Platy Fish Care Sheet: Types, Breeding, and More

The Platy Fish is a colorful and friendly livebearer.

They are often kept as a background fish in many community setups.

Platies will fit into just about any community you can imagine and socialize well with other community fish like Tetras and Danios. Not only are these fish community friendly but they are also easy to care for and can be found in dozens of colors.

Do you think that a couple of Platy Fish might enhance your community tank?

Keep reading to learn more about this livebearer.

Orange Platy Fish

Platy Fish 101

There are lots of Platy Fish, but Xiphophorus maculatus and Xiphophorus variatus are the two that you are most likely to find in aquariums.

Platy Fish belong to the Xiphophorus genus and are sometimes known as Moonfish.

They are native to Central America and can be found in freshwater and brackish habitats from Mexico to Honduras.

Platies are versatile fish that will hold their own against common beginner mistakes. For this reason, they make a good first choice for fishkeepers who are just starting out. Most people keep Platy Fish as a colorful living accent to draw attention to an aquascape, or else to bring life to particularly boring corners of the tank.

Typical color forms such as red, yellow, orange, and black will cost about $4 to $8. Fancier breeds like Tuxedo and Green Lantern may cost $10 or more.

How Long Do Platy Fish Live?

Platy Fish will live for about 3 to 5 years on average.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: None
  • Nickname: Moonfish
  • Color Forms: Red, yellow, gold, orange, and black
  • Size: 2.5 inches.
  • Tank Size: 10+ gallon.
  • Tank Temperature: 68-77°F.

Appearance

Platy Fish

Platy Fish look very similar to other livebearers like Mollies and Swordtails.

The difference between a Platy and a Swordtail is that the Platy lacks the extended lower caudal fin.

There are 2 different species of Platy Fish available:

  • Xiphophorus maculatus: Also known as the Southern Platy Fish, Xiphophorus maculatus is the most common and well known of the two species. They can come in any color or pattern, including Red Wag, Twin-Bar, Dalmatian, Sunburst, and more.
  • Xiphophorus variatus: The Variable Platy is smaller and thinner than the Southern Platy by about a half inch. It can come in any of the colors and patterns that you find on Xiphophorus maculatus.

Most Platy Fish grow to around 2.5 inches long.

They have a body that is wide in the center and thin at both ends, in a slightly triangular shape.

Their forehead slopes downward starting from the dorsal fin and ends in a sharply pointed snout. Their eyes are very large and wide and take up most of their face.

Red, yellow, gold, orange, and black are among the most common solid or base colors for this fish. These base colors are often accompanied by black markings or jet black fins. Other color varieties can have 2 or 3 colors at once. Mickey Mouse, Twin-Bar, Sunset, and Pineapple are just a few examples of these.

In addition to the color morphs there are also different fin types. Shortfin is the typical form and high-fin features a tall, trailing dorsal fin. Lyretails have a split caudal fin with threadlike extensions at both ends. On a pintail the caudal fin is 3-pronged and points outwards from the center.

They have seven fins including a dorsal and caudal fin, a pair of pelvic fins, and an anal fin. Their two tiny colorless pectoral fins are always tucked against their body and will be very difficult to see.

Gender differences can only be determined once the fish has reached sexual maturity (which happens at around 4 months of age).

Females will grow about a half inch larger than the males. They also have distinctly round abdomens that are usually filled with unfertilized eggs. The male’s anal fin will have a slight point at the end, while the female’s is rounded down.

Types of Platies

Mickey Mouse Platy: The Mickey Mouse Platy is named for its unusual markings. They have a large black circle at the base of the caudal fin with two smaller black circles on both sides. The most popular base colors for the Mickey Mouse variety are red, yellow, orange, and white.

Red Platy: A solid red Platy can come in a bright red shade or a darker shade known as Red Velvet. A red fish with black fins is known as a Red Wag. Red is one of the most popular base colors for the Mickey Mouse variety.

Blue Platy: Blue is a very unusual color for a Platy Fish. The blue color is usually paired with black markings. Blue can be a base color for a Calico, Painted, or Tuxedo morph too. The blue can range in shades from azure to Electric Blue and is usually iridescent.

Orange Platy: Orange can come as a solid color or a base for several different morphs. Creamsicles have an orange dorsal side with a white underside. Sunset oranges have yellow bodies and orange tails.

Sunburst Platy: The Sunburst morph is bright yellow or orange and can have a Mickey Mouse or Wag pattern.

Black Platy: Black can occur as a solid color or as an accent to any other colors including red, gold, or orange. Tuxedo, Panda, and Salt and Pepper Morphs have black accents over a bright base color.

Panda Platy: This Platy is a mix of black and white. Most have a white body and black tail. Black spots can appear on any part of their body but are usually concentrated near the tail.

Green Lantern Platy: This unusual morph has an iridescent peacock green base, peppered with black spots. It is quite difficult to find for sale. The black markings can extend to the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins, which gives them a similar appearance to the Wag variety.

Dalmatian Platy: This Platy has black spots just like a Dalmatian. Dalmatian morphs are usually black and white, but they can also come in red, orange, yellow, or gold. In some cases this pattern can occur on a bi-color or tri-color morph.

