Platies (Xiphophorus maculatus, Xiphophorus variatus)
Platies are very popular in aquarium hobbies because of their peaceful nature, 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 is advised to maintain Platies as a species only or with other community peaceful species similar in size and temperament to a Platy. Larger or more aggressive fish, particularly cichlids, tend to harass platies and other livebearers, resulting in 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. It is believed that most platies available in the aquarium trade 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 Name||Xiphophorus maculatus, Xiphophorus variatus|
|Other Names||Bumblebee, Calico, Coral Red, Golden, Mickey Mouse Platy, Moon Fish, Red Tuxedo Platy, Red Wagtail Platy, Salt and Pepper Platy, Southern Platyfish, Sunset Platy, Variatus Platy|
|Aquarium Level||Middle - Top|
|Difficulty||Beginner - Intermediate|
|Best kept as||Groups 5+|
|Lifespan||2 - 3 years|
|Temperature||65 - 77 ℉ (18.3 - 25 ℃)|
|PH||7.0 - 8.0|
|GH||10 - 25|
Natural Habitat of the Platies
Platies are native to Mexico's southern waters, including Rio Panuco and the Rio Cazones and 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.
Other Livebearers of interest
What to feed the Platies
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 bloodworm.
It is also advisable to occasionally provide them with boiled vegetables such as squash, spirulina, cucumber and spinach; this will ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients and vitamins required to keep them in optimum health.
How to Breed the Platies
It is effortless to breed platies. Aquarists do not need to set up a dedicated breeding aquarium or provide any particular water conditions to induce breeding; place the fish in your aquarium and let nature take its course.
As long as you have both sexes together, you will be hard-pressed to prevent them from breeding. However, it is recommended to maintain a ratio of two to three females to every male as this will deter males from overly harassing the females.
Platies are livebearers which means that the fry are immediately free-swimming 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 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.