The Complete Red Rainbow Fish Care Guide

red rainbow fish

Colorful fish are very sought after in the aquarium trade. They grab your attention and brighten up home aquariums. Rainbowfish are some of the most colorful options, as the name suggests.

Red Rainbowfish is one popular example. They display some bright reds that really stand out when kept in a shoal.

What’s even better is that they’re easy to care for, so anyone can add them to their fish tank. They are a strong and hardy species that work well in a community aquarium.

Red Rainbow Fish Facts & Overview

red rainbow fish

Care Level:Easy
Lifespan:6-8 years
Size:Up to 6 inches
Minimum Tank Size:30 gallons
Tank Setup:Tropical freshwater with dense vegetation
Compatibility:Peaceful community

Red Rainbowfish (Glossolepis incises) is a species of tropical freshwater fish from the Melanotaeniidae family, known as the rainbowfish family.

The species goes by a few names, including Salmon Red Rainbowfish, Red Iranian Rainbowfish, and New Guinea Red Rainbowfish.

They are native to Lake Sentani in Indonesia. Here they live in shoals for protection, hiding in dense vegetation.

They are a peaceful species that are easy to care for. They are a great choice for casual or beginner aquarists.

If kept properly, this species can survive for up to 6-8 years.

When buying some, look for wounds or common signs of disease, like growths, spots, or changes in color. If you spot that something is wrong, shop elsewhere.

Typical Behavior

These are generally peaceful fish, so they can be kept with others of a similar size and temperament. They may display and chase each other when mating, but this shouldn’t result in injuries.

They are a shoaling species that stick with their own kind, so they should never be kept singly. A group will help to show off their color.

They spend most of their time in the mid and upper levels of the aquarium. This will either be swimming in open areas or hiding in the vegetation.

They rarely swim to the lower levels, unless scavenging for food.


red rainbow fish

This is one of the larger rainbowfish species, reaching up to 6 inches.

Males are easily identifiable since they are the ones with the red colorations. They also develop a much higher back.

There are lots of factors that influence a male’s shade of red. These include diet, age, water conditions, and mood.

A healthy, mature male will be blood red across its body and fins. Silver scales are scattered across the center of the body, these shimmer under aquarium lights.

Their bodies are slim and rounded, with the heady pointing out at the front. Here you’ll see their large black eyes.

They have two dorsal fins on top, one long anal fin underneath, and a forked caudal fin at the rear.

Females and young fish typically have a brown body with grey fins.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

Red Rainbowfish are only found in Lake Sentani in Western New Guinea. This lake connects to the Pacific Ocean via tributary rivers called Jafuri and Tami.

These fish are found in shallow areas of the lake where there is an abundance of dense vegetation for shelter from bigger fish. This is usually near stream inputs that provide currents.

The water would be warm in this tropical climate; it is close to the equator.

Recreating this natural environment in your aquarium is important for their health.

Tank Conditions

Sands and gravels are suitable as substrates. Red Rainbowfish won’t venture to the low levels of the tank very often.

Live plants are particularly important. These fish are used to dense vegetation in the wild, this makes an important refuge in captivity too. Jungle Val is a sturdy option that can withstand some nibbling.

Add aggregations of plants at the sides of the tank, leaving space for swimming in the middle.

Rocks and bogwood are useful decorations for replicating the aesthetic of Lake Sentani.

The water must be heated to 70°F-79°F. The pH should be 6.5-8.5 and the hardness should be 8-25 dGH.

The filter outlet should create sufficient water movement and standard aquarium lighting is bright enough.

What Size Aquarium do they need?

Red Rainbowfish are large and active, so they need plenty of space. At least 30 gallons of water is essential, but they will enjoy any extra space you can provide, preferably 50-60 gallons.

Tank Mates

There are lots of potential tank mates for Red Rainbowfish, they work well in a community tank, as well as a species tank.

Tank mates should be peaceful and of a similar size. Aggressive fish will bully Red Rainbowfish, or turn them into bullies themselves, but this is unlikely.

Mixing them with other rainbowfish species is an excellent way to display their colors, it will be a very vibrant tank.

Invertebrates can be kept with these fish too. There are many varieties of shrimps and snails for you to try.

Always research potential tank mates before buying them, to be sure of compatibility.

Can You Keep Red Rainbowfish Together?

These fish are naturally found in large shoals of their own kind. They enjoy being together both for social reasons and for strength in numbers.

Keep them in groups of at least 5, though 6 or more is best if you want to mix sexes. Having males and females in a tank is the best way to bring out their bright colors.


These fish are omnivores and eat most small foods that come their way. In the wild, this would be insects that fall into the water or floating bits of vegetation.

There are lots of potential fish foods for you to choose from. Dried foods (flakes and pellets) are cheap and easy to find, but they’re not very nutritious. They should be supplemented by live/frozen foods.

Bloodworms and brine shrimp are a couple of nutritious examples.

High-quality foods are vital to ensure the health of your fish and showcasing their color. Their red will begin to fade if they’re unhealthy.

Feed Red Rainbowfish twice a day, but only give them what they can finish in 3 minutes to ease the workload on their digestive system.


Red Rainbowfish is regarded as an easy species to care for. They are very hardy and can tolerate slight changes in their environment, so they will likely survive if you make small mistakes.

Maintaining a clean environment is key to keeping fish healthy and allowing them to flourish. Perform regular partial water changes to prevent the buildup of pollutants.

Wipe away excess algae as you see it too.

By using a water testing kit each week, you can spot any changes in the water conditions, allowing you to rectify them quickly.

Keep a tight lid on your aquarium as these fish have been known to jump.

Diseases will be unlikely in a healthy tank, but pathogens could reach your Red Rainbowfish when you add new stock, so quarantine all new fish.

If one of your fish does get ill, separate it into a quarantine tank to prevent the spread of disease to the rest of your pets.

Skin flukes, parasites, and common bacterial infections are possible problems you may encounter. There are treatments available that you can add to your quarantine tanks.


Getting these fish to breed is relatively easy. If you set up the perfect environment with lots of fine-leaved live plants (like java moss), they should mate without any extra intervention from you.

This means providing a clean tank, so perform extra partial water changes and use a water testing kit to monitor the water conditions closely.

Slowly raising the water temperature to 79°F over a few days may help to trigger spawning.

Introducing a mating pair to a dedicated spawning tank is the best way to initiate breeding. Choose the fattest pair of fish you have.

Red Rainbowfish are egg scatterers. They will spawn for a few weeks, laying some eggs every day and attaching them to plants and other surfaces.

The eggs should hatch after 7-8 days. They will need tiny foods like infusoria for the first week of life, then they can be moved on to slightly larger foods like brine shrimp nauplii.

Newly hatched fry are the most sensitive to poor water conditions, so you should be alert and attentive to your tank.

Are Red Rainbowfish Suitable for Your Aquarium?

red rainbow fish

Red Rainbowfish is the complete package. They are colorful, hardy, easy to feed, and easy to breed. They suit anyone who wants to spice up their aquarium with some color.

They are excellent choices for a community tank, being able to mix with most species of a similar size and temperament.

Designing an aquarium around their needs is easy. They share similar preferences to lots of popular aquarium fish. Just be sure to provide plenty of live plants.

Red Rainbowfish is a beautiful species that deserve their place as one of the most colorful fish in the aquarium trade.

Are Red Rainbowfish your favorite rainbowfish? Let us know in the comments below…

About Robert 468 Articles
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third-generation fish keeper, and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America, and the Nature Conservancy.

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