Platy fish- A Complete Guide – Care, Diet, Facts

A Platy fish is an excellent addition to any aquarium.  Their soothing and vibrant colors will liven it up.

Platies are a low maintenance and peaceful fish. They have become a natural choice for someone just starting or even seasoned fish keepers.

The males are brighter and smaller than the females. The color varies depending on natural habitats and their disposition to associate. Platies from wild populations are typically less colorful. Let’s take a deeper look in to them.


Platy fish Basics

A Platy fish (xiphophorus) has been a popular choice whether someone is an amateur or is experienced.

People are attracted to Platies because of the least amount of expertise needed to keep them. Anyone can care for a Platy fish.

They are a relatively small fish, no more than 3 inches long, with a fan-shaped fin and short fins.

Platies have become a popular fish because they can handle many things. Platies are able to adapt to environmental changes and fast growth rates. They can give birth to live offspring which offers even more fish for other tanks.

Male Platies are often brighter and smaller than the females. The color varies depending on natural habitats and their disposition to associate. Platies from wild populations are typically less colorful.

Platy fish is a tropical freshwater fish. There are many types of platies.  They all originated from two species that were bred to maximize their potential. The various colors of a Platy can be selected in the breeding process.

Platy fish are native to Mexico and  Central America. They have been spotted living in various places. The common areas are from the Southern Rio Grande river through the Gulf of Mexico. They have been in Northern Guatemala, Belize, and Northern Honduras.

They are grouped in the same family with guppies and mollies. Due to this, they are a familiar fish to many. The lifespan of a Platy is relatively short, about three years.

Within the Xiphophorus genus, there are a debated 28 separate species. There is an estimated 42% of these species that are categorized as either Platy or Swordtails.  Most don’t fit in the picture of what either one should look like.

The two most common species from the Poeciliidae family are:

  • Southern Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)
  • Variatus Platy (Xiphophorus variatus)

The Swordtail Platy (Xiphophorus helleri) is a member of the Poeciliidae family. It is a cross-match between a Swordtail and Platy. It can breed with various Platy species.

The “pure” swordtail (X. helleri) does have a sword, but the platy species (X. maculatus and X. variatus) do not have swords. Swordtail Platies have infiltrated areas in:

  • Africa
  • Hawaii
  • Madagascar
  • Australia

Southern Platy (X. maculatus)  is a species that is in at least 18 countries. Due to being relocated and released by humans. The introduction of the Southern Platy  is dated back to the 1920s.

The states that have a record of Platy presence are:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Texas

Southern Platies (X. maculatus) are found living along the coastline. They prefer warm springs, weedy canals, and shallow ponds.

Variable Platy (X. variatus)  have various varieties that include:

  • Redtail
  • Yellowtail
  • Sunset
  • Rainbow
  • Hawaii

The color and appearance of the Variable species is what gives it its name. For example, if it has a red tail or a yellow tail.


Platy fish are a peaceful, community fish. They are not known to be a schooling fish, such as Tuna. They are happier living within a small group of fish and they generally get along with others.

You might see some aggression if you introduce more males than females to a tank. Platies behave better when the tank is overrun by females.

They are an extremely active species, known to constantly swim from one side of the tank to the other.

Platy are very active breeders, often producing more Platies than you need. It is normal to see a Platy scrounging at the bottom of the tank for food that has sunk.

It is easy to notice aggressive behavior: Platy fish will do an activity that is known as the “dance.” This is where one fish will be hiding in the dark and shoot out rapidly, repeating the process over again. Another sign is the dorsal fin being raised in a position of dominance.

A Platy that is pregnant will protect herself and her young. One might notice aggressive behavior towards other fish.

Platy Environmental Conditions

Platies are very tolerant to water changes and thrive in a minimally alkaline water environment-a range from 6.8-8.0 pH is best.  A water filtering system is essential  to the vitality of Platy fish. Changing the water every two weeks is ideal to keep the aquarium clean and to minimize the growth of bacteria.

A minimum of a 10- gallon tank is optimal to provide the Platy fish enough space to roam.

To help Platy fish adapt to life in an aquarium, one should use plants, rocks, and decorations. This is calming to them as it feels more like the environment they are used to.

The Southern species like to live in an aquarium that is lightly arranged. The Variable prefers a carefully, dense planted tank.

Make sure that there is enough open space at the top of the tank and always cover with a lid as Platies can jump.

Tank Friends

The compatibility of tank friends is vital to having a successful aquarium. When adding tank friends, make sure that your choices have similar needs within the tank. Water and common behavioral traits provide a better environment.

This is where it is crucial to analyze the male to female ratio in the tank. Too many male fish will leave the female fish stressed and exhausted from being chased so much.

