Platy Fish Breeding, Feeding and Aquarium Mates Guide

Introduction

The platy fish is a freshwater fish that belongs to the genus, Xiphophorus. It looks similar to the fishes that belong to the family of Poeciliidae, but are slightly different from them in terms of appearance and color. This is because there are different types of platy fish belonging to different regions. Their characteristics, colour and names are different based on their types.

Currently, the three most discussed platies in the world of aquarists are the following:

  • Southern Platy, also known as the Common Platy
  • Variable Platy
  • Swordtail Platy (not as commonly found as the southern or variable varieties)

Southern Platy

The scientific name of the Southern Platy is Xiphophorusmaculatus. It is known as the common platy because it is the most commonly available platies today. It was during 1907 that aquarists started growing the Southern Platies in their tanks. These are commonly found in the freshwaters of Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

Variable Platy

Introduced in the year 1932, the variable platy is named thus because of the different color combination of platies found under this category. The scientific name of the variable platy is Xiphophorusvariatus. You can spot the variable platies in large numbers in the waters of Mexico, in the area between Rio Panuco to Rio Cazones.

Swordtail Platy

The Xiphophorusxiphidium (swordtail platies) are not as common as the above 2 varieties. It is also known as the Spike-Tail fish, because of the unique sword-shape of its tail. It is a very rare variety and you will not find these in pet stores easily. These are found in the Rio Soto La Marina waters of Mexico.

Physical characteristics

All platies are small and flat, but the color patterns are quite different, based on the type that they belong to.  The southern and variable platies are also often cross-bred, to bring about new breeds of platies with innovative colors and designs. It is not uncommon to see cross-bred varieties of platies in pet stores, these days.

Both the southern and variable types of platies have a short and sturdy structure. The swordtail, though, stands out with its unique pointed, sword-shaped tail. Yellow, green, white, blue and red are some of the common colors that these platies are found in. However, the cross-bred varieties may show a combination of these colors as well.

The maximum length of these platies is about 3 inches. The male platies are always smaller than the female platies, regardless of the type you choose. The Southern Platy, being the most common platy fish in the market today, is taken as the parent to create other famous breeds of platies such as the Half-Moon, Bleeding-Heart Platy, Coral, Comet, Blue Mirror and Salt & Pepper. These names are assigned based on the colors of the breeds created from the original Southern Platy.

The Variable Platy is also used as the original strain to create popular breeds such as the Rainbow, Hawaii, Yellowtail, Redtail, Sunset and Marigold. As you can see, these names are self-explanatory and tell you a lot about the color of the resultant breeds.

Feeding

Though the platies are omnivores, they exhibit a lot of herbivorous traits in their food habits. All that you need to remember is to feed them a lot of vegetables and vitamin-rich foods. The vitamins help to produce distinct colors in the platies, based on the type that they belong to.  Though there are lots of good things to say about the platies, the best part about them is that they are not fussy about their food at all.

You should remember to feed them very little amounts of foods, several times in a single day. According to experienced aquarists, you should give only so much food that the platies are able to eat in 3 minutes during a single session.  Always stick to soft and boiled vegetables during the initial days of feeding the platies. You can consider cucumbers and squash for this purpose.

You can also feed them spinach at regular intervals along with supplements such as spirulina. These foods provide enough nutrients for the platies to swim about actively inside the tanks.  Though they love vegetarian foods, you could still feed them brine shrimp, microworms and tubifex as treats, twice a week. The platies need the proteins found in these worms for their overall health.

If you are feeding store-bought flakes or commercial vegetable feed for your platies, you should be sure of the quality that you choose. Substandard quality of foods can cause digestion issue in the platies. In their wild habitats, platies consume a lot of algae-based foods that are rich in fiber content. This is why it is important to feed them lots of fiber-rich vegetables in captivity as well.

Breeding

Platy Fish is one of the best fishes that newbie aquarists can handle. This is because they are very easy to maintain and develop inside your home tank. These platies are so simple to take care of that you don’t have to arrange for any extra settings while initiating the breeding process as well.  These are livebreeding fish, which means the female platies carry the eggs in their tummies for a long time, until they are ready to give birth to young ones.

The only prerequisite that is required from you to initiate the breeding process of the platies is to put the males and females together. There is one challenge, though! You have to wait for at least 4 months after the young ones are born to get a clear idea of the gender of these fishes. After the fishes complete 4 or 5 months, the females grow to become larger and heavier than the males.

We already told you that the platies belong to different species and colors. You will notice the females grow into their family’s bright color and full shape quicker than the males.  Males take some more time to develop their reproductive organ, also known as the gonopodium. This organ is nothing but their anal fins that grow into a unique shape, based on the type they belong to (Swordtail, common or variable).

The anal fin of the male (gonopodium) is small and has a sharp point, whereas the anal fin of the female platy is broad in nature. It is very important to maintain the female to the male platy ratio in the range of 3:1 in your tank (which means, you have to keep around 3 females for every male platy present in your tank). This is because the male platies are very dominant and they keep chasing the females all the time. When there are lots of female platies, they are less prone to serious attacks from males.

