Fishkeeping community always goes crazy about them. There are plenty of Platy fish with different ranges of colors and in various iconic patterns. If you are new to the aquarium hobby, why don’t you start with Platy. They are colorful. They are peaceful. They are also easy-to-care for. With many upsides, one cannot find the reason why Platy is not ideal for their community aquariums.
(Image of a random Platy)
If one must trace their origin, they will find Platy fish commonly refers to three species:
- The Southern Platy (scientific name: Xiphophorus maculatus)
- The Variable Platy (scientific name: Xiphophorus variatus)
- The Swordtail Platy (scientific name: Xiphophorus xiphidium)
The two formers are quite alike, small, pointed nose with large eyes, short fins on the body tapering down towards its fan-shaped tail. However, when it comes to Swordtail, you can easily tell them apart thanks to the elongated lower lobe of their caudal fins. The three of them originated from Mexico, mostly found in canals, ditches, springs and marshes where the water is slow-moving, warm with silt beds and dense vegetation.
In the wind, they don’t have bright coloration as you may see in the aquarium trade. Instead, they are quite dull, olive green with some dark marbling. Their variations in color and fin shapes are the results of many generations of selective breeding. Southern Platy and Variable Platy are those which are mostly chosen for interbreeding. Such process happens so frequently that now it is hard to distinguish the differences between the species.
That said, it diversifies the Platy fish into a great number of species one can name if they count on the patterns, wagtail, variegated, twin bar, tuxedo, mickey mouse. And, if Platy’s coloration is taken into consideration, we must say there are innumerable ones from red, orange, white, yellow/gold, blue, black, green, brown to even rainbow.
You cannot find elsewhere a wonderful fish like Platy. They are active and spend most of their time splashing in small groups around the middle of the aquarium. Watching them like that may make you feel like a spectator of a fashion show, where your Platy fish perform their ‘catwalk’ with beautiful colorful ‘costumes’.
Sometimes, Platy can be too active to jump out of water. This is why most aquariums which are used to keep them have lids. Although Platy likes swimming together, they are not schooling/ shoaling fish. Nevertheless, they are happier if you keep them in groups. It is good to go with three or six Platy fish at the beginning.
To do so, you may need an aquarium of at least 10 gallons. Make sure you take all of Platy’s living conditions into account when deciding the tank size, for example, their need for decoration, whether Platy are kept with other fish, or space for young Platies after breeding (as the Platies love breeding), etc.
Platies usually stay around 1-3 inch(es) long so a 10-gallon aquarium may be enough for a group of five. However, if you intend to keep more than that or place lots of decorative materials, you should consider the larger. Further, when keeping a group of Platies, the ratio of male to females should be regarded also. They love breeding so much that one has to say it's more difficult to stop them breeding than cause it happens. This leads to the fact that Platy females tend to get stressed if constantly pursued by the males. Hence, it is ideal to keep at least two to three females for every one males to ensure their living standard.
Most Platies enjoy live aquarium plants with warm water in the range of 70-82°F. They can coordinate well with hornwort, java moss and duckweed as long as you leave them enough open space for swimming.
Fact: For the temperature, it is said that Southern and Swordtail Platies prefer warmer to cooler, whereas the Variable Platy, on the other hand, enjoys the cooler range. Things seem a little bit different when it comes to aquatic plants. Variable Platy prefers to be surrounded by dense plants while Southern Platy prefers a loose arrangement. However, no matter whatever arrangement they require, you should prioritize the open space for their swimming.
Platy is a hardy species. They thrive in the following water parameters:
Ammonia and Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: <30 ppm
GH: 10-28 dGH (167-467 ppm)
KH: 3-5 dKH (54-90 ppm)
Water change: 25% changed every 2 weeks is recommended
In the wild, Platy lives in hard water. It is good if you can imitate that condition. If your tap water is especially soft, adjust it by adding more minerals. Nonetheless, your fish are hardy species so they can adapt to softer or harder water as long as you acclimate them properly.
Platy does not have any special requirements when speaking of substrates. They almost settle in the middle of the water volume so they are pleased with whatever substrate you put in the aquarium. Thus, gravel, soft sand or even bare bottom are acceptable to them. The same rule applies to other decorative materials such as caves, rockwork or driftwood. They don’t need such things. However, it is subject to you and your aquascaping style.
Fact: Setting up and maintaining optimal conditions will allow your Platies to live longer, which may be up to five years.
It is not an exaggeration to say Platies are easy-to-care for fish. First, they don’t have specific requirements for living conditions. And now, they are undemanding on their diet. High quality fish food such as fish flakes, pellets, and frozen foods are acceptable to them. Platies are omnivores and often graze on algae and plant materials. Beside meaty foods, make sure you feed them sufficient plant matter like spirulina, kelp or algae meal so they can take in all the necessary vitamins and nutrients they need.
Feed the adults once a day while two to three small meals are needed for the growing juveniles. Just give them an amount which they can digest within 2-3 minutes or else it will be overfeeding.
Since your Platies are ‘amiable’, they can easily make friends with many other fishes. Tetras and rasboras, corydoras catfish, snails, bristlenose plecos, and rainbowfish are strongly recommended. However, they also have some guys that cannot get along well such as, guppies, swordtails, barbs, cichlids, and other big-size fish with aggressive/ bullying tendencies.
Technically speaking, breeding is a(n) intermediary to difficult process, especially to beginners. However, this does not apply to Platy. It would be way more of a challenge to not breed them. Platies are livebearers which means they give birth to live young. In the right conditions, the females give birth to 20-50 babies at a time. You almost don’t need any encouragement for this to happen. When the season comes and with the proper ratio of males to females, your Platies will start to breed soon.
There is only one thing you need to cope with is that Platies show no sign of parental care towards their young. Some fishkeepers reported they may even eat their babies. Hence, to protect the fry, you should provide them with enough hiding places by putting lots of decorations, rocks, wood, or live plants. Further, make sure to cover the filter's intake tube with an appropriately sized pre-filter sponge so that young Platies don’t accidentally get sucked up.
We will give you another upside when keeping Platies is that they are not easily susceptible to any specialty diseases. That said, they are not totally immune from usual freshwater diseases such as ICH (parasitic infection diagnosed by white spots on their body) and fin rot (mainly caused by bacteria or fungal infections). These diseases are not dangerous if you treat your ill fish immediately with proper medications. Moreover, you can avoid this happening at the beginning by regularly monitoring the conditions and performing water changes.