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Poecilia latipinna - Sailfin molly


  • Poecilia latipinna - Sailfin molly

    Photo thanks to

    Scientific name: Poecilia latipinna
    Common name: Sailfin Molly
    Mistakenly or previously labelled:

    Country of origin: South to Central America

    pH: 7.0 – 8.5
    Temperature: 21 - 26c
    Hardness: 15 – 35dGH
    Water flow: standard
    Oxygenation: high

    Maximum size: 15 cm – wild male; 12.5cm domestic male; 10cm - female

    Diet: Live, frozen, flake & (sinking) pellet foods – an omnivore. They need a large proportion of vegetables in their diet – such as blanched peas, spinach, spirulina or algae wafers.
    Wild fish are almost purely vegetarian, but are very rare in the trade.

    They will eat hair algae.

    Males: Larger, modified (pointed) anal fin, extended dorsal “sail” fin
    Females: Smaller, standard anal fin, shorter dorsal “sail” fin

    They are livebearers, breading readily and prolifically. The females are capable of mating once in a lifetime, then storing the sperm to be used every time they spawn (about once every 2 months).

    The males will relentlessly pursue the females, so it is best to keep at least 4 females per male.

    They will eat their own and each other’s fry, however even with this predation the population can quickly overrun even a medium sized tank, so plans should be made for disposing ethically of the offspring (e.g. taking them to a willing Local Fish Store).

    To ensure the fry survive, provide floating and dense vegetation.

    They are able to interbreed with other molly species, particularly P. sphenops, so only one mollie species should be kept per tank.

    Lifespan: 3 - 5 years

    Tank companions:
    They are NOT good tank companions with shrimps.

    They are a schooling species. They should be kept in groups of 6+, with more females than males, in order to spread the aggression.

    Although they are boisterous, they are generally peaceful with other tankmates. They can manage more boisterous tankmates, and should not be kept with very shy or smaller fish.

    As with any fish they will eat any fish small enough to fit in their mouths, and equally can be eaten by any fish large enough to eat them. This should be taken into account when choosing tankmates.

    Stocking plans can be checked with

    Minimum tank size is 2.5 ft for a small group. More room is needed for a larger group and/or tankmates. Bear in mind when planning your tank size and stocking levels, that they are prolific and frequent breeders.

    They could be kept in a heavily planted tank with floating plants to subdue the lighting and open areas for swimming, or a biotype with sand (or 2Tone’s DIY substrate), driftwood and tannins from Indian Almond Leaves.

    They will eat soft/ fragile plants, so are best kept with plants such as java fern types (including windelov) and anubias sp., both of which have a bitter taste. A high proportion of vegetables in their diet may also help to curb this behaviour.

    They do best in brackish, rather than fresh water and can be found naturally in both brackish and marine environments. They are commonly used to cycle marine tanks. Although they can be transferred into more salty conditions fairly rapidly, they should be acclimatised back to fresher water very slowly, as it will put more pressure on their kidneys.

    Confused with:
    There are other recognised species in the genus known as mollies, all of which are allowable imports to Australia:
    Poecilia latipinnis – sailfin molly – long dorsal fin
    Poecilia sphenops – black molly – short dorsal fin
    Poecilia velifera – giant sailfin molly – long dorsal fin & large size

    There are colour morphs & variations in form, some of which are crosses with P. sphenops:
    Balloon – caused by a deformity of the spine, which does not allow enough room for the internal organs, resulting in premature death
    Dalmation – white with black spots
    Gold – yellow
    Green – a silver/green with iridescent scales speckling the body
    Lyretail – elongations on the top & bottom of the tail
    Silver – a silver/ white colour

    There are introduced (feral) populations in many countries, including Japan, Singapore and parts of Eastern Europe.

    Wild fish are very rare in the trade, with the majority being commercially bred. The extent of this breeding has made a previously very hardy fish more prone to disease (particularly the black colour), but they are still a good choice for beginners.

    Poecilia sphenops are legal imports to Australia as of 12/11/2013 (list last updated 16/10/13).

    The IUCN Red List reports Poecilia sphenops as a species of least concerh, with an unknown population trend, at 23/01/2013:

    It is very important not to release any aquarium specimens into our waterways. Any that are not sold or re-homed/ given away, can often be re-sold to aquarium stores. If they are homed in ponds, care should be taken that they cannot escape in run-off into our waterways. Even if fish are native & local they should not be moved from one waterway to another, as this can transfer disease. If they are not local fish, they can both spread disease and either out-compete or eat local fish, shrimp & plants, causing their demise.

    They are good fish for beginners.

    Relevant threads:


    Salt water/ brackish water:
    Brackish water plants:

    Hard, not soft water:

    Do not keep with bettas:

    They eat hair algae:

    Found in QLD waterways:



    Seriously Fish:


    Pics & threads with pics:

    Photo thanks to Aquasaur – pair of Black mollies - Poecilia sphenops

    Photo thanks to Aquasaur – female Black molly - Poecilia sphenops

    Photo thanks to Whiteslea – female Dalmation lyretail Poecilia sp.

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