The Gila topminnow (Poeciliopsis occidentalis), is a small fish approximately two inches in length. It is found in Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Southern Mexico. The Gila topminnow prefers shallow, quiet waters with dense algae and plant material. At one time this fish was considered to be the most common and abundant fish in the Gila River Basin; however, due to non-native fish competition, water draws and habitat destruction, Gila topminnow numbers dwindled until it was listed as endangered in 1967.
Gila topminnows exhibit dimorphism, which means that males look different than females. In general, females are larger than males. Their color ranges from a tan to olive body with a white belly; however, during breeding season, mature, dominant male fins turn yellow and their bodies darken to nearly black. They are extremely hardy and survive in waters at temperatures near freezing and up to 100 degrees. During times of complete water evaporation, Gila topminnows can survive for up to two days by burrowing in the mud.
How We Help
Since 2012, the Phoenix Zoo has maintained a breeding population of Gila topminnow at our Conservation Center.
Every year, our conservation partners collect fish from our ponds and release them to streams in Arizona.