Rainbow Fish

The Rainbow Fish is a children's book drawn and written by Marcus Pfister, Swiss author and illustrator, and translated into English by J. Alison James. The book is best known for its morals about the value of being an individual and for the distinctive shiny foil scales of Rainbow Fish. Decode Entertainment turned the story into an animated television series of the same name, which had aired on the HBO Family television channel in the United States and Teletoon in Canada from 1999 until 2001.

The Rainbow Fish
Rainbow fish original cover
Original German cover
AuthorMarcus Pfister
IllustratorMarcus Pfister
GenreChildren's book (illustrated)
PublisherNordSüd Verlag
Publication date


The story is about a fish with shiny, multi-colored scales named the Rainbow Fish. He has blue, green, and purple scales; and among them, he has shiny silver scales he is always fond of, until one day, a small fish asks him if he could have one, to which the Rainbow Fish refuses in a very rude manner. The other fish are very upset about his behavior and don't want to play with him anymore.

Feeling upset, his only remaining friend, the starfish, tells him to go visit the wise octopus for advice. The Rainbow Fish finds the octopus and asks what he should do. When he goes to the cave, he sees the octopus. And when he meets the octopus, she says that she has been waiting for him. She explains that the waves have told her his story. Then, she tells Rainbow Fish that he must share the beauty of his scales with his friends (which means "to give one glittering scale to each of the other fish"). She tells him to share his scales with each of the other fish. And she continues to him that he may no longer be the most beautiful fish in the ocean, but he will discover how to be happy.

When he encounters the small fish a second time, the Rainbow Fish gives him one of his precious scales and, seeing the joy of this little fish, immediately feels much better. Very soon the Rainbow Fish is surrounded by other fish requesting scales and he gives to each of them one of his shiny scales.

Finally, in the end, despite having one shiny scale left (as he has given them all away to the other fish), he becomes very happy.

The moral

Reviewers have called this a "cautionary tale about selfishness and vanity" and a reminder that "sharing brings happiness and acceptance,"[1] but the moral of the book has become a widely debated topic. Interpretations include rejection of individuality and promotion of socialism.[2]

Other interpretations include influencing children to give away their body and bodily autonomy to indulge the wants of others at their own expense. The message is seen as especially negative for girls and women who are only to be liked if they give away their "shiny parts".

The book series

  • Rainbow Fish to the Rescue: About the acceptance and integration of foreigners.
  • Rainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale: About arguments and how to settle them.
  • Rainbow Fish and the Sea Monster's Cave: About irrational and rational fears.
  • Rainbow Fish Finds his Way: With the help of his new friends, Rainbow Fish finds his way back home.
  • Rainbow Fish Discovers the Deep Sea: About modesty and happiness.

Short film

On March 25 1997, an animated adaptation of the book was released on VHS and DVD. The home video releases also contain the film Dazzle the Dinosaur which is based on another book written by Pfister and published in 1994. The animated short film features a song called "Giving Makes You Special".

Television series

Rainbow Fish
Created byMarcus Pfister
Written by
  • Dean Stefan
  • Rowby Goren
  • Richard Stanley
  • Alan Swayze
  • Ian James Corlett
  • Brooks Wachtel
  • Shelley Zellman
  • Patti Carr
  • Lara Runnels
  • Francis Moss
  • S. M. Molitor
  • Kati Rocky
  • Sindy McKay
  • William Forrest Cluverius
  • Erika Strobel
Directed by
  • Drew Edwards
  • Terry Klassen (voice)
  • Ed Mitchell (music)
  • Teruyo Watanabe (sheet)
Theme music composer
  • Tom Armbruster
  • Charlie Brissette
  • Ed Mitchell
  • Dean Stefan
Opening theme"There's a Rainbow in the Water" sung by Blu Mankuma and Saffron Henderson
Ending theme"There's a Rainbow in the Water" (Instrumental)
Country of origin
  • Canada
  • Germany
No. of episodes26
Executive producer(s)
  • Steven DeNure
  • Loris Kramer
  • Franz Prinz Von Auersperg
  • Beth Stevenson
  • Rick Morrison (Funbag)
  • Dean Stefan (executive story)
  • Clem Hobbs
  • Rebecca Loutit (dialogue)
  • Ryan Soulliere (dialogue)
Running time22 minutes
Production company(s)
Original network
Original release1999 –

Rainbow Fish was adapted into a children's animated television series. However, the television series does not follow the plot of the book; rather it takes the character and the setting and creates a new story with them. Some characters were added and others embellished for the purposes of the show. In the series, the place where the fish live is called Neptune Bay (after Neptune, god of the sea). The fish attend school, which is aptly named "The School of Fish". There is a shipwreck called "Shipwreck Park" in the series that resembles the wreck of the RMS Titanic. It was produced by Decode Entertainment and EM.TV for Sony Wonder.


