Melanotaenia monticola - photo© Neil Armstrong

Melanotaenia monticola

Allen, 1980
Mountain Rainbowfish

Species Summary
Melanotaenia monticola males generally are dark purple-brown on dorsal one-fourth of head and sides grading to silvery white on breast, abdomen, and lower part of head, and golden yellow on remainder of sides; side of abdomen with lilac or mauve suffusion; prominent black mid-lateral stripe extending from eye to caudal fin base, narrowest and most diffuse in area immediately posterior to pectoral fin. Most of scales on lower two-thirds of sides with yellow margins; dorsal and caudal fin smoky grey; anal fin mainly translucent with yellow at base of anterior-most rays; pelvic tins white; pectoral fins translucent. Females are similar to males except yellow and lilac hue's slightly less intense. When spawning, the colouration of the males becomes more intense. The upper part of the head and body become very dark and a vivid orange coloured nape band is flashed on and off on top of the head. Melanotaenia monticola is similar in general appearance to Melanotaenia mubiensis. The two species have been collected together. Besides differing in colour pattern they also have differences in soft dorsal and anal fin rays; M. monticola has 15 to 17 dorsal rays and 18 to 21 (usually 19 or 20) anal rays. M. mubiensis most frequently has 14 or 15 dorsal rays and 21 or 22 anal rays.

Distribution & Habitat
Melanotaenia monticola are found in a relatively small area of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea between Mendi and Lake Kutubu. They have been collected from small headwaters tributaries in the Purari River system, including Omei Creek, a tributary of the Ka River, 15-km south of Mendi, and streams near Pimaga (about 13-km southeast of Lake Kutubu). They generally inhabit the slower flowing regions of swift flowing streams. They are usually found along grassy banks, or around sub-surface vegetation, submerged logs, and branches. Water temperature recorded from their natural habitat was 18°C and pH 7.6. However, temperatures have been known to drop to 16° Celsius.

Melanotaenia monticola were initially collected in September 1979 by Gerald Allen and Brian Parkinson from Omei Creek. Allen gave the species the scientific name of 'monticola' (Latin: mountain dwellers) with reference to the mountainous terrain of the type locality. Live specimens were collected by Barry Crockford from Omei Creek and introduced to the Australian hobby in 1983. During the mid 1990s, eggs were collected from a small stream near Lake Kutubu and brought back into Australia where they were subsequently hatched, reared and distributed in the hobby. Nevertheless, this is another rainbowfish that has been in the aquarium hobby for a long time but has never been widely available.

Allen G.R. (1980) Two new species of freshwater rainbowfishes (Melanotaeniidae) from Papua New Guinea. Revue française d'Aquariologie 7 (2): 43-50.

Allen G.R. (1991) Field guide to the freshwater fishes of New Guinea. Christensen Research Institute, Madang, Papua New Guinea.

Adrian R. Tappin
Updated December, 2008

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Melanotaenia monticola