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© All rights reserved
Guenter Ellenberg


All translations into English by Matthias Naumann, Germany and Bill Kohler, Ohio-USA  

Ameca splendens


English name:
butterfly Goodeid

Goodeidae JORDAN, 1923

Goodeinae JORDAN, 1923

Original description:
MILLER, R. R. FITZSIMMONS, J. M. (1971): Ameca splendens, a new genus an species of goodeid fish from western Mexico, with remarks on the classification of the Goodeidae. Copeia, No. 1, pp. 1 - 13.

Derivation of the species name:
named splendens after the Latin word for glittering, sparkling (referring to the scales of the fish)

Type locality:
Rio Teuchitlan, close to the village of Teuchitlan and Rio Ameca, 10 kilometres east of Ameca, Jalisco, Mexiko.

Meristic properties:
Dorsal fin = 13 - 14 rays;
Anal fin = 15 - 16 rays;
Pectoral fin = 14 - 15 rays;
Ventral fin  = 6 - 7 rays;

Keeping Ameca splendens is relatively simple.  Since there are relatively stable aquarium populations since the 70's in Europe, the demands of the fish have adapted to aquarium conditions. Now they tolerate relatively wide range of different water parameters.  The temperature of the alkaline water can vary between 22 ¬įC and 28 ¬įC  during the day. Some aquarists report that with rising temperature also the colouring appears more beautiful.  A nocturnal lowering of the water temperature by approx. 5 ¬įC has proved advantageous for of breeding as well  as for the health of the fish.

This prettily coloured species is a strong and lively swimmer. Therefore the aquarium with a content of at least 200 litres should have a sufficient swimming area. Housing with other robust fish is possible.


Ameca splendens, male
Photo by: Ron DeCloux


The males reaches a size of 8 centimetres, the females of 12 centimetres. Some males born in the aquarium can also reach the size of the females however. 

In particular dominant males are noticeable by an intensively yellow rim of the caudal fin.  The colouring of the body is rather grey with both sexes;  in addition some black spots show up.  Males as well as females have a longitudinal band from the gills to the tail, which consists of dark spots.

Besides, older males show a wonderful green-metallic glow on their backs and flanks. The dorsal fin of the male is substantially larger than those of the females. Except the dorsal, caudal and anal fin, the fins of both sexes are transparent. Older males (especially the dominant ones) can have a yellow rim at their dorsal and anal fin, too.

There are many aquarium lines with different variations of colouring as also the pictures below indicate.

Many hobbyists keep Ameca splendens. The animals are attractively coloured. When courting or competing with their rivals the males display their most beautiful colours. Red, yellow and black tones prevail. The fish tend to develop broad backs, especially older males.

It is interesting that the females start courting. They start to shiver gently and place themselves diagonally in front of the male. When the shivering gets more intense, the male joins in likewise. Finally both partners swim to each other and mate.

Breeding is easy and productive. Since female Ameca splendens can not store the sperm of the males, every pregnancy must be preceded by a new mating. After 55 to 60 days up to 30 young are delivered. The new born fish can have a size up to 20 millimetres, they are not pursued by the older fish. The adhering umbilical cords (Trophotaenia) disappear after at the latest 2-3 days. 


503-Ameca splendens 21Trophotaenien
New born Ameca splendens with adhering Trophotaenia. 


Due to the size of the young fish after birth further raising does not cause any big problems.  Artemia and small flakes are accepted.  At the age of 3 months the animals become sexually mature. The males have then taken on their full colouration and look magnificent. The females deliver their first young at an age of approx. 5 months. With a mothers' size of approximately 5 centimetres, the number of offspring is accordingly small.

After the birth of their young, the bellies of the females are so shrunken that one could think they hardly survive.  But with the appropriate food they quickly recover.

Courting and the rivalry of the males are impressive and worth to be observed.

The male Ameca splendens set up an order of rank which is determined by fighting.

Two fighting males position themselves side by side, spread all their fins and attack the opponent with rapid tail blows.  Bites into the flanks of the rival can follow;  but serious injuries are rare.  Even the edges of their fins remain intact. After some time of observation the alpha male can be spotted by its dominant behaviour and an intensive yellow crescent at the end of its caudal fin. Other, lower-ranking males are chased away. They do not display their colours and look a little stunted. Having only  2 or 3 males in the aquarium a consequence may be the death of the low-ranking males caused by permanent suppression (strain). But when keeping a larger group of males (8-10, with enough females) aggressions will distribute and are less intense due to the incessant flood of stimuli.

Additionally, sufficient plant vegetation, stone superstructures and roots as hiding-places are welcome.

In their natural environment the vegetation consists of Ceratophyllum and Eichhornia. The large solitary rocks in the riverbed are covered with dense algae tissues.

Ameca splendens is a always curious and hungry. The feeding of these fish is easy. Flakes, frozen and live-food are accepted, but the diet should be vegetable to some extend. So Ameca splendens can in addition be fed with scalded spinach. Also algae, which are an additional source of food, should be left in the aquarium.


