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The Littlest Livebearer

                                                          The Littlest
                                                                 David L.
                                                             813 Williams
                                                            Madera, CA
dahall at lightspeed_net

From the bayous of Louisiana to the swamps and ditches of Florida and north
to the ponds of southeastern North Carolina the Least killie, Heterandria
formosa, lives its life relatively unnoticed because of its diminutive
size.  Yet this little livebearer deserves to be noticed by aquarists as it
is easily kept and requires little attention.

I have kept this little fish off and on for years and it has been one of my
favorites because it is hardy and tolerates a variety of water conditions
so it can be kept it many places with local water.  Temperature is not a
critical issue as with most native fish it tolerates a wide range of
temperatures in its native range. In fact I once collected it in the
Panhandle of Florida when it was so cold that the little fish froze to the
net when lifted out of the water, but recovered quite nicely when I put it
in the water in my collecting bucket!  H. formosa does well in temperatures
that most tropical fish prefer 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

I have collected the Least killie on several occasions in Florida and in a
variety of locations from ditches in the panhandle to lakes in south
central.  In every instance they were most abundant in the aquatic
vegetation.  I believe plants are a must in the H. formosa tank so that the
adult feel comfortable and that the babies can hide.  During courtship the
males can become quite aggressive toward other males as well as toward the
females and so adequate cover should be provided.  In good condition these
fish breed often, like many livebearers, but the female Least killies give
birth to several fry over a period of 3 to 4 days.  Parents rarely eat
their young and the babies will feed on infusoria found on algae, plants or

This little livebearer should have a tank of its own unless a suitable
tankmate can be found that will not eat them as the females rarely exceed 1
1/5 inches and the males are only about 4/5 of an inch.  Filtration is not
critical because H. formosa is usually often found in locations with low
oxygen levels.  Regular water changes are highly recommended and are
beneficial to the health of the fish.

These are not beautiful fish but are far from ugly.  They are olive-gray
with a broad black stripe running the length of the fish.  The black spots
on the dorsal and anal fins are very conspicuous and occasionally one can
find a mottled form.  It has been reported that H. formosa has been found
with red spots and some take on a light golden hue.

The Least killie is an easy fish to keep and an easy fish to breed.  It
would be a good fish to use to introduce aquarists to the joys of native
fish keeping.  I believe as more people discover this little livebearer he
will become a favorite of others.  If you haven't tried H. formosa you are
in for a treat.