Black-banded Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia nigrans
Black-banded Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia nigrans

Black-banded Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia nigrans

The Black-banded Rainbowfish was scientifically described by Richardson in 1843 and its scientific name is Melanotaenia nigrans. The Black-banded Rainbowfish is actually the first Rainbowfish species to be described by science. It was not collected by Richardson; a man named Gilbert found it near Port Essington. The species was also well-known by the local aboriginal people who had given it the name Yalgunda. Today, the Black-banded Rainbowfish is a popular aquarium species in Australia but it is still fairly uncommon in other parts of the world. In 20th century Europe, a lot of the aquarium shops that claimed to be selling Melanotaenia nigrans were actually selling Melanotaenia duboulayi.     

This fish can reach a length of 8.5 cm (3.3 inches). The back is greyish brown while the lower sides are white. The body of the fish is decorated with an eye-catching dark mid-lateral stripe. Compared to most other Rainbowfish species, the Black-banded Rainbowfish male is quite slender.  

Geographical distribution, habitat and conservation
The Black-banded Rainbowfish lives in streams in the northern parts of Australia. Earlier it was believed to occur in New Guinea as well, but those fishes turned out to belong to the closely related species Melanotaenia goldiei. The Black-banded Rainbowfish will normally inhabit bodies of waters located near the ocean, but fishes have been collected 130 km (80 miles) from the sea.

As far as we know, three different geographically separated populations of Melanotaenia nigrans can be found in Australia. One population lives in Napier Broome Bay in Western Australia, one population lives on Groote Eylandt and in the northernmost extremes of the Northern Territory, and one population lives in the northern tip of the Cape York Peninsula (including Prince of Wales Island).

The Black-banded Rainbowfish is found in habitats such as lily lagoons, streams in the rainforest, and small creeks that flows through swampy environments. When it inhabits large rivers it will normally stay near the shore in quite backwaters where the water flows slowly. Powerful currents are therefore not appreciated in the aquarium.  

The Black-banded Rainbowfish is not included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Keeping Black-banded Rainbowfish in aquariums
The Black-banded Rainbowfish is a peaceful species that will do fine in a community aquarium with other small and peaceful fishes. It can also be kept in species aquariums. The water should ideally be really soft since this is what the fish is used to from the wild. Strive to keep the total hardness below 50 ppm (parts per million). Acidic water is recommended, but the Black-banded Rainbowfish is known to adapt it self to slightly alkaline conditions as long as the change is slow and gradual. Never let the pH-value rise above 7.5. Keep the water temperature in the 23-27 degrees C (73-81 degrees F) range.

Breeding Black-banded Rainbowfish
If you want coax your Black-banded Rainbowfish into spawning it is a good idea to mimic the onset of the rainy season in the aquarium. When the dry season is replaced by the rainy season, a lot of things changes in the natural Black-banded Rainbowfish habitat. The fish will for instance experience a higher water lever, softer and more acidic water, and a dramatically increased supply of (live!) food. Some breeders have also reported that successful breeding is more likely to take place in aquariums exposed to one or two hours of sunlight early in the morning.

Provide your fish with a suitable spawning medium such as java moss or a spawning mop. The spawning medium should ideally go all the way from the surface to the bottom. Once you have managed to get your fish into breeding condition, the female can deposit up to 50 eggs per day. It is safest to move the eggs to a separate container. If you keep the water temperature in the upper part of the recommended range, the eggs will normally hatch within a week..

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