Poecilia latippina (Sailfin molly)

Poecilia latippina, also known as the Sailfin Molly belongs to the Poeciliidae family. Poecilia latippina may also be known as Mollienesia latipinna. Many people confuse Latippina with Velifera because of their anatomical similarities and same common name.
The species is native to Southern North America (Mexico, from Carolina to Veracruz) but, has been introduced in different countries. Generally, Mollies occur in freshwater and brackish water streams, ponds, swamps in coastal areas that contains more salt and minerals from other habitats that they exist, such as swamps and canals in tropical and subtropical climates. Furthermore, Poecilia latippina inhibits in low-flow areas and can tolerate hypoxic conditions presumably due to their large gill.
Poecilia latippina has mainly a grey-green body with other colors such as grey to jet-black spots. The species have been selectively cross-breeding with other molly species, as a result of more colorful domesticated variants or even different body shapes. In truth, you rarely see the wild form in pet-shops, and most of the domesticated varieties are hybrids with different needs. Poecilia Latippina has an average size of 5 inches (13 cm).
Similar to Poecilia velifera the species has a characteristic long and tall dorsal fin. Males have larger dorsal fins than females and male’s anal fins modified to the rod-shaped male’s reproductive organ, the gonopodium. Also, male mollies are slightly smaller and more colorful than female mollies. They have a lifespan of 2-3 years. Males usually live a shorter life than females (1 year).
In comparison with other poeciliids, mollies are more sensitive to sudden temperature drops of more than a degree or two. Furthermore, the addition of salt in the water of mollies prevents many difficulties due to the environmental habits that the species occur. The addition of salt increases the pH and hardness of the water that mollies prefer. Always check if the species have been maintained in brackish water previously so that you can adjust the water conditions in their aquarium. However, the species can thrive in a freshwater tank with the proper requirements. In general, for the maintenance of the species, the condition of the water needs to be stable with a proper diet. They should be kept in hard alkaline water. A pH between 7.5-8.5, with a temperature between 21-26 Celsius, and hardness between 15-30 dGH, suits the species.
The recommended male to female ratio is 1:2 or 1:3. If male mollies outnumber the female mollies, they get aggressive towards another, plus females get stressed by the constant pursuit from males. It’s better to keep the fish in species-only tanks for optimal care, but because of their social temperament Poecilia Velifera suits for community tanks with species that tolerate hard alkaline water. Some compatible tank-mates are other molly species ( if you don’t want hybridization don’t put them together) and poeciliids such as Platies and Swordtails, guppies (can also hybridize), some catfish, etc.
Live-bearers are best not to be kept in a crowded aquarium. An aquarium of 75 liters (20 gallons) suits a group of 3 Poecilia Latippina (minimum aquarium size).
Plants are essential for livebearers, as they provide shelter for stressed fish and their offspring, providing chemical and physical conditions for the growth of microorganisms that can be eaten by the poeciliids.
Poecilia latippina is omnivorous and can eat prepared food and small live-foods such as brine shrimp, micro-worms, daphnia, white worms, tubifex. In nature, its diet consists of algae as most Mollies are fond of algae, detritus, rotifers, small crustaceans, and aquatic insects ( such as mosquito larvae), etc. Nutrition needs to include a plant source such as spirulina, boiled vegetables, e.t.c.
The male chases the female, and when the female molly is ready stays immobile for a few seconds until the male fertilizes her. The action is repeated continuously by the male guppy. It’s interesting that poeciliid females can store sperm inside their body for months and get pregnant, without a male.
It’s a well-known fact that livebearers tend to feed on their young. A densely planted aquarium raises the survival of the young from the adults if you don’t remove them. For the best outcome, the male needs to be removed from the aquarium and leave the female alone to give birth. After birth, remove the female molly too. A planted aquarium will increase safety for the fry from the female molly before removal. Like the rest of the poeciliid family, they give birth to live fry. The female Sailfin molly gives birth to more than 100 young in one brood. The brood’s number is affected by the age and size of the female molly.

Dalmation Balloon Sailfin Molly Poecilia latipinna aquarium fish


  1. David Alderton 2005, 2008, Encyclopedia of aquarium and pond fish, Published in the United States by DK Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7566-3678-4
  2. Wilfred L. Whitern 1983, Livebearers, ISBN 0876665180
  3. Poecilia latippina. Retrieved from https://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/poecilia-latipinna/h
  4. Poecilia latippina. Retrieved from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=165898#null
  5. Poecilia latippina. Retrieved from https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=858
  6. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, February 2011, Sailfin Molly. Retrieved from https://www.fws.gov/fisheries/ans/erss/highrisk/ERSS-Poecilia-latipinna-final-April2018.pdf
  7. Wayne Waltz and Billy McCord, Sailfin Molly. Retrieved from http://www.dnr.sc.gov/cwcs/pdf/Sailfinmolly.pdf

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