|Synonyms||Acanthophacelus melanzonus, Micropoecilia amazonica, M. melanzona, M. parae, Poecilia amazonica, P. melanzona|
|Distribution||South America: Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname.|
|Sexual Dimorphism||Males have a gonopodium and more colourful finnage; females are a muted light grey with a tiny dark shoulder spot, and grow much larger than the males.|
|Maximum Size||Females up to 5cm (2”), males up to 3cm (1.2”).|
|Water Parameters||Best maintained in slightly brackish conditions. pH: 7-8, dH: 8-20 degrees. SG: 1.002 to 1.005.|
|Temperature||24-28 deg C (75-82 deg F)|
|Compatibility||Species aquarium or brackish community of small peaceful fish only.|
|Lighting||No special requirements|
The Melanzona Guppy originates from the brackish waters of swamps and clear, slow-flowing creeks with abundant vegetation and sandy-muddy substrates. Several wild colour forms of the male fish are recognised, the frequency and distribution of which is thought to depend upon various factors such as predation. The fish pictured above are red, yellow, and blue Melanzona variants which all sport two dark horizontal stripes along the flanks with vivid colouration in between. The fourth and fifth types (not shown here) are the Parae and the Immaculata. The Parae lacks the horizontal stripes, but instead has orange vertical stripes to the anterior half of the body and black vertical stripes to the posterior. The Immaculata variant is quite dull by comparison, with similar colouration to that of the female fish. It is estimated that the plain Immaculata morph represents around 50% of the male population, the Parae morph 40%, and the colourful Melanzona morphs just some 10%. Some suppliers have found it a little difficult to source genuine females, and it has been known for female guppies (P. reticulata) or female Endler’s Livebearers (P. wingei) to be sent instead. True females have a diagnostic small, dark spot on the shoulder, absent in other species. Poecilia parae are small, but very active and require a spacious, mature aquarium. Although they are found in some freshwater habitats in the wild, most have been reported from brackish areas, and indeed, they tend to fare much better and have less health issues when maintained under slightly brackish conditions in captivity; they are also more likely to breed in such water. The tank should be heavily planted (with robust species that cope well in a slightly brackish environment), so that the fish feel secure and this will also provide hiding places for any tiny fry. Filtration should be efficient, but water movement gentle. Keep at least two females to every male in order to prevent any one female from becoming exhausted by the continual amorous intentions of the males. Plenty of plant cover - as mentioned above - will also aid in this respect, creating visual barriers so that fish may retreat and rest if need be. These fish are best maintained in a species-only aquarium, but small, peaceful tankmates that also appreciate mildly brackish conditions e.g. X-ray Tetras (Pristella maxillaris) could be kept alongside them if desired. Poecilia parae are considered quite delicate and are not suitable for beginners. In general, prices remain quite high for these sought-after livebearers.
Offer a good quality flake food plus small frozen foods such as daphnia, cyclops, brineshrimp and mosquito larvae. Will browse on some types of algae, likely for the microscopic life forms it contains.
Can be challenging. Although this species will breed in the main aquarium, adults do predate on the fry, so if you wish to raise a good number of young, it is best to set up a separate breeding aquarium where you can easily separate adults from new-born fry. A bare bottomed aquarium with lots of weighted plants is ideal, as they will provide shelter and can be easily moved about when needing to catch the adults and move them back to the main aquarium. Females are sexually mature at 8 months, and the males at 6 months. Once inseminated, a female will gestate for approximately 24 days, her gravid spot darkening all the while, after which time she will give birth to between 5 and 15 young. The fry should quickly seek shelter within the plants, and the adults should be moved back to the main aquarium. The young can be fed on powdered first foods designed specifically for fry, moving on to crushed flake, and baby brineshrimp (Artemia nauplii).
Some interesting studies have been carried out on the breeding of different colour morphs of these fish. The females are promiscuous and will mate with several males during a short period. In an aquarium with several different colour morphs, females tend to prefer mating with a red or yellow Melanzona male over the other varieties. If these are not present, the females then tend to favour the blue Melanzona over the Parae variant. And last of all, the lacklustre Immaculata is the least likely to be invited to mate with the female, and for this reason it has developed a stealth tactic in order to mate. The Immaculata male, which has similar colouration to the female and so is quite inconspicuous, waits until the female is being displayed to by a red or yellow Melanzona male, sneaks up next to the female whilst her attention is temporarily occupied and quickly mates with her, without her consent.
In an aquarium with adults continually present, it is more likely that blue Melanzona, Parae, and Immaculata fry will reach adulthood, as the red and yellow Melanzona fry are more easily seen and consequently preyed upon.