Melanotaenia vanheurni (Dabra) - photo© Gerald Allen

Melanotaenia vanheurni

(Weber and de Beaufort, 1922)
Van Heurn's Rainbowfish

Species Summary
Melanotaenia vanheurni are brown or olive on the back and yellow on the lower sides. There is a prominent blue-black, midlateral band with a broad pale yellow to white line along its upper and lower margin. Spawning males display a pulsing glow of golden yellow on top of the head. They may reach a maximum size of 20 cm, but usually less than 15 cm. It is the largest member of the rainbowfish family.

Distribution & Habitat
Mamberamo River system of northern West Papua. They have been collected from small clear water streams flowing through rainforest mainly close to foothills around the periphery of the Mamberamo Plains. They are abundant in slow to relatively swift flowing streams with rock and sandy bottoms. It shares this habitat with Chilatherina fasciata. Temperature and pH values range between 25-28° Celsius and 7.1-7.5.

Melanotaenia vanheurni (Foawi) - photo© Gary Lange

Melanotaenia vanheurni were first collected in the Mamberamo Valley by W. C. van Heurn in 1920 during the Dutch Northern New Guinea Expedition (Mamberamo Expedition) of 1920-1921. It was not seen again until David Price collected it 70 years later. Live specimens were reportedly imported into Germany during 1992 by Heiko Bleher. However, the status of this population in the hobby today is uncertain. Further live specimens were collected in 2008 near Faowi (Fauwi) Village, located at the upper reaches of the Tariku River. The Tariku River flows from Sudirman Mountains in the west to the east and combines with Taritatu River in the middle of Mamberamo River Catchment. In 2010 additional specimens were collected near Gidomen Village.

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

Allen G. R. (1995) Rainbowfishes in Nature and in the Aquarium. (Tetra-Verlag: Germany).

Weber, M. and L. F. de Beaufort (1922) The fishes of the Indo-Australian Archipelago. IV. Heteromi, Solenichthyes, Synentognathi, Percesoces, Labyrinthici, Microcyprini. E. J. Brill, Ltd. Leiden.

Adrian R. Tappin
Updated April, 2010

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Melanotaenia vanheurni