Gold Dust Molly (Poecilia sphenops)

Gold dust molly fish

Last updated on September 16th, 2022 at 01:20 am

Gold Dust Molly (Poecilia sphenops) is one of the most popular and commonly available molly species in the aquarium trade. It has also been frequently bred and raised by aquarists due to its ease of care requirements and the males’ tendency to exhibit rich, golden coloration that is passed on to their offspring through genetics.

They are livebearer fish and native to Southern Texas and Northern Mexico.

The gold dust molly is a brightly colored freshwater fish species of the Poeciliidae family, they are unique among the mollies in that they have black spots on the dorsal fin, and no markings on their flanks, distinguishing them from other members of their genus.

They live in relatively shallow, muddy water and are popular as freshwater aquarium fish due to their striking appearance and peaceful dispositions. Let’s take a closer look at this beautiful fish!

Origin and descriptions

Gold dust molly fish

Gold dust molly originates from Panama. They are very peaceful and enjoy hanging out in schools. They are members of the Poeciliidae family, subfamily Poeciliinae, tribe Vandelliini, and genus Poecilia. The species name, sphenops, comes from Greek and means wedge-faced.

This refers to their relatively flat heads and wedge-shaped snouts. The common name is derived from their bright golden coloration in some populations of fish. In other populations, they can be found with silver, brown, or orange colors. Their dorsal fin has an orange edge that makes them easily distinguishable from other livebearers.

They grow up to 10 cm in length but stay smaller than many other livebearers because they don’t require as much oxygen as others do, due to their labyrinth organ which allows them to breathe air directly through their gills.

Species profile

The gold dust molly belongs to the family Poeciliidae, which is also known as livebearers. Other members of Poeciliidae include guppies and swordtails. These fish are native to Mexico and Central America but have been introduced into Florida, Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand.

Hogchoker (Trinectes maculatus)

There are several subspecies of Poecilia sphenops that vary in coloration from grayish-green to yellow-orange with black spots on their flanks. They reach a maximum length of about 4 inches. Their common name comes from a golden glow they develop when breeding.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the gold dust molly is Poecilia sphenops


This freshwater fish can be found in North America. Like other mollies, they live in open water and prefer to swim alone or in small groups. These fish are found naturally in Florida but have since been introduced to other regions.

While these fish are often found living in warm waters, they do not tolerate temperatures over 86 degrees Fahrenheit. If your gold dust molly gets too hot, it may die from heat exhaustion. To prevent heat stress from occurring, make sure you keep your tank’s temperature between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit at all times.

Gold dust molly size

These species of fish can grow up to 4 inches (10 cm) in length, with females slightly larger than males.

Tank size

Gold dust molly fish

The minimum recommended tank size is 25 gallons (95 liters)

Tank requirements

A 25-gallon tank or larger is suitable for a single gold dust molly. Many pet stores sell tanks labeled combo that include space for two fish. Gold dust mollies prefer tanks with a dense school of their own kind and plenty of live plants to dart about among, so it may be difficult to introduce one alone into a community tank containing other species.

Make sure you have an efficient filtration system, as gold dust mollies produce lots of waste. They also enjoy water temperatures between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. If your aquarium heater cannot keep up with these temperatures, consider purchasing a submersible heater to regulate them. The pH level should fall between 6.0 and 8.0; ideally, 7.2 would be best.

Columbian Shark (Arius jordani)

If your pH levels are too high or low, they will disrupt your gold dust molly’s sensitive sense of smell and can cause stress in some cases—and ultimately death in others—so you should test regularly for correct levels and make adjustments if necessary.

Tank mates

Other peaceful fish are okay, but be careful if you have territorial or aggressive fish. You can keep them with mollies, platies, swordtails, and guppies. But you shouldn’t keep a gold dust molly with tropical tetras or angelfish. These fish tend to be too aggressive for these smaller fishes. They might eat them.


