Gambusia affinis (western mosquitofish)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Natural Food Sources
- Water Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Gambusia affinis Biard and Girard, 1853
Preferred Common Name
- western mosquitofish
Other Scientific Names
- Gambusia affinis affinis Biard and Girard, 1853
- Gambusia affinis katruelis Biard and Girard, 1853
- Gambusia gracilis Girard, 1859
- Gambusia humilis Gunher, 1866
- Gambusia patruelis Biard and Girard, 1853
- Haplochilus melanops Cope, 1870
- Heterandria affini Biard and Girard, 1853
- Heterandria patruelis Biard and Girard, 1853
- Zygonectes brachypterus Cope, 1880
- Zygonectes gracilis Girard, 1859
- Zygonectes inurus Jordan and Gilbert, 1882
- Zygonectes patruelis Biard and Girard, 1853
International Common Names
- English: mosquito fish; mosquitofish
Local Common Names
- Albania: burkaleci
- Canada: gambusie
- China/Hong Kong: live-bearing tooth-carp; sang hang ue; tes; topminnow
- France: alevin; gambouse; gambuse; gambusie
- Germany: Koboldkarpfling; Silberkarpfling; Texaskarpfling
- Greece: kounoupopsaro
- Japan: kadayashi
- Philippines: isdang canal
- Poland: gambuzia pospolita
- Portugal: gambuzia
- Russian Federation: obyknovennaya gambuziya
- Spain: gambusino
- Sweden: vastlig moskitfisk
- Ukraine: gambuzija
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
G. affinis has been introduced throughout the world as a mosquito-control agent. It has become a pest in many waterways following initial introductions in the early 1900s. G. affinis is a highly predatory fish, that as well as controlling mosquitoes also eats the eggs of economically important fish, and preys on rare indigenous fish and invertebrate species (ISSG, 2010).
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Actinopterygii
- Order: Cyprinodontiformes
- Family: Poeciliidae
- Genus: Gambusia
- Species: Gambusia affinis
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
DescriptionTop of page
G. affinis is a small, stout, robust, dull grey to brown with a terminal and upward pointing mouth adapted for feeding at the surface of the water. It has a small, rounded dorsal fin that originates behind the anal fin. Dorsal fin rays are 7-9 in number, and anal rays are 9-10 (FishBase, 2004). Origin of seventh dorsal fin is opposite anal ray. There are 8 horizontal scale rows between back and abdomen. The first few rays of the anal fin are greatly elongated in adult males. Mature females are larger than males. The maximum total length reported for male and female is 4.0 cm (Billard, 1997) and 7.0 cm respectively (FishBase, 2004).
DistributionTop of page
Native range of G. affinis is recorded as Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainage from southern New Jersey, USA to Mexico; Mississippi River basin from central Indiana and Illinois, USA south to Gulf (USGS, 2003). Because of its reputation as a mosquito-control agent, G. affinis has been stocked routinely and indiscriminately in temperate and tropical areas around the world resulting in a wide distribution. Due to their hardiness, this species may now be the most widespread freshwater fish in the world (USGS, 2003).
For non-indigenous occurrences of G. affinis within the USA please see the USGS fact sheet on this species (Nico et al., 2007).
Because G. affinis and G. holbrooki were treated as subspecies of G. affinis prior to 1988, it is not always possible to discern which species is referred to in the earlier literature and the Distribution and Intrroductions Tables may include records of G. holbrooki. It was confirmed by Pyke (2005) that records across Australia were of G. holbrooki.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Feb 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Central African Republic||Present||Introduced||1958|
|Zimbabwe||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Bell-Cross and Minshull (1988)|
|Afghanistan||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Coad (1981)|
|Armenia||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Gabrielyan (2001)|
|Bangladesh||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Gopi (2000)|
|Georgia||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Reshetnikov and et al. (1997)|
|Hong Kong||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Original citation: Man and Hodgkiss (1981)|
|Iraq||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1950 - 1955|
|Israel||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1920 - 1929|
|Sri Lanka||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1930 - 1939|
|Taiwan||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1920 - 1924|
|Turkey||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1920 - 1929|
|Uzbekistan||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Kamilov and Urchinov (1995)|
|France||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Keith and Allardi (1998)|
|Greece||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1927 - 1937|
|Italy||Present||Introduced||First reported: 1919 - 1921|
|Serbia and Montenegro||Present||Introduced|
|Ukraine||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Movchan Yu (1988)|
|Mexico||Present||Native||Original citation: Page and Burr (1991)|
|United States||Present||Native||Original citation: Page and Burr (1991)|
|-Hawaii||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Yamamoto (1992)|
|Australia||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)||Earlier reports of G. affinis are of G. holbrooki|
|Federated States of Micronesia||Present||Introduced|
|Fiji||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Lewis and Pring (1986)|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Present||Introduced|
|Papua New Guinea||Present||Introduced|
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Afghanistan||Unknown||Yes||No||Coad (1981); Coad (1981)|
|Central Africa||1958||Unknown||Yes||No||Welcomme (1988)|
|China||North America||Unknown||Yes||No||Xie (2001)|
|Côte d'Ivoire||Unknown||No||No||Welcomme (1988)|
|France||North America||1924||Unknown||Yes||No||Keith and Allardi (1998)|
|French Polynesia||Unknown||Yes||No||Welcomme (1988)|
|Georgia (Republic of)||Italy||1925||Unknown||Yes||No||Reshetnikov and et al. (1997); Reshetnikov et al. (1997)|
|Hong Kong||Unknown||Yes||No||FAO (1997)|
