Cyprinodontiformes vivparos e ovovivparos

Livebearer Cyprinodontiformes

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Species > Species profile > Poecilia latipinna

















Poecilia latipinna  Lesueur, 1821

Limia matamorensis Girard, 1858 ( synonim )
Limia poeciloides Girard, 1858 ( synonim )
Mollienesia latipinna Lesueur, 1821 ( synonim )
Poecilia latipinna Lesueur, 1821 ( valid as )
Poecilia lineolata Girard, 1858 ( synonim )
Poecilia multilineata Lesueur, 1821 ( synonim )

Molinsia-de-Vela-Estreita [ Portugus ]

Molly [ Portugus / Espaol ]

Topote Velo Negro [ Espaol ]

Sailfin Molly [ English ]

Notice : As all my photographs related to Poecilia latipinna illustrate hybrids or domestic fancy ( cultivated ) strains, this space is still empty for the moment. For that reason I fill sorry, but unfortunately it is not possible to use one of my pictures in order to show conveniently this species.

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Geographical distribution :

United States of America and Mexico.

Introductions :
Australia, Bahamas, Canada, Colombia, Guam, Hawaii, Indonesia, Kenya, Oman, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore

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I - Morphology Synopsis ( some meristic characters )

Total absolute length
Adult male : 16.0 to 121.8 mm
Adult female : 56.9 to 149.9 mm

Dorsal fin rays : / 10 ( 17 )
Caudal fin rays : / 26 ( 28 )
Scales on lateral line : 25 ( 30 )
Head length body length ratio ( male ) : 0,16 / 0,17
Head length body length ratio ( female ) : 0,18 / 0,20

II - Habitat and Geographical distribution

Sailfin Molly wild populations are established in a vast area, ranging from Cape Fear, North Carolina in the Atlantic southern United States of America, down to Mexico, Vera Cruz State, in the Golf of Mexico, occurring in river basins running to the Atlantic Ocean.
This is frequently considered as a temperate species, despite the fact that it is found across a vast region ranging further south in to subtropical areas.
In order to share a general idea about both limits of this species natural geographic distribution, we can consider data from North Carolina and Vera Cruz as an orientation.
North Carolina has in general a humid, subtropical climate especially at the coastline where our attention is focused in.
Winters are short and mild, while summers are usually hot but temperatures rarely go above 38C ( 100.4F ).
Mean annual temperature ranges 16.9C ( 62.4F ) by the seaside, however differentiation in altitude and closeness to the ocean create significant local variations inside the State territory.
Average January temperatures are around 9C ( 48.2F ), presenting extreme limits between -2C ( 28.4F ) and 21C ( 69.8F ). Average July temperatures can be around 27C ( 80.6F ), with lower limit around 19C ( 66.2F ) and maximum limit near 37C ( 98.6F ).
Average annual precipitation at the coast line varying between 1120 and 1420 mm.
Especially for the summer period, North Carolina weather perform in response to the Bermuda High pressure system, centred in the mid-Atlantic. Winds from the southwest bring masses of hot humid air over the State.
Water temperature at Cape Fear River can show extremes stuck between 5.3C ( 41.54F ) and 31.9C ( 89.42F ), reaching annual mean between 16.9C ( 62.4F ) and 19.8C ( 67.6F ).
Please keep in mind that the local wild population of Poecilia latipinna may rarely experience the lowest water temperature limits. In fact, has this is a quite tolerant fish regarding salinity ( eurihalyne species ), it is expectable that Sailfin Molly shoals may seek out refuge on the slightly clement waters across the moth of the rivers or even in oceanic environments near the coastline accessible right the way through tidal ditches and brackish canals.
Vera Cruz City is located precisely near the southern limit. Medium air temperatures are around 20C ( 68F ) in January and 27C ( 80.6F ) in June.
Even so, this will never demonstrate in evidence the real local weather.
The hottest month in the region isnt June but instead April, May or even September, according to the place we are talking about.
Standard water temperatures can be 0.4C ( 32.7F ) higher in August than in June.
When the years peak hottest days take place in April, for instance, we are talking about regions located at latitudes where the Sun is straight up at that moment and raining season is still on the way.
Around May or so, as soon as the first seasonal heavy precipitations get there, cloudy sky as well as rain freshness let the values get, somehow, a bit downwards with reference to April. Even so, while maximum daily heat fall a little, minimum lowers tender to rise due to overcast skies above at night.
By this same reason, in some other areas in the region, August or even September can show the highest records, ( eventually caused by the clearest skies after the heaviest rains ).
Down South, average annual temperatures can show a discrepancy of only 0.5C ( 0.9F ) between winter and summer ( January/July ).
Poecilia latipinna can be located from fresh water environments, to sea water, including a wide range of brackish waters. Most populations show however a preference for salinity limits below 1,007 ( 10,2 ppt ).
Common habitats are springs, lakes and ponds, rivers and streams, drainage ditches, and salt marshes as well as most estuarine and sea line ponds or lagoons, tidal ditches and brackish canals. Some populations invade marine habitats, at least for short periods in seasonal basis. Others also search for sea in order to find specific environment conditions seasonally.
This molly is found naturally close to shore, in the edge of streams or ponds where it searches for shelter in shallow water usually near aquatic vegetation banks, especially in quiet, often densely vegetated backwaters rather than in open areas,.
In the North areas of its natural geographic distribution, Poecilia latipinna share the same habitat with some small species, including Gambusia holbrooki, Cyprinodon variegatus, Fundulus confluentus and Lucania parva, which might mean that they all need to look for refuge from larger predator fish species.
Adult animals can also be sporadically found in deeper waters around 50 centimetres, but usually avoid profundities of more than 1 metre.
Wild environment offers seasonally quite turbid waters, while they become opaque and offers low visibility by the raining season.
In may locations pH values vary around 7,5 and 8,1.

