Poecilia latipinna
Poecilia latipinna
(Sailfin Molly)
Native Transplant
Translate this page with Google
Français Deutsch Español Português Russian Italiano Japanese

Copyright Info
Poecilia latipinna (Lesueur, 1821)

Common name: Sailfin Molly

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Distinguishing characteristics given by Miller (1983), Hubbs et al. (1991), Menhinick (1991), and Page and Burr (1991); a formerly used name is Mollienesia latipinna (Miller 1983). Miller (1983) gave a key to this species and other Mexican Poecilia. Photographs of wild-caught and aquarium strains appeared in Wischnath (1993) and Yamamoto and Tagawa (2000).

Size: 15 cm.

Native Range: Atlantic and Gulf Coast drainages from Cape Fear drainage, North Carolina, to Veracruz, Mexico. Restricted to coastal areas in most of range; found farther inland in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas (Page and Burr 1991).

US auto-generated map Legend USGS Logo
Alaska auto-generated map
Hawaii auto-generated map
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: This species has been introduced into several areas of Arizona (Miller and Lowe 1967; Minckley 1973; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.); parts of southern California (Shapovalov et al. 1959, 1981; St. Amant 1966; Minckley 1973; Mearns 1975; Moyle 1976a; Schoenherr 1979; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1983; Swift et al. 1993; Williams et al. 1998); waters in Conejos County, Colorado (Woodling 1985; Zuckerman and Behnke 1986); all major islands of Hawaii (Seale 1905; Van Dine 1907; Brock 1960; Maciolek 1984; Devick 1991b; Mundy 2005); Trudau Pond, Madison County, Montana (Holton 1990); several springs in Nevada (La Rivers 1962; Deacon et al. 1964; Hubbs and Deacon 1964; Bradley and Deacon 1967; Minckley 1973; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Courtenay and Deacon 1982; Deacon and Williams 1984; Vinyard 2001); Dona Ana County, New Mexico (Sublette et al. 1990); and spring-influenced headwaters in central Texas and the San Antonio River, Bexar County (Brown 1953; Hubbs et al. 1978; Hubbs et al. 1991). Recently (2007) reported from Puerto Rico.

Poecilia latipinna has also been introduced to Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and the Phillipines (Courtenay and Meffe 1989).

Ecology: Generally occurs in shallow, slow-moving surface waters of marshes, ponds, streams, ditches, swamps, and estuaries. Commonly associated with vegetation. Widely tolerant of temperature, salinity, and low oxygen levels.

Means of Introduction: In most areas this species probably was introduced by way of aquarium releases. It was first brought to Hawaii from Texas in 1905 to test its effectiveness in controlling mosquitoes (Seale 1905; Van Dine 1907; Brock 1960). A failure in Hawaii at mosquito control, this fish has on occasion been used as a tuna baitfish in that state (Randall 1987).

Status: Established or locally established in Arizona (Minckley 1973), California (Swift et al. 1993), Colorado (Zuckerman and Behnke 1986), Montana (Holton 1990), Nevada (Deacon and Williams 1984), and Texas (Hubbs et al. 1991). Although established on most islands of Hawaii at one time (Devick 1991b), recent reports indicated the species may be disappearing in some localities (Yamamoto and Tagawa 2000; Mundy 2005).

Impact of Introduction: The Sailfin Molly is responsible for the decline of the desert pupfish Cyprinodon macularius in California (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1983). Sigler and Sigler (1987) stated that the Sailfin Molly has probably impacted native species adversely.

Sailfin mollies, and other introduced poeciliids, have been implicated in the decline of native damselflies on Oahu, Hawaii. Often the distributions of the damselflies and introduced fishes were found to be mutually exclusive, probably resulting from predation of the fish on the insects (Englund 1999).

Remarks: The Sailfin Molly has been stocked for mosquito control, even though it is largely or completely herbivorous (Courtenay and Meffe 1989). Records of this species in a few areas apparently are based on reports of the black molly, a hybrid, and not pure P. latipinna (Courtenay and Meffe 1989). Wischnath (1993) stated that U.S. commercial breeders have released various domestically bred forms, including P. latipinna hybrids, into natural waters. Contrary to Brown (1953) and Hubbs et al. (1991), Lee et al. (1980 et seq.) argued that P. latipinna found in inland waters of Texas were native. Improperly citing Van Dine (1907), Kanayama (1968) incorrectly used the name Mollienesia latipes for the species introduced to Hawaii.

Voucher specimens: California (LACM 36402-3), Montana (UMMZ 188981).

References: (click for full references)

Bradley, W. G. and J. E. Deacon. 1967. The biotic communities of southern Nevada. Nevada State Museum Anthropological Papers No. 13, Part 4. 201-273.

Brock, V. E. 1960. The introduction of aquatic animals into Hawaiian waters. Internationale Revue der gesamten Hydrobiologie 45(4):463-480.

Brown, W. H. 1953. Introduced fish species in the Guadalupe River Basin. Texas Journal of Science 5:245-251.

Courtenay, W. R., Jr., and J. E. Deacon. 1982. Status of introduced fishes in certain spring systems in southern Nevada. Great Basin Naturalist 42(3):361-366.

