Glossolepis kabia have an overall body colouration of greenish to silvery-blue with a rosy glow across the sides. There is a series of narrow orange stripes between each scale row and the fins are usually clear or greenish but sometimes nearly black. They may reach a maximum size of 12 cm, but are usually less than 10 cm. Most fish collected have been within the range 6-10 cm. Adults become very deep bodied especially the males (6-8 cm), although this difference is not obvious in young adults less than about 6 cm SL. The orange stripes on the sides are brighter in mature males and their dorsal and anal fin membranes often have a silvery to yellow sheen. Named kabia, from kabi, the native name at Koragu.
The original description described their living colours as dusky silvery above, the lower half with alternate vertical stripes of golden orange or deep orange and silver or steely blue, with an orange band at the caudal base. The top of the snout and interorbital are black, the opercles and preopercles silvery with yellow or golden. The fins are more or less dusky in some, in others the membranes of the dorsal and anal are orange, wholly or only basally, the rays and outer part blackish.
Distribution & Habitat
Glossolepis kabia is currently found in the Sepik and Ramu river systems in New Guinea. They are found in floodplains and swampy lagoons, lakes, and small tributary streams. It is the only rainbowfish that is abundant in the extensive floodplain regions of the Sepik River. They are usually found where there is an abundance of aquatic vegetation in moderate turbid to clear, still to slow-flowing water. Young fish form aggregations around submerged logs and branches or among reeds and other shoreline vegetation.
The Sepik River (formerly known as the Kaiserin Augusta River) is the second largest river in Papua New Guinea. The river is about 1100 kilometres long with a catchment area of approximately 80,000 km². It is the largest river system in PNG in terms of catchment area, but has a lower discharge than the Fly River. Biologically, the region holds some of the most diverse and least described ecosystems on Earth, and is probably the largest uncontaminated freshwater wetland system in the Asia-Pacific region. There are no large mining projects, no industrial plants and no large timber extraction projects operating within the region and, compared to other areas of New Guinea, much of the area has a low rate of population growth.
Formerly called the Ottilien River, the Ramu is one of the longest rivers in Papua New Guinea, rising in the southeast on the Kratke Range and flowing northwest through the great central depression, where it receives numerous streams draining the Bismarck (south) and Finisterre and Adelbert (north) ranges. For the last 100 km of its approximately 720-kilometre long course, it flows directly north. This swampy portion receives the river's principal tributary, the Sogeram River. The Ramu enters the Bismarck Sea just 32 km southeast of the mouth of the Sepik. The lower reaches of the Sepik and Ramu rivers are now inter-connected by numerous channels that pass through an area of low-lying alluvium. The freshwater ichthyofaunas of the Sepik and Ramu river systems are very similar, although there is a modest degree of species endemicity in both regions.