Care Guide for Boesemani Rainbowfish — Tank Setup, Breeding, and More – Aquarium Co-Op



One of the most striking and recognizable rainbowfish is the Boesemani rainbow. This schooling fish is prized for its unique-looking, bicolored body and is the perfect statement piece for a medium-sized community aquarium. Find out what it takes to keep this stunning species happy, healthy, and showing off the best colors possible.

What are Boesemani Rainbowfish?

Melanotaenia boesemani has the classic rainbowfish profile with its pointed snout, deep-bodied profile, and large, distinct scales. Males grow to 4 inches (10 cm) in size and display an iridescent blue front half and orange back half. Females are less colorful, have a slimmer body, and tend to stay around 3 inches (8 cm) long. They are currently endangered in the wild, so the Boeseman’s rainbowfish sold in the aquarium hobby are all captive-bred. However, the rainbowfish you see at the pet store are usually 2-inch (5 cm) juveniles that looked washed out and barely resemble their adult counterparts. It can take up to a year of providing good care and high-quality foods for them to color up, but the results are well worth the wait.

What is the lifespan of Boesemani rainbowfish? Depending on the water temperature you keep them at, they can live for about 5–8 years on average, although some hobbyists have reportedly kept them alive for up to 13–15 years.

Boeseman's rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani)

Male Boesemani rainbowfish with the classic blue and orange coloration

How to Set Up an Aquarium for Boesemani Rainbows

This species is found in mountain lakes and tributaries in West Papua, Indonesia and usually dwells in the shallower areas where lots of vegetation grows. Thus, they would appreciate a densely planted tank with areas of open space for swimming. In fact, one of their favorite pastimes is traversing back and forth along the entire length of the aquarium, so we recommend getting a fish tank at least 4 feet (1.2 m) in length once they are fully grown. They tend to hang around the middle to top half of the water column, so keep a tight lid on the tank to prevent fish from escaping.

In general, Boesemani rainbow fish are very hardy and can tolerate a broad spectrum of water parameters. We like to keep them at tropical temperatures between 75–82°F (24–28°C). They can go warmer, but higher temperatures tend to shorten their life span. Although they are originally from mildly alkaline waters, they can easily handle pH of 6–8, and they do enjoy harder water with 8–20 dGH. If your tap water is softer, consider adding some Wonder Shell or Seachem Equilibrium as a mineral supplement.

How many Boesemani rainbow fish should be kept together? As a schooling fish, aim to get six or more rainbows of the same species if possible. Also, try to put together a mix of slightly more females than males because then the boys will display their best colors as they show off to the girls.

What fish can live with Boesemani rainbows? Because of their high activity level, we suggest keeping them with other fast swimmers of a comparable size. This includes other rainbowfish, loaches, barbs, peaceful catfish, gouramis, danios, and medium-sized livebearers. If given the chance, they will eat cherry shrimp, baby fish, and anything else that can fit in their mouths.

Boesemani rainbowfish in planted community tank

Boesemani rainbows are active schooling fish that get along well with other peaceful tank mates.

What do Boesemani Rainbowfish Eat?

These omnivores are not picky eaters and will happily eat anything you drop in the tank, but they do prefer meatier foods if given the choice. For optimal health, provide a variety of dry, frozen, and live foods to ensure they get all the essential nutrients and vitamins they need. Rainbowfish have smaller mouths in proportion to their bodies, so feed them appropriate-sized foods — such as krill flakes, Vibra Bites, frozen bloodworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp.

How to Breed Boesemani Rainbows

Boesemanis are one of the easier rainbowfish to spawn, but their tiny fry can be difficult to raise. Start by making sure you have both males and females, and condition them for breeding with heavier feedings. Set up a spawning tank with slightly alkaline pH, warmer temperature, and a sponge filter that won’t suck up the babies. Place the adults in the prepared tank with a DIY spawning mop. The male will develop a white stripe on his head and do a shimmying dance to attract a female. Each day they will release a small batch of eggs, and after 7–10 days, you can either remove the parents or remove the eggs to prevent the adults from predating on the fry.

Three to five times a day, feed the newborns a diet of powdered fry food, vinegar eels, infusoria, and other miniscule foods. Keep the water clean with small, frequent water changes to remove the uneaten food. Eventually, graduate them to eating baby brine shrimp, which will help them to grow fast and healthy. Boesemani rainbowfish have a longer grow-out time compared to many other fish, but they are a lot of fun to breed and will one day grow into beautiful adults.

Juvenile Boesemani rainbowfish

Juveniles Boesemani rainbows are nearly unrecognizable at first because they don’t have their full adult coloration.

To get your own Boesemani rainbows, check out our list of preferred online retailers to see what they have in stock. Also, if you’re looking for a slightly smaller species that fits in a 20-gallon long or 29-gallon aquarium, read about the dwarf neon rainbowfish.


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