She’s Like a Rainbow

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Appearing after storms and giving hope to those who behold their beauty, rainbows are an important symbol across nearly every culture in the world. Representing genesis, bridges between our earthly realms and those of the gods, divine messengers, and protectors, the awe and sense of being part of something bigger seems to be innate, something humans have experienced for millennia. In Australian aboriginal mythology, it is the Rainbow Serpent who created life, who sucks up water in the dry season and, then, benevolently spits it back out in the wet seasons. And, who else should live in this serpentine saliva but Rainbowfish?
Bowed in body, they come in colors everywhere. Rainbowfish of the genus Melanotaenia are endemic to the clear, seasonally-fluctuating waters of Australia, Indonesia, New Guinea, and other small islands in the region. Popular for their beauty, peaceful temperaments, and active behavior Melanotaenia bring cheer and liven up aquaria. Sometimes found among aquatic vegetation or submerged riparian vegetation, they display best in planted setups with clusters of tall plants, while still maintaining open swimming space in the center. Reasonably sized and schooling, Rainbowfish of this genus are only suitable for tanks of at least 30 gallons in size. Ideal for community setups, schools of 6 or more individuals of a species may be maintained with other Rainbowfish, large Characins, Rasboras, Barbs, Otocinclus, Gobies, Corys, or other peaceful Catfish. Usually easy to feed, Rainbowfish accept a variety of flake and dried products but will show the best coloration when provided regular live and frozen invertebrate feedings. Adaptable to a wide variety of water conditions, aquarium Rainbowfish are hardy and tolerant to a range of parameters, and tanks can be kept with temperatures anywhere from 70°F to 82°F, a pH ranging from 5.5 to 8.5, and hardness between 90 and 356 ppm. Frequent water changes and proper lighting are paramount for enticing the best coloration out of your ‘Bows!

Found in the coastal drainages of the Hastings River in New South Wales, Melanotaenia duboulayi is a migratory species that schools in open water as males venture out to seek feeding and spawning sites. Reaching up to 4.5 inches in length, these “Crimson Spotted Rainbows” have crimson spots on their cheeks, like a queen in days of old, along with dazzling blues and blacks.

Described from diverse habitats including streams, rivers, lagoons, and swamps of Australia, Melanotaenia splendida splendida “Deepwater Creek” is so splendid they had to say it twice. Found between Gladstone and Bundaberg, Deepwater Creek is a small stream home to this particular Rainbow. Reaching a maximum length of 6 inches, this “Deep Water Creek Rainbow” has a laterally flattened body with vibrant orange-red pinstriping over silver-blue sides and shiny blue, green, and red patterning on its fins. Have you seen a lady fairer?

Have you seen her dressed in blue? Endemic to the remote Lake Kutubu of Papua New Guinea, Melanotaenia lacustris is a shining moon in the clear, still waters. Reaching up to 4 inches, this “Turquoise Rainbow” is just that, with lustrous blue bodies, a dark lateral stripe, and white and yellow scale accents along the curve of their backs. Displaying males develop an electric yellow head streak when excited or sparring.
Often a sign of hope and promise of better times to come, rainbows, and Rainbowfish alike, can serve as a lovely reminder that even the worst of times will pass. Keep on keepin’ on through COVID variants and beyond, aquarists!