Spotted Splitfin

Spotted Splitfin, Skiffia multipunctata

The Spotted Splitfin, Skiffia multipunctata, whose common Spanish name is tiro pintado, is a member of the Splitfin or Goodeidae Family, known collectively as mexclapiques in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Splotched Skiffia and the Skiffia c.f. multipunctata “Sayula, Jalisco, Mexico”. Globally, there are four species in the genus Skiffia, which are all endemic to the freshwater systems of Mexico.

The Spotted Splitfins have oval bodies with a pointed snout and an elongated caudal peduncle. They are highly variable in color ranging from totally black to silvery to yellow-gold. The spotting on their sides, pectoral, and pelvic fins varies significantly from fish to fish and can be found in rows. They are sexually dimorphic with males being more colorful than females; males are also very colorful when breeding. Males have large dusky brown or black blotches; they also have an andropodium whereby the front anal fin is separated by a notch. Their anal, caudal, and dorsal fins and their nape are dark gray to bluish-gray while breeding. Females are grayish-brown without blotches or striking colors. Their head has a small terminal mouth that projects upward and is equipped with bifid teeth, a short pointed snout, and mid-sized eyes set on the midline. Their anal and dorsal fins are set well back in the body; their caudal fin is lunate; and their first set of dorsal fin rays are extended in a round fashion making them of interest to aquarists.

The Spotted Splitfins are found demersal at depths up to 5 feet in small lakes, streams, and spring fed ponds over mud, rocks, sand, and silt bottoms; they are found in water temperatures between 17oC (62oF) and 23oC (74oF) and are often associated with aquatic plants. They have been reported to reach a maximum length of 7.2 cm (2.8 inches) with females being slightly larger than males. They are diurnal omnivores and consume algae, insects, and detritus. Reproduction is viviparous and involves internal fertilization followed by a short gestation period. Each female gives birth to numerous live young measuring 1 cm (0.5 inch), which can survive on their own but are subject to cannibalism by their parents on limited occasions.

In Mexican waters the Spotted Splitfins have a limited distribution and are found in the freshwater systems within the Mexican Plateau in west-central Mexico, such as the lower Lerma River in the states of Jalisco and Michoacán, which is part of the Pacific drainage.

The Spotted Splitfins are a popular fish with freshwater aquarists as they are colorful when breeding, peaceful, robust, and easy to maintain. From a conservation perspective, they are currently considered Endangered. They have disappeared from several known sites and are now found only in a few small and isolated locations. They suffer from a lack of regular monitoring and historical site-specific population data. The water habitat in some parts of their range has experienced a staggering amount of degradation during the 20th century and they are heavily preyed upon by various birds and recently introduced non-native fish including Black Bass, Guppies, Sunfish, and Tilapia.

Spotted Splitfin, Skiffia multipunctata, Female. Fish caught in the Luz Springs, La Presa de Verduzco, within the Mexican Plateau in west-central Mexico, Michoacán, February 2017. Length: 8.2 cm (3.2 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Ben Cantrell, Peoria, IL.