu rainbowfish (Melanotaenia lacustris).

The Lake Kutubu Rainbowfish can adapt to life in a large community tank. But, it does best in a tank with other rainbowfish. These fish are playful. Keep them with other fish of a peaceful temperament to avoid conflict.

Lake Wanam Rainbowfish

The Wanam Rainbowfish is a green-tinged breed with a white belly. It is smaller than many of the others rainbowfish species and won’t get longer than three inches.

Lake Wanam Rainbowfish are more of a peace-loving type and prefer to live in a school. They stay near the top of a tank and prefer 20 gallons or more.

Lake Wanam Rainbowfish - Glossolepis wanamensis
Lake Wanam Rainbowfish – Glossolepis wanamensis

Madagascar Rainbowfish

The Madagascar rainbowfish (Bedotia geayi) grow up to 6 inches in length. As the name suggests, these fish are native to Madagascar. These rainbowfish are pale yellowish-brown with a slight blue finish. Madagascar Rainbowfish are schooling fish and need at least six other Madagascar rainbowfish to thrive in a tank.

The Madagascar rainbowfish (Bedotia geayi)
The Madagascar rainbowfish (Bedotia geayi)

Crimson Spotted Rainbowfish

Crimson spotted rainbowfish are a popular pet for over 100 years. They can reach up to 5 inches in length when fully grown, but are more commonly found just under 4 inches long.

These rainbowfish can have bright coloration ranging from yellow to red, with a single red spot by the gills. Males may have brighter colors than females and also be slightly smaller in size.

(Melanotaenia duboulayi) - Crimson Spotted Rainbowfish
(Melanotaenia duboulayi) – Crimson Spotted Rainbowfish

Checkered Rainbowfish

The Checkered Rainbowfish is found in many types of habitats, including rivers, streams, swamps, and lagoons. They need a well-planted aquarium with warmer water between 79 and 91 degrees.

These popular pet fish are tolerant of pH and prefer to stay between 6.5 – 8. One thing to note if you’re looking to buy one is that they need the company of others like them, and males will often only show their best color when kept with other males.

Desert Rainbowfish

Desert Rainbowfish are sandy-colored with orange-tinted fins. These are schooling fish, so it’s best to buy a few of these at once. They are peaceful & can live with other peaceful fish. Desert rainbowfish prefer to stay near the surface of the water, however, and grow up to 4 inches in length. They live about 5 years on average if you provide them with proper care like cleaning out their tank on a regular basis & providing them with enough space to explore.

Desert Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia splendida tatei
Desert Rainbowfish – Melanotaenia splendida tatei


Most Rainbowfish are friendly, unlikely to cause any trouble. Most breeds have no special requirements other than a space of at least 20 gallons and plenty of swimming space. Rainbowfish are versatile and can live with a variety of pH and temperature changes. Some species do better with a school, some need to compete with males to reach their best colors. All in all, different species of rainbowfish can be found relatively easily and they all make for a great addition to your aquarium since they can provide both an intriguing appearance as well as a lot of activity.