A real stunner, the Banded Rainbowfish has earned years of popularity for its dazzling appearance!

The Banded Rainbowfish Melanotaenia trifasciata is one of the brightest colored fish in its family. This is a brilliant little river fish from Australia that is dressed from tip to tail in bold colors. This fish comes in upwards of 30 varieties, each with as beautiful a pattern as the next. Other common names of this fish is known by include Jewel Rainbowfish, Regal Rainbowfish, Three Stripe Rainbowfish, and the Goyder River Rainbowfish.

While rainbow fish were previously only kept by a small dedicated base of aquarists, they are gradually becoming more common in aquariums. The Banded Rainbowfish is an excellent representative of all the positive characteristics of the family: brilliant colors, easy keeping, and a lively personality. A school of these lively but peaceful fish will certainly brighten up a large show aquarium.

These fish are great for beginners as they can tolerate many different water conditions. A planted tank is an excellent way to showcase your beautiful rainbow fish. Adult specimens of these Jewel Rainbowfish are rarely seen for sale, and the available juveniles will look a little drab. But don’t be dismayed, with just a little time and patience you will see them in their full glory. With frequent water changes and the company of the opposite sex, males will soon show their intense colors.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

Banded Rainbowfish Melanotaenia trifasciata

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A small number of Banded Rainbowfish enjoy swimming in their well planted aquarium.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Atheriniformes
  • Family: Melanotaeniidae
  • Genus: Melanotaenia
  • Species: trifasciata
Banded Rainbowfish – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Size of fish – inches: 5.0 inches (12.70 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 70.0 to 79.0° F (21.1 to 26.1&deg C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Banded Rainbowfish Melanotaenia trifasciata was described by Rendahl in 1922. However, this fish was actually first collected by a Norway zoologist in 1895, from the St. Mary river. This rainbow fish comes from northern Australian continent. Their distribution is across discontinuous waters across northern Australia. They have extremely limited areas where they can be found and these are Melville Island, Mary River, Arnhem Land, and Groote Eylandt. The common names of this fish describe both its appearance and its origins. These include Jewel Rainbowfish, Regal Rainbowfish, Three Stripe Rainbowfish, and the Goyder River Rainbowfish. The Banded Rainbowfish is not listed on the IUCN red list.

Due to the changes in their natural environment these Goyder River Rainbowfish can live in many different conditions. They typically inhabiting well vegetated streams and waterholes, presumably congregating in schools like other rainbow fishes. They can be found in creeks and streams with clear moving water to swamps, lagoons, and even stagnant puddles during the dry season. The substrate of their nature habitat is usually made up of rocks and small stones covered in dead leaves. This fish is normally found under cover of floating plants or submerged bog type wood. They are omnivores that feed on aquatic insects, plant material and algae, and small amounts of terrestrial insects.

  • Scientific Name: Melanotaenia trifasciata
  • Social Grouping: Groups – Presumably congregates in schools like other rainbow fishes.
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


The Banded Rainbowfish can grow to be about 5 inches. It has the typical rainbow fish silhouette, long but deep in the body, with an arched back and narrow head. Banded Rainbowfish have big eyes and two dorsal fins. They can come in a variety of colors; red, green, blue, purple or yellow. Dorsal, anal, and caudal fins are normally yellow or red. Will normally have a black or dark blue mid-lateral strip as well.

The colors are absolutely radiant. Every river system has its own entirely different color pattern and there are estimated to be more than thirty variations. The two most common in domestic aquaria are described below, however many other variations are also available.

  • Standard or Jewel Rainbowfish: The “Standard†type coloration of this fish is golden on bottom, olive green on top with a strong black band running horizontally through the fish to the eye. Towards the center of the fish, there are some highly reflective mint green scales. Fins are orange and red.
  • Goyder River Rainbowfish: The Goyder river variant is quite different. The base color is golden orange. The scales reflect pearly white, giving the fish an almost spotted appearance. This fish has a black stripe which runs from its snout to the base of the tail. The fins are blood red with black outlines.
  • Size of fish – inches: 5.0 inches (12.70 cm)
  • Lifespan: 4 years – Can have a life span of about 3 to 5 years when kept in a well maintained aquarium.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The naturally harsh, changing environments that these fish survive in, makes it a great fish for the new fish keeper. They are extremely tolerant to water condition changes and normally can fight off most aquarium diseases.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

The Banded Rainbowfish are omnivores that feed on on aquatic insects, plant material and algae, and small amounts of terrestrial insects that fall into the water in its natural habitat. They require a rich diet of both live and processed foods to maintain good health.

In captivity provide this Regal Rainbowfish with a high quality flake or pellet food. Purchase it in small amounts as the nutrients in these products quickly deteriorate past usefulness. These rainbow fish also require a live food component in their diet. Bloodworms, tubifex worms, water fleas, brine shrimp and white worms all are healthy additions to their diet. If these are unavailable, frozen (defrosted) substitutes are fine. These fish should be fed 2-3 times a day and only what they can consume in less then 5 minutes.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day – Feed two to three times daily, but give them only what they can consume in less than 5 minutes.

Aquarium Care

Rainbowfish are not exceptionally difficult to care for provided their water is kept clean. At least 25 – 50% of the tank water should be replaced weekly, especially if the tank is densely stocked. They are very active swimmers and also jumpers, so be sure the tank has a secure cover.

