Sailfin Molly Care (Poecilia latipinna)

sailfin molly fish

Last updated on September 10th, 2022 at 01:31 pm

The sailfin molly fish (Poecilia latipinna) is one of the more unique freshwater fish species, characterized by its unusual pelvic fins that are thin and elongated, resembling the sails of a ship. These distinctive fins make it easy to identify the Poecilia latipinna when compared to other members of the Poecilia family, which includes guppies, swordtails, and mollies among others. The sailfin molly fish will grow to an average of five inches long, with males growing slightly larger than females.

Poecilia latipinna is a species of fish in the Poeciliidae family found in Mexico and the United States. A benthic omnivore, it has often been introduced to locations outside its native range as well as other waters where it has been used in hybridization experiments between closely related mollies such as the Sailfin Molly and the Western Sailfin Molly.

Origin and descriptions

Sailfin mollies are hardy, beautiful species of freshwater tropical fish that live in South America. The fish can be easily distinguished by its one fin on top of its head and its white bottom, which is covered with many black or dark-colored spots.

The sailfin molly has been introduced into several areas outside its native range for aquaculture purposes; however, it has also established itself as an invasive species in some of these areas due to their lack of natural predators in their new environments.

Species profile

sailfin molly fish

Sailfin molly fish is a species of freshwater fish in the Poeciliidae family, an order of freshwater live-bearers.

They have oval bodies and laterally-compressed tails, with a prominent dorsal fin that is longer than it is high. As with all live-bearing fish, their eggs are fertilized internally and they give birth to fully functional young (they do not need parental care). The species gets its name from its unique tail fins, which make them stand out in a tank full of fish!

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They are related to guppies and swordtails, though they aren’t as brightly colored. Sailfin mollies can grow to about two inches long and have multicolored bodies with spots and stripes, which are more prominent on their dorsal fins and tails than their flanks. The females generally have larger and more ornate patterns than the males do.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the sailfin molly fish is Poecilia latipinna


The sailfin molly fish is usually found in fresh water and brackish estuaries. They prefer waters that are clean and clear, which they can easily see through to find their food. Because of their unusual shape, these fish are not suited for environments with too much current or strong waves. They tend to swim in schools, so finding them together is common and likely means that they have set up a home territory.

Sailfin molly size

They are small species growing to around 5 inches (13 cm), however, some have been seen to grow up to 6 inches (15 cm) in length.

Tank size

Since they get slightly bigger than the average molly fish, the minimum recommended tank size is 30 gallons (114 liters).

Tank requirements

Although Poecilia latipinna is originally from Mexico, they are easy to keep in aquariums and can be kept with other fish of similar size and temperament. Sailfin mollies do well in a 30-gallon tank with live plants and have been known to breed in relatively small tanks (10-20 gallons). Water temperature should be around 73-79 degrees Fahrenheit, but varies depending on where you live.

Be sure to provide your sailfin molly fish with a good filter system as they are very sensitive to poor water quality. They also require ample amounts of oxygen so make sure that your filter has sufficient power and/or consider adding an air stone or two.

Lighting isn’t essential for these fish as long as there is plenty of natural light coming into your home or office; however, if possible, it’s best to include some type of lighting for them to swim under during the night.

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Sailfin molly tank mates

Good tank mates for sailfin mollies include other types of mollies, as well as cory cats and otocinclus. Avoid keeping them with fish that are too aggressive or have sharp fins, because sailfin molly fish have soft skin that’s easily torn. Also avoid putting them in an aquarium with non-fish animals such as snails, shrimp, or crabs.

Sailfin mollies prefer to live in groups, so you should try to keep at least six together. If you want to keep more than one male per female, make sure they’re evenly distributed throughout your tank so they don’t compete for females or fight each other over territory.

Sailfin molly breeding

sailfin molly fish

As with their cousins, Sailfin Molly fish do not lay eggs, yet they are larger than their male counterparts. Ten to 140 Sailfin Molly fish will be born to a female at one time but not simultaneously.

Commonly, she will give birth multiple times over the span of a year. Molly fish require large birthing bins with ample vegetation, just as they do with other Molly species.

Immediately after giving birth, she should be removed from the newborns to prevent them from becoming her breakfast.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Even though Sailfin Mollies can reach upwards of 5 inches in length, they are typically non-aggressive fish that do well with other members of their species and peaceful tank mates, but they do have a tendency to become territorial if their space is invaded.

They may also get aggressive if there’s an imbalance in their environment. Because of these tendencies, it’s best to keep more than one sailfin molly per tank so that there are no arguments over territory or other resources.

When keeping multiple mollies together, it is important to keep a ratio of 2:1 females for every male. Sailfins will also live peacefully with other bottom-dwelling fish like corydoras catfish, goldfish, gouramis, and plecos.

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Sailfin molly care

sailfin molly fish

Sailfin molly care is pretty easy. They require a large, filtered tank with live plants. This species is a typical livebearer and enjoys burrowing in dark substrates such as coconut fiber; make sure you provide plenty of hiding places to deter aggression among other inhabitants.

Because it enjoys low light conditions, put off bright lights after sunset so that your Poecilia latipinna can sleep undisturbed until morning. Do not overfeed these fish, as they are prone to overeating and developing swim bladder problems. In addition, do not house them with larger fish due to their small size.

Finally, keep water quality high by doing regular water changes every week or two using aged water from your aquarium filter or an outside source. The sailfin molly requires a weekly water change of about 10 percent, although weekly replacement may be necessary for some aquarists.

Be careful when handling your Poecilia latipinna because its fins have delicate spines along their edges that can easily tear if mishandled.

Sailfin molly lifespan

sailfin molly fish

These species of fish can live up to 3-5 years in captivity with good water parameters and proper care.

Parasites and diseases

Sailfin mollies are relatively hardy fish and can handle a range of water conditions. However, they do have their limits, particularly when it comes to parasites and diseases. They’re susceptible to external parasites such as anchor worms, which are caused by a species of worm that attaches itself to your fish’s skin.

Anchor worms aren’t usually fatal but can be unsightly and cause inflammation in your fish if left untreated. As with most external parasites, anchor worms are usually treated with medicated food or salt baths. In addition to anchor worms, sailfin mollies are also prone to other types of external parasites such as flukes and gill flukes.

These parasites tend to be more common in tanks with low levels of dissolved oxygen, so keep an eye on your tank’s oxygen levels if you notice any signs of disease.

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Their predators include bass, bluegill, catfish, perch, and turtles. They are also preyed upon by birds. Because they are such an easy target for so many predators, it’s important that you keep them in an aquarium with a cover on them if you have pets or small children in your home.

Do they make good pets?

Yes, but they are pretty large and require a lot of space. They are hardy and don’t require a lot of attention, which makes them good fish for kids who want to learn how to care for pets. Sailfin mollies make good community fish as well.

They can be kept with other mollies, other livebearers like guppies and swordtails, freshwater shrimp, or small fish such as tetras or zebra danios. In fact, sailfin mollies will eat any fish small enough to fit in their mouths! This means that if you have smaller fish in your tank, you should keep an eye on your sailfins at all times.

If you plan on keeping other species with your sailfins, it is recommended that you keep only one male per tank—they are extremely territorial and will fight to the death if there is more than one male in a tank.