Red rainbowfish (Glossolepis incisus)

Red rainbowfish
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Red rainbowfish fact file

Red rainbowfish description

GenusGlossolepis (1)

Like other rainbowfish, the red rainbowfish is a small freshwater fish with a rather compressed body and bright colouration (3) (4) (5). As the common name suggests, the male red rainbowfish has a bright salmon-red body, with an attractive silvery sheen on some of the scales (2) (5) (6). The female is much less vibrantly coloured, with a yellowish-olive body, a silvery or golden sheen to the scales, and clear fins. Young red rainbowfish are duller olive-green in colour, only starting to gain the adult colouration at a body length of four to five centimetres (2) (6). The male red rainbowfish grows to a larger size than the female, and typically has a deeper body, with a high, rounded back that makes the head appear disproportionately small (2). The red rainbowfish has two long dorsal fins, a long anal fin, and a deeply forked caudal fin (3) (5).

Also known as
New Guinea red rainbowfish, red rainbow, salmon-red rainbowfish.
Length: 12 - 15 cm (2)

Red rainbowfish biology

Very little information is available on the biology of the red rainbowfish. Like other members of the rainbowfish family (Melanotaeniidae), it is likely to be a schooling species, and to eat a variety of items including aquatic insects, small crustaceans and algae. Breeding may occur year-round, but is often stimulated by the onset of the rainy season. The eggs may be laid in aquatic vegetation (3), and in captivity a female red rainbowfish can release up to 50 eggs a day, the eggs hatching after about a week (3) (4) (6). Most rainbowfish reach sexual maturity within the first year (3).


Red rainbowfish range

The red rainbowfish is endemic to Lake Sentani and its tributaries, in Irian Jaya, Indonesia (1) (2) (5) (6) (7).


Red rainbowfish habitat

The single freshwater lake in which the red rainbowfish occurs is approximately 30 kilometres long and up to 19 kilometres wide, and situated at around 75 metres above sea level (1) (2) (6) (7). Surrounded by hills and mountains, the lake has clear water and is densely vegetated (6). Rainbowfish are reported to be found mainly at the lake margins, congregating around areas of aquatic vegetation and fallen logs (2).


Red rainbowfish status

The red rainbowfish is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Red rainbowfish threats

An increasing human population around Lake Sentani has led to pollution of the lake with domestic waste, threatening species such as the red rainbowfish (1). In addition, the red rainbowfish may be caught for food (4) (6), and is under further threat from the introduction of exotic fish species, including carp, barbs and tilapia (1). As in many rainbowfish, the red rainbowfish’s bright colouration has also made it popular in the aquarium trade (2) (3) (6) (7), but the current impacts on the wild population are unknown.


Red rainbowfish conservation

There are not known to be any specific conservation measures in place for the red rainbowfish. Further research into the species and the threats it faces are likely to be needed before any appropriate action can be taken to protect the wild population.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To find out more about the red rainbowfish see:



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Simple plants that lack roots, stems and leaves but contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Most occur in marine and freshwater habitats.
Anal fin
In fish, an unpaired fin on the under surface of a fish, behind the anus.
Caudal fin
The tail fin of a fish.
Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish, or the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.


  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)
  2. Home of the Rainbowfish: Glossolepis incisus (December, 2009)
  3. Berra, T.M. (2007) Freshwater Fish Distribution. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  4. Campbell, A. and Dawes, J. (2004) Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Weber, M. and de Beaufort, L.F. (1922) The Fishes of the Indo-Australian Archipelago. IV. Heteromi, Solenichthyes, Synentognathi, Percesoces, Labyrinthici, Microcyprini. E.J. Brill, Leiden.
  6. Aquatic Community: Red Rainbowfish - Glossolepis incisus (December, 2009)
  7. FishBase (December, 2009)

Image credit

Red rainbowfish  
Red rainbowfish

© P. Morris /

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