The Endler’s Livebearer (Poecilia wingei)

Ender’s Guppy (Poecilia wingei).
Silvana Gericke, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Endler’s Livebearer or the Poecilia wingei, is the perfect freshwater fish for those who are looking for something distinguished but easy to take care of.

Origins

The Endler’s Livebearers were first discovered in Laguna de Patos, a lagoon in Venezuela in the 1930s. In the 1970s, Dr. John Endler rediscovered this fish which is why it is named after him. He was instrumental in bringing this fish to the attention of hobbyists and it has ever since occupied a very special place in the aquarium hobby.

However, from the very beginning, its classification has been the cause for some debate. There are two schools of thought. The first believes that the Endler’s Livebearers are just another type of fancy guppy while the second believe that they are an entirely different species even though the Endler’s can and will breed with regular guppies. Either way, the purer the breed, the costlier and more colorful the Endler’s Livebearers tend to be.

Appearance

Dgrummon, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Endler’s Livebearers body is shaped very similar to guppies. They have slender and elongated bodies. The males tend to be more flamboyant than the females. While their body is shaped very similarly to the guppies, where they differ is in coloration. Regular guppies are no slouches when it comes to being colorful but Endler’s Livebearers take it to a whole new level.

Female Endler

Before going into that though, it is pertinent to know about the different classes of this fish. Depending on how pure the lineage of the fish is, these fishes can be divided into three classes.

  • N-Class: These are the purest Endler’s Livebearers and they are the ones that have been directly collected from their wild habitat. They exhibit the most brilliant coloration with almost neon patches of yellow, blue, green, orange, and black throughout their bodies and even on the edges of their fins. These are also the most difficult to procure and not recommended as the wild population is under a lot of stress.
  • P-Class: These look every bit as stunning as the wild-caught ones but their lineage cannot be established. Most usually, these are captive-bred fish that has never been hybridized. It is highly recommended to get this class as that won’t put any additional pressure on the already fragile ecosystem these fishes inhabit in the wild.
  • K-Class: These are those Endler’s that are no longer pure from a genetic standpoint. At some point, they would have been crossbred with guppies. These fish do not exhibit the same level of brilliance in their coloration but they are still beautiful in their own right. They also cost less and are more widely available, making them a great option for someone on a tight budget. It is also the type of Endler’s livebearer you should go for if you plan to keep them along with guppies.

Apart from these classes, these fishes are also divided based on their coloration. Some of the common color strains include Emerald, Peacock, Snake Chest, Flame Tail, and Red Stripe.

Aquarium settings

Given how diminutive these fishes are, a 20-gallon tank is sufficient for a group of 4-6 of these fish. Fewer individuals can be kept in a smaller tank but that is not recommended as they should be kept in groups of at least 4.

Coming to the aquarium decor, these fishes like a lot of vegetation to feel at home. So a heavily planted tank with either natural or artificial plants is the way to go. This provides them with the ideal combination of hiding spots and open spaces. They do not care about the substrate and you can go with the one that suits the aesthetics and the plants the most, in case you choose to go with natural plants. Add a few pieces of bogwood to further enhance the look of your aquarium.

As far as equipment is concerned, choose a good and reliable filtration system and a heater. Also, make sure that the water current inside the aquarium is moderate but not too strong. Be very regular with your maintenance schedule which should include a 25% water change once every two to three weeks.

Ideal water conditions

TomCatX, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This is the best thing about Endler’s Livebearers. They are just as easy to take care of as guppies despite their flashy and exuberant appearance. However, there are a couple of caveats. If your fishes are of the N-class, i.e., wild-collected then you will have to replicate the conditions from their natural habitat as closely as possible. This includes warmer than usual conditions and relatively higher pH. The water also needs to be on the harder side.

The best temperature for wild-caught fishes is about 79°F or 26°C with a deviation of a degree or two. For captive-bred fish, this range becomes much wider as anything between 64°F and 84°F is good enough. As is the case with any fish, stability plays a big role in ensuring good health and long life. Choose a value and stick to it as fastidiously as possible.

Wild-caught specimens prefer slightly alkaline water. So go with a pH of between 7.5 and 8.0. For captive-bred fish, the best option is neutral water even though they will do just as well in slightly acidic or alkaline water with a pH range of between 6.0 and 8.0. Also, make sure the water hardness is at least 10 KH.

Species-Only Or Community Tank?

The answer to this question depends on the class of fish you get. If it is an N or P-class fish, opt for a species-only tank as you will be able to display their intense coloration better. However, they can also be kept with certain other fishes that we will touch upon shortly. Just avoid guppies. In the case of K-class Endler’s Livebearers, it is advisable to keep them in a community tank.

If you do go the community route, avoid guppies for the N and P classes as they will interbreed and will start to lose their rich colors after each generation.

Tankmates:

These are some of the most docile fishes out there. They are also on the smaller side and hence their tankmates should be chosen accordingly. Some of the best tankmates for the Endler’s Livebearer include the following fishes

  • Glass Fish
  • Ram Cichlids
  • Danios
  • Cloud Minnows
  • Neon Tetras
  • Otocinclus Catfish
  • Betta

Avoid large fish or aggressive as they will make a meal out of the Endler’s Livebearer. They can be technically kept with guppies but this is generally not advisable as the two will breed among themselves.

Diet

They aren’t fussy at all when it comes to eating. Pretty much anything they can fit in their mouths is fair game. However, for optimum health and the best coloration provide them with a high-protein diet. Live or frozen food is the best option for them if you can procure them from a reliable source. Commercially available fish food with a high protein content is also something that will work just as well.

Breeding

The name says it all. Breeding them is pretty easy and if you have bred guppies in the past then it is more of the same with these fish. Maintain a ratio of two females to every male and they will simply breed and It is as easy as that. The females will become gravid and give birth to live ones in about three weeks.

Survival of the fry though is a completely different matter. These fishes will eat their young if they get the opportunity to do so. If you want a majority of the fry to survive then providing them with plenty of cover in the form of dense vegetation and other decorative items is the way to go. If you want all the fry to survive then move the females to a separate tank as soon as they become pregnant and then remove them as soon as they give birth.

The fry can be fed crushed fish food and freshly hatched brine shrimp. In about a month they will grow to be large enough to be introduced back into the tanks with the adults.

The Endler’s Livebearer is one of those very rare fish that simply look out of this world especially among freshwater fishes and is still very easy to take care of. Even someone with very nominal experience can keep them successfully. The ease with which they breed is just the cherry on top of what is already a pretty tantalizing sundae.

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