The Platy Fish (Xiphophorus Sp.) is a small livebearer fish in the Xiphophorus genus. This genus of fish is commonly known as swordtails. The platyfish is a variant of the swordtail that lacks a sword shape tail. Platies have long been in the hobby and are one of the best livebearers for beginners.
Their energetic personality and vibrant colorations make them the perfect fish to observe in an aquarium. They’re also incredibly calm and peaceful fish with minimum care. However, there are still some key points you will need to know about them.
In this guide, we will cover all the care requirements for this beautiful fish and will give you many tips and tricks to make you fully ready to have them.
Species Profile & Overview
As mentioned, platy fish is a type of fish belonging to the Xiphophorus genus. This genus contains 28 known species, some are a type of Platy and others are Swordtails.
The Platy Fish most commonly found in aquariums are Xiphophorus maculatus and Xiphophorus variatus. While these are the most common types of platy, there are many line breed variants that create many different colors and patterns.
They can interbreed with other swordtail species as well as one another, which has led to a wide range of color variants.
Platy fish are native to Mexico and parts of Tamaulipas and Veracruz in Central America. In their natural habitat, they live in a vast variety of places such as ponds, canals, rivers, and streams. The water is warm and with high levels of dissolved oxygen.
In the wild, this fish lives in shallow waters where plants can easily grow. The river has a fine sand substrate and the water is always clean. Recreating a similar environment is necessary to make them live a healthy life in an aquarium.
Appearance & Types
These beautiful and small fish are coming in many varieties and colorations. They can have spots, patches, or a solid color. The wild variants are not as colorful as the captive breed specimens.
These fish have short bodies and look very similar to mollies and swordtails. The fins are usually translucent but some variants might have colored fins.
These fish are line bred to develop different fin shapes and body patterns. The fin shape and body patterns are the way these fish are named in the aquarium hobby.
Despite the type of platy you buy, they all come with a triangular head and a flattened short body. But the pattern and fin shapes might defer. The most common types of platies are Tuxedo Platy, Salt & Pepper Platy, Red Coral Platy, Rainbow Platy, Hifin Platy, and Mickey Mouse Platy.
Platies are sexual dimorphism. This means males and females have visible differences. The best way to identify the gender of platy is by looking at its anal fin.
Males have a gonopodium instead of an anal fin, which looks like a pointed arrow. They use this organ to mate with females. The females, on the other hand, have a proper anal fin that is always fanned open.
The size of a platy fish varies by species type, gender, and living environment. Female platyfish are usually larger than males and can grow up to 3 inches long. The males on the other hand, are typically around 2 inches long and have flattened bodies.
This makes them a great choice for any small or even nano tanks. However, it’s always best to keep platies in larger tanks as they breed vigorously. More on this later in this article.
Platy fish are small and thus live a shorter lifespan. They typically live for 3 to 5 years in captivity.
However, we had platies that lived well over 5 years in your aquariums. Even in your well-established tanks, only a few of them were able to reach the 5 years mark or cross it. So you should not expect all your fish to live such a long life.
To provide your fish with the maximum chance to survive and live a longer life, you should focus on the quality of water they are living in and the food they receive. Both of these factors can decrease or increase the life expectancy of your fish drastically.
Behavior and Temperament
Platy fish are very calm and peaceful fish. They can live in peace with one another or with other types of fish. However, they will eat any small organism that can fit in their mouth, including their own fry.
At the same time, larger fish will bully them so to see their true behaviors in your tank, you should keep them in a tank with other similar-sized peaceful fish.
These fish are not schooling species and will swim all over the aquarium in a random pattern. They are active swimmers and will constantly swim and play in the tank. This makes them really fun to watch.
Keep in mind that these fish can breed every month so the males are very active at chasing females. This can be very stressful on females if you have more males and fewer females.
In this case, males will soon overpower females and can stress them to death. So it’s always best to keep either only males or females, or for every male, you should have two or three females.
Doing this will give the males more options and they’ll not chase buried females to mate. The only downside to this is that you will end up having too many platies in your tank.
Platy fish are easy to care for. They will happily live in your tank as long as you feed them a balanced diet and provide them with clean water.
They are also great beginner fish as they can handle the most common mistakes beginner aquarists might make. These hardy fish can easily adjust themselves to new environments and can live in a wide range of tank conditions.
In the next few sections, we will walk you through all the necessary components to keeping this fish happy and healthy in the long run. So let’s make your fish happier together!
The minimum tank size for Platy fish is 10 gallons. However, they do much better in 20 gallon tanks or larger. This is because they are quite active breeders and can quickly overpopulate a smaller tank.
If you have a nano tank, you can keep a single platy fish with no other tank mates. This way your fish will not reproduce to break the nitrogen cycle in the tank.
The rule of thumb for keeping platies in a tank is to keep one platy per 2 gallons of aquarium water. So in a 10 gallon aquarium, you can keep up to 5 platies. Keep in mind that your fish will breed and you might need to relocate them to a bigger tank. Unless you keep only males or females!
What To Put In A Platy Tank
When it comes to decorating the tank for platies, you are in luck as these fish are not very demanding species. They can live in almost any tank environment but they might show signs of stress when the tank is empty.
The decorations and any other items you place in the tank can make your fish feel safe and sound. So it’s important to decorate the tank in favor of your fish and not to what you like.
Live Plants: Plants are the key to making this fish happy! Live plants will constantly filter the water and remove the toxins. This gives your fish better and cleaner water to live in. At the same time, because these fish eat their newborns, it’s best to keep live plants in the tank so the fry can hide until they grow.
