Sailfin Molly Fish (Poecilia latipinna)

sailfin molly fish

The sailfin molly fish, also known as Poecilia latipinna, in the Poeciliidae family, is very popular among aquarists, especially the ones who have not kept livebearers before.

However, despite its popularity among aquarists, it’s still an undemanding fish and will easily adapt to different conditions in your aquarium. It can thrive in freshwater or brackish water as long as you make sure there’s no chlorine or heavy metals present in the water and that the pH doesn’t fluctuate too much.

The sailfin molly fish, also known as Poecilia latipinna or Xiphophorus latipinnis, originates in North America, but can now be found in other parts of the world as an introduced species.

This colorful fish with its tall dorsal fin makes an ideal addition to a planted tank, as they are excellent algae eaters. While they are not considered to be aggressive fish, the male will guard his mates and their eggs after the female has laid them.

Origin and description

Sailfin molly fish are usually small, oblong, and gray with long rows of white spots resembling stripes. The male has a larger dorsal fin, but other than that, their fins are generally small and their caudal (tail) fin is truncated.

They are able to thrive in poor-quality water due to their upturned faces, which allow them to draw oxygen from the upper layer of water. Aquarists have bred a variety of colors from these tolerant fish, which can be found in ponds, marshes, or even roadside ditches.

Species profile

sailfin molly fish

The Sailfin Molly fish is both a brackish and freshwater fish native to Central and South America. It is a live-bearer, so it gives birth to live young instead of laying eggs. The sailfin molly’s diet consists of plants, algae, crustaceans, snails, and insects. It can be found in ponds, lakes, slow-moving streams, and rivers. Sailfin mollies are popular as pets because they are colorful and easy to care for.

Poecilia mexicana (Shortfin Molly Fish)

Scientific name

The scientific name of the sailfin molly fish is Poecilia latipinna


The Sailfin Mollies are one of the most popular aquarium fishes in North America. They come from North and South America, where they inhabit freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams. They can also be found in brackish water conditions. Sailfin Mollies live in a wide range of habitats with various depths and temperatures.

In their native environments, they can survive outside of the aquatic environment. They are considered gravel-suckers because they feed on tiny organisms living in the gravel at the bottom of lakes and other bodies of water. In captivity, these fish will eat commercially prepared flake food or pellets as well as algae-based foods that supplement their diet.

Sailfin molly size and weight

The sailfin molly fish is a type of live-bearing fish that can grow to be about 13 cm (5 inches) long.

Sailfin molly tank size

A 30 gallon tank (114 liters) or more is the minimum size for a single sailfin molly.

Sailfin molly tank mates

They are a schooling species of fish, so it is best to keep them with other sailfin mollies or similar-sized fish that enjoy school life as well. Some good tankmates are Platies, Swordtails, Angel Fish, Plecostomus, Corydoras Catfish, and bigger Tetras such as Red Serpaes, Black Skirts, and Silver Tips.


sailfin molly fish

Sailfin mollies are typically larger in females than in males, a characteristic of the Poeciliidae family. There is a conspicuous secondary sexual feature found on males, which is a large and colorful dorsal fin, as well as a colorful caudal fin, and these features are often considered by females in choosing a mate.

Within the anal fin of males, a structure called a gonopodium facilitates fertilization by means of highly modified fin elements. Female sailfin mollies store sperm long after their relatively short-lived mates have died, and can produce broods of 10 to 140 live young.

Perlmutt Cichlid (Labidochromis perlmutt)

Females of this species may give birth on more than one occasion throughout the year, depending on temperature, and the gestation period is approximately 3 to 4 weeks. As a consequence of the showy breeding dress and a life spent mostly in a breeding frenzy, males seem to suffer much higher rates of mortality than females despite having a balanced sex ratio in broods.

As a consequence of their susceptibility to predators and disease, males appear to suffer a much higher rate of mortality. No parental care is shown by this species.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

The sailfin molly fish is an active and peaceful fish. They are best suited for a community aquarium with other small to medium-sized fish that can’t fit in their mouth. Sailfins are territorial when it comes to their territory but they will not eat any of the other fish in the tank.

Sailfin molly fish care information

sailfin molly fish

The sailfin molly fish care is similar to the betta, but they are a more social animal and require more space. They need at least a 30-gallon tank with plants and hiding places. A filter should be installed in the tank because of their sensitive swim bladder, which makes them susceptible to fluctuations in water quality. They also have scales that can grow into an eye, so they need to be checked periodically.

Sailfin molly fish diet

Sailfin molly fish are herbivores and feed primarily on algae, diatoms, and other vegetable matter. They will also eat insect larvae and crustaceans.

Tank requirements

In captivity, they require excellent water quality with a pH of 7-8 and a temperature of 73-77 degrees Fahrenheit. The tank needs an under gravel filter and lots of live plants. A frequent water change is also necessary, as these fish excrete ammonia from their skin as waste.

Because these animals are social creatures who like to live in schools or colonies, it’s best to buy at least five at once so that they don’t get lonely or stressed out by being alone.

Dalmatian Lyretail Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

The sailfin molly is a type of fish found mainly in subtropical climates such as Florida where it lives near vegetation-rich streams.


The lifespan of a Sailfin Molly fish is about three to five years.

Parasites and diseases

The main parasites that the sailfin molly fish can get are ich, columnaris, and costia. These three diseases can either be fatal or cause stunted growth. Columnaris is a bacterial disease that affects the mouth, gills, and fins of a fish. Ich is a parasite that attacks mainly their skin causing lesions that can lead to secondary infections.

Costia is an external parasite that attaches itself to fishes’ fins by biting into their scales. The best way to prevent these parasitic diseases is through quarantine in a hospital tank for about 2 weeks before releasing them back into their aquariums.

Predators (What animals prey on them)

The sailfin molly is a small, abundant seafood species at the bottom of the food chain. Due to this, they are prey for many different animals, such as aquatic insects, other fish, aquatic reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Do sailfin molly fish make good pets?

Yes, sailfin mollies are very good pets if you’re looking for a low-maintenance fish. They are relatively inexpensive and they can be found at most pet stores. Sailfin mollies require a 30 gallon tank or larger, filtered water, and live food like brine shrimp or bloodworms. Sailfins also need to be kept in groups of five or more to help them feel safe and secure from predators.