131-Ameca splendens 08
Taken from: Aqualog publishing company
Title: all Livebearers and Halfbeaks,
Photo by: E. Schraml.
aquarium line, bred in captivity, male, 8,5 cm



Ameca splendens
Photo by: Leo van der Meer



Ameca splendens
Photo by: Leo van der Meer



Ameca splendens
Photo by: Leo van der Meer



Ameca splendens 1-Krönke
Ameca splendens
Photo by: Dr. Frank Krönke



Ameca splendens 2-Krönke
Ameca splendens
Photo by: Dr. Frank Krönke



Ameca splendens
Habitat: Rio Teuchitlan, Jalisco, Mexico
Photo by: Kees de Jong



Ameca splendens
Habitat: Rio Teuchitlan, Jalisco, Mexico
Photo by: Kees de Jong



Ameca splendens
Habitat: Rio Teuchitlan, Jalisco, Mexico
Photo by: Kees de Jong



Ameca splendens
Habitat: Rio Teuchitlan
Photo by: Fernando Romero



Literature of:

508-Kees de Jong


Ameca splendens Miller & Fitzsimons, 1971

(1990): Hooglandkarpers (vervolg). Poecilia Nieuws (5): 82-84

(1995): Spotlight on endangered livebearers. Viviparous (32): 0-

N.W. Bailey, C. Macías Garcia & M.G. Ritchie (2007): Beyond the point of no return? A comparison of genetic diversity in captive and wild populations of two nearly extinct species of Goodeid fish reveals that one is inbred in the

P. de Batist (2000): Men vraagt ons wat. Aquariumwereld (1): 24-25

B. Bock (2003): Auction Ameca collecting. Livebearers (175): 24-25

O. Böhm (0): Quelques espèces intéressantes de la familie des Goodéidés. Aquarama (): 13-16

J.C. Clark (1997): Butterfly Goodeid Ameca splendens. Livebearers (146): 28-28

G.M. Clayton & D.J. Price (1992): Interspecific and intraspecific variation in resistance to ichtyophthiriasis among poeciliid and goodeid fishes. Journal of Fish Biology (40): 445-453

J. Dawes (1980): Goodeidae. Het Aquarium (15): 467-468

J. Dawes (1997): Goodeiden Teil 3: Allgemeine Hinweise zur Pflege und Zucht sowie Kurzbeschreibungen zu einigen Arten (1). Das Aquarium (342): 16-19

J. Dawes (1997): Goodeiden Teil 2: Die "Inside Story". Das Aquarium (341): 12-15

I. Dibble (1999): Hobbyist Aqua Lab Conservation Group "Mexico" Dagboek over de veldtrip 2. Poecilia Nieuws (6): 117-126

I. Dibble (2000): Fish Ark Project - Mexico. Viviparous (49): 0-

B. Durham (1980): Ameca splendens. Livebearers (49): 15-16

B. Fenner (2003): Livebearing fishes for aquariums …. And not. Tropical Fish Hobbyist (May): 108-114

H. Flöthmann (1991): Beobachtungen bei der Haltung und Zucht von Goodeiden. DGLZ-Rundschau (4): 83-85

H. Greven & M. Gro√üherr (1992): Adelphophagy and oophagy in Ameca splendens Smith & Fitzsimons, 1971. Zeitschrif f√ľr Fischkunde (2): 193-197

R.C. Griffiths (0): Ameca splendens. Viviparous (9): 0-5

R.C. Griffiths (1986): Goodeids I have loved (or liked, anyway). Livebearers (85): 8-9

R.C. Griffiths (1986): Ameca splendens, the butterfly Goodeid. Livebearers (86): 5-7

C. Grimes (1979): Mix and match. Livebearers (43): 11-14

C. Grimes (1992): Casual success in summer ponds. Livebearers (121): 4-7

A. Gutjahr (1996): "Kaiserschnitt" bei einem Ameca-Weibchen. DATZ (1): 63-63

P. Hartman (1994): Spawning Ameca splendens. Livebearers (134): 16-17

H. Hieronimus (1993): Eih√ľlle der Goodeiden. DGLZ-Rundschau (2): 35-35

B. Iepenga (1997): Werkgroepen van levendbarende aquariumvissen welke in hun voortbestaan bedreigd worden. Poecilia Nieuws (1): 2-7

K. de Jong (1992): Zonnende Gambusia's (levendbarenden in de tuinvijver) deel II. Poecilia Nieuws (6): 7-8

J.L. Kelley, A.E. Magurran & C. Macías-Garcia (2006): Captive breeding promotes aggression in an endangered Mexican fish. Biological Conservation (133): 169-177