Rainbow Fish: The proud, vibrant fish that lives with his parents and sister. His favorite movie is Claminator 12. He loves it so much that it can lead to problems. He likes to play clam ball, a fictional game. He was voiced by Rhys Huber.

Sea Filly: In the first episode, she is a new girl in school. She is a beautiful seahorse, though she is half mermaid, half seahorse. She eventually becomes friends with Rainbow and Blue. She is often seen reading books. She was voiced by Chantal Strand.

Blue: Rainbow Fish's best friend, who is more down-to-earth and thoughtful than Rainbow Fish. He also enjoys playing clam ball, and also loves Claminator 12. He is a blue fish and has a baby sister called Turquoise. She is a turquoise fish. He was voiced by Andrew Francis.

Ruby: She is Rainbow Fish's older sister who is a teenager. She is arrogant, bossy, self-centered and ruby-colored. Constantly, she gets Rainbow Fish into trouble, because she gets jealous, although she actually loves him. She has her own personal nickname for Rainbow Fish; she calls him "Barnacle Boy". She was voiced by Chiara Zanni.

Sol and Aqua: Aqua is an aqua-colored fish and is Rainbow Fish's mother. Sol is purple and is Rainbow's dad. They help their daughter and son whatever way they can and will always provide them with great courage. Sol was voiced by John Payne whilst Aqua was voiced by Ellen Kennedy.

Principal Gefilte: The proud Principal of the School of Fish, he is strict about behavior. Sometimes, he can get vain. Rainbow Fish gets annoyed when he insists that they all have to write book reports. He was voiced by French Tickner.

Mrs. Chips: The teacher of the school. She teaches history, mathematics, science, and literature. She was voiced by Ellen Kennedy.

Wanda the Octopus: She is the owner of the Neptune Bay fast food restaurant. She is very wise and when Rainbow Fish and his friends are down she will always give them advice. She was voiced by Kathleen Barr.

Chomper and Stingo: The two bullies of the school. They do not really commit acts of physical violence but they can bully and tease Rainbow Fish and his friends. Chomper is a shark while Stingo is a stingray. Chomper bullies more often than Stingo. They often call Rainbow Fish "Rainbow Creep", but sometimes call him other names, like on one episode, "Rainbow Girl". Chomper was voiced by Christopher Gray and Stingo was voiced by Bill Switzer.

Sherman: The smallest of the school. He is a salt-water shrimp. To him, everything looks big. In the episode where he arrives to Neptune Bay, Rainbow Fish treats Sherman badly. In the end when Rainbow Fish gets stuck deep in the bowels of a shipwreck, Sherman hears from the TV and goes and rescues Rainbow Fish. Rainbow apologizes for his behavior. He was voiced by Alex Doduk.

Sir Sword: Local swordfish, upper-class and a bit of a busybody. He is sometimes grumpy, sometimes civil, but always seems to think he is better than everyone else. Plays Santa Sword to the kids at the local Guppies hospital. He was voiced by Colin Murdock.

Ret and Snapper: The two builders. They appear in only one episode, Moving Day. Rainbow Fish thinks they are going to be moving and Ret and Snapper will buy the house. He and his friends plan to make the house as much of a wreck as possible in order to put off any potential buyers. His parents reveal they were going to build a new recreation room.

Goldie: She appears in only one episode, Rainbow de Bergerac. Blue has a crush on her, and Rainbow Fish attempts to bring them together. However, Chomper and Stingo soon ruin the plan.

Rainbow Fish's other classmates: They do not speak in any episode, but, however, they are different shapes, sizes, and color. The first one is: a brown fish, the second one: has long body and colored violet, the third one: colored gold and has reddish-like lips, the last one: has a sleek body and has the same color as the second one. Their names are not revealed in any episode since.


