The Parkinson’s Rainbowfish is prettily accented in orange, but can have a little or a lot of color!

The Parkinson’s Rainbowfish Melanotaenia parkinsoni is also known as the Orange Rainbowfish. It has a very unique color pattern, and no other species looks quite like this one. The front half of the fish is a silvery blue and the back half has a broken orange coloration which extends through the fins. In a well lit aquarium the orange will light up to give it a startling fiery, almost volcanic glow. No rainbow fish collection can be complete without this stunning addition.

The Parkinson’s Rainbowfish is a more recent introduction to the hobby. This Orange Rainbowfish is one of the larger rainbow fish, reaching up to 6 inches (15 cm) in length. It is closely related to the “splendida” group and is very similar in appearance to the Eastern Rainbowfish or Eastern Splendid Rainbowfish Melanotaenia splendida splendida. 

The Orange Rainbowfish is a beautiful fish with a lots of personality.  It has proven to be very hardy and a good fish for beginners as long as their needs are met. These are peaceful, energetic fish that will do well in most community tanks. They are playful but good natured fish and get along well with other larger peaceful fish. These fish are fairly adaptable but a planted tank with swimming space suits them best and is an excellent way to showcase your beautiful specimens. If you can commit to maintaining a healthy aquatic system, keeping a species this striking should be your reward.

Scientific Classification


Parkinson’s Rainbowfish – Quick Aquarium Care

Aquarist Experience Level:Beginner
Aquarium Hardiness:Moderately hardy
Minimum Tank Size:30 gal (114 L)
Size of fish – inches5.9 inches (15.01 cm)
Temperature:70.0 to 79.0° F (21.1 to 26.1&deg C)

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Parkinson’s Rainbowfish Melanotaenia parkinsoni was described by Allen in 1980. It is also known as the Orange Rainbowfish. This species is found between the Kemp Welsh River and Milne Bay in in Paupa New Guinea. It was named in honor of Brian Parkinson who was often a companion of Ichthyologist Gerald R. Allen in expeditions to New Guinea.

Parkinson’s Rainbowfish inhabit coastal lowland streams surrounded by rainforests as well as small inland pools surrounded by grassy plains and patchy rainforests. In the wild the normal diet of these fish is filamentous algae and insects that fall from the trees into the water. the Parkinson’s is listed as not evaluated (NE) by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

  • Scientific Name: Melanotaenia parkinsoni
  • Social Grouping: Solitary – Congregates in schools like other rainbow fishes.
  • IUCN Red List: NE – Not Evaluated or not listed


The Parkinson’s Rainbowfish is a larger rainbow fish, reaching up to 5.91 inches (15 cm) in length. It is slender and long, but with age the body deepens and the back arches. The base body color is a dull lavender, with highly reflective silvery blue scales. Males will have brilliant orange fins with a thick black outline. The body of mature males will have blotchy orange marks which light up quite beautifully.

The pattern of the orange markings is unique to each fish. There is a geographical color variant which displays yellow coloration in place of orange, although this form is considerably less common. Female coloration is a muted version of the males with no orange markings.

  • Size of fish – inches: 5.9 inches (15.01 cm) – The Parkinson’s Rainbowfish can be expected to reach about 5 inches in the aquarium (13 cm), although larger sizes have been recorded in the wild.
  • Lifespan: 5 years – Can have a life span of 5 to 8 years when kept in a well maintained aquarium.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Parkinson’s Rainbowfish is a fairly easy fish for the beginning fish keeper. They are very hardy fish and can survive in a number of water conditions. They do best in spacious tanks but will not do well if tank is too crowded. As with most rainbow fish they are extremely easy feeders. Keep your water pristine and you will have a healthy and happy fish.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

Parkinson’s Rainbowfish are omnivores that feed on filamentous algae and small insects in their natural habitat. In captivity the require a balanced mix of live and processed food to maintain good health. Provide the Orange Rainbowfish with a high quality flake or pellet food. Purchase it in small amounts as the nutrients in these products quickly deteriorate past usefulness.

The live component of their diet can include a mix of foods like bloodworms, tubifex worms, water fleas, or brine shrimp at least once per week. If these are unavailable, frozen (defrosted) substitutes would be accepted. Feed these fish a couple of times a day and only what they can consume in under 5 minutes.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet – Bloodworms, tubifex worms, water fleas, or brineshrimp should be feed once a week.
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet – Algae wafers make a good source of vegetable food
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day – Feed twice per day and only what they can consume in less then 5 minutes.

Aquarium Care

Parkinson’s Rainbowfish don’t require much special care for themselves, but they do require a well maintained tank to be healthy. 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

The Parkinson’s Rainbowfish are very active swimmers. It is also advisable to keep these rainbow fish in a tank at least 30 inches long and ideally 30 or more gallons. Eventually adults will need a much larger tank, with 100 to 150 gallons being reasonable. Additionally, the tank should be securely covered as these fish are skilled jumpers and will probably do so if given the opportunity. A quality canister filter will be best to maintain suitable water conditions. Powerheads should be used to create water movement through dense vegetation.

As with many fish, the Parkinson’s Rainbowfish will do best and are most effectively displayed in tanks which simulate their natural habitat. These fish are fairly adaptable but a planted tank with swimming space suits them best. They also need stretches of open swimming areas.

A rainbow fish tank can be quite spectacular with the proper technique. Although these adaptable fish would certainly be happy in most conditions, the color is best displayed with a little planning. A dark substrate and background will give the orange patches a fiery appearance. Try, if possible, to plan for one or two hours of sunlight hitting the tank. This should be during a time when you can view the tank as the illumination will make the fish even more stunning.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L) – Adults will need a larger tank, with 100 to 150 gallons being reasonable.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix
  • 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: All – Parkinson’s Rainbowfish will swim in all levels of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

Parkinson’s Rainbowfish get along well with other larger, playful but good natured fish. They will adapt to a community tank of like tempered fish. This is most easily achieved by mixing Parkinson’s Rainbowfish with others in the Rainbowfish family. The Parkinson’s Rainbowfish has a very lively personality and shouldn’t be combined with excessively shy or quiet fish. Don’t be alarmed by some chasing between rainbow fish, this is rarely a concern unless a fish is injured, has nowhere to hide, or is constantly harassed (usually a result of one of the first two).

Parkinson’s Rainbowfish are schooling fish and the ratio of males to females is very important to keep a reasonable peace among them. Although you can always keep single sex schools, the males are not likely to display their best coloration without a female presence. Properly stocking rainbow fish is a little tricky so we include the following recommendation for stocking. 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
  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – Groups of 4 or more are preferred.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe – not aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sexual differences

Male Parkinson’s Rainbowfish will be slightly larger, deeper-bodied, and will have more intense colors than the female.

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 rainbowfish 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

Most Rainbows are prone to skin flukes, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), ichthyobodo infection, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), bacterial infections (general), and bacterial disease. In general rainbow fish 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 Parkinson’s Rainbowfish, also sold as the Orange Rainbowfish, is moderately common and is usually available wherever rainbow fish are sold. This fish is usually moderate priced, though a bit more than some of the other rainbow fish species.



Featured Image Credit: Andrey_Nikitin, Shutterstock