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 schooling fish hang out in the top of the tank so keep the aquarium lid tight to stop them jumping out. We recommend that you keep more females than males because they are more vibrant than their male counterparts.

Being able to have fun with both genders means you can breed them at your home. Rainbowfish are egg-spreading fish that can spawn when they get enough food and water. To prevent predators from preying on your offspring, simply add a few spawning mops to the aquarium. Smaller blue-eyes are more likely to die quickly so it is important to breed in order for your colony to continue growing. Although larger rainbowfish take longer to mature, their stunning appearance is well worth the effort. Let’s look at 10 popular species in the aquarium hobby. Which one would be 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. We keep them in a 20 gallon tank with other peaceful fish such as cory catfish, Tetras and Rasboras due to their active lifestyle. Read the full care guide for more details.


2. Red Neon Rainbowfish

Pseudomugil luminatus

The red neon blue-eye, one of the most sought-after fish in the aquarium trade is the latest nano rainbowfish. Males have a bright red-orange body with an iridescent blue line running along the back and spotting at the fins. A 10-gallon aquarium with a planted tank can house a school of 8-10 red-neons at 1.5 inches (3.8cm) long. Their fiery colors look truly stunning when swimming in front of a lush forest of green aquarium plants. They were originally collected from Papua, Indonesia and can be kept in pH of 6.0-7.5 and temperatures between 68-78degF (20-26deg C). Breeding is encouraged as a species with a short life span. It can be started as early as 6 months old.

3. Threadfin or Featherfin Rainbowfish

Iriatherina werneri

One of the deeper-bodied specimens amongst the nano rainbowfish is the 2-inch (5 cm) threadfin rainbowfish. Their common name derives from the male’s long, wispy tail and beautiful lyretail. Their coloration may vary depending on where they were found. They can be yellow, black or blue, depending on where they were found. A mix of males and females will help the fish display their best colors. Featherfin rainbows live in slow-moving waters in New Guinea and Australia, which are choked by plant life. They will appreciate a gentle filter, pH of 6.0 to 7.5, and tropical temperatures between 74-80degF (23-25degC).

4. Gertrude’s Spotted-Blue-Eyed Rainbowfish

Pseudomugil gertrudae

This rainbowfish measures 1.25 inches (3 cm). Its yellowy body, brightly colored eyes and pale fins, which are scattered with dark spots, make it stand out. Their natural habitats include swampy, vegetation-filled water in Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, and the Aru islands of Indonesia. There are often lots of driftwood and fallen leaves. They can live in any pH level between 5-8 and 70-82degF (22 to 28 degC), as well as soft to hard water. In order to compensate for their short lives, they breed quickly. To encourage this behavior, add lots 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). Although they don’t have a preference for food, like many nano rainbowfishes, they do enjoy tiny foods.

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. Males can grow to 4 inches (10 cm) long and have an unusual, bicolored body with a shiny blue front and orange back half. These lively fish require a fish tank at least 4 feet in length (1.2m) with a heater set at 75-82degF (24 to 28degC). They were found in West Papua (Indonesia) and can handle pH 6-8 and hard water 8-20deg (140-356 ppm). To learn more about this beautiful species, read our complete care article.

7. Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish

Melanotaenia praecox

At 3 inches (8 cm) in length, the praecox rainbowfish is one of the smaller rainbows in the Melanotaeniidae family, which makes it an attractive option for stocking a medium-sized, 29-gallon aquarium. The males have large, iridescent blue scales and red-orange fins, whereas females have a silvery body with yellow fins. While they can handle a broad spectrum of pH and GH, their home in the New Guinea rainforests has harder, alkaline water ranging from 74-80degF (23-27degC). You can increase their GH by adding mineral supplements to your tank like Wonder Shell and Seachem Equilibrium if you have soft water. 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 hails from the alkaline, hard waters of Western New Guinea, Indonesia and is famous for its bright red body and scattering of shiny scales along the lateral line. As one of the larger rainbowfish in the fishkeeping hobby, they can reach almost 5 inches (12 cm) in size and also require a 4-foot aquarium at minimum to handle a school of 6 or more. Like most of the other rainbows in the second half of our list, their appetites are hearty but their mouths are relatively small, so feed them a variety of appropriate-sized, meaty foods – such as krill flakes, Vibra Bites, bloodworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp.

10. Lake Tebera Rainbowfish

Melanotaenia herbertaxelrodi

Lake Tebera is surrounded in Papua New Guinea’s mountainous jungles. The waters of Lake Tebera are alkaline, rich in minerals, tropical in temperature (68 to 79°F or 20 to 26°C), and full aquatic plants. M. herbertaxelrodi can be difficult to find in pet shops, but its golden yellow body, black horizontal stripes, and red-orange-colored fins make it worth the effort. It can grow to 3.5 inches (9cm) in length and live in a 40 gallon aquarium with other tank mates of similar size. These include rainbowfish, loaches (barbs), gouramis and giant danios as well as 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.