Endler’s livebearers (poecilia wingei) are a gorgeous freshwater species that will catch your eye no matter what. They’re also fairly easy to care for, making them quite a popular choice for aquarists of all experience levels.
But there are some things you should know about these fish before you try your hand at ownership. Due to their limited distribution, there are some condition requirements that you can’t compromise on!
Read this guide to learn the fundamentals of Endler’s livebearer care.
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If you’re looking for a semi-rare freshwater fish that’s easy to care for, the Endler’s livebearer is worth considering. Scientifically known as poecilia wingei, these fish are so gorgeous that fishkeepers have developed a grading system to determine their genetic purity!
Interestingly enough, Endler’s livebearers are part of the Poecilia genus, which is the same genus as mollies and guppies. From a genetic standpoint, the fish is the same as the common guppy. But, it was given its own scientific name for conservation purposes.
This makes sense given the fish’s limited distribution. Endler’s livebearers are only found in Laguna de Patos in Venezuela, and the wild population is currently under threat.
Luckily, this species is easy to breed. It thrives in captivity and continually spawns, allowing every aquarist to enjoy its beauty!
There’s no mistaking the Endler’s livebearer with another species. Sure, they look similar to guppies in shape and size. You may even see them labeled as Endler’s guppies. But, the bright colors these fish display are unmistakable.
Males are the most colorful of the bunch. They take on a series of metallic and neon hues. Oftentimes, those colors are blocked out to create a somewhat psychedelic appearance!
You might see patches of bright green, orange, yellow, blue, and more! Some fish also have transparent fins with splashes of color. The transparent base makes the fins look like they have a quirky shape.
There are many different color strains available. Some common ones include:
- White Peacock
- Yellow Tiger
- Sunburst Cobra
- Snake Chest
- Flame Tail
- Red Stripe
As we mentioned earlier, you’ll often see poecilia wingei separated into different classes. These fish readily spawn with standard guppies, so the classification system is meant to provide you with more insight into a fish’s genetics.
“N Class” fish are those that come from Laguna de Patos. They are the purest fish.
“P Class” fish look pure, but their genetic origins are unknown.
Finally, there are “K Class” fish. These are the fish born by crossbred or hybrid fish.
Author Note: Like Guppies, male specimens have a slender body and fan-like tail full of color. Females, on the other hand, are more muted. They usually take on a silver or tan color and have a smaller tail.
The average Endler’s livebearer lifespan is between two and three years. In many cases, females will live shorter lives than males. This is due to the toll frequent spawning takes on the body.
Of course, there’s no way to know for sure how long an Endler’s livebearer will live. Many factors (including genetics and the quality of care you provide) will impact life expectancy.
The typical size of an Endler’s livebearer is 1.8 inches when fully grown. As you can see, these fish aren’t very big at all!
Females can get a bit longer. In some cases, female poecilia wingei can reach two inches or even more!
Endler’s Livebearer Care
You don’t have to be an expert aquarist to handle Endler’s livebearer care. Like their more common guppy cousins, these freshwater fish are one of the easiest in the trade! They’re perfect for beginners and seasoned fish-keepers alike.
All that said, there are some important care guidelines to follow. These fish come from a single wild habitat, so they have some distinct needs you need to address.
Let’s start with the easiest part: the aquarium! Thanks to their small size, Endler’s livebearers only need a tank size of 20 gallons to thrive. A 20-gallon tank is suitable for a group of four or five fish.
If you want to keep more, increase the tank size accordingly. As a good rule of thumb, add about four or five gallons of volume per fish.
Author Note: There are some guides online that say Endler’s livebearers can be kept in a 5 gallon tank. This is not correct, and will ultimately lead to a very poor quality of life for these fish.
Like any other freshwater fish species, the key to keeping an Endler’s livebearer healthy is to replicate their natural environment as closely as possible. This doesn’t just apply to decor. Water conditions need to match as well.
Poecilia wingei are endemic to a single body of water: Laguna De Patos. This lake is very warm and has high concentrations of algae. As a result, the parameters are a bit different than what you might be used to.
Endler’s livebearers prefer hard water and relatively high pH levels. They can tolerate a wide range of temperatures (they are a great cold water fish), but moderate temperatures are generally best.
Here are some general water parameters to stick to:
- Water temperature: 64°F to 84°F (middle of this range is best)
- pH levels: 5.5 to 8.0 (Aim for neutral)
- Water hardness: 10 to 30 KH
A well-decorated tank is a must for this fish! The environments they naturally inhabit are teeming with vegetation and algae. You don’t have to go so far as to add algae into the tank, but live plants are an important addition.
Live plants act as a source of food and shelter for the fish. When the fish spawn, the plants also serve as a safe hiding place for vulnerable fry.
Add a nice variety of floating and stemmed plants. You can also add some floor cover and foreground plants to keep things interesting!
Suitable plant options include Java fern, water sprite, duckweed, cabomba, hornwort, hygrophila polysperma, water wisteria, and more!
On the bottom of the tank, use a soft substrate. Endler’s livebearers will spend most of their time in the middle and top of the water column, but they occasionally venture to the substrate to burrow.
Choose a fine gravel or sand substrate that they can easily move.
Now, onto equipment!
The most important things you’ll need are a suitable filtration system and a secure lid.
