Platies (Xiphophorus maculatus, Xiphophorus variatus) Fish Species Profile & Care Guide

Platies are very popular in the aquarium hobby because of their peaceful nature, their hardiness and the fact that they are straightforward to look after. These fish are suitable for the beginner aquarist. Their dynamic behaviour and bright colours make them mesmerizing to watch, and they make excellent additions to both species-only and community tanks.

Though platies are not technically schooling fish, they fair much better when kept in groups because this makes them feel more confident.

It would be more beneficial to house platies with other peaceful species similar in size as this will keep other fish from attacking platies or viewing them as food rather than fellow inhabitants. Larger or more aggressive fish will likely harass platies, causing unnecessary stress and potentially death.

Platy fish are small, laterally flattened fish with small short fins and a tail shaped like a fan. Their heads narrow to a point while their midsections widen out, giving them a pseudo-diamond shape. There are two Platy species, the Southern Platyfish and the Variatus Platy; both types have been interbred so much they are challenging to distinguish. Most platies now sold in aquariums are hybrids of both species.

Platies are drab in colouration in the wild, lacking the distinctive dark lateral line and are olive in colour with black spots or marbling on the caudal peduncle's sides. Larger males show blackish blotches on the dorsal fin.

Several different colour variations have been developed in the aquarium hobby, such as reds, oranges, yellows, rainbow, whites and blues.

Scientific NameXiphophorus maculatus, Xiphophorus variatus
Other NamesSouthern Platyfish, Variatus Platy, Red Wagtail Platy, Red, Mickey Mouse Platy, Red Tuxedo, Moon Fish, Topsail Rainbow, Sunset, Golden, Calico, Salt and Pepper, Coral Red, Black, Blue, Bumblebee, Green Lantern
Aquarium LevelMiddle - Top
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asGroups 5+
Lifespan2 - 3 years
Maximum Sizeup to 7.5 cm
Water Conditions
Water TypeFreshwater
Temperature65 - 77 ℉ (18.3 - 25 ℃)
PH7.0 - 8.0
GH10 - 25

Origins of the Platies

Platies are native to Mexico's southern waters, including Rio Panuco and the Rio Cazones, as well as Guatemala and northern Honduras in North and Central America. They inhabit warm water in streams, ditches, canals, marshes and springs. These small water bodies have very slow to almost still currents silt beds and dense vegetation.

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Platies are undemanding omnivores that will eat essentially anything you put in the tank. However, make sure you feed them on a varied diet consisting of high-quality dried foods such as flakes, granules and pellets alongside live, frozen or freeze-dried foods such as brine shrimp, tubifex and bloodworms.

It is also advisable to occasionally provide them with boiled vegetables such as squash, spirulina, cucumber and spinach; this will ensure they are receiving all the necessary nutrients and vitamins required to keep them in optimum health.

Sexing the Platies

It's somewhat tricky to differentiate male from female Platies until they reach sexual maturity at around four months old. At this point, they become more distinct.

Males are slightly smaller and very colourful but take longer to achieve their full colouration than females. They also have a modified anal fin called a gonopodium. In comparison, female platies are bigger, duller, advance more quickly and have fan-shaped fins.

Breeding the Platies

It is effortless to breed platies. More often than not, aquarists do not need to set up a specific breeding tank or take any specific actions to induce breeding; just simply place the fish in your aquarium and let nature run its course.

If you have a female and a male, you'll likely have a successful pair of breeding platies. However, it is important to keep three females to every male as this will prevent males from becoming aggressive, especially when it's time to mate.

Platies are livebearers which means that the babies can swim immediately after birth. Platies can have anything from 20 to 50 fry at one time as often as once a month.

Adults display no parental care towards their young and will happily consume them if given a chance. Therefore, if you wish to increase their survival rate, you should provide lots of decor such as wood, rocks or live plants as cover for the fry to hide amongst or alternatively remove the parents once they have given birth.

You can feed your fry with egg yolk, finely crushed flake food and infusoria until they are large enough to be placed back into the usual aquarium.

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Date Added: 2/18/2021 - Updated: 2/19/2021 1:56:28 AM