|Israel||1924||Unknown||Yes||No||Golani and Mires (2000); Golani and Mires (2000)|
|Japan||Taiwan||1916||Unknown||Yes||No||Chiba and et al. (1989); Chiba et al. (1989)|
|Kazakhstan||Russian Federation||1934||Unknown||Yes||No||Mitrofanov and Petr (1999); Mitrofanov and Petr (1999)|
|Laos||Unknown||No||No||; Kottelat (2001); Kottelat (2001a); Kottelat et al. (2001a)|
|Malaysia||Unknown||Yes||No||Ang and et al. (1989); Ang et al. (1989)|
|New Zealand||Hawaii||1930||Unknown||Yes||No||Welcomme (1988)|
|Papua New Guinea||1930||Unknown||Yes||No||Welcomme (1988)|
|Peru||Central America||1940||Unknown||Yes||No||Welcomme (1988)|
|Philippines||Hawaii||1905||Government||Yes||No||Juliano and et al. (1989); Juliano et al. (1989)|
|Puerto Rico||USA||1914||Unknown||Yes||No||Welcomme (1988)|
|Russian Federation||Italy||1925||Unknown||Yes||No||Reshetnikov and et al. (1997); Reshetnikov et al. (1997)|
|Solomon Islands||Unknown||Yes||No||Eldredge (1994); Eldredge (1994)|
|South Africa||1936||Unknown||Yes||No||Welcomme (1988)|
|Sri Lanka||1930-1939||Unknown||Yes||No||Pethiyagoda (1991); Pethiyagoda (1991)|
|Taiwan||North America||1920-1924||Unknown||Yes||No||Welcomme (1988)|
|Thailand||Government||Yes||No||Piyakarnchana (1989); Piyakarnchana (1989)|
|Ukraine||Unknown||No||No||Movchan Yu (1988)|
|Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)||1927||Unknown||Yes||No||Welcomme (1988)|
|Zambia||South Africa||1940-1949||Unknown||No||No||Thys van den Audenaerde DFE (1994)|
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Ricefields||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Floodplains||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Swamps||Present, no further details|
|Freshwater||Lakes||Present, no further details|
|Freshwater||Rivers / streams||Present, no further details|
|Freshwater||Ponds||Present, no further details|
|Brackish||Lagoons||Present, no further details|
Natural Food SourcesTop of page
|Food Source||Food Source Datasheet||Life Stage||Contribution to Total Food Intake (%)||Details|
ClimateTop of page
|A - Tropical/Megathermal climate||Preferred||Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually|
|C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate||Preferred||Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C|
Water TolerancesTop of page
|Parameter||Minimum Value||Maximum Value||Typical Value||Status||Life Stage||Notes|
|Salinity (part per thousand)||<16||Optimum||Adult|
|Water pH (pH)||6||8||Optimum||Adult|
|Water temperature (ºC temperature)||15||30||Optimum||Adult|
Natural enemiesTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Intentional release of G. affinis is carried out by mosquito-control agencies.
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
Environmental ImpactTop of page
G. affinis has been regarded as a controversial species as it has created ecological problems of various kinds but is, at the same time, perceived as being extremely useful in controlling unwanted organisms (Welcomme, 1988). According to Courtenay and Meffe (1989), mosquitofish have had the greatest ecological impact by far of any of the introduced poeciliids. Although widely introduced as mosquito control agents, recent critical reviews of the world literature on mosquito control have not supported the view that Gambusia are particularly effective in reducing mosquito populations or in reducing the incidence of mosquito-borne diseases (Courtenay and Meffe, 1989).
Because of the aggressive and predatory behaviour of G. affinis, it is reported that native fish species and populations of small fish tend to decline, or are eliminated in areas where it has become established. In some habitats, introduced G. affinis reportedly displaced select native fish species regarded as better or more efficient mosquito control agents. They have been particularly destructive in the American West where they have contributed to the elimination or decline of populations of federally endangered and threatened species (Courtenay and Meffe, 1989). Mosquitofish, and other introduced poeciliids, have been implicated in the decline of native damselflies on Oahu, Hawaii. Often the distributions of the damselflies and introduced fishes were found to be mutually exclusive, probably resulting from predation of the fish on the insects (Englund, 1999).
For further information on predation see Threat Abatement Plan for Gambusia holbrooki (NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 2003).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Has high reproductive potential
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition (unspecified)
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Live feed
- Biological control
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
G. affinis can be confused with G. holbrooki and at one time they were classified as the subspecies G. affinis affinis and G. affinis holbrooki, respectively (Froese and Pauly, 2007).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Chemical control of mosquitofish was investigated by Willis and Ling (2000) in New Zealand in fish living alongside the black mudfish, Neochanna diversus. The relative sensitivities of the mudfish and mosquitofish to the chemical compound rotenone were tested to determine whether the piscicide could be used to remove the mosquitofish from the mudfish habitats – the former having detrimental effects of the survival of mudfish. Rotenone was chosen as although it is extremely toxic to fish by acting by blocking cellular oxygen uptake causing fish to gasp at the water’s surface, non-target fish can be saved by removal to freshwater or by the addition of a strong oxidising agent.
Their study found that mudfish were approximately twice as sensitive to rotenone as mosquitofish; however, when mudfish were removed from the treated areas they did fully recover. Willis and Ling concluded that the application of rotenone to wetland standing water could only be used to control mosquitofish numbers rather than eliminate them completely.
ReferencesTop of page
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ContributorsTop of page
09/01/2010 Updated by:
Vicki Bonham, CABI, Nosworthy Way, Wallingford, OX10 8DE, UK
Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, UK
Distribution MapsTop of page
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