by TFH Magazine on February 22, 2010 at 7:45 am
By Bill Allen
Some species in the genus Limia have been kept by hobbyists for almost a century, but they are virtually unknown to many aquarists. What a pity; they are an attractive, easily kept group of fishes that I believe deserve wider circulation. Your local fish store will probably be unaware of their existence, but you can find them in the tanks of livebearer specialists and in club and online auctions if you are inclined to try your hand at them.
Limia nigrofasciata (Humpback Limia)
A large male humpback limia is a spectacular fish. In addition to the aforementioned hump, which is very prominent on an older male, he develops a larger, fan-shaped dorsal fin. He also develops a much more spectacular color, with metallic spangles causing the dark bars to stand out much more prominently.
The humpback limia is also the largest of the Limia that I am aware of, partly because the hump deepens its body size, making it appear to be a larger fish than other, skinnier Limia. These fish are also found in Lake Miragoâne in Haiti (Jacobs, 1971). At one time I had a small colony that included three almost identical large males, and these males spent hours chasing each other in circles like puppies, with no apparent damage to any of the participants.
Limia melanogaster (Black-bellied Limia)
Found in Jamaica and Haiti, these fish are a bit smaller at about 1½ to 2½ inches. The background color is silvery with black transverse bars. But what makes the fish distinctive is a very large blue-black spot on the female resembling the gravid spot on most female livebearers, but much larger—it may cover more than half of the belly (Jacobs, 1971). This large dark spot gives the fish its specific name (melano—“black, dark” gaster—“stomach”) and makes the female one of the most distinctive female livebearers. The females also get extremely plump and have fairly large broods for a fish of this size: The American Livebearer Association brood record for this fish is 68 fry.
Limia vittata (Cuban Limia)
This fish is a favorite of TFH columnist Ted Coletti, who has mentioned it several times in his “Livebearers Unlimited” column and written two articles about it in Livebearers. The wild form of this fish is silvery, with black transverse bars and pale yellow fins with a few black markings (Jacobs, 1971). However, all the aquarium specimens I’ve ever seen have irregular black splotches throughout the body on both males and females, some with some bright yellow thrown in.
Ted suggests that this is either a color morph that has been perpetuated by aquarists because of its attractiveness, or possibly the result of hybridization with other related species. It would be interesting to once again be able to procure wild specimens from Cuba to compare with our domesticated stock. Glenn Takeshita has also told me that there are some established colonies of this fish in Hawai‘i. Once again, broods are fairly large for such a small fish: The ALA brood record stands at 116. Colony culture of this fish is very easy, as a well-planted 10- or 15-gallon tank started with a pair or two will soon be swarming with fish.
Although not much is mentioned in the hobbyist literature on this fish, it has lately become fairly well distributed in the tanks of livebearer specialists. I like to think that this is partly because of an excellent article in the October 2001 issue of Livebearers on this fish by Alexander Cruz and others. They mention that the fish is from the Dominican Republic.
Another reason for the popularity of this fish in livebearer circles is its attractive coloration. Once again we have the typical Limia silvery body with black transverse bars, but the males are darker and show a considerable metallic sheen, as well as a large fan-shaped dorsal fin with attractive black markings. The size given in Alexander Cruz’s article is about an inch for males and 1¼ inches for females (Cruz, 2001). In my experience, the males seem to harass one another to the point that females greatly outnumber males, though other hobbyists I have discussed this fish with have not had this problem.
These are just a few of the species of Limia I have kept, and there are a few more making the rounds of livebearer specialists’ tanks. If you get a chance, pick up some of these new—but old—fish.