The best plants for a platy tank are plants that can grow densely. This makes it hard for the adult platy to swim in and as a result, your fry will have plenty of room to feed and grow. You can check our Top 20 Aquarium Plants article to pick the best plants for your aquarium.
Substrate: These fish swim in the middle and upper parts of the tank and do not care much about the substrate you want to use. However, because you will need to have plants in their tank, you should go with either planted substrate or fine gravel or sand.
If you want to go with water column plants, then you can pick any substrate as these types of plants will not need substrate.
To make your tank more beautiful, a black substrate is ideal. The contrast between the black substrate and green plants will bring out the true beauty of your fish and your tank.
Decorations: These fish do not demand any specific type of decorations so this is the area you can get creative. You can pick your favorite type of rocks and driftwood to complement the plants you have. A combination of all these elements will make your tank more beautiful while making it a super healthy environment for your platy fish.
We keep aquariums to enjoy the true beauty of the fish, so it’s ideal to use proper aquarium light to achieve this. While Platy fish do not need a specific type of light, the plants you keep might need a strong or moderate source of light to be able to survive.
So if you choose to use living plants, you should invest in a good light to make your tank look beautiful and give your plants all the light they need to grow.
The good news is that platy fish need bare minimum water conditions to be able to live happily. The best way to set your tank parameters is by recreating the natural habitat of this fish.
This means you should have a warm and tropical environment that has high levels of dissolved oxygen. But the pH has to stay within the range this fish can tolerate.
The water current should be slow to moderate as the natural habitat of this fish has slow or even still waters. When water moves fast these fish can burn a lot of calories and that can lower their lifespan.
Additionally, it is essential to closely monitor your water quality. Make sure your tank parameters are within the range mentioned below:
- Temperature: 70 – 82 Degrees Fahrenheit
- PH: 6.5 – 7.5
- TDS: 100 – 250 PPM
We see many other online resources say this fish can live in a wider range of parameters. But in our experience, this is the best range you can keep your platies in. Try to keep your tank stable and consistent and as long as it’s within the mentioned parameter, your fish will thrive.
Filtration prevents waste from building up and reduces ammonia and nitrate levels. A good filter and with the help of some fast-growing plants will make your tank stay cleaner for longer periods.
There are many filters you can use for a platy tank. You should ideally go for filters that are strong enough to keep your tank clean without creating a lot of currents. This is because platies thrive in calm water.
A hung-on-back filter or a sponge filter can be great options to use for a platy tank. Make sure the filter is rated for the size of the tank you have.
Common Diseases and Prevention
Unfortunately platy fish are susceptible to all common aquarium diseases. Bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections are among the common diseases platies can contract.
These diseases are often introduced to the tank by other fish or plants. The poor water conditions in a tank might also cause disease. So it’s important to follow the best fishkeeping practices to prevent diseases.
Diseases like Ich and fin rot are often introduced to a tank by newly purchased fish. Some pet stores neglect to properly care for their fish and have diseases spread in their tanks. So if you buy fish from such pet stores you are risking the health of your fish.
It’s always best to check the fish in the pet store properly before purchasing any fish from them. Ideally, you should have a separate quarantine tank to quarantine the fish for 2 – 6 weeks before adding it to your main tank.
Doing so will eliminate the risk of spreading disease to your healthy tank. Prevention is always the best way to cure diseases.
Diet and Feeding Requirements
Platies are omnivore species and will eat virtually any kind of food you feed them. In the wild, plant matter is a big part of their diet but they will also feed on insect larvae in the tank.
A good mix of different types of fish foods is the best way to feed these fish. Doing this will ensure better health and growth. You can feed them foods such as flakes, pellets, freeze-dried insects, and even frozen foods.
Frozen foods such as tubifex, bloodworms, and brine shrimp are great sources of natural vitamins and minerals. But you should only feed them once or twice per week.
Dried fish food should be a staple part of the daily food these fish receive. Dry foods are often manufactured to provide the fish with most of the nutrients this fish needs. But make sure to have a few different types as not all foods have all the nutrients fish need.
These fish will also consume fresh vegetables such as cucumber, spinach, squash, and green peas. These vegetables should be slightly boiled to become soft before feeding the platies.
Regardless of the type of food you want to feed, you should only feed platies as much as they can eat within 2 – 3 minutes. Never leave any leftover food to stay in the tank as it can pollute the tank and cause disease.
Breeding Platy Fish
Platy fish are easy to breed livebearer species. To breed these fish, all you need to do is to make sure there are more females in the tank than females. You can let the rest to the fish!
When tank conditions are right, these fish will reproduce readily. These fish will breed every 30 – 40 days and can have up to 40 fries each pregnancy. Because of the small size of platy fry, you should have a separate tank for the female to give birth. This is because other platies will eat the fry at the first chance they get.
The other way to ensure a higher survival rate for fry is to add a lot of densely grown plants. The female usually goes into these plants and gives birth to her fry. The densely grown plants will provide the fry with a safe area to grow.
Platy fish are calm and can peacefully live with other similar-sized peaceful species. These fish are small so you should only add fish that are around the same size.
This also means you should not add smaller species like neocaridina shrimps in their tank. Platies will eat any small creature that fits in their mouth. Larger types of shrimps will live perfectly with platies.
Here are our top picks of tank mates for platies:
- Freshwater Snails
- Molly Fish
- L397 Pleco
- Bristlenose Pleco
- Other Types of plecos
- Neon Tetra
- Most Gouramis
- Bamboo Shrimp
- Vampire Shrimp
Platies are excellent beginner fish that can be kept in smaller aquariums. They are hardy and can tolerate a wide range of water parameters. They thrive alone in a nano tank or with other fish in a larger tank. They can also live with larger groups of their own kind. This makes them a great fish to own and watch; especially if you go with red variants.