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The Platy Fish- An Easy To Care For Your Freshwater Aquarium

If you’re beginning to build a new freshwater aquarium – or perhaps expanding the one you already have- you have likely found yourself starting at the many rows of aquarium tanks in your local pet store, wondering how on earth you are going to make a decision. If you are searching for an easy-to-care-for, low-maintenance fish (and one that is peaceful to boot!) you should consider raising the Platy Fish.

These exciting fish have gorgeous colors and a personality that can liven up any fish tank. Just as there are colors in the rainbow, there are just as many colors and breeds of Platy Fish to choose from. With multiple hybrids and a solid footing in the aquarium trade, the Platy Fish is just one you have to consider if you are looking to expand the diversity in your freshwater tank.

Not sure where to start? Never fear. We understand that, although this fish is incredibly easy to raise, it can always be nerve working to introduce a new species to your tank.

Here, we have the ultimate guide to raising the Platy Fish to help you get started. And don’t worry – you’ll be glad you did!

Platy Fish

Platy Fish Background

This fish is a member of the Xiphophorus genus. It is joined by other fish like guppies, mollies, and swordfish. The name derives from the Greek word “xiphos,” which means sword, as well as the word “pherein,” which means to carry. While you will hear the name Platy Fish assigned to multiple kinds of fish, it generally refers to three different species: the Swordtail Platy, the Variable Platy, and the Southern Platy.

These are the most common kinds of Platies, and you will likely find them in a wide range of aquarium and pet stores. They are affordable and come in many colors and shapes as a result of hybridization and selective breeding. You can even find different variants of fin shapes to choose from!

In fact, some species of Platies, like the Variable Platy and the Southern Platy, have been bred so frequently that it is now nearly impossible to tell the difference between the two. The southern Platy, however, is most often referred to as the Common Platy. It was one of the first Platies to make its way onto the scene, having been discovered and introduced to the aquarium trade in 1907. The Variable Platy was introduced much later, in 1932.

Photo by AliceL85

There is not much difference between the three kinds of Platies. The Variable Platy is named as such for its many color offerings, while the Swordtail Platy is rarer. It is also referred to as the Spiketail Platy, due in part to the unique shape of its fins.

These fish are hardy under most conditions, but have relatively short lives. They usually live for about three years, but can sometimes make it to five years if they are provided with the perfect care and optimal conditions.

While Southern and Variable Platies are found in just about any aquarium or pet store you may enter, Swordtail Platies are harder to come by – you may have your work cut out for yo in finding them in stores, and if you do, they will likely be much more expensive.

Platy Fish Appearance And Behavior

Photo by Homebodyhubby

The appearance of Platy Fish varies depending on the specific kind of Platy that you purchase. Generally, these fish are small and flat laterally. They have short, tiny fins and a tail that is shaped somewhat like a fan. You can find these fish in just about any color or variety.

Both Southern and Variable platies are short and stocky. They don’t have the “sword” feature of the Swordtail Platy, as you might expect. Colors can vary among these species, with some of the most popular colors being white, yellow, red, blue, and green. Colorations are traditionally due to the play’s natural habitats.

You may notice differences in size among the species. While female Southern Platies can reach nearly three inches, the Variable Platy will reach well over this length. Males will be slightly smaller than the females, a profound example of sexual dimorphism at work.

Within the three different strains of Platies, you will find other subvarieties as well. Some popular breeds of Southern Platies include:

  • Half Moon
  • Coral
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Blue Mirror
  • Bleeding-Heart
  • Comet

Popular versions of the Variable Platy include:

  • Redtail
  • Sunset
  • Marigold
  • Rainbow
  • Yellowtail

These names are indicative of the coloring and patterns of each kind of Platy, and area good guide insulting the fish that will most specifically meet your aesthetic preferences.

Platy 4
Photo by Richard Bradshaw

Platy Fish are some of the most peaceful and non-aggressive fish species you can find. These fish do not school or shoal, but they do like to be kept in small groups with their own kinds. An active fish species, they are one of the easiest to breed in captivity.

These fish will spend most of their days swimming at the middle of the water column. They will dart frequently among the plants and hide among the floating leaves, enjoying swimming around in small groups.

These fish are far from aggressive, so you don’t have to worry about housing them with other fish. However, it should be noted that these energetic little fish can sometimes jump out of the tank. As a result, you will need to keep your tank covered with a tight-fitting lid and avoid any hazards that they may encounter in the tank.

Another interesting fact about platies is that you must maintain an appropriate ratio of males to females. Males can sometimes be overwhelming to females, crowding them and making it difficult for the females to carry on with their day. You will need to be very particular in making sure you have balanced riots of the genders in your tank.