III - Physical-chemistry parameters

Ideal temperature range : 17C ( 62.6F ) - 27C ( 80,6F )

Tolerated limits : between 7C ( 44.6F ) and 13C ( 55.4F ) plus 33C ( 91.4F ) and 35C ( 95F ) ( depending on population )

Survival limits : between 4C ( 39.2F ) and 12C ( 53.6F ) plus 36C ( 96.8F ) and 39C ( 102.2F ) ( depending on population )

Ideal pH : 7 8.2

Ideal dH : 12 - 34

Maximum salinity : 1,036 ( 87 ppt )

Temperature annual maintenance for this species in captivity ( suggestion ) :

Thermal regime (1) 

Thermal regime (2)

12C ( 53.6F )

16C ( 60.8F )

15C ( 59.0F )

18C ( 64.4F )

19C ( 66.2F )

22C ( 71.6F )

21C ( 69.8F )

24C ( 75.2F )

24C ( 75.2F )

25C ( 77.0F )

26C ( 78.8F )

26C (78.8F )

27C ( 80.6F )

28C ( 82.4F )

26C ( 78.8F )

27C ( 80.6F )

23C (73.4F )

26C ( 78.8F )

21C ( 69.8F )

23C ( 73.4F )

16C ( 60.8F )

21C ( 60.8F )

13C ( 55.4F )

18C ( 64.4F )

Each one of this table lines report a different monthly period.

The temperature values are provided only as a reference for captivity maintenance.

Performing on this way your action can be considered reasonable, according with the species known thermal exigencies.

It is sometimes difficult, if not even impossible, to recreate in aquarium the natural conditions, most favourable for the fish biology. The most ideal situation was, if you could be able to provide your fish a daily as well as a weekly temperature variation, like in the wild.

For better understanding about perfect environment or to simulate water temperature annual evolution according to natural habitat for this species, please be so kind and have a look to Savannah, Miami, New Orleans, Corpus Christi, Tampico and Veracruz graphics at Wild water's temperatures ( all year round ) issue. 

