Platy Fish (Xiphophorus maculatus & Xiphophorus variatus)
Platy fish are common Live-Bearer fish in the hobby, they are hardy & can adapt to a wider range of water parameters compared to other freshwater fish. This fish is native to Central American region. Naturally occurring species includes Xiphophorus maculatus or Southern platy & Xiphophorus variatus or Variatus platy, these species are inter-bred to achieve various colors & patterns. Most Platys can grow over 2 inches in length & live over 3 years. Natural habitat of Platy's include slow moving waters, ditches, small ponds which are usually vegetated. Platies can breed with Swordtail fish (Xiphophorus hellerii) as they are both closely related. Platy fish lacks the sword or elongated caudal fin like Swordtail fish, however by inter-breeding Platy & Swordtail fish, breeders have achieved elongated caudal fin in Platies as well. This Platy fish with swords usually are around 3 inches but the Swordtails can grow up to 5 inches or more. Even in inter-bred Platies, only the male have elongated caudal fin or swords like the Swordtails. There are a lot of strains or types of Platy fish, few common types are Comet Platy, Two Spot Platy, Mickey Mouse Platy, Panda Platy Fish, Wag Tail Platy Fish etc. These fish are prolific breeders like the Guppies & Mollies. Below information will help you learn more about Platy fish aquarium care.
Visual differences between Male & Female Platy Fish
Male Platy fish are usually smaller than Female Platy fish; males have a modified cloacal fin under belly called gonopodium, this is used for mating. Caudal fins of the Male Platy is longer in some strains.
Female Platies appear larger than Males; they are some what rounder in shape at the belly area once they are fully grown, this is because they hold unborn fry in their abdomen. Cloacal fin of the female Platy fish is usually fan shaped.
Platy Fish Aquarium Care
Platy fish is a great option for beginners in the hobby, they are hardy & they make great compatible tank mates for various similar sized & temperament freshwater fish. They can be housed in a Nano Tank & also in small ponds outdoors. They demand very less maintenance, I have housed them in planted tanks, aquarium with artificial plants, rock-scape & outdoor pond & they seem to thrive in all the setups. They can be included in community aquariums with other live-bearers, few types of tetra's & barbs. Group of Male & Female Platy Fish can be housed in the same aquarium, best ratio is 1 male for every 3 to 4 females. They can be housed in a Nano tank of 10 gallon, they prefer planted aquariums & thrive in them. They are usually well-behaved & non-aggressive to other tank mates. Below information will help understand their requirements in an aquarium.
What your Platy Fish needs
Things to buy & Why?
Aquarium : The rule of 1 inch fish needs 1 gallon (3.78 liters approx) is safe to apply for small fish like Platy. Remember Platies will be happy only if they are in a community tank, they should be kept in a ratio of one male for every 3 to 4 females. Ideal tank size is highly recommended so that, you can create a replica of their natural environment for them to have enough place to swim, hide or simply rest. Since they should be kept in a group an aquarium of minimum 10 gallon for 3 to 4 & 20 gallon or bigger tank for a community set-up is recommended.
Heater : Ideal Temperature should be around 70.0 to 77.0° F (21.1 to 25.0° C). Platies are tropical fish ,they like warm water. If the temperature in aquarium is not steady or drops below the ideal temperature it might affect their health.
Substrate, Plants & Rocks : Aquatic plants is a good idea for a tank with Platies. Get your plants, substrate & rocks in a way to make your Aquarium attractive. Floating plants are recommended as they create nice resting areas just under the surface for Platies to rest. Platy fish utilize bottom, surface & middle area of aquarium. Create enough place for your Platy fish to swim & also few resting places like dense plant area. Avoid small gaps between rocks, you don't want Platy to get stuck.
Thermometer : This will help you monitor the temperature. Remember there should never be drastic changes in water temperature, always maintain a steady temperature. Ideal Temperature is between 72° to 79° F (22.2°to 26.1°C). Lower temperatures can cause serious damage to their immune system.
pH test kit : Most Aquarist's advice pH level to be around 7.0 to 8.0 for Platy fish, however pH level should never change drastically.
Lights : If you are planning on live plants in your tank, make sure you get suitable light for your plants. If you get artificial plants any light will do. Just make sure the light does not heat up the water in the tank too much. Remember to turn the light on & off everyday at the same time or as required by the plants you have in the aquarium.
Filter/Air pump : Filter will help you keep the tank clean & an Air pump will keep the tank nicely oxygenated. Remember the water movement caused by the filter & air pump should be minimal. Platy fish spend lot of time close to surface & lesser water movement would make it easier for them to hang around.
Water conditioner : Tap water in most places are treated with chlorine. This is not good for fish. So get a water conditioner & make the water Platy safe.
