Desert Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia splendida tatei
Desert Rainbowfish  - Melanotaenia splendida tatei

Desert Rainbowfish - Melanotaenia splendida tatei

The Desert Rainbowfish was scientifically described by Zietz in 1896. Its scientific name is Melanotaenia splendida tatei. The species was first collected by the Horn Expedition in 1894 and is named “tatei” in honour of a member of that expedition, natural historian Ralph Tate.

The Desert Rainbowfish can reach a length of 10 cm. There are two known colour forms of Desert Rainbowfish. In one form, the male fish is purple with yellow-green fins, dark specks and a dark border. In the other form, the male fish is blue-green on the body as well as on the fins. Female fishes of both variants are silvery and their fins are clear.

During the breeding period, the body of the male fish turns pink.

Geographical distribution, habitat and conservation
The Desert Rainbowfish lives in streams in the arid central part of Australia, which contains parts of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory. This parched region is chiefly desert and contains streams and reservoirs, of which many are filled only during the rainy season. The species has for instance been found in the Paroo, Warrego and upper Darling Rivers. You can also find Desert Rainbowfish in springs and artesian bores. A majority of the Desert Rainbows lives in streams that empty into the Lake Eyre Basin. During the dry season, Desert Rainbowfish tries to survive in rocky gorges where isolated pools tend to form.

The habitat in which the Desert Rainbowfish lives is strongly affected by seasonal variations and this is therefore a highly adaptable species. The water temperature ranges between 24 degrees C (75 degrees F) and 33 degrees C (91 degrees F). The typical Desert Rainbowfish habitat has alkaline water (pH 7.2-8.0), but this species is actually present in acidic waters as well, where the pH-value can be as low as 6.5.

The Desert Rainbowfish is an omnivore species that feeds on algae, aquatic plants and invertebrates in the wild. It is important to provide it with both algae/vegetable-based foods and meaty foods in the aquarium. You can for instance combine flake food for algae eaters with live brine shrimps and insect larvae. Natural algae growth is also beneficial.

Keeping Desert Rainbowfish in aquariums
The Desert Rainbowfish is not a common aquarium fish, especially not outside Australia. Try to mimic its natural habitat in the aquarium. In the wild, the Desert Rainbowfish tend to stay near aquatic vegetation, submerged branches and similar. It will therefore appreciate an aquarium decorated with plants and driftwood. The recommended water temperature is 24-30 degrees C (75-86 degrees F).

Just like most other species adapted to a dry season, this fish will not mind having a “wet season” in the aquarium year round. Mimicking a dry season with a subsequent wet season might however be good if you want to coax your fishes into breeding. 

Breeding Desert Rainbowfish
As far as we know, the Desert Rainbowfish has not been breed in aquariums. Its reproductive habits are believed to be similar to those exhibited by the other subspecies of Melanotaenia splendida. In the wild, this species will normally spawn during the warm season (October – December) but a rich rainfall can trigger breeding more or less year round. The female fish can produce up to 200 eggs and will release eggs several times each day during the course of several days. She will normally release the eggs during the early morning hours. The eggs are adhesive and will stick to water plants. Most members of the genus Melanotaenia likes to use densely grown java moss as spawning substrate in the aquarium and are also fond of man-made spawning mops. In the wild, Desert Rainbowfish eggs normally hatch within a week. When it comes to members of the genus Melanotaenia, infusoria is normally a good starter food. When the fry gets a little bigger, they will be able to devour newly hatched brine shrimp and crushed flakes.

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Lake Eacham Rainbowfish
Exquisite Rainbowfish
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MacCulloch’s  Rainbowfish
Black-banded Rainbowfish
Pygmy Rainbowfish
Western Rainbowfish
Chequered Rainbowfish
Eastern Rainbowfish
Banded Rainbowfish
Ornate Rainbowfish