No. Title Summary Airdate
1a "Rainbow Fish and the New Girl at School" A new girl, Sea Filly (who is a seahorse) comes to Rainbow Fish's school and Rainbow and his best friend Blue welcome her. 8 January 2000
1b "Rainbow Fish Meets Wayne Grunion" Rainbow is excited to meet his hero, renowned hockey star Wayne Grunion when he comes to town for a visit. 8 January 2000
2a "Rainbow Fish Plays the Conch Shell" In the school band, Rainbow Fish is assigned the conch shell, the hardest instrument in the band to play. Rainbow is then forced to practice and he does so, making for a better performance at the school concert. 15 January 2000
2b "Riptide" When Rainbow Fish and his friends attempt a dangerous sport called 'Riptiding', Blue is swept away on a riptide and his friends must find him. 15 January 2000
3a "Rainbow Gets an 'A"' Rainbow Fish gets a bad report card, but after he spills a kelp gusher on it, his parents mistake the "C" grade for an "A". Rainbow must prevent them from meeting Principal Gefilte and learning the truth. 22 January 2000
3b "Grandpa's Fishy Tale" Rainbow is not enthusiastic about spending time with his grandpa while his parents are away at the store, thinking he will be bored, but when his grandpa tells him an amazing story that hides an incredible secret, Rainbow discovers that old people can be exciting after all. 22 January 2000
4a "Rainbow's Dental Dilemma" Rainbow fears visiting the dentist, but when he goes, he discovers that dentists aren't as bad as he thought they were. 29 January 2000
4b "Rainbow Fish and the Pop Star" Rainbow mistakenly brags to his friends that he knows the famous pop star, Bruce Sturgeon, which lands him in trouble and causes him to force Bruce Sturgeon himself to perform at the school. 29 January 2000
5a "Sherman Shrimp" A new student, Sherman Shrimp, comes to school and Rainbow treats him badly. However, after Sherman saves Rainbow from a shipwreck, Rainbow realizes that he has been bad to Sherman all along. 5 February 2000
5b "Lost in Crumbling Canyon" Chomper, the school bully, gets lost in a canyon with Rainbow Fish, and the two opposites must work together to find their way out. 5 February 2000
6a "The Golf Lesson" Rainbow fools around with his father's golf club and breaks it, causing him to search for a new one before his father's big game with Sir Sword. 12 February 2000
6b "Ruby's Adventures in Babysitting" Ruby decides to babysit their guppy neighbors' baby, Ferdie, and says Rainbow is too irresponsible to help her. However, Ferdie turns out to be more troublesome than expected and runs away. Rainbow then finds him and Ruby apologizes for what she said. 12 February 2000
7a "Sir Sword Goes Back to School" Sir Sword needs to finish third grade, so he attends Rainbow's school. 19 February 2000
7b "Rainbow de Bergerac" Blue has a crush on Goldie, but he's too shy to ask her on a date, so Rainbow tells him what to say via a communicator made by Sea Filly. However, Chomper and Stingo soon ruin the plan. 19 February 2000
8a "Big Fish on Campus" When Blue becomes a hall monitor, he lets the power go to his head. 26 February 2000
8b "Sibling Rivalry" Blue gets a new baby sister and he feels left out because of the attention his mom and friends are giving to the baby. 26 February 2000
9a "One Fish's Treasure" Rainbow lines a sea-monkey bowl with his sister Ruby's magazine, in process ruining the magazine. 4 March 2000
9b "Project Rainbow Fish" Rainbow learns a lesson about charity and works on a project involving it. 4 March 2000
10a "Ruby Slips In" Ruby starts spending time with Rainbow, Blue and Sea Filly, leading Rainbow to believe she is trying to steal his friends. 11 March 2000
10b "Working Fish" Rainbow gets a job at the Candy Counter to earn money. 11 March 2000
11a "Cecil B. Derainbow" Rainbow takes up making movies and casts himself as the director. 18 March 2000
11b "Rainbow's Pen Pal" Rainbow's pen pal is coming to visit him and Rainbow is excited. 18 March 2000
12a "Campus Current" Sea Filly becomes the editor of the school newspaper. Unfortunately, in her enthusiasm for journalism however, she soon becomes nothing but a tabloid gossip columnist and no fish is safe from her probing and humiliating articles. Rainbow comes up with a plan that ends with Sea Filly writing an untrue article about Principal Gefilte and losing her job. Sea Filly learns that real journalists have a responsibility to print only what they know is true. 25 March 2000
12b "Fish Alone" Burglars break into Rainbow's house one afternoon and ruin it. 25 March 2000
13a "Rainbow Fish and the In Crowd" Rainbow and Blue start hanging out with a new clique called the High Tides, to the chagrin of Sea Filly. 1 April 2000
13b "Knights of the Coral Table" Sir Sword lends Rainbow a book that he becomes hooked on and can't stop reading. 1 April 2000
14a "Bad Luck Ruby" When Ruby encounters a series of unfortunate events one day, she believes she has been cursed. 8 April 2000
14b "Father's Day" Rainbow's class has Dads' Day at school and all students' fathers are invited to describe their jobs. Rainbow is worried, as he thinks his father has a boring job. 8 April 2000