Platy Fish food : In the wild Platy mostly eat Algal remains, insect larvae etc. However you can buy Flakes or shrimps from any Pet store, its advisable to feed them twice a day, feed only as much as they can consume in 2 or 5 minutes. Any leftover Fish food has to be removed from the tank. Platy eat vegetables like cucumber, zucchini & spinach as well. Feeding varied food is good for your fish.
Fish net, Magnetic brush & Aquarium vacuum/Gravel cleaner : In case you have to move your fish out of the tank you would require a fish net. If you try to pick them with bare hands you might hurt him. Gravel cleaner is easier & effective way of cleaning the tank bottom. I find gravel easier to clean than sand. Magnetic brush helps clean the algae on the glass without putting your hands inside the tank.
Breeding Tank : Platies are Prolific Breeders, if you are getting Platies both Male & Female you might need a Breeding tank & make sure its big enough to sustain the fry. The brood size can be on an average of 60.
Tank Mates for Platy Fish
Platy fish is a great option for beginners in the hobby, they are hardy & they make great compatible tank mates for various similar sized & temperament freshwater fish. These fish have wider pH range, temperature range than most freshwater. This makes Platy fish a prime option in a community aquarium, I have seldom seen them mess around other fish.
Male Platies are not as aggressive as other male live-bearers, getting the right male to female ratio of one male for every 3 to 4 females will avoid any unwanted aggression; tank size & tank decoration also matters.
In case you want to set up a community tank with Platy fish in it, make sure the aquarium is at least 20 gallon or bigger. With the right tank mates there will not be much aggression.
I've included Platies with a variety of tank mates like, Molly Fish, Swordtail Fish, Guppy fish, Dwarf Gourami, Opaline Gourami, Rasbora, Neon Tetra, Black Diamond Tetra, Black Neon Tetra, Glowlight Tetra, Cherry Barbs, Corydora, Apple snails & even Betta fish, the list goes on. Any same sized non- aggressive fish can be kept with Platy fish, in case Platy fish & Swordtails are in the same tank they would inter-breed. Swordtails are a little aggressive & prefer a higher pH level & water movement, whereas Platy fish like minimal water movement in the aquarium.
Breeding Platy Fish
Platy fish are Prolific Breeders as it ensures the survival of their species in the wild. Captive breeding of Platy fish has changed their natural colors, the size & shape of fins, however even the Fancy Platies remained Prolific Breeders. The Female Platy can reproduce in 4 to 5 months of age & can have a brood size of 2 to 60 or more. The Female Platy is most likely to be pregnant when purchased at the pet store as most pet stores keep the Males & Females in the same tank. Most Aquarist avoid unwanted breeding by keeping the male & female Platy fish separately.
Gestation period for Platy fish is 4 weeks, sometimes a little longer. Brood size is usually small if the Female Platy is giving birth for the first time. Female Platy needs to be separated from other fish & kept in a Breeding Box or Nursery Tank with Plants & Rocks which provide hiding places for the fry once they are born. The Female would look more "Boxy" in shape at the abdomen as she is nearing to give birth. The Female Platy has to be Fed well during this time to avoid the Female eating its own fry.
Platy Fry are on their own after birth, the fry can swim as soon as they are out of their mothers body. Female has to be separated from her fry immediately after she is done giving birth. Platy Fry have to be raised separately further until the fry are big enough to be introduced with the adults in the Tank, this usually takes approximately 30 to 45 days. Smaller Platies maybe bullied in the Tank by adult fish initially this has to be monitored closely.
Platy Fry Care
Baby Platy fish need a little extra care for optimal growth and good survival rate, to achieve this they must be raised in a separate Nursery Tank Or Breeding Tank; tank size can be 5 gallon to 10 gallon depending on the size of the brood. You need good filtration system, so use a sponge filter which is fry safe. Add live plants floating or something live Java Moss or Moss Balls, heater maybe required depending on your location.
Once the Platy fry are born they would feed on the yolk sac by observing it for a day or two, after which they are ready to be fed fish food. Brine shrimp, micro worms are their favorite, you can simply crush fish food you feed the adults small enough to fit in their mouth or simply buy micro pellets for fry from Pet Store or order it online. First week is crucial you would see fatalities, the weaker Platy fry may die, strongest would survive; usually by day 3 or 4 the fry start consuming fish food.
Few things that needs to be followed for at least 6 to 8 weeks caring for the Platy fry in the Nursery aquarium would be maintaining water parameters, I follow 25% water change every 3 days, I feed 3 times a day which is crushed flakes, mini pellets, brine shrimp, micro worms or mosquito larvae.
Temperature should be on a higher side 78 to 82 degree Fahrenheit for Platy Fry, water parameters plays an important role in keeping the Platy fry healthy & gaining a optimal growth rate.
Lights for Platy fry is important as it helps their natural pigmentation. Lights should be off for at least 8 hours for the Platy fry to sleep, good sleep also helps with the growth rate.