Molly fish are a staple of freshwater fishkeeping, and have been popular among aquarists for quite a while! These fish are known for their low-maintenance care requirements and wide selection of possible species to choose from.
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But even though caring for them is straightforward, we always encourage owners to develop a strong knowledge base about this species. This will help you keep them happy, healthy, and save you time in the long run.
This guide on molly fish care has everything you need to get started. You’ll learn about their tank setup, food, lifespan, and even breeding tips! Oh yeah, we also list the most common types of mollies for you to consider as well.
Table of ContentsCommon Types Of MolliesMolly Fish Care
There’s no doubt that you’ve seen a molly fish (Poecilia sphenops) at some point. Mollies are one of the most popular freshwater species in the aquarium trade. Often sold for a few bucks each, they’re the perfect species for beginners.
However, many seasoned aquarists enjoy them too!
Very popular in fish stores, the Dalmation molly is covered with a base color of white. Specks of black adorn the body, making it look like a Dalmation dog. Dalmation mollies can be standard, lyretail, balloon, or sailfin!
Gold Doubloon Molly
The gold doubloon molly is another frequently purchased species. The front half of its body is a vibrant yellow, and the lower half is pure black.
Molly Fish Lifespan
The average molly fish lifespan is around three to five years. While they aren’t the longest-living freshwater species out there, there is some wiggle room depending on what species you get.
The quality of care you provide will also impact their lifespan significantly. While hardy, mollies are prone to disease from a poorly maintained environment just the same.
Author Note: Some species of mollies are more susceptible to bad water conditions than others, leading to a much shorter lifespan. While your goal should be to always provide the best care possible, it’s recommended to understand details about the specific species you own.
Four to four and a half inches is the normal size range of a full-grown molly. This length is rather manageable, and allows them to be kept in reasonably small aquariums.
Sailfin varieties can get even bigger. They will often reach lengths that are closer to five or six inches.
Molly Fish Care
Molly fish care is something that pretty much anyone can do. They don’t require a lot of work to keep healthy, making them a great choice for anyone interested in getting started with fishkeeping.
As long as you follow the following established care guidelines, your mollies should thrive!
Thanks to their small size, mollies do just fine in small and medium-sized aquariums. Most molly fish can live happily in a tank size as small as 10 gallons.
That tank size recommendation is suitable enough for up to four mollies, although a larger tank is always appreciated if you have some extra space. For a larger group, you need to bump up the tank size by at least three gallons of volume per fish.
Author Note: The only exception for tank size revolves around the sailfin molly. These fish get slightly bigger than your average molly, meaning they will need a bigger tank to prevent stress.For sailfin varieties, aim for a tank size of 30 gallons or bigger.
The habitat of mollies in the wild can vary quite a bit. These freshwater fish have a wide natural distribution. While most are found in rivers, they can also swim into brackish waters or even the open ocean for short periods!
As a whole, mollies are very adaptable. They like warm waters, neutral pH, and hard water. Contrary to the belief of some, you don’t need salt in the water to keep these fish healthy. They do just fine living in pure freshwater environments their entire lives.
Exact water parameters may vary based on the species you get, but here are some good baselines that will work for most mollies.
Water temperature: 72°F to 78°F (some species as high as 80 degrees)pH levels: 7.5 to 8.5Water hardness: 20 to 30 KH
We recommend that all aquarists go out and get a reliable (and accurate) water test kit. This will be your lifeline when it comes to understanding the state of your tank at a glance, and making adjustments when necessary.
What To Put In Their Tank
Mollies do very well with natural decor that mimics the tropical rivers they inhabit in the wild. This means adding plenty of plants and lots of places to seek shelter.
At the bottom of your tank, add sand or gravel substrate. Mollies spend most of their time in the middle and upper parts of the water column. They won’t spend too much time down near the substrate.
Author Note: Generally, sand substrates are best if you want plants. The molly can also benefit from aragonite sand, as it disperses beneficial minerals into the water.
Using the substrate as an anchor, add several live plants (mollies use these plants for shelter). It’s good to provide taller plants like Anubias as well as shorter varieties like Java fern. When you arrange the plants, position them along the perimeter of the aquarium so that there’s still open swimming space.
Finally, round off the decor with some rocks, caves, and driftwood. Those items will provide some additional shelter. Plus, they can develop algae for your mollies to snack on.
Lighting & Filtration
Standard lighting is fine. Mollies aren’t picky about lighting levels, but you do need lights to keep the plants healthy.
One thing you will need is a strong filtration system since mollies are big waste producers. A small group can easily raise ammonia and nitrate levels to unhealthy levels. Choose a powerful filter that can hold a lot of biomedia. Additional internal or external sponge filters are great, too.
Common Possible Diseases
Like any other fish, mollies can suffer from disease. There are a couple of unique ailments you have to watch out for. These include molly disease and constipation.
Molly disease, also known as the “shimmies” is something to be aware of. It occurs when the water parameters are not stable. Many aquarists notice the disease with extreme temperature changes or ammonia spikes.