Platies - Proper care, Pictures, FAQ & Forum
This page is devoted to raising Platies and describes how to take care of this species (we also list FAQ and answers here!). However, we have other pages that focus on specific aspects of raising this species and you should visit them: Platy fish profile with large forum, Breeding platies, Variegated platy - Xiphophorus variatus profile. We'd love to hear about your Platies, so before leaving this page submit your story at the bottom of this page! In case you'd like to ask a question, we'll gladly answer!
Platies are part of the Poecilidae family which means they are part of the group of livebearers. Xiphophorus maculatus and Xiphophorus variatus are the two different platy species from which all platy variations are bred for aquarium purposes. Platies are very similar to swordtails, so much that they are even able to mate with one another and produce fertile young. This is one of the reasons why there are so many different variations of platy fish available. There are over 325,000 known varieties of platy fish. The different varieties of platies display diverse colouration and patterns, and some even have fins of different shapes and sizes. This is a great fish for beginning aquarists because of their ease of keeping and breeding. They get along well with other species in community aquariums.
Platies are originally from the freshwaters of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. They are now bred commercially in Florida and from areas around the Pacific Rim. Although platies are highly adaptable fish, they prefer medium to hard water that is slightly alkaline. The optimum temperature for raising platies is between 70 - 77ºF (21 - 25°C) in a well planted and brightly lit aquarium. They need clean, fresh water, especially when breeding as is common with most other fish. Their diet should consist of plenty of veggies although protein should be provided as well. Platies do not require all that much space when you have just a few but it is probably best to keep them in a tank that is larger than necessary, at least 10 gallons (37.85 litre, 8.33 US gallon). The reason for this is their highly reproductive nature. It will not take long for them to multiply and they live an average life span of 2-3 years.
In the wild, platies are found in shallow, lowland rivers in areas with a slight current. As is true with most livebearers, the varieties found in the wild tend to be plainer than those bred in captivity. Wild caught platies are usually grey with black speckles and clear fins. Selective breeding is necessary in order to obtain the different colour, pattern and fin variations.
Sexing of platies are very easy and fairly straight forward, as is with all other livebearers. Male platies possess a modified anal fin referred to as the gonopodium. The gonopodium is used to inseminate the female while mating. Female platies are generally slightly larger than the males reaching approximately 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) whereas the males usually reach about 1.5 inches (3.81 cm).
Breeding platies is one of the easiest things for an aquarist to do. Add one male, one female and some water to an aquarium and in a matter of weeks you could have little platy babies swimming around. That is just the gist of it, there is a little more to it than just that. Platies should have a well planted tank for breeding and living. Once the female is inseminated by the male and becomes pregnant she will be able to store the sperm in her body allowing her to have several broods without having to mate again. Before she gets too close to the end of her pregnancy she should be moved to a tank of her own. This tank should be set up with plenty of plants for the babies to hide in.
Platies are not notably great parents. They have the tendency to ignore their babies or worse yet, look at their newborns as food. In order to help the babies survive you must place the mother in a densely planted tank before she gives birth. The babies will instinctively hide among the plants to seek coverage. The new babies are independent swimmers as soon as they are released from the mother’s womb. They are able to fend for themselves as long as food is available. They will require a well balanced diet of lots of protein and some veggies to ensure proper development. If you give them high quality foods they will yield brighter, more radiant colours.
If not carefully bred, platies can loose their brilliant colouration over several generations. In order to produce the best results, selective breeding needs to be carefully controlled. In doing so, the finest specimens are bred in order to keep the colour and fin variations that are desirable. Young virgin females are separated from males before they reach sexual maturity in order to keep them pure for breeding with carefully selected mature males.
X. maculatus and X. variatus will cross breed with one another quite easily. Usually, when this happens, the resulting species is renamed; however, in this case the resulting platy is named according to which ever variation they more closely resemble. The X. variatus lack the sail fin or fancy tails but have a slimmer, longer physique. There are other species of platy known, but they are not sold for retail aquarium purposes.
Popular variations of X. variatus:
- Golden platy variatus
- High-fin golden parrot platy variatus
- Green platy variatus
- Calico platy variatus
- Blue tuxedo platy variatus
Popular variations of X. maculatus:
- Blue wag-tail high-fin platy
- Black platy
- Blue platy
- Pintail red wag-tail platy
- Salt and pepper platy
- Sunset marigold platy
- Red-wag high-fin platy
- Blue coral platy
Thanks a lot to halkor for pictures.
- Aquarium Fishes of the World by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod, Dr. Warren E. Burgess, Neal Pronek, Glen S. Axelrod and David Boruchowitz
- Focus on Freshwater Fish by Geoff Rogers and Nick Fletcher
- Aquarium Fish by Ulrich Schliewen
- Eyewitness Handbooks Aquarium Fish by Dick Mills
- Encyclopedia of Aquarium Fish by David Alderton
Questions and answers
On March 20th 2011 we added the following answers here due to merging aqua-fish.net/answers with related pages of Aqua-Fish.Net. Some of the below-listed questions may have been partially answered in the article above, however listing questions and answers as a list makes them easier to find/read. In case you'd like to ask something that isn't covered on this page already, use a form at the bottom of this page, please.
Where can I buy a platy?
Answer: Platys are a very common fish and they should be readily available at local pet stores.
What type of fish can I keep with platys?
Answer: Any live bearer will live well with platys. Although some people find that sword tails tend to be a more aggressive species of live bearer so you should watch these closely or simply stick with guppies and or mollies. You can always look at rams horn or apple snails as a option. These will eat left over food and algae easing your cleaning workload.
What is the optimal temperature for platys to mate?
Answer: Platys are a very easy fish to keep and breed successfully. By keeping the temperature between 74 and 82°F (23 - 28°C) and keeping the other water parameters stable you will see young fry very quickly.
When do platys reach maturity?
Answer: Platys normally reach maturity at the age of 3-4 months in captivity; in the wild this can be slightly quicker.
What water conditions do Platys need?
Answer: Platies will tolerate a temperature between 68 and 82°F (20 - 28 °C) and pH between 7.0 and 8.3. dGH (general water hardness) should be between 12 and 18°N (214 - 321 ppm, 4.29 - 6.43 mEq).
How can I tell if my Platys have mated?
Answer: Once a pair of platys have mated the female’s belly will swell and a dark “gravid” spot will appear in front of her anal fin.
Why is my Platy losing colour?
Answer: The most common reason for this is adding the fish to a tank that isn’t cycled or poor water conditions in the tank. Testing the water for ammonia will tell you if the tank is cycled but on both counts do a water change on a regular basis until the fish‘s health improves. Another answer: Stress and disease as well as a low quality diet will cause platys to lose their colour.
How long does it take platy fry to come out of hiding?
Answer: This can vary as the easy answer is it can depend how many predators there is in the tank. It is a natural instinct for the fry to hide but after a couple of weeks they should start getting boulder and swim into open spaces for a short while.
What do red wagtail Platy fry look like?
Answer: When the fry are born they have very small bodies (1 - 2 mm; 0.04 - 0.08 inch) with a small tail. You will only see them for a short while as they will be looking for a safe hiding place as soon as they can.
How do you sex Platys?
Answer: Females of this species grow larger than males.
Why does my platy always look sad and hide?
Answer: This can be caused by harassment from the other fish or even bad water quality.