IV - Biology and ecology synopsis

All along this fish considerable geographical distribution there is an extraordinary adult standard length variance in both sexes. This phenomenon is a particular distinguish and occurs both within and between populations. Males are however more prone to such disproportion.
Predominantly among wild males its possible to find an amazing divergence in maturation age, depending on the location, but in essence due to climate influence.
In the State of Florida, United States of America, adult males can reach from 16 to 103 mm Standard Length. Dorsal fins are also very variable, reaching from 6 to 45 mm high possessing from 10 and 17 rays ( Snelson, F.F., Jr. 1985 ).
Contrasting this species evident sexual dimorphism, some adult small males 30 mm long or less, dont even show the typical secondary sexual characteristics. They are quite similar to females and the only sexual distinguish feature visible is the gonopodium.
Only males above 45 mm start to show conspicuously the phenotype typical morphology, in particular showing those particular masculine traits that we can testify on the common fish sold in pet shops. These larger ones start to exhibit the traditional remarkable coloration and developed dorsal fins that can reach up to 45 mm high, differentiate them perfectly from the opposite sex and encouraging this way one of the species common names ( Snelson, F.F., Jr. 1985 ).
While males do not occur in a close array of such 3 arbitrary classes, but in a size and morphological continuum, the adult standard length and the ratio between the before mentioned main groups are quite instable, so each population composition contrast significantly.
At one extreme, males are always relatively small ( from 16 to 40 mm standard length ) and larger males are absent. At the other extreme, the population contains a full array of male sizes ( from 18 to 60 mm standard length ), and undersized males are present only in small numbers, ( Snelson, F.F., Jr. 1985 ). Precisely on these last populations, we can capture, in particular during summer months, large exemplars resembling very much the common aquarium form.
Possibly that characteristic size differences among populations may result from some environmental parameters, social and genetic, that controls such variability among males, ( Snelson, F.F., Jr. 1985 ).
Unfortunately domestic ( cultivated ) strains identified as Poecilia latipinna are becoming recurrently a fusion of origins and ancient wild proveniences, while many are, without any doubt, hybrids with other Mollies.
Sailfin Molly has managed to disperse over an impressive range occupying an remarkable variety of habitats throughout its evolution.
It is still possible to find these fishes very well harmonized with both, fresh and brackish waters, as well as in occasional sea penetrations from some populations located on coastal areas. Such adaptability encourages dispersal and new territories invasion.
In fact, this species show a wide tolerance to environmental factors and a astonish adaptability, solving some challenges like to very low dissolved oxygen level.
Due to a physiognomic feature, these fish can in fact survive to very low oxygen levels. On the limits Poecilia latipinna reduces consumption rates and uses it flattened head, superior mouth position and special designed lips, to draw water from a thin water surface film, where is still possible to get some satisfactory levels of dissolved oxygen, on environments where most fish would die from asphyxia.
Maybe in result of environmental as well as predatory pressure in the wild, it isnt very expectable to find large males as in captivity selecting breeding lineages.
Even so, wild populations from several Poeciliid species, under strict close contact with predators do show evidence for domain of larger individuals, specially when compared with those other populations free from such stress, ( and this one is far from be an exception to the rule ).
Adult males shorter than 45 mm are also common in lesser populations or on those regions where cold winters becomes more often noticeable. Immature males born by the end of the breeding season will take longer to attain full development and will grow until next spring when they reach sexual maturity. The explication for this unequivocal size discrepancy lay on a simple biological fact. Poeciliid males grow on an observable manner only until they reach sexual maturity. As the red line achieve sexual maturity later, some times weeks or even months after their dark line counterparts, growth do not stops and they make the difference.
As many other large geographical distribution species we can become aware of interesting local biological particularities.
Sexual selection may play an important role on such evidence as well as on the species morphological variability.
Females fill more attracted and select males on the basis of higher dorsal fin and more remarkable body coloration.
The counterpace is that a highlighted individual is also more evident to predators due to more elaborate ornamentation.
The simple fact of a females let herself to remain in the presence of such marked male during courtship, can put in danger her own life too, as they both become conspicuous to near by predators.
Anyway, the male mating success it doesnt depend merely on large fins and bright colours or marks according to females predilection.
In the wild populations it is common to find more females than males, while there is a relative symmetry in sex ratio among fry and young. The same may happens also even in captivity when predators are not present.
