Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


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CAAB: 37245012

Species Melanotaenia australis (Castelnau, 1875)

Western Rainbowfish, Australian Rainbowfish, Northern Rainbowfish, Red-tailed Rainbowfish, Western Australian Jewel-fish, Western Australian Sun-fish, Western Rainbow Fish, Westralian Sunfish


Miscellaneous Literature Names



The species was at one time regarded as a subspecies of Melanotaenia splendida. Melanotaenia solata was previously considered to be a synonym of Melanotaenia australis, but molecular studies supported its recognition as a distinct species (see discussion in McGuigan et al 2000). However, more recent genetic work by P. Unmack indicates that the two are identical.




Northern Territory, Western Australia

Extra Distribution Information

Pilbara region of WA between Ashburton River (24º00´S) and De Grey River (20º40´S), north-western Australia between Fitzroy River, WA (123º42´E) and South Alligator River, NT (132º23´E) and south to Lake Woods, NT (17º38'S), Arnhem Land between the South Alligator River (132º16'E) and Walker River (135º46'E), and Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island, Gulf of Carpentaria; tropical

Australian Endemic.

IBRA and IMCRA regions (map not available)
drainage basins and coastal and oceanic zones (map not available)


NT, WA: Arnhem Coast (ARC), Arnhem Plateau (ARP), Central Arnhem (CA), Carnarvon (CAR), Central Kimberley (CK), Daly Basin (DAB), Darwin Coastal (DAC), Dampierland (DL), Gascoyne (GAS), Northern Kimberley (NK), Ord Victoria Plain (OVP), Pine Creek (PCK), Pilbara (PIL), Sturt Plateau (STU), Tiwi Cobourg (TIW), Victoria Bonaparte (VB)

Original AFD Distribution Data

Australian Region

  • Australia
    • Northern Territory: N coastal
    • Western Australia: N coastal, NW coastal

Distribution References

Ecological Descriptors



General References

Allen, G.R. 1978. The rainbowfishes of northwestern Australia (family Melanotaeniidae). Tropical Fish Hobbyist 26(10): 91-102 figs 1-15 [95]

Allen, G.R. 1982. Inland Fishes of Western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 86 pp. 6 figs 20 pls. [39] (as Melanotaenia splendida australis)

Allen, G.R. 1989. Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Neptune, New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 240 pp., 63 pls. [102] (Melanotaenia splendida australis)

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp. [145] (and p. 156 as Melanotaenia solata)

Allen, G.R. & Cross, N.J. 1982. Rainbowfishes of Australia and Papua-New Guinea. New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications 142 pp. figs. [56] (as Melanotaenia splendida australis)

Lake, J.S. 1978. Australian Freshwater Fishes. Melbourne : Thomas Nelson 160 pp. 140 figs. [37] (as Nematocentris australis)

Larson, H.K. & Martin, K.C. 1990. Freshwater Fishes of the Northern Territory. Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences Handbook Series Number 1. Darwin : Northern Territory Museum of Arts and Sciences 102 pp. 73 figs. [23] (as Melanotaenia splendida australis)

Leggett, R. & Merrick, J.R. 1987. Australian Native Fishes for Aquariums. Artarmon : J.R. Merrick Publications 241 pp. 142 figs. [152]

McCulloch, A.R. 1929. A check-list of the fishes recorded from Australia. Part I. Memoirs of the Australian Museum 5: 1–144 [112] (as Melanotaenia nigrans, in part)

McGuigan, K.M., Zhu, D., Allen, G.R. & Moritz, C. 2000. Phylogenetic relationships and historical biogeography of melanotaeniid fishes in Australia and New Guinea. Marine and Freshwater Research 51: 713-723

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management. Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. figs 280 col. figs. [167]

Munro, I.S.R. 1961. Handbook of Australian fishes. Nos 1–42. Australian Fisheries Newsletter 15–17, 19, 20: 1-172 [published as separates 1956–1961] [96] (663)

Phillips, R.D., Storey, A.W. & Johnson, M.S. 2009. Genetic structure of Melanotaenia australis at local and regional scales in the east Kimberley, Western Australia. Journal of Fish Biology 74: 437-451

Whitley, G.P. 1959. Fresh water fishes of Australia. Finchat 4(8): 11-13 [11]

Whitley, G.P. 1964. A survey of Australian Ichthyology. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 89(1): 11-127 [39] (640)


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
21-Jul-2014 ATHERINIFORMES 22-Jun-2016 MODIFIED Dr Doug Hoese
12-Feb-2010 (import)