Platy Fish Tank And Water Requirements

In the wild, Platy Fish tend to inhabit dramatically different areas depending on their specific subtype. For example, the Southern Platy lives in the freshwater regions of Guatemala, Northern Honduras, and Mexico, while the Variable Platy is generally found in the southern portions of Mexico, ranging from Rio Panuco all the way to Rio Cazones. The swordtail Platy is rarer, and found only in the rivers of Rio Soto La Marina in Mexico.

Usually, these fish are found in small bodies of water. They will have a very slow moving current, if any, and they will tend to occupy warm waters that have silt bottoms. These waters tend to be densely vegetated, and may consist of warm springs, marshes, ditches, or even canals.

As a result, these fish are very hardy in most conditions. They can tolerate wide variety of habitats, but it should be noted that Swordtails are especially sensitive to poor water quality. In general, you should make maintaining good water quality a goal of your sin establishing any freshwater aquarium tank – try to change your water regularly, conducting changes of 25 percent every two weeks or so.

Remember that your Platy will be happier and healthier in an environment that is closest to its natural setting. Try to provide a gravel substrate and include plenty of live plants.

Decorating A Platy Fish Tank

Photo by Kevin

Live and artificial plants are key when you are setting up a tank for a Platy. These fish like to hide in plants, and while live plants are preferred, you can also use artificial ones to provide an appropriate hiding place. You don’t have to be immaculate in your arrangement of the plants – in general, plants can be set up loosely. Remember to plant densely and give your fish plenty of space to swim about in the open water.

There are no limitations on which kinds of plants you can include in your Platy tank. However, good recommendations include duckweed, hornwort, and Java Moss. These are all easy to care for and will not be damaged by your Platy Fish.

Try to maintain consistent temperature, water hardness, and pH levels in your tank. You should maintain a temperature between 70 and 80 degrees. The ideal temperature will be between 72 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but your Platies can tolerate some fluctuation within this, too. Try to maintain weak currents, and remember that pH should be kept between 6.8 and 8. Water hardness should fall between 10 and 29 dGH.

As active fish, Platies need plenty of room to swim about. Try to maintain a tank that is no smaller than ten gallons, but remember that you really can’t overdo it when it comes to tank size – the bigger, the better!

What Do Platy Fish Eat?

Platy 6
Photo by Richard Bradshaw

Platy Fish are not picky eater, and it will not be difficult for you to decide how to feed them once you have them in your tank. Ideally, you should shoot for a diet that is rich in vegetable matter, but remember that they are also omnivores. Although they will eat anything, they prefer to eat a mostly herbivorous diet.

Make a high-quality flake food the cornerstone of your Platy diet. This will provide your fish with the nutrients it needs to be healthy and active and to avoid disease. In the wild, Platies will also eat foods like worms, plants, insects, and small crustaceans. You can add a live or commercially prepared food, and you can also supplement the diet of a Platy Fish with vegetables.

Every now and then, you might consider treating your Platy Fish with a high-quality brine shrimp, bloodworm, or tubifex. These provide a valuable source of protein, but you must also make sure you are providing a balanced ratio of veggies, too. Consider vegetables like squash, cucumbers, and spinach to make sure your Platy diet is rich and nutritious.

Remember, a diet that is high in vitamins and minerals isn’t just good for your Platy health. It also helps to improve the coloration of your fish! Fish that consume diets that are rich in nutrients will have colors that are more vibrant and exciting to look at.

When feeding your Platy, watch it carefully to determine how much food it consumes in one feeding. You should feed your fish small amounts of food, but more frequently  -think several times per day. You should never feed a Platy more than it can eat in about three minutes.

Platy Fish Tank Mates

Platy 7
Photo by Tropical Fish International

These fish are ideal tank mates for a wide variety of species. Although they can be very active, they can tolerate living with many other creatures. They will occasionally fight among themselves, particularly if you have many males.

Try to choose small, peaceful fish that are equally effective. You might want to consider species that are loosely related, such as Swordtails, Guppies, or Mollies. These fish will also coexist quite well with fish that are of a similar size and temperament – for example, you might consider small barbs, other Platies, gouarims, corydoras, tetras, and characins. You can even keep these fish with snails or shrimp with no problem!

In general, you should avoid housing your Platy Fish with large or aggressive fish. Ones to avoid include Wolf Fish, Vampire Tetras, bettas, Tiger Barbs, Arowanas, and Cichlids.

Although Platies are not schooling fish, they do enjoy the company of other Platies. Once they take up residence in your tank, they will begin to breed prolifically, a nice benefit if you are looking to expand the size of your aquatic community.