While in natural environment these Mollies are omnivorous, with a significant tendency for a vegetarian diet. They feed mostly on a diverse sort of green matter ( predominately vegetal detritus, filamentous and unicellular algae as well ), but also on almost all little live prey of convenient size, like zoo benthos, zooplankton, aquatic invertebrates, insects and their larvae, including mosquitoes on all living stages.
In captivity, domestic strains do adapt themselves to the usual fish keeping common dietary.
The use of same foodstuff equivalent to other popular livebearer species is a proper choice, without any particular complement or rations concern besides some extra complement of green matter.
This is one of those species that accept flake industrial food with no problem. Besides dry, fresh or frozen industrial type of nourishment, vegetarian components must not be forgotten in the name of animals good health.
Occasional or frequent live preys do show some incredible impact on these fish general health and body improvement.
Keep in mind that is however largely recommended to include, besides several vegetal alternatives, brine shrimps, mosquito larvae, small aquatic invertebrates and other usual live prey ( alive or frozen ).
You can add also milled row, fish or molluscs from about all kinds used on human diet. Occasionally, once in a blue moon, you can use row meet from cow, pork, rabbit or birds, without any fat at all.
Remember that there is always an identifiable difference, in growth rate and fecundity, between fish communities of this species feed on natural foodstuff and those who can simply get artificial alternatives.
Like other Poecilid fish from subtropical and temperate regions, this is not a continuous breeding season kind species in a considerable area in the wild.
As long as we move further north on its geographical distribution, more often local populations face lower winter temperatures. In some areas that means a breeding discontinuing period as water goes below 17C ( 62.6F ) to 14C ( 57.2F ), it depends a lot on which population we area talking about.
The State of Florida is considered a subtropical region, but even on its southern limits the species had revealed to independent breeding seasons, one between April and June and another one between August and October.
Generally a number of those males born in April can be ready to mate in September or October. The adverse effect of attaining sexual maturity earlier is that they will be usually undersized when compared with those others who attain full maturity only between 11 and 13 months next spring. As mentioned before, Poeciliid males on average stop growing on a noticeable way after sexual maturity.
Nonetheless if we take in consideration the subtropical regions at the southern limits of the species geographic distribution in Mexico, there is no manifest interlude on the reproduction season and Poecilia latipinna becomes a continuous breeding species.
The ideal temperature for gestation seems to be between 20C ( 68F ) and 26C ( 78.8F ).
Sailfin Molly females gestation period goes from 21 to 68 days. The time between deliveries is rather related to water temperature, photo period, salinity and nourishment.
Up to 29C ( 84.2F ) the gestation can take around 28 days, but above that limit they can become longer and longer again. Above 32C ( 89.6F ), complications and risks for both, mother and embryos, increase considerably.
Lab experiments had proven than salinity can also become a relevant factor to take in consideration. The discrepancy between fresh water and several other salinities could represent up to 4 days in gestation limits, although all other variables were constant, ( Kumaraguru Vasagam et al., 2005 ).
Salinity is also a key factor on reproduction success, newborn size, and fry growth.
According to the same source, the largest number of babies for delivery took place at 25% salinity ( 1,018 ). On the other hand the lower numbers are achieve both in fresh and sea water - 35% salinity ( 1,026 ).
Another important piece of information, as consequence from this lab experiment, is that better fry growing rates have took place at 10% salinity ( 1,007 ), ( Kumaraguru Vasagam et al., 2005 ).
The initial conception or pregnant females submitted to long term aguish, stress or anxiety, may have irregular broods, which can go up to 90 days or even further.
Full developed larger females can deliver 200 newborn or slightly more.
Cannibalistic conduct in captivity is infrequent, but it may happen in small tanks or when are present famine adults as well as when fish are submitted to a poor dietary.
Fertilization takes place about a week after delivery.
The quite popular use of maternity cages is one of the most noticeable sources of stress, commonly associated with gestation problems. Females subjected to such experience in cages will face permanent agony and suffering. They can refuse to give birth for long periods.
These unnecessary long pregnancies are very often related to health complications that result on problematical deliveries, spontaneous abortions and high rates of fatalities in newborn fish.
A successful mating can originate as far as 8 consecutive broods. Females can store viable sperm for periods up to 2 years.
Feeding newborn and fry will be no particular problem at all. This species will fallow usual needs from other members of Poeciliinae sub-family.
The newborn are relatively large. They can measure from 9 to 12 mm at birth. Less than an hour after birth they accept small live prey as aquatic invertebrates of the proper size to their moth, or any other artificial common food for baby fish.