  • Water Changes: Weekly – Weekly water changes of 25 – 50%, depending on stocking density.

Aquarium Setup

A 30 gallon aquarium is minimum, but these are moderately large and very active swimmers, so a tank size of 50 – 60 gallons or more is advisable. Additionally, the tank should be securely covered as these fish are skilled jumpers and will probably do so if given the opportunity. Rainbow fish will do best and are most effectively displayed in tanks which simulate their natural habitat. A sandy substrate, dense vegetation, and bog wood all echo the native rivers of the Australian Rainbowfish. Try, if possible, to plan for one or two hours of sunlight hitting the tank. This should be at a time when you can view the tank as the illumination will make the fish even more stunning.

As with most of the Rainbowfish species they are most at home in well planted aquariums. When you choose plants make sure to pick plant that can tolerate the hard, alkaline conditions preferred my this fish. They also need stretches of open swimming areas. An efficient filter and good water movement are needed for the male fishes to develop their coloration.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L) – A tank size of 50 – 60 gallons or more is advisable for these fairly large, active swimmers.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Substrate Type: Small Gravel
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting
  • Temperature: 70.0 to 79.0° F (21.1 to 26.1&deg C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 72.0° F
  • Range ph: 6.5-8.5
  • Hardness Range: 8 – 25 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Middle – Banded Rainbowfish usually swim in the middle of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

The Banded Rainbowfish gets along with other big fish in a community aquarium, but does exceptionally well in a geographical tank stocked with other rainbow fish. Excessively shy or submissive tank mates tend to make bullies out of them, but rainbow fish should still not be mixed with the extremely aggressive species. Mix them with other playful but good natured fish for best results. You may notice some chasing between rainbowfish, but this is rarely a concern unless a fish is injured, has nowhere to hide, or is constantly harassed (almost always a result of one of the first two).

Banded Rainbowfish are schooling fish and the ratio of males to females is very important to keep a reasonable peace among them. Although single sex schools are always an option, you will miss out on the flamboyant displays of coloration only seen in a mixed sex school. Properly stocking rainbowfish is a little tricky so we include the following stocking suggestions. Choose which type of school you want to keep and how many fish.

If you wish to keep…

  • 5 rainbowfish – Do not mix sexes
  • 6 rainbowfish – 3 males + 3 females
  • 7 rainbowfish – 3 males + 4 females
  • 8 rainbowfish – 3 males + 5 females
  • 9 rainbowfish – 4 males + 5 females
  • 10 rainbowfish – 5 males + 5 females

If putting your Rainbow fish in a community tank, provide ample hiding spots for these fish. With out the comfort of being able to find shelter it is unlikely to get the most of their coloration. In nature you will find them in schools under floating logs and plants when not swimming as a group, they need the same environment in the aquarium.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – Groups of 6 or more are preferred.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Monitor – Rainbowfish are fast wild swimming fish that can make slower fish nervous.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe – not aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

Sexing is most easily done by comparison, males being generally larger, more brightly colored, have a more arched back and will often be more territorial.

Breeding / Reproduction

A breeding tank should be set up with a sponge filer and either many fine leaved plants or a spawning mop. A pair of healthy adult rainbow fish should be introduced. They should be conditioned with live foods and plant based foods. Remember, you are trying to emulate the bounty of the flood season so feed more and higher quality food than you normally would.

After the female has produced eggs, the males will display an amazing show of intense colors and direct the female to the spawning site, spawn, and then rest. The spawning mop or plants should be removed and replaced after the spawning or the eggs will be eaten. The fish will repeat this daily for a few days, with steadily decreasing numbers of eggs produced. The parents should be removed when egg numbers fall or if the females show signs of fatigue.

The fry will hatch after about a week and should be fed infusoria or a liquid fry food until they are able to eat small live foods. The fry are something of a challenge to raise until they are about two months old. The fry grow slowly and require clean water during the entire process.

A problem to be aware of is crossbreeding. Rainbowfish in the wild will not breed with fish of another species, even when presented the opportunity to do so. But for some reason, rainbowfish of the Melanotaeniidae family in the aquarium will interbreed, often with undesirable results. Somehow the fry of mismatched parents lose most of their coloration. Since many of these species are rare, it is desirable to keep the bloodlines distinct, or risk losing the beautiful coloration that nature has taken thousands of years to develop. See an overview of how to breed Rainbow fish in Breeding Freshwater Fish.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

Rainbowfish are extremely hardy and disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. That being said there is no guarantee that you won’t have to deal with health problems or disease. Remember anything you add to your tank can bring disease to your tank. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance.

A good thing about rainbow fish is that due to their resilience, an outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if you deal with it at an early stage. When keeping more sensitive types of fish, it is common for all fishes to be infected even before the first warning signs can be noticed. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your Rainbow fish the proper environment and give them a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. Stressed fish are more likely to acquire disease.

For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments. This is a great source for information on disease and treatments. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. Rainbow fish are very resilient.


The Banded Rainbowfish, also sold as Jewel Rainbowfish, Three Stripe Rainbowfish, Regal Rainbowfish, or Goyder River Rainbowfish is usually available in some color variant, however some variants are more common. This fish is usually moderate priced, though a bit more costly than some of the other rainbow fish species.


 Banded rainbowfish Melanotaenia trifasciata (Image Credit: http://opencage, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.5 Generic)