However, if you do keep multiple Platies in the same tank, remember that you must always keep more females than males. Why? Females are easily overwhelmed from the males, who will chase the females persistently. Try to keep a ratio of three females to every male.

Common Platy Fish  Diseases

Platy Fish are small fish and they are also relatively hardy. You won’t find them afflicted by any disease to which your other freshwater inhabitants are not prone. They can, however, be exposed to and suffer from diseases that afflict most tropical fish, such as ich and fin rot.

These diseases are relatively easy to spot. You will likely notice some strange behavior as well as some flukes or lesions on the skin and body of your fish. Usually, if you can catch these diseases early on, they are relatively easy to fix. However, should you catch them later on, you may have more of a challenge on your hands.

Ich is one of the most common diseases that can affect tropical freshwater tanks. It causes white lesions on the fins, body, and gills of your fish. It can cause respiratory damage and lead to more severe infections. Usually, you can treat ich by raising water temperatures in the tank, but sometimes medication is required. If you believe that your fish is affected by ich, you should quarantine it to remove its exposure to the other inhabitants to your tank.

Platy 3
Photo by Little Bug1

Fin rot is also common. This disease is a bacterial infection that infects the fins or tails of your fish. Usually, you will need to treat for fin rot by applying an antibiotic like tetracycline or chloromycetin. This can be added during feeding time, but again, quarantine is often the best route to avoid unnecessary infection and exposure.

The easiest way to avoid disease in your tank is to follow a rule of thumb that applies to any aquarium tank – keep it clean! Make sure you clean your tank at least once every other week, and make sure any new items or fish that you introduce to your tank are clean and have been quarantined. This includes new plants, decorations, or even substrate.

Try to provide your fish with proper, balanced nutrition, and make sure you reduce the stress levels in your tank as much as possible. To do this, keep the temperatures, pH, and water hardness of your tank as consistent as possible, avoiding fluctuations in any direction or of any size or scale.

Breeding And Life Spans Of Platy Fish

Platy Fish are what are known as livebearing fish. This means that they keep their eggs in their body until they give birth to active, free-swimming free. As prolific breeders, you don’t have much trouble breeding them in your tank. All you will need to do is keep two or more fish of the opposite gender in the same tank, and you will be good to go!

Unfortunately, the biggest challenge in breeding Platy Fish is that it can be impossible to tell the difference between the sexes until they reach sexual maturity. This is usually long after you have already purchased and brought your platies home – at about four months of age. Then, you can easily tell the difference between the genders.

Females tend to be much larger and less vibrant in coloring than males. Males will take some time to reach the full extent of their color patterns, but once they are fully grown, they will be quite something to look at. They will also have anal fins that take on a shape that is not unlike that of a rod – hit is known as their gonopodium, or reproductive organ.

The one consideration that you do need to take in breeding your platies is that the adults will often eat their fry. Therefore, you should set up a separate breeding tank that is about 10 to 20 gallons and has excellent filtration (ideally a sponge filter) so that the fry are safe from the adults. You can remove the adults after breeding and leave the fry to their own devices.

Platy 8
Photo by Sidleydoc

Whatever you choose to do, make sure your breeding tank has plenty of dense plants with lots of hiding places. This will allow your breeding fish and fry to find hiding spots. Females will produce up to 80 fry at a time, and will be pregnant for about three or four weeks before birthing their live young. Pregnant females will develop enlarged abdomens. Her skin will also become transparent enough so that you can notice the eyes of the fry. Sometimes, she will also develop a black spot on her belly, too.

These fry are born ready to swim. You don’t need to provide much in the way of specific care for these young, but you will need to feed them a specialized diet. Usually, foods like dry food and egg yolk are appropriate, but you can also find fry-specific food at your local aquarium or pet store.

Unfortunately, Platy Fish are not the fish to raise if you are looking for a species with extended longevity. In most cases, these fish only live for about three to five years in captivity. You can extend the life of your Platy Fish by providing it with good water quality and proper nutrition.

Is A Platy Fish For You?

Are you just starting out in the aquarium hobby and looking for an easy-to-care for fish? These colorful fish are peaceful and fun to watch. As a hardy species, they are difficult to kill and make the perfect addition to most fish tanks.

If you are good about cleaning your tank and are willing to provide a densely vegetated setting for your platies, that’s about all you need to know to care for the dynamic fish. Provide them with a peaceful environment and lots of places to hide, and you will have happy, healthy fish on your hand.

So, what have you got to lose? Pick your favorite color of Platy, and start setting up your aquarium today.

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