For many years of my adventure with aquaristics, I had different species of fish. However, I always went back to the livebearers, which are still among my favourite fish along with bettas. That’s what happened 3 years ago, when two breeding varieties – Endler’s livebearer (Poecilia wingei) red scarlet and blonde – came to my tanks. Until 10 years ago, these varieties were genuine rarity. Only classic Endler’s black bars could be found in pet shops. Today, finding an original variety of black bar in the shop is nearly impossible. If you happen to be that lucky you should think about participating in a lottery, the winning ticket might be yours.
The beginning of my adventure with Endler’s livebearer
As you know, aquaristics has developed a lot over the last years, so 3 years ago the two varieties I bought were nothing spectacular. So I started browsing the livebearers forums, theme groups and blogs of foreign aquarists. I also managed to get to the website of a Polish aquarium hobbyist, who described wild varieties of livebearers. And that’s how I got the first wild phenotype of these fish. You could say it was the beginning of my project called Endler’s room.
Over the last three years I have managed to get in touch with many hobbyists from France, Spain, Italy and aquarists from Central and South America. Among them are such aquarists as Adrian Hernandez, Robert Nicolas, Philippe Voisin. These are people who have travelled to Venezuela in person to catch and describe the wild phenotypes of Poecilia wingei. Philippe Voisin is my greatest authority when it comes to these fish. It is thanks to him that I have the honor of having many unique varieties of this species.
Endler’s livebearer (Poecilia wingei) – discovery and systematics
It was first caught in 1937 by Franklyn F. Bond. The rediscovery of this fish in the Laguna De Los Patos, near the town of Cumana, Venezuela, was made by John Endler in 1975. At the time he knew nothing about the collection of Bond fish at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. Endler handed over the caught fish to the well-known taxonomy expert Donn E. Rosen. Unfortunately, the scientist died and did not have time to describe it.
The fish were handed over to geneticist Klaus Kallman, who passed them on to aquarists under the name Endler’s guppy. They soon became very popular among aquarists. Interestingly, Endler himself only learned about the fish named after him in the mid-1980s, while visiting the UK. Since 2005, when the article by Fred Poeser, Michael Kempkes and Isaäc Isbrücker was published, the name Poecilia wingei (after Danish biologist Øjvind Winge) has been in effect.
SPECIES: Poecilia wingei
Habitat of Endler’s livebearer
The natural habitat of Endler’s livebearer (Poecilia wingei) is Venezuela. The state of Sucre in the northern part of the country specifically. Endler’s livebearer lives in floodplains, slow flowing streams (often with slightly salty water), canals (even heavily polluted with sewage) and drainage ditches in the Campoma (Laguna de Campoma and Rio Oro, to to the south-west from it) and Cumana (Laguna De Los Patos, Laguna De La Malagueña) and Laguna Buena Vista (lagoon near Las Aguas de Moises resort).
The waters in which Endler’s livebearer lives are often green from the algal bloom, as the first explorers described in their publications. At the bottom of these bodies of water there is a layer of detritus, organic remains, tree branches and leaves. Plants include water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), rigid hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum), floating fern (Salvinia natans), smooth frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum), longleaf pondweed (Potamogeton nodosus) or plants of the genus Elodea.
Division of Endler’s livebearer (Poecilia wingei) into classes
We divide the Poecilia wingei species not by standards but by classes. There are three classes: N, P and K. Fish with a documented wild origin are marked with Class N. Class P is marked for fish that have phenotypic characteristics resembling or looking like wild fish but have no documented origin, whereas Endler’s livebearer crossed with a guppy is marked with class K. The resulting P.wingei x P.reticulata hybrids have a different structure. The males are bigger than Endler’s livebearers and smaller and more bulky than the guppies. Tail fins are longer, dorsal fins are also more patterned. Females usually have a pattern on their fins. You will find more information about differences betwen guppies and Endler’s livebearers in post Endler’s guppy or Endler’s livebearer?
Numbers in Endler’s livebearers nomenclature
Wild phenotypes of the Endler’s livebearer (classes N and P) have digits in their names. What do they mean? Hobbyist classify wild fish depending on the region where a specific variety was caught. That’s why the use names such as Poecilia wingei Campoma… or Poecilia wingei Cumana.
In addition to the location in the nomenclature, numbers, dates and names appear, e.g. Campoma 29 (2016, P. Voisin). This means that the phenotype was caught and described by P. Voisin, who gave him a specific number according to his segregation and cataloguing system. Date means the year in which this form was described and captured.
Collecting these fish for me as their owner, the most important thing is to keep each variety in clean lines. I keep each variety in a separate tank to preserve its genetic purity. This is extremely important because in the natural environment many of the reservoirs where Endler’s livebearer is found dry out and it may happen that in the natural environment the variety dies out. Therefore, hobbyists may be the only option to rebuild the population in the wild by donating fish from their farms.
I hope I have managed to bring you a little closer to this beautiful gems from Venezuela. Thanks for the time you took to read it.