V - Complementary notes

This species can, in some cases, behave in a hostile way against other fish in captivity, but more frequently such belligerence is oriented towards other Sailfil Molly rival males and not to other tank mates. This is particularly true in smaller tanks, where the vital space isnt enough for the species biology requirements. Despite of that this is a proper option for almost any community tank.
In fact, these expected male disputes dont harm other fish around and generally will not result in injuries to the antagonists itself.
Keeping this species in outdoors garden ponds, particularly on brackish water, will be an extremely favourable option. An evident return will become clear as time goes by in terms of growth and general health, as well as on males dorsal fin enlargement.
Back in the wild there are a number of predators feeding on this Molly. Aquatic insect larvae ( attack only fry and young ), other fish species, reptiles, amphibious, mammals and water birds are among usual pisicivorous.
Partially for this reason Sailfin Molly is found frequently in stagnant organic enriched waters, with high primary productivity ( eutrophic ), or locations with exuberant aquatic vegetation were the fish look for some protection. There are only a few other fish species who can compete for resources an live on such environment.
It is also a live indicator for pollution and water contamination, as it can survive in low dissolved oxygen concentrations, being one of the last species to withdraw from dreadful conditions for the aquatic live.

VI - Threats, protection and present status

Due to its broad geographical distribution, wild Poecilia latipinna populations are only familiar with human environmental pressure in some populated regions, essentially in United States of America.

Some lack of data concerning the recent live history of populations in North Carolina, for instance, are not helping much the knowledge about the present and a foreseen fish status.

Sailfin Molly is a species abundant in sea line lakes, ponds, salt marshes as well as in most estuaries, brackish water lagoons, which means that on the northern regions of its natural geographical distribution is possible that the species is under pressure by lost of habitat when these areas are altered for building purpose or human use.

With a vast natural distribution, auspiciously many populations can stay free from human pressure; most of all those located in remote wild regions. In the near future a situation of intense threatening upon this species isnt predictable. Nevertheless, in some restricted areas there are, right now, situations where there are already populations under harass, suffering from a number of varied risk extent.

The release of domestic ( cultivated ) strains in the wild can become a genetic threat to the local fish.

For further knowledge or information about this please check Livebearer Cyprinodontiformes in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Other topics available about this species :

Literature cited ( references ) :

Aspbury, A.S., and C.R. Gabor. 2004. Differential sperm priming by male sailfin mollies ( Poecilia latipinna ): Effects of female and male size.

Ethology 110(3):193-202.

Brown, W.H. 1953. Introduced species in the Guadalupe River basin.

Texas Journal of Science, 5:245-251.

Burgess, G.H. 1980. Poecilia latipinna (Lesueur), Sailfin molly. P. 549 in D.S. Lee, et al.

Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. N. C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r+854 pp.

Cook, F.A. 1959. Freshwater fishes in Mississippi.

Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, Jackson. 239 pp.

Edwards, R.J., and S. Contreras-Balderas. 1991. Historical changes in the Ichthyofauna of the Lower Rio Grande ( Rio Bravo del Norte ), Texas and Mexico.

The Southwestern Naturalist 36(2): 201-212.

Evermann, B.W. 1899. Report on investigations by the U.S. Fish Commission in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, in 1897.

Rept. U.S. Fish Comm. 24:287-310.

Farr, J.A., and J. Travis. 1986. Fertility advertisement by female sailfin mollies, Poecilia latipinna ( Pisces: Poeciliidae ).

Copeia 1986(2):467-472.

Franklin F. Snelson, Jr., 1985. Size and morphological variation in males of the sailfin molly, Poecilia latipinna.

Environmental Biology of Fishes Vol. 13, No. 1, 1985, pp. 35-17.

Harrington, R.W., Jr., and E. S. Harrington. 1961. Food selection among fishes invading a high subtropical salt marsh: from onset of flooding through the progress of a mosquito brood.

Ecology 45(4):646-666.

