Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Poecilia latipinna

Sailfin molly

Sailfin molly, Poecilia latipinnaSailfin molly, Poecilia latipinna
Photos by Andy Rapson


Poecilia: Greek, poikilos = with a lot of colours

General Notes:

Sailfin mollies are a peaceful livebearing fish. They won't thrive in soft acidic water and will do best in hard alkaline or mildly brackish water.  Poecilia latipinna will eventually suffer from health problems if kept in the wrong water chemistry. Most notably pop-eye and dropsy. It is essential that they are not kept in water with a pH of less than 7.2.


Wild Poecilia latipinna eat algae, worms, crustaceans and insects. In captivity they will take good quality vegetarian flake food, thinly sliced cucumber, lettuce, live and frozen food. They are bold feeders and quite unfussy.


Males have a very large dorsal fin when adult, the dorsal fin of the female is of normal proportions. The males also have a highly modified anal fin (gonopodium) which is used for internal fertilisation.


Poecilia latipinna is a livebearer, once mated, a female can produce several broods without the presence of a male. Mature females give birth to a well developed brood of fry numbering up to 140 but normally far fewer. Parents do not protect their brood once born and a few adults will eat their fry if given a chance. If kept in a large densely planted tank with floating plants and the adults are well fed with live food then they will probably ignore the fry.

Do not use a breeding trap with sailfin mollies, confining a heavily pregnant female in this way will cause a lot of stress and may result in the fry being born prematurely and not surviving. Pregnant females should not be handled if at all possible.

Wild status

The health of wild populations have not been accessed. Poecilia latipinna is considered to be a pest species in many regions where it has been introduced.

Information at a glance

pH: 7.5 - 8.2
dGH: 10 25
Temperature: 20 - 28°C (68 - 82°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 15cm (6in)
Min tank size: 100 litres
Difficulty level: Intermediate
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: All levels

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Sailfin molly, Poecilia latipinna

Origin: North America: North Carolina, USA to Veracruz, Mexico, Gulf of Mexico Introduced to many countries.

Habitat: Found in ponds, lakes and quiet, often vegetated, backwaters and pools of streams and also in coastal waters. Plentiful in tidal ditches and brackish canals.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cyprinodontiformes
Family: Poeciliidae
Genus: Poecilia
Species: P. latipinna, (Lesueur, 1821)

Common name:
Sailfin molly

Synonyms: Limia matamorensis, Limia poeciloides, Mollienesia latipinna, Poecilia lineolata, Poecilia multilineata