M. Kempkes (1999): Drei besonders empfehlenswerte Hochlandkärpflinge. DATZ (2): 28-33

M. Kempkes (2001): Geburts-Anomalie beim Amecae Kärpfling. DATZ (6): 18-19

M. Kempkes (2001): Schockverhalten bei Goodeiden. DGLZ-Rundschau (2): 31-32

M. Kempkes (2001): Geboorteanomalie bij Ameca splendens. Poecilia Nieuws (1): 7-8

M. Kempkes (2001): Geburtsanomalie bei Ameca splendens Miller & Fitzsimons, 1971. DGLZ-Rundschau (1): 4-6

M. Kempkes (2001): Shock behavior in Goodeids. Livebearers (169): 20-21

M. Kempkes (2005): Der Schmetterlingkärpfling Ameca splendens. Aquaristik Fachmagazin (august/september): 48-52

M. Kempkes (2007): Die aquaristisch bedeutsamen Goodeiden-Arten. Aquaristik Fachmagazin (197): 12-17

J. Klungers (2005): Portretten van levendbarenden Ameca splendens. Het Aquarium (2): 6-67

J. Klungers (2008): Ameca splendens Miller & Fitzsimons, 1971. Poecilia Nieuws (3): 42-43

G. Knol (1994): Problemen met mijn Ameca splendens. Poecilia Nieuws (6): 117-118

J. Kokkala & J.P. Wourms (1994): In vivo fluorescence imaging of the functional organization of trophotaenial placentall cells of goodeid fishes. Journal of Morphology (219): 35-46

D. Lambert (1996): The search for Skiffia francesae The Aquarian Expedition 1996. Tropical Fish Hobbyist (november): 118-133

J. Lombardi & J.P. Wourms (1985): The trophotaenial placenta of a viviparous Goodeid fish: II Ultrastructure of trophotaeniae, the embryonic component. Journal of Morphology (184): 293-309

J. Lombardi & J.P. Wourms (1985): The trophotaenial placenta of a viviparous Goodeid fish II Ultrastructure of trophotaeniae, the embryonic component. Journal of Experimental Biology (236): 165-179

E. L√≥pez-L√≥pez & J. E. Sede√Īo-D√≠az (2009): Threatened fishes of the world: Ameca splendens Miller & Fitzsimons, 1971 (Cyprinodontiformes: Goodeidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes (84): 223-224

C. Macías Garcia & A. Valero (2010): Sexual conflict and sexual selection in the Goodeinae, a clade of viviparous fish with effective female mate choice. In Regina Macedo, editor: Advances in the Study of Behavior, vol. 42,

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H. Norfolk (2002): Three unusual livebearers. Livebearer News (1): 10-14

F. Pe√Īa-Aguado, S. Nandini & S.S.S. Sarma (2007): Observations on feed size and capture success in the larval butterfly splitfin (Ameca splendens Miller & Fitzsimons, 1971) reared on zooplankton. J. Appl. Ichthyol. (23): 264-269

F. Pe√Īa-Aguado, S. Nandini & S.S.S. Sarma (2009): Functional response of Ameca splendens (Family Goodeidae) fed cladocerans during the early larval stage. Aquaculture Research (40): 1594-1604

A.C. Radda (1985): De Goodeidae van Mexico; een uiterst interessante, maar aquaristisch nogal onbekende familie. TI'H (43): 5-8

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J. Schindler (2003): Scavenger receptors facilitate protein transport in the trophotaenial placenta of the goodeid fish, Ameca splendens. Journal of experimental zoology (299A): 197-212

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P. Schubert (1989): "Eins zu Null" - Goodeiden kontra Hydra. ZAG Lebendgebärende Zahnkarpfen (4): 6-7

P. Schubert (1991): Beobachtungen zur Farbausbildung bei Chapalichthys pardalis, dem Pantherkärpfling. DGLZ-Rundschau (1): 4-5

P. Schubert (1991): Ein Fisch f√ľr das Schaubecken - Ameca splendens. DGLZ-Rundschau (4): 86-89

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S. Stöhr (1991): Der Ameca-Hochlandkärpfling, Ameca splendens. DATZ (6): 404-404

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R. Tejeda-Vera, E. L√≥pez-L√≥pez & J. Sede√Īo-D√≠az (2007): Biomarkers and bioindicators of the health condition of Ameca splendens and Goodead atripinnis in the Ameca River, Mexico. Environment International (33): 521-531

A. Vega-López et al. (2007): The role of vitellogenin during gestation of Girardinichthys viviparus and Ameca splendens; two goodeid fish with matrotrophic viviparity. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology (147): 731-742

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splendens, Ameca Miller & Fitzsimons 1971: 3, Fig. 1-2, 4-6 [Copeia 1971 (no. 1); ref. 3019]. Río Teuchitlán, just below Teuchitlán, Jalisco, Mexico. Holotype: UMMZ 172227. Paratypes: UMMZ 160912 (9), 17228 (1), 172229 (198, 18 c&s), 173801 (10). Valid as Ameca splendens Miller & Fitzsimons 1971 -- (Espinosa Pérez et al. 1993:39 [ref. 22290], Fuller et al. 1999:322 [ref. 25838]). Ameca splendens Miller & Fitzsimons 1971, Goodeidae: Goodeinae. Habitat: freshwater.

splendens, Ameca Gärtner 1981: 138, Fig. [Eugen Ulmer Gmbh. & Co., Stuttgart; ref. 8599]. Clear-water highland brooks, Mexico. Described as "Ameca n. Sp. Ameca splendens n. Sp." If it was in fact intended as a new species, then it is preoccupied by Ameca splendens Miller & Fitzsimmons 1971. Ameca, Goodeidae: Goodeinae.


Video-you-Tube    Ameca splendens