15a "Prehistoric Pal" Rainbow finds a hole in the ground that an extinct coelacanth called Carl swims out of. However, Carl spends most of his time in the modern world trying to impress Ruby. 15 April 2000
15b "May the Better Fish Win" Rainbow and Blue compete for the role of class president. They both try to impress Sea Filly in order to get her vote. 15 April 2000
16a "Blue's Fishy Catch" Blue wins the clamball championship for his school, but only because no one saw him drop the ball. 22 April 2000
16b "To Catch a Thief" Rainbow is suspicious of his sister when she starts acting oddly. However, it turns out she is just making a surprise gift for their parents. 22 April 2000
17a "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" Rainbow's mom invites his teacher, Mrs. Chips, to dinner, and Rainbow is worried that she will act like a teacher. 29 April 2000
17b "It's a Wonderful Fish" A guardian angel fish shows Rainbow the value of his life. 29 April 2000
18a "Moving Day" Rainbow fears his parents are planning to sell the house to two fish called Ret and Snapper, and so his friends attempt to make his house as much of a wreck as possible to avoid it being sold. However, Rainbow then discovers his parents were planning to build a new recreation room. 6 May 2000
18b "Romantic Dinner" Rainbow and Ruby prepare an anniversary dinner for their parents. 6 May 2000
19a "The Bodyguard" Rainbow saves a whale's life, and, in return, the whale becomes his bodyguard. 13 May 2000
19b "Mom's Away" Rainbow is not pleased when his mother gets a job in his school. 13 May 2000
20a "How Sea Filly Got Her Groove Back" After being teased by her classmates for not being feminine enough, Sea Filly decides to take up cheerleading, causing Blue and Rainbow to worry about her becoming a different person. 20 May 2000
20b "High Tide Noon" Rainbow is embarrassed after failing to stand up to Rocko Rockfish, a bullying second grader. 20 May 2000
21a "Game Girl" After watching Rainbow and Blue play it, Sea Filly becomes addicted to a video game called Clam Blaster and hardly does anything else. 27 May 2000
21b "There's No Business Like..." Rainbow, Blue, and Sea Filly hearing the tale of two feuding crabs who were once song-and-dance partners, and set out to bring them back together. 27 May 2000
22a "Sea Filly Needs a Helping Fin" Sea Filly gets a bad grade on a math test and worries greatly. 3 June 2000
22b "Prince Blue" When Blue looks at his book and mistakenly thinks his ancestors were royalty, he starts behaving like a prince. 3 June 2000
23a "Pool Shark" When Chomper's relative, a pool-playing master, comes to Wanda's refreshment shop, he beats everyone in pool by secretly cheating. Rainbow, unaware of this at first, is in awe and decides to become his assistant, then discovers his secret. Rainbow then declares a match to determine that Chomper's relative is cheating. Rainbow then wins, and the other player leaves the shop forever. 28 October 2000
23b "Halloween Under H2O" Rainbow tries to put Sea Filly in the Halloween spirit, then has a haunting Halloween dream, and wakes up to find Sea Filly has scared him in his sleep. 28 October 2000
24a "Eviction Notice" Phineas T. Gronch is planning to demolish the Mollusk Reef Villas and Neptune Bay to build a shopping mall. Rainbow, Blue and Sea Filly have to stop him. 4 November 2000
24b "The Vacation" Rainbow and his family go on a camping trip. 4 November 2000
25a "Cave Mates" Blue and Rainbow's friendship is tested when Blue comes to stay at Rainbow's house. 11 November 2000
25b "Chomper, Master Thespian" Chomper is given the lead role in the school play, but he mistakenly believes acting is for wimps. 11 November 2000
26a "Rainbow's Hiccups" Rainbow's love of kelp gusher drinks causes him to get hiccups. 18 November 2000
26b "Santa Sword Is Coming to Town" Rainbow Fish helps Sir Sword dressed as Santa Sword on Christmas Eve. 18 November 2000


  1. ^ "Editorial Reviews". "The Rainbow Fish" Product Description.
  2. ^ Steinman, Eric. "Lit Crit: The Rainbow Fish". Lit Crit: The Rainbow Fish.

External links

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Rabisu (Akkadian) - Vampiric spirit that ambushes people

Radande (Swedish) - Tree spirit

Ragana (Lithuanian) - Malevolent witch

Raijū (Japanese) - Lightning spirit

Rain Bird (Native American) - Rain spirit

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Rainbow Fish (Hindu) - Whale-sized, multi-colored fish

Rainbow Serpent (Australian Aboriginal) - Snake

Rakshasa (Buddhist and Hindu) - Shapeshifting demon

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Rephaite (Jewish) - Giant

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Revenant (Medieval folklore) - Reanimated dead

Roc (Arabian and Persian) - Gigantic bird

Rokurokubi (Japanese) - Long-necked, humanoid trickster

Rompo (Africa and India) - Skeletal creature with elements of a rabbit, badger, and bear

Rồng - (Vietnamese) dragon

Rougarou (French America) - Human-wolf shapeshifter

Rusalka (Slavic) - Female water spirit

Ryū - Japanese dragon

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