Rainbow Shiner 101: Care, Diet, Tank Size, Tank Mates & More

There’s something undeniably wild and captivating about Rainbow Shiners. Featuring an elongated torpedo-shaped body, these fish can dart gracefully through the water, displaying vibrant colors in their fins. What’s more, they sport an impressive tolerance to a wide range of water conditions.

So what is it about these little guys that have captured the attention of so many? Learn everything you need to know about Rainbow Shiners, from their care and diet to tank size and tankmates. 

Ready? Let’s start!

Species Summary

Rainbow Shiner

Distributed over a wide area in the southeastern United States, the Rainbow Shiner is a tropical freshwater fish belonging to the Cyprinidae family. The species occurs in waters of moderate to strong flow (lotic environment) and are found in small streams, natural pools, springs, and clear water streams. One thing to note about these little swimmers is that they’re usually found close to the substrate.

Moreover, this schooling fish is a great size to be kept in aquariums. It is still a relatively rare species in home aquariums worldwide, but its popularity, production, and marketing are booming. Given the success of this species in the hobby for years, it is a great stream fish for beginners.

Rainbow Shiner Care Guide

One of the best things about rainbow shiners is that they are effortless to care for. In addition, they are not picky eaters and can thrive in various water conditions. Let’s discuss these characteristics in detail below.

Tank Size

If you’re thinking of getting a rainbow shiner, you’re probably wondering what size tank you’ll need. When choosing a tank for these fish, size does matter. A smaller tank will limit the amount of space your fish has to swim and explore, and a larger tank will provide more opportunities for your fish to stay active. 

The best tank size for a Rainbow Shiner is somewhere around 28 gallons. This provides plenty of space for a small group of Rainbow Shiners. But, of course, if you’re planning on keeping a larger group of Rainbow shiners, you’ll need a bigger tank. 

So, what’s the bottom line? A 28-gallon tank is a minimum size you’ll need for a small group of rainbow shiners, but a 50-gallon tank will be fine for a larger group.

Tank Mates

When it comes to stocking your Rainbow Shiner tank, you have a few options. You can go with all Rainbow Shiners or mix it up and add some other fish to the mix.

If you’re looking for other Rainbow Shiner tankmates, here are a few options to consider:

● Guppies

● Tetras




No matter what fish you choose for your Rainbow Shiner tank, do your research to ensure they’re compatible. Then, with some planning, you can create a beautiful and peaceful community tank that everyone will enjoy.

Same Species Tanks

They’re often used as a single species in Biotope-type aquarium setups, meaning they can be a great addition to a natural-looking aquarium. They’ll add a splash of color and life to your tank, without being too overwhelming.

One of the most important things to remember when keeping Rainbow Shiners is that they are a shoaling fish. This means they must be kept in groups of at least six fish. If they are kept alone, they will become stressed and even die.

Water Parameters

Rainbow shiners are not particularly demanding fish, but they do need some specific things to stay healthy. If you can provide them with a suitable home, they make a great addition to any freshwater aquarium.

Unfortunately, Rainbow Shiners are very sensitive to water pollution and low oxygen levels. They are also sensitive to changes in water temperature and should be kept in water that is between 59 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

The pH of the water is also crucial for these fish. The ideal pH range for Rainbow Shiners is 6.5 to 7.5. Of course, they can tolerate a wider range of pH levels, but this is the pH range that they prefer. Meanwhile, the ideal hardness range for these fish is 10 to 20°H.

If you’re not aware, the difference between hardness and pH is related to the region of origin of the fish and demonstrates the oscillation of parameters during the dry and rainy seasons.

What to Put in Their Tank

We’re sure you’ve seen those beautiful Rainbow Shiner fish in pet stores and have wondered what it takes to keep them healthy and happy. Just like any other aquatic animal, they need a heater and a filtering system in their tank. They also need good quality fish food and plenty of clean, fresh water. 

But that’s not all! They also need a few other things to stay healthy and happy. Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need to get started:

Filter: A filter is essential to keep the water in your Rainbow Shiner’s tank clean. A good filter will remove harmful chemicals and debris from the water, making it safer and healthier for your fish.

Aquarium Heater: Rainbow Shiners need a heater to keep the water at a comfortable temperature. They’re tropical fish, so they prefer around 78 degrees Fahrenheit water.

Aquarium Gravel: Gravel is a necessary part of any fish tank, and Rainbow Shiners are no exception. Gravel makes the tank look more attractive and provides a place for the fish to hide and feel secure.

Plants: These are essential for two reasons: they oxygenate the water and provide a place for the fish to hide. Rainbow Shiners love to hide, so they’ll appreciate having some plants to hide behind.

Aquarium Decor: Aquarium decor is vital for two reasons: it makes the tank look more attractive and provides a place for the fish to hide. Rainbow Shiners like to spend time on the substrate, so they’ll appreciate having some hiding places.

Now that you know what you need to start, you’re ready to set up your Rainbow Shiner’s tank!