Here are some points that are worth remembering when you try to breed a platy fish:

  • Remember to keep a lot of plants densely inside the tank, as they provide the perfect hiding spots for the platies, when they are in the breeding phase.
  • Unlike most other fishes, female platies give birth to live, young platies. They hold the eggs inside their stomach for anywhere between 24 to 30 days, before they deliver.
  • You will be pleasantly surprised to note that the baby platies are ready to swim as soon as they are born. At this stage, you should remember to feed them dry foods, egg yolk and other foods that are specifically designed for the fry.
  • When you notice female platies in your aquarium getting quite big with their tummies getting more and more transparent than ever, it means that they are pregnant. During the advanced stage of their pregnancy, the females may also develop a black spot in their tummy area.  You will be able to notice the small black eyes of the young platies inside the female’s tummy, during this stage.
  • At a single time, a female platy can give birth to a maximum of 80 fry!
  • As soon as you notice these changes in the female platies, you should put them in a separate spawning tank, so that the juvenile platies can be born without any risk to their lives.
  • Don’t get confused by the species of the juvenile platies by the unique sword-shaped tail fins they sport as soon as they are born. All fishes are born in this shape; they get back to their original shape (their family-specific shape) after about 1 or 2 weeks.

The juvenile platies are very beautiful and independent. You don’t have to do anything extra to take care of them. They are non-fussy about the environment and diet.

Care

While the platies are low-maintenance fishes, you should also remember that they are of different types. Therefore, you may have to tweak the tank settings slightly, based on the type that you are bringing home. Here are some points that you have to keep in mind while creating the perfect ambiance for the platies:

  • The platies are very small but active fishes. Regardless of the type of platy you choose, it is enough if you get a tank that can hold at least 10 gallons, for growing them.
  • A densely-planted aquarium and a gravel-base substrate are idea for ensuring that the platies are comfortable inside the tank. These will provide the feeling of its natural habitat and thus the platies don’t feel apprehensive when they enter these tanks.
  • However, as we already told you, choose the plants and decide on the arrangement of these plants based on the species of platy that you have. The Southern Platy (Common Platy) prefers a tank that has only a few loosely arranged plants,but the Variable Platy prefers a densely planted tank.
  • The Variable Platy also wants enough hiding spaces in the tank. Therefore, it is imperative that you are well-versed about the requirements of your platy, before you proceed to setup the tank for the same. Regardless of the type of platy that you have, plants such as Java Moss and Hornwort are excellent choices that you can consider for decorating your tank.
  • The pH level of the water should be maintained in the range of 6.8 to 8, and the water hardness should be in the range of 10 to 28 dGH. These levels are the same for all types of platies.
  • When you are setting the temperature inside the tank, you should be mindful of the requirements of the different types of platies. The Southern Platy and Swordtail Platy can survive well when the temperature is anywhere between 70 and 70degrees F, but the Variable Platy can survive well when the temperature is in the range of 72 to 75 degrees F. Yes, the difference is not very big, but it is still important to stick to the correct levels to make sure that the platies stay healthy and happy inside the tank.

Diseases

Platy fishes are very active as they keep jumping and swimming about in your tank most of the times. Almost all the platies are considered to be quite healthy and there are no specific diseases that are they are prone to. However, since they belong to the tropical fish variety, there are quite likely to be affected by two common diseases – ich and fin rot.

Ich disease is caused by a parasite infection and it affects most of the aquarium fishes. This is a condition where white spots develop all over the body of the fishes, thereby resulting in serious infections. When the condition is not treated at an early stage, it may lead to severe respiratory problems in the platies.

The only way to control the damage caused by this disease is to monitor your platies regularly to check for white spots in their bodies. When you spot these spots anywhere, you should waste no time in getting it treated with the proper medication. Though this is not a very serious disease, it can lead to unnecessary complications, if it is not diagnosed properly.

Fin rot is the second disease that the platy fishes are prone to. Again, this is not a very serious ailment. It is a bacterial infection that is very commonly seen in the fins or the tails of these fishes. You can get rid of fin rot disease easily when you treat the platies with antibiotics, as recommended by the doctor. 

Bacterial and parasite infections can be easily kept under control, when you maintain the quality of the water in the tank at all times.  You need to do water changes once a week to provide a healthy environment to the fishes inside the tank. Also, the fishes, plants and other accessories that you add to the tank should be sufficiently quarantined, to eliminate the possibility of any ailment affecting the fishes.

Behavior

The platies are very peaceful fishes that don’t get aggressive towards each other.  They are very comfortable when kept in small groups. When they find a platy fish of the opposite gender put along with them, they don’t hesitate to start the breeding process and increase their population.

Though they are very active, they do love to hide between the plants in the tank, placed in the middle layer. They swim in very small groups and love to hang out amidst the floating leaves that you have placed in the right arrangement, based on the type of platy that you have chosen.

The male platies don’t lose out any chance to show their dominance. They love to chase the female platies and find them out from the hidden spots. This is why it is highly recommended that you place at least 3 female platies for every 1 male platy in your tank.

Aquarium Mates

Platies are very active and friendly fishes. They can live in perfect harmony with small fishes that belong to their family. Swordtail fishes, molly fish and guppies are perfect tank mates for the platies.  All these fishes love to swim about freely in the tank and they are also good at jumping. Hence, you should always remember to close your tank, so that they don’t fall out accidentally.

Apart from getting along with fishes of their family, platies are also warm towards other small-sized and non-threatening fishes such as the Tetras, Coryodoras, Gouramis, Characins and barbs. They get along beautifully with fellow platies as well. Once you put the sufficient number of female and male platies in your tank, you should not be surprised to see that they start breeding quickly. Before you realize, you will witness a sea of juvenile platies swimming about happily in your tanks, as the females give birth to a big group of young ones at a single time.

So, does that mean that the platies get along with any fish that you keep along with them? Of course, not! Remember to keep your platies away from big, aggressive and predator fishes such as the tiger barbs, wolf fishes, Arowanas, Vampire Tetras and Cichlids. The size and nature of these fishes threaten the platies to a large extent. As a result, they find it very difficult to live freely inside the same tank as these huge fishes.

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