The filtration system doesn’t have to be super powerful, as these fish don’t produce a ton of waste. But, it should cycle the tank efficiently to keep ammonia and nitrates low.
A standard hang-on-back filter works well. The outlet of this filter provides some nice water flow, which is a great perk.
Just make sure that you’re covering the intake or using a sponge. Young and weak fish could easily get sucked into the filtration system!
Author Note: Don’t forget to top your tank off with a secure lid. These guys are surprisingly agile and can leap out of the tank without missing a beat!
Common Potential Diseases
The good news is that the Endler’s livebearer isn’t known to suffer from any specialty diseases. The bad news? They are still susceptible to all the common health problems that freshwater fish encounter.
Some of the biggest issues you might have to deal with are Ich, parasites, and fin rot.
Ich is a parasitic infection that often attacks fish when they are feeling stressed. You’re most likely to encounter this disease if the water parameters in the tank are not correct. It could be improper temperature ranges or too much ammonia.
Whatever the case may be, you need to address it quickly! Ich can spread throughout the community and take out all of your fish if you’re not careful. Luckily, simple medications can take care of the problem in no time.
Parasites, such as skin flukes and worms, are pretty common with this species, too. This is especially true with wild-caught specimens. Make sure to quarantine any new fish to ensure that parasite problems don’t spread.
Finally, there’s fin rot. This disease is often a product of bacterial infections or physical injuries. It’s common with fish that have flowing fins like the Endler’s livebearer.
To treat this condition, quarantine your poecilia wingei and use over-the-counter medications to stop the spread of the bacteria.
Food & Diet
Endler’s livebearers are omnivores. They will eat just about anything they can get their fins on!
In captivity, it’s best to provide a standard diet of dry flakes or pellets. Look out for a balanced product that’s formulated to improve coloration.
To supplement the commercial food, you can provide live, frozen, or freeze-dried snacks. These fish have healthy appetites for high-protein foods like bloodworms, daphnia, baby brine shrimp, and black worms.
Author Note: Most poecilia wingei will feed on plant matter and aquarium algae throughout the tank between feedings. But you can also provide some plant-based foods with their diet as well. Blanched peas and zucchini are favorites for this fish.
Behavior & Temperament
Active and inquisitive, Endler’s livebearers are a species you won’t get bored of! These fish are constantly exploring the tank and zipping through the water.
You might see them weaving through plants, checking out the substrate, or playing with one another.
For the most part, Endler’s livebearers aren’t aggressive. However, some questionable behavior may come from females every once in a while.
In a group, the fish establish a social hierarchy. Intense fighting is rare, but you may see some larger fish picking on bigger ones. Females can get territorial as well.
Ideally, you should keep at least three females to every male. The bigger the group, the better! More female fish will ensure that one specimen doesn’t become the target of everyone’s bullying.
Endler’s Livebearer Tank Mates
There are many compatibility options available if you want to keep Endler’s livebearers in a community tank. However, you must plan things carefully.
You should never keep these fish with aggressive species. They are far too small to defend themselves from a hungry or agitated fish. Try to keep them with similarly sized fish that are also docile enough to live in peace.
Author Note: Many fish-keepers like to keep Endler’s livebearers in a single-species tank. Even if they choose to house them in a community tank, most owners will keep guppies out of the equation!
Guppies and Endler’s livebearers will breed with one another. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it will mess with the genetics of the resulting young. Poecilia wingei are rare, so many aquarists want to keep the genetics as pure as possible!
If you’re looking for suitable tank mates for your Endler’s livebearers, here are some good species to try out.
- Neon Tetra
- Glass Fish
- Bolivian Ram Cichlid
- White Cloud Minnow
- Zebra Danio
- Cory Catfish
- Honey Gourami
- Betta Fish
If you have any experience with guppies, you already have a good idea of what to expect from Endler’s livebearers.
In most cases, you don’t have to do a thing to promote spawning. They’ll just breed on their own. Not only that, but they’ll breed continuously!
This is why it’s crucial to keep more females than males. Giving birth takes its toll on the females. They give birth to fully-formed fish, not eggs. If you only have a single female, the male will impregnate her repeatedly.
With a larger group of females to spawn with, mothers have a chance to recover a bit between birthings.
After breeding, it takes just 23 days or so for the female to give birth. She can give birth to up to 30 fry at one time.
When they exit the womb, the fry will immediately sink to the bottom of the tank. They’ll stay there for a bit while they eat the yolk sac.
Meanwhile, you should do your best to separate the adults. These fish don’t exhibit parental instincts and will eat the young if given the chance. A heavily planted aquarium will do a lot to increase survival rates. But if you want all the fry to live, you must move the adults to a separate tank.
You can feed fry powdered food immediately. They are already free swimming from birth, so they will accept powdered food without any issues. In a week or two, you can graduate to baby brine shrimp.
This species matures quickly. It only takes about two months to reach maturity. Males will take on their signature color at about four to five weeks of age.
Endler’s livebearers are a wonderful freshwater fish to own, and we recommend them all the time. Between their beautiful colors, high activity level, and hardy nature, there’s a lot to like!
We hope you found this guide helpful and encourage you to reference it again if you decide to jump into poecilia wingei ownership yourself. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did!