The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Poecilia latipinna
Poecilia latipinna
(Sailfin Molly)
Native Transplant

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).

Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Poecilia latipinna are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AZ195220207Lower Colorado; Lower Gila; Lower Gila-Painted Rock Reservoir; Lower Salt; Lower Verde; Tonto; Upper Salt
CA195520238Calleguas; Death Valley-Lower Amargosa; Ivanpah-Pahrump Valleys; Salton Sea; San Diego; San Felipe Creek; Santa Ana; Whitewater River
CO198519862Alamosa-Trinchera; San Luis
FL198819883Cape Canaveral; Oklawaha; Vero Beach
HI190520057Hawaii; Hawaii; Kauai; Lanai; Maui; Molokai; Oahu
MT196919963Beaverhead; Lower Yellowstone; Ruby
NV196220239Death Valley-Lower Amargosa; Imperial Reservoir; Lake Mead; Meadow Valley Wash; Muddy; Sand Spring-Tikaboo Valleys; Spring-Steptoe Valleys; Upper Amargosa; White
NM199019901El Paso-Las Cruces
PR200720072Eastern Puerto Rico; Southern Puerto Rico
TX193920215East Galveston Bay; Elm-Sycamore; San Gabriel; Spring; Upper San Antonio
UT199019901Curlew Valley

Table last updated 6/17/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

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.

FishBase Summary

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

Revision Date: 9/29/2011

Peer Review Date: 9/29/2011

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, Pamela J. Schofield, and Matt Neilson, 2024, 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: 9/29/2011, Access Date: 6/17/2024

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.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/17/2024].

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