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Poecilia latipinna.jpg
Male sailfin molly (P. latipinna)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cyprinodontiformes
Family: Poeciliidae
Subfamily: Poeciliinae
Tribe: Poeciliini
Genus: Poecilia
Bloch & J. G. Schneider, 1801
Type species
Poecilia vivipara
Bloch & J. G. Schneider, 1801

See text.

Poecilia is a genus of fishes in the family Poeciliidae Poecculent of the order Cyprinodontiformes.[1] These livebearers are native to fresh, brackish and salt water in the Americas, and some species in the genus are euryhaline. A few have adapted to living in waters that contain high levels of toxic hydrogen sulfide (H
)[2] and a population of P. mexicana lives in caves (other populations of this species are surface-living).[3]

Some common and widespread species are often kept as aquarium fish, while other have very small ranges and are seriously threatened.[2] All species in Poecilia are called mollies except for the Endler's livebearer (P. wingei) and the well-known guppy (P. reticulata). Without a modifying adjective, molly usually refers to the species Poecilia sphenops[citation needed].

Micropoecilia has been proposed to be included as a subgenus of Poecilia.[4]

Etymology, taxonomy, and history[edit]

Franz Steindachner first described the species in 1863. Poecilia refers to the Greek word poikilos, which means "with a lot of colours". Common names include "shortfin molly" and "Atlantic molly."[5] The type specimen was found in Orizaba, Mexico.


Along with their swordtail and platy relatives, the mollies are part of a pivotal aquaculture group of livebearers, which can live in water from fresh to fully marine, and a wide range of other conditions. They feed on smaller insects, animals, and vegetation.

IUCN lists two of the species, the sulphur molly, P. sulphuraria, and the broadspotted molly, P. latipunctata, as Critically Endangered.

The generic name Poecilia derives from the Greek ποικίλος (variegated), in reference to the fishes' coloration.

The common mollies (P. sphenops) occur in several different colors and spot patterns, such as black, white, black and white spots, orange, and orange and white spots. These have been kept successfully in freshwater, brackish, and saltwater conditions, although the last is not recommended for the novice aquarist.


The 40 currently recognized species in this genus are:[6][7]

If Poecilia in the wider sense is used then the species would be divided up into subgenera as follows:[10]

  • Poecilia Bloch & Schneider 1801
    • Poecilia (Poecilia) vivipara
  • Acanthophacelus Eigenmann 1907
    • Poecilia (Acanthophacelus) kempkesi
    • Poecilia (Acanthophacelus) obscura
    • Poecilia (Acanthophacelus) reticulata
    • Poecilia (Acanthophacelus) wingei
  • Allopoecilia Hubbs 1924
    • Poecilia (Allopoecilia) caucana
    • Poecilia (Allopoecilia) dauli
  • Curtipenis Rivas & Myers 1950
    • Poecilia (Curtipenis) elegans
  • Limia Poey 1854
    • Poecilia (Limia) caudofasciata
    • Poecilia (Limia) caymanensi
    • Poecilia (Limia) dominicensis
    • Poecilia (Limia) fuscomaculata
    • Poecilia (Limia) garnieri
    • Poecilia (Limia) grossidens
    • Poecilia (Limia) immaculata
    • Poecilia (Limia) melanogaster
    • Poecilia (Limia) melanonotata
    • Poecilia (Limia) miragoanensis
    • Poecilia (Limia) nicholsi
    • Poecilia (Limia) nigrofasciata
    • Poecilia (Limia) ornata
    • Poecilia (Limia) pauciradiata
    • Poecilia (Limia) perugiae
    • Poecilia (Limia) rivasi
    • Poecilia (Limia) sulphurophila
    • Poecilia (Limia) tridens
    • Poecilia (Limia) versicolor
    • Poecilia (Limia) vittata
    • Poecilia (Limia) yaguajali
    • Poecilia (Limia) zonata
  • Micropoecilia Hubbs 1926
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) bifurca
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) branneri
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) minima
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) parae
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) picta
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) sarrafae
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) waiapi
  • Mollienesia Lesueur 1821
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) boesemani
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) butleri
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) catemaconis
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) chica
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) formosa
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) gillii
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) hondurensis
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) koperi
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) kykesis
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) latipinna
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) latipunctata
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) limantouri
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) marcellinoi
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) maylandi
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) mechthildae
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) mexicana
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) nelsoni
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) orri
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) petenensis
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) rositae
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) salvatoris
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) sphenops
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) sulphuraria
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) teresae
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) thermalis
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) vandepolli
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) velifera
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) wandae
  • Pseudolimia Poeser 2002
    • Poecilia (Pseudolimia) heterandria
  • Psychropoecilia Myers 1935
    • Poecilia (Psychropoecilia) hispaniolana
    • Poecilia (Psychropoecilia) montana



  1. ^ "Poecilia". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved June 8, 2006.
  2. ^ a b Palacios, Arias-Rodriguez, Plath, Eifert, Lerp, Lamboj, Voelker, & Tobler (2013). The Rediscovery of a Long Described Species Reveals Additional Complexity in Speciation Patterns of Poeciliid Fishes in Sulfide Springs. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71069.
  3. ^ Plath; Heubel; García de León; & Schlupp (2005). Cave molly females (Poecilia mexicana, Poeciliidae, Teleostei) like well-fed males. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 58: 144–151.
  4. ^ Bragança, P. H. N. and W. J. E. M. Costa (2011): Poecilia sarrafae, a new poeciliid from the Paraíba and Mearim river basins, northeastern Brazil (Cyprinodontiformes: Cyprinodontoidei). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters v. 21 (no. 4) [Dec. 2010]: 369–376.
  5. ^ "Common names of Poecilia mexicana". FishBase.org. FishBase. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  6. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2013). Species of Poecilia in FishBase. February 2013 version.
  7. ^ a b Poeser, F.N. (2013): Apropos Guppys... viviparos, Das Lebendgebärenden Magazin, (11) 1: 36-40, 56. (In German)
  8. ^ Manfred K. Meyer; Alfred C. Radda; Manfred Schartl; Klaus Schneider; Brigitta Wilde (November 2004). "A new species of Poecilia, subgenus Mollienesia, from upper río Cahabón system, Guatemala, with remarks on the Nomenclature of Mollienesia petenensis Günther, 1866 (Teleostei: Cyprinodontiformes: Poeciliidae)" (PDF). Zoologische Abhandlungen. 54: 145–154. ISSN 0375-5231. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-08-29.
  9. ^ Fred N. Poeser; Michael Kempkes; Isaac J. H. Isbrücker (2005). "Description of Poecilia (Acanthophacelus) wingei n. sp. from the Paria Peninsula, Venezuela, including notes on Acanthophacelus Eigenmann, 1907 and other subgenera of Poecilia Bloch and Schneider, 1801 (Teleostei, Cyprinodontiformes, Poecilidae)" (PDF). Contributions to Zoology. 74: 97–115. doi:10.1163/18759866-0740102007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-20.
  10. ^ Christopher Scharpf; Kenneth J. Lazara (26 October 2019). "Order CYPRINODONTIFORMES: Families POECILIIDAE, ANABLEPIDAE, VALENCIIDAE, APHANIIDAE and PROCATOPODIDAE". The ETYFish Project Fish Name Etymology Database. Christopher Scharpf and Kenneth J. Lazara. Retrieved 6 November 2019.

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