Hellier, T.R., Jr., 1967. The fishes of the Santa Fe River system.

Bull. Fla. State Mus. Biol. Ser. 2(1):1-46.

Hubbs, C., R.J. Edwards, and G.P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist to the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species.

The Texas Journal of Science, Supplement, 43(4):1-56.

Hunt, B.P. 1953. Food relationships between Florida spotted gar and other organisms in the Tamiami Canal, Dade Country, Florida.

Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 82(1952):12-33.

K.P. Kumaraguru vasagam, S. Rajagopal, T. Balasubramanian, 2005. Effect of Salinity on gestation period, Fry Production, and Growth Performance of the Sailfin Molly ( Poecilia Latipinna, Lesueur ) in Captivity.

The Israeli Journal of Aquaculture Bamidgeh 57(3), 2005, 191-196.

Lesueur, C.A. 1821. Description of a new genus, and of several new species of fresh water fish, indigenous to the United States.

J. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phil. 2:2-8.

Lewis, W.M., Jr., 1970. Morphological adaptations of cyprinodontids for inhabiting oxygen deficient waters.

Copeia 1970(2):319-326.

Parenti, L.R. and M. Rauchenberger. 1989. Systematic overview of the poeciliines, pp. 3-12.

Ecology and evolution of livebearing fishes (Poeciliidae). Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 453 pp.

Peterson, M.S. 1990. Hypoxia-induces physiological changes in mangrove swamp fishes: sheepshead minnow Cyprinodon variegatus Lacepede and sailfin molly Poecilia latipinna (Lesueur).

Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 97A(1):17-21.

Ross, S.T. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi.

University Press of Mississippi. 624 pp.

Snelson, F.F., Jr., 1982. Indeterminate growth in males of the sailfin molly, Poecilia latipinna.

Copeia 1982(2):296-304.

Snelson, F.F., Jr., 1984. Seasonal maturation and growth of males in a natural population of Poecilia latipinna.

Copeia 1984(1):252-255.

Snelson, F.F., Jr. 1985. Size and morphological variation in males of the sailfin molly, Poecilia latipinna.

Env. Biol. Fish. 13(1):35-47.

Snelson, F. F., Jr., J. D. Wetherington, and H. L. Large. 1986. The relationship between interbrood interval and yolk loading in a generalized poeciliid fish, Poecilia latipinna.

Copeia 1986(2):295-304.

Trexler, J. C. 1985. Variation in the degree of viviparity in the sailfin molly Poecilia latipinna.

Copeia 19885(4):999-1004.

Warren, M. L. Jr., B. M. Burr, S. J. Walsh, H.L. Bart Jr., R. C. Cashner, D. A. Etnier, B. J. Freeman, B. R. Kuhajda, R. L. Mayden, H. W. Robison, S.T. Ross, and W. C. Starnes. 2000. Diversity, distribution and conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States.

Fisheries 25(10):7-29.

Winemiller, K.O., F.P. Gelwick, T.H. Bonner, S. Zueg, and C. Williams. 2004. Response of oxbow lake biota to hydrologic exchanges with the Brazos River channel. Report to the Texas Water Development Board. 59 pp.

Other topics available about this species :

Female mating preferences for male morphological traits used in species and mate recognition in the Mexican sailfin mollies, Poecilia velifera and P. petenensis.

Behavioral Ecology, 19:463-474, 2008

Kozak, H. L., Cirino, L. A. and Ptacek, M. B.

Geographical variation of genetic and phenotypic traits in the Mexican sailfin mollies, Poecilia velifera and P. petenensis.

Molecular Ecology, 17:2219-2233, 2008.

Hankison, S. J. and Ptacek, M. B.

Morphological divergence within and between the Mexican sailfin mollies, Poecilia velifera and P. petenensis.

Journal of Fish Biology, 68:1610-1630, 2006.

Hankison, S. J., Childress, M. J., Schmitter-Soto, J. J., and Ptacek, M. B.

Within and between species variation in male mating behaviors in the Mexican sailfin mollies Poecilia velifera and P. petenensis.

Ethology, 113:802-812, 2007.

Hankison, S. J., and Ptacek, M.B.


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