A Platy makes an excellent roommate as they are peaceful. They struggle with large and aggressive fish. It is recommended to have similar temperament and sized fish such as:

  • Neon, Rosy, and Rummy Nose Tetras
  • Gouramis
  • Characins
  • Guppy
  • Endlers
  • Molly Fish
  • Zebra Danio
  • Minnows
  • Angel Fish

Having some shrimp and snails would be ideal aquarium companions for Platies.

What to feed them

Platy fish eat both plants and animals. They flourish with a diet that is consistent with proteins and vegetables. Having a diet rich in vitamins will allow for the development of the best coloration.

In their natural environment, they would consume worms, insects, crustaceans, and plants. A herbivorous diet consisting of algae, plants, fruits, and vegetables is preferred.

Once a week, you might consider giving your Platies an extra treat in the form of bloodworms or brine shrimp.

The golden rule for feeding fish is to provide them an amount that they can eat with three minutes. As the food will float for a short period of time, then sink to the bottom of the tank. You will notice that your Platies are often grazing along the bottom.

Caring for a Platy

Platies are a solid fish and do not quickly develop diseases. There are two conditions that are familiar with tropical fish; Ich and Fin Rot. Diseases that can plague fish are not always easy to detect. You might not notice any change in behavior.

The Ich disease is the most common in fishkeeping using an aquarium. It is a parasite that appears with white spots on the body, gills, and fins. If not treated,  Ich disease can cause respiratory damage and severe infections. Increasing water temperature or using the medication can stop the infection from spreading.

A bacterial infection known as Fin Rot can occur on the fin or tail of the fish. Fin Rot is treated with antibiotics, such as chloromycetin or tetracycline. These medications are often added to the fish feed.

You can prevent disease by being proactive in the care and maintenance of your aquarium.  Make sure that you clean and quarantine any new additions to your aquarium.

To have the best environment possible for your Platies, you should have quality water and provide a healthy diet.

Breeding Platy Fish

Platy fish are known as livebearing variable fish. This means that they keep the eggs inside their bodies until giving birth to a swimming fry. They exhibit high polymorphism for particular traits, called tail spots.

There is not much you need to do to breed them besides having two fish of the opposite sex.

Identifying the sex of a Platy is easy. You can see the differences in size and color.  The male Platies fins take on a rod-like shape known as the gonopodium. This is the male reproductive organ.

It is recommended to use a breeding tank or breeding net to keep fry separate from the community tank. This is a must to allow the fry to have a surviving chance. Platy will often eat their fry.

They should be separated for around two weeks. If you must breed in the community tank, make sure that there are enough dense plants and areas available so they can find shelter to hide.

Typically, a pregnant female Platy is rather easy to spot as the abdomen is enlarged. They could have a noticeable black mark. Depending on her age, health, and water conditions, a female Platy can have up to 80 fry.

The gestation period is about 24-30 days. A fry is born able to swim and eat dry food, egg yolk, or food-specific for fry.

Are Platy Fish Suitable for your Aquarium

Platy fish are the perfect addition to anyone new to fish keeping. They are low maintenance, hardy, and breed often.

Most pet stores will have a supply of aquariums in various sizes and shapes. A minimum of a 10- gallon tank is recommended when beginning. The next thing to buy is an aquarium filter.

There are two types of filters that people consider for their aquarium. Canister filters are the best option as they sit below the aquarium and circulate the water.  Hang on the back of the tank filter type is another excellent choice.

A heater is required for any other fish besides Goldfish. Maintaining approximately 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit is best for the fish. The Platy will have a stress free life and proper metabolism.

Nitrogen levels in the aquarium water happen the second you place the fish in the water. As they eat and poop, they lift the levels of nitrogen. The uneaten food breaks down causing ammonia levels to increase.

To limit the bacteria, you should change  20% of the water weekly. By getting rid of older water and refreshing with new you are providing an environment that is healthy for your Platy fish.


What does livebearing mean? Livebearing means that the fish retains the eggs inside the body and gives birth to live fry, much like a human.

Can Platy fish change gender? Yes, they can. It often happens when a male has no desire to mate. A female can change genders only if it has not been pregnant.

How long are Platy fish in labor? Platy can be in labor for up to 24 hours.

Why are my Platies hiding? Platy fish hide when they feel scared, stressed, or nervous.

Is it alright to feed my Platy goldfish food? Generally, yes. The goldfish food will not upset them or hinder growth.

What is the life expectancy for a Platy fish? Platies do not have a long lifespan but can live up to 3 years.

Can Platy fish live with Bettas? A Betta and a Platy can live in harmony, but you should keep an eye on your aquarium for any aggressive behavior.

Do I have to have a filter? You can forego the filter yet; a heater is necessary to oxygenate the water. Keep in mind that you will need to clean and replace water more often without a filter.

Can I have Platy fish and Cherry Shrimp in the same aquarium? It is not a good idea to keep Platies and Cherry shrimp. The Cherry Shrimp need different water requirements.


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