Gold dust molly fish

Gold dust molly fish are livebearer fish. They spawn on a substrate of Java moss or spawning mops.

The fact that Mollies are livebearers means that their eggs develop within their body, as they birth their young. And their gestation takes about two months. It should be noted, however, that these fish teams are the best in captivity to mate always.

Additionally, their conditions in a breeding tank need to be perfect. That being said, the water and tank, in general, ought to be clean.

The following steps are needed in order to breed gold dust molly fish: Fill a tank with 15-30 gallons of water. Make sure there is plenty of decorations, a substrate, and fresh plants in the tank. Acquire male and female molly fish in order to make sure you have two of them per 30 gallons of space in the tank.

When you release the fish into the tank, expect them to reproduce, as they will only do so in warmer water. Do not go over 78°F, as this could disrupt their natural habitat. And yet another example is how males perform a courtship dance for the females. When the female is ready to mate, she will offer her eggs to the male so he can fertilize them.

If you keep this type of fish in captivity, the water in the tank ought to be about 79°F, and it should have some floating plants. Fertilization occurs within 35-45 days of mating, at which point the female molly releases the gold dust molly fries. Nevertheless, adult females can release up to 100 gold dust molly fry.

Black Lyretail Molly Fish (Poecilia latipinna)

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Gold dust mollies are known to be relatively peaceful and good community fish. They are not aggressive toward other fish or invertebrates. Because of their peaceful nature, they should only be housed with fish of comparable temperament.

If housing with another species that is more aggressive, ensure there is sufficient space for both species and make sure each has a refuge to retreat to if threatened. Likewise, females can become territorial if spawning occurs in the tank.

Gold dust molly care

Gold dust molly fish

Members of Poecilia family are hardy fish, so a tank of at least 25 gallons is recommended to house one gold dust molly. Though they live in groups and pairs in their natural habitat, these fish don’t make good community fish for aquariums.

Also, because they are sensitive to chemicals, keeping them with live plants is out of the question. Instead, choose plastic or silk plants if you want to add some color and beauty to your gold dust molly’s tank. The water temperature should be between 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit. Gold dust mollies like hiding places under rocks and decorations but also enjoy swimming around in open spaces.

What they eat

Gold dust mollies are omnivores and will eat both meaty and plant-based foods. They eat mosquito larvae, algae, tubifex worms, brine shrimp, bloodworms, or daphnia, as well as plant matter such as pond weeds, duckweed, and even lettuce!


These species of fish can live for 3-5 years in captivity.

Parasites and diseases

Gold dust mollies are very susceptible to both internal and external parasites. The most common of these is ich, which is easily spread through water transfers. Other bacterial diseases that affect gold dust mollies include fin rot, tail rot, and cottonmouth disease.

It is also possible for gold dust mollies to contract or carry viral diseases such as Mouth Rot or Stomach Flukes.

Figure 8 Puffer Fish Care (Dichotomyctere ocellatus)

In addition to bacteria and viruses, gold dust mollies can be affected by parasitic worms such as flukes and tapeworms. These can be treated with anti-parasitic medications from your local pet store. In some cases, you may need to treat a tank with a dewormer if you have multiple fish in it.


Since gold dust mollies live in tropical climates, they have few predators. However, as with all fish, gold dust mollies need to be wary of larger fish that will eat them as a food source. The main enemy of gold dust mollies is humans, birds, and other larger predatory fish.

Do gold dust molly make good pets?

Yes. If you are looking for freshwater or brackish water fish species that can be kept in an aquarium, then a gold dust molly could be a good option. They are attractive and very peaceful. However, they will require a very well-maintained tank to ensure they thrive.

Unlike some types of fish, such as bettas and gouramis, gold dust mollies aren’t aggressive or prone to attacks on tank mates. While they might nip fins when spawning or defending their territory, they are fairly easygoing.

They can live in a community tank with other fish species but will be happier if you keep them with others of their own kind. They should always be kept in a community aquarium; do not attempt to house them by themselves.