Common Diseases

Rainbow Shiners are one of the most disease-resistant fish out there. They are so resistant that many common diseases cannot affect them. This makes them the perfect fish for those looking for a low-maintenance pet.

Of course, this does not mean that Rainbow Shiners are indestructible. There are still some things that can harm them, so it is essential to be aware of these before you get one.

One of the most common problems that Rainbow Shiners face is malnutrition. This is usually caused by a lack of variety in their diet, so it is crucial to ensure they get enough of all the essential nutrients. Another common issue is ammonia poisoning, which can be caused by overfeeding or keeping them in water that is too dirty.

If you are thinking of getting a Rainbow Shiner or already have one, then it is important to be aware of these common problems. However, as long as you take good care of your fish, they should be able to live a long and happy life.

Food and Diet

Did you know Rainbow Shiners’ diet includes plants and small invertebrates? That’s right, these little fish are not picky eaters and will happily munch on whatever they can find. 

Rainbow shiners are omnivorous, which means they eat both plants and animals. In the wild, they are classified as drift feeders, feeding on whatever they find, including small insects, crustaceans, and plant matter.

Giving them a varied diet that includes both plants and animals is essential in captivity. This can be achieved by feeding them a quality commercial diet supplemented with live or frozen foods.

Some of the best foods for rainbow shiners include live or frozen daphnia, brine shrimp, bloodworms, and mosquito larvae. 


In the wild, these fish only live for about a year. This is due to many factors, including predation, disease, and the fact that they are constantly on the move in search of food. In an aquarium, however, rainbow shiners are much more likely to reach their full potential lifespan of two years.


Rainbow Shiner features a pink torpedo-shaped body with a stunning bright golden band along the midline on its flanks from the gill to the caudal peduncle. In addition, its dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins are marked with red or orange spots. Also, its scales present a unique radiance.


The Rainbow shiner fish can easily reach 3 inches in length when well cared for and fed. Usually, the average size we find in aquariums is around 1.5 inches.

Behavior and Temperament

Rainbow shiners are a species of shoaling fish known for their peaceful behavior. They make great additions to community aquariums and can coexist peacefully with others. 

Additionally, Rainbow Shiners are known to feed both in the water column and on the surface, making them versatile fish in their diet.

As their name suggests, these fish are incredibly colorful and bring a lot of life and energy to any aquarium. They’re also very active, constantly swimming around and exploring their surroundings. They’re not shy at all and love to interact with their tankmates and human caretakers.

However, their behavior can change if they don’t feel comfortable – hiding among vegetation, rocks, and logs in the tank. While not necessarily aggressive towards other fish species, Shiner Rainbows can occasionally nibble on slow-moving or long-finned fish.


When it comes to captive breeding, rainbow shiners are extremely easy to breed and can be done commercially on a large scale. It can even happen accidentally in home aquariums.

As you may already know, Rainbow Shiners are an oviparous species that reproduce by laying eggs. The female will lay her eggs, and the male will fertilize them afterwards.

Parents don’t usually display much parental care for their offspring, and cannibalism is common among rainbow shiners. The eggs will usually hatch within a week of being fertilized.

Rainbow shiners typically reproduce in a natural environment during late spring or early summer. Nevertheless, they can also multiply in captivity if the conditions are right.

Gender Differences: Male vs Female

It’s well-known that male and female animals often look different. But did you know there are also some significant differences between male and female fish? For example, take a look at Rainbow Shiners. 

These fish are pretty easy to spot, thanks to their bright colors. But you might not know there are some significant differences between male and female Rainbow Shiners.

For one thing, males and females often have different colors. During the breeding season, males undergo a dramatic color change, where the tail’s head, back, and base turn a metallic blue hue. There’s also a silver band along each side of the body. 

Females, on the other hand, usually just have a silver band along their sides.

But color isn’t the only difference between male and female Rainbow Shiners. Males and females also have different-sized bodies. Males are typically larger than females, and they also have longer fins.

So, what causes these differences between male and female Rainbow Shiners? Well, it all comes down to reproduction. 

Males need to be big and colorful to attract mates, and they need long fins to help them swim fast and chase after females. On the other hand, females don’t need to be as big or colorful since they’re not the ones doing the chasing.

So, next time you’re out looking for Rainbow Shiners, see if you can spot the differences between the males and females. And if you’re fortunate, you might even see a breeding pair in action!

Rainbow Shiner Fun facts

●This species is becoming very popular in the aquarium trade in several countries and is starting to be reproduced commercially on a large scale, with most animals coming from the collection in the wild.

● Its color and brightness tone may change depending on the lighting. For example, LED-type lamps make their iridescence highly metallic.

● Once endemic to the Mobile River, the species spread across an entire region in the southeastern USA given to human modification of the environment.

● When well acclimatized and maintained, an amazingly colored fish that delights any aquarist.


Etnier, D.A. and W.C. Starnes, 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.

Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr, 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432 p.

Romero, P., 2002. An etymological dictionary of taxonomy. Madrid, unpublished.