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Family: Melanotaeniidae

Common Names: Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish

Origin and Habitat: SE Asia: New Guinea, endemic to the Mamberamo River system. Inhabits flowing streams (main river tributaries) and swamps and marshes; found among thick vegetation, bogwood and submerged branches and roots.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful. Must be kept in a group of 6 or more to ease its skittishness, with a ratio of minimum 2 females per male to prevent over-harassment. Tankmates can include any of the peaceful and similarly-sized rainbowfish, characins, rasbora, danio, dwarf cichlids, catfish and loaches.

Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish Diet

Naturally feed on insects, small aquatic crustaceans, insect larvae, worms, phytoplankton, zooplankton and some aquatic plant material. In captivity, accept a range of prepared foods, which should include frozen and live if available to improve colouration. Dwarf neon rainbowfish are not fussy eaters but be sure to feed them food that is not too large. They may have large mouths but their throats are rather narrow to allow large food bits to be swallowed.


Around 2 inches; some sources mention 3 inches but usually smaller than this in aquaria.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches but preferably 30 inches and up.

Water parameters for Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish

Soft to medium hard (5-15 dGH); for wild-caught fish, slightly acidic (pH 6-7), tank-raised slightly acidic to slightly basic (pH 6.5-7.5). Temperature 22-28C/72-82F, long-term maintenance is best at 24-25C/74-77F, higher for breeding.


Like all rainbowfish, clean and stable water is important tyo prevent poor health and disease. The aquarium should be well planted along the sides and back wall with open swimming space in front and a moderate flow from the filter; regular partial water changes of 50% weekly are advised. This fish has an average lifespan of 4 years.

Sexual dimorphism is easy. Males have red edges on their fins whereas females have yellow or orange fins although in the wild, most females appear to have red fins. Buy more females than males when attempting to keep a group. Like the livebearers, males are often too overzealous in their attempts to impress the females.

This fish is very prolific. No special requirements are needed to induce them to breed. Simply get a group and let nature take its course. I have managed to breed them without efforts at all and this is what we would called unplanned breeding. Here are my observations based on their breeding ritual that happened on daily basis. Males started displaying with the female. They begin to swim actively in circles and I begin to see clouds of milt and eggs being formed. The area where they chose to breed was near the vicinity of several Cabomba plants. If this happens in a community tank, then your other fish will have a free caviar meal. [provided by Lupin.]

This species was described in 1922 by M. Weber and L.F. de Beaufort who placed it in the genus Rhombatractus. In 1991, G.R. Allen moved it into the current genus Melanotaenia that had been erected by Gill in 1882; the name comes from the Greek melan, -anos [= black] and Latin taenia [=stripe], referring to the usual vertical stripe pattern which happens to be absent on the subject species.


Allen, G.R. (1991), Field guide to the freshwater fishes of New Guinea, Publication No. 9 of the Christensen Research Institute, Madang, Papua New Guinea.

Contributing Members

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Fish Fish Organism Pomacentridae Marine biology
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