Courtenay, W. R., Jr., and G. K. Meffe. 1989. Small fishes in strange places: a review of introduced poeciliids. Pages 319-331 in G. K. Meffe, and F. F. Snelson, Jr., editors. Ecology and evolution of livebearing fishes (Poeciliidae). Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

Deacon, J. E., and J. E. Williams. 1984. Annotated list of the fishes of Nevada. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 97(1):103-118.

Deacon, J. E., C. Hubbs, and B. J. Zahuranec. 1964. Some effects of introduced fishes on the native fish fauna of southern Nevada. Copeia 1964(2):384-388.

Englund, R.A. 1999. The impacts of introduced poeciliid fish and Odonata on the endemic Megalagrion (Odonata) damselflies of Oahu Island, Hawaii. Journal of Insect Conservation 3:225-243.

Holton, G. D. 1990. A field guide to Montana fishes. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Helena, MT. 104 pp.

Hubbs, C., and J. E. Deacon. 1964. Additional introductions of tropical fishes into southern Nevada. Southwest Naturalist 9:249-251.

Hubbs, C., T. Luciere, G.P. Garrett, R.J. Edwards, S.M. Dean, and E. Marsh. 1978. Survival and abundance of introduced fishes near San Antonio, Texas. The Texas Journal of Science. 30(4): 369-376.

Hubbs, C., R. J. Edwards, and G. P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of freshwater fishes of Texas, with key to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56.

La Rivers, I. 1962. Fishes and fisheries of Nevada. Nevada State Print Office, Carson City, NV.

Lee, D. S., C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, and J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980 et seq. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC.

Maciolek, J. A. 1984. Exotic fishes in Hawaii and other islands of Oceania. Pages 131-161 in W. R. Courtenay, Jr., and J. R. Stauffer, Jr., editors. Distribution, biology, and management of exotic fishes. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Mearns, A. J. 1975. Poeciliopsis gracilis (Hackel), a newly introduced poeciliid fish in California. California Fish and Game 61(4):251-253.

Miller, R. R. 1983. Checklist and key to the mollies of Mexico (Pisces: Poecilidae, Poecilia, subgenus Mollienesia) Copeia 1983(3):817-822.

Miller, R.R. and C.H. Lowe. 1967. Part 2. Fishes of Arizona, p 133-151, In: C.H. Lowe, ed. The Vertebrates of Arizona. University of Arizona Press. Tucson.

Minckley, W. L. 1973. Fishes of Arizona. Arizona Fish and Game Department. Sims Printing Company, Inc., Phoenix, AZ.

Moyle, P. B. 1976a. Inland fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Mundy, B. C.  2005.  Fishes of the Hawaiian Archipelago.  Bishop Museum Bulletins in Zoology, Number 6.

Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Field Guide Series, volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Seale, A. 1905. Report of Mr. Alvin Seale of the United States Fish Commission, on the introduction of top-minnows to Hawaii from Galveston, Texas. The Hawaiian Forester and Agriculturist 2:364-367.

Shapovalov, L., W. A. Dill, and A. J. Cordone. 1959. A revised check list of the freshwater and anadromous fishes of California. California Fish and Game 45:159-180.

Shapovalov, L., A. J. Cordone, and W. A. Dill. 1981. A list of freshwater and anadromous fishes of California. California Fish and Game 67(1):4-38.

Sigler, W.F., and J.W. Sigler. 1987. Fishes of the Great Basin: a natural history. University of Nevada Press, Reno, NV.

St. Amant, J. A. 1966. Addition of Tilapia mossambica Peters to the California fauna. California Fish and Game 52:54-55.

Sublette, J. E., M. D. Hatch, and M. Sublette. 1990. The fishes of New Mexico. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM. 393 pp.

Swift, C. C., T. R. Haglund, M. Ruiz, and R. N. Fisher. 1993. The status and distribution of the freshwater fishes of southern California. Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Science 92(3):101-167.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1983. The Moapa dace recovery plan. Prepared in cooperation with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. 32 pp.

Woodling, J. 1985. Colorado's little fish: a guide to the minnows and other lesser known fishes in the state of Colorado. Colorado Division of Wildlife, Denver, CO. 77 pp.

Yamamoto, M. N. and A. W. Tagawa.  2000.  Hawaii's Native and Exotic Freshwater Animals.  Mutual Publishing, Honolulu, HI.  200 pp.

Zuckerman, L. D., and R. J. Behnke. 1986. Introduced fishes in the San Luis Valley, Colorado. Pages 435-452 in R. H. Stroud, editor. Fish culture in fisheries management. Proceedings of a symposium on the role of fish culture in fisheries management at Lake Ozark, MO, March 31-April 3, 1985. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Other Resources:
Biological Profile - Florida Museum of Natural History

FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, Pamela J. Schofield, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 9/29/2011

Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, Pamela J. Schofield, and Matt Neilson, 2018, Poecilia latipinna (Lesueur, 1821): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=858, Revision Date: 9/29/2011, Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016, Access Date: 3/24/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logoU.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: https://nas.er.usgs.gov
Page Contact Information: Pam Fuller - NAS Program (pfuller@usgs.gov)
Page Last Modified: Wednesday, March 14, 2018


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [3/24/2018].

Additional information for authors