Breeding Platy Fish

The Platy Fish will not need any help to breed.

If you let them breed in a community tank they may interbreed with other species or even inbreed within their own lines.

Platies are notorious brood cannibals, so you should place your breeding pairs in separate tanks.

In the breeding tank the water temperature should be raised to around 77°F. Place a small sponge filter and an air stone in the breeding tank.

You may not notice any changes in your pair’s behavior as copulation usually happens out of sight. If you have other males in the tank then your breeding male will chase them away from the female.

A female is gravid when her body is swollen with egg but this does not necessarily mean that she is going to give birth. If the eggs remain unfertilized they will simply pass through her. A pregnant Platy Fish will have dark spots on her belly. This means the eggs have been fertilized.

Platy Fish are pregnant for around 4-7 weeks. The eggs will hatch inside the mother’s body and after this, she will give birth to up to 80 live young.

If your female does not give birth within a month then the brood was not viable.

Most of the fry will not have yolk sacs and will be able to accept food immediately. Some fry may be born with their yolk sacs attached and you will notice these sliding along the bottom of the tank.

The fry must be fed 3 to 4 times per day.

You can give them powdered fish flakes and larval brine shrimp. Infusoria can be given to the smaller ones that lost their yolk sacs late.

Within 4 months the fry will be mature enough to breed on their own. They can be added to the community tank about a month before they reach maturity.

Tank Mates for Platy Fish

Platies make excellent community fish.

They are not confrontational and do not take part in fin nipping and other nuisance behaviors.

In the wild they are found alongside other Platies and Swordtails.

The best tank mates are other livebearing fish, including Mollies, Guppies, Swordtails, and Endlers. Just keep in mind that they will breed with other Swordtails in the tank. Other good tank mates include:

Platy Fish are easier to keep together than Swordtails because the males do not get too aggressive.

You can keep larger group sizes without worrying about territorial behavior. You should keep 2 females to every male and remember to allow 2 gallons of water for each Platy.

Because they are so peaceful, they will not fight back against aggressive or boisterous fish. Therefore you should avoid keeping them with particularly aggressive or territorial fish.

This means you need to avoid keeping them with:

  • Bettas
  • Cichlids
  • Clown Loaches
  • Common Plecos
  • Goldfish
  • Mountain Minnows

Care Guide

Platies

This is an excellent fish for beginners to keep.

They are very hardy, acclimate well to new environments, and can handle fluctuations in water conditions.

You will only need to clean their tank once every 2 weeks and you do not need any special equipment to maintain it.

The biggest concern with Platy Fish is that they are susceptible to melanoma. This is particularly true if one of their parents is a Swordtail. This hybridization expresses a gene that increases susceptibility to skin cancer.

Melanoma can occur if the fish is exposed to harsh UV light and it is more common on fish with black spots or markings on their bodies. Skin cancer presents as a raised dark spot on the scales, usually with a lump underneath it or nearby.

Unfortunately, treating melanoma is very difficult.

It can only be treated by surgery when caught very early and there is no guarantee that the cancer will not come back.

Your best option is prevention.

Do not expose your Platies to direct sunlight and keep the light intensity at 2 watts per gallon or less.

Diet

These micro-predators snack on small prey which they find in the water column. This includes zooplankton, insects and their larvae, algae, seeds, and bits of leaves.

They do not need very much protein and their diet is mostly made up of plant material.

Platy Fish will eat almost anything but you should match their diet in the wild in order to keep them healthy.

The core of their diet should be a commercial flake formula with a high vegetable content.

You can also give them garden vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce, peas, zucchini, and cucumbers. Vegetables must be boiled, blanched, and chopped up into small enough pieces to fit in the fish’s mouth. If you have algae growing in your tank then your Platies will graze on it from time to time. However, they are not considered algae cleaning fish.

In addition to vegetables you can watch their hunting instincts by giving them live prey. Daphnia, moina, brine shrimp, microworms, and insect larvae make very tasty treats.

Feed adult fish once in the morning and once in the evening. Juvenile fish will need to be fed up to 4 times a day. Make sure that their meals are small enough to finish in 3 minutes or less and that all leftovers are removed from the tank as soon as they are done eating.

Behavior and Temperament

This fish is calm and peaceful.

They are very curious and eager to explore the middle levels of the aquarium.

You will notice that Platy Fish do not school or shoal but they will interact and socialize with their own kind and with other livebearing fish. You will be able to watch them swim, play, and explore your underwater garden together.

Every so often you might spot them grazing on your plants and the algae that grow in your tank. However, it will not cause harm to your aquascape.

Males try to impress the females by chasing them and darting in circles around them.

They are generally not aggressive but conflicts do occur during courtship and mating. Make sure there is enough space in the tank for your males and females to court in peace. You should always expect a few new babies to appear in the tank. Unfortunately, not all of them will survive, as the adults tend to eat them when they are not separated.

Pros

  • Wide variety of colors available
  • Hardy and easy to care for
  • Can handle tropical or warm temperate setups
  • Beautiful background accent for an aquascape
Cons

  • Sometimes interbreed with other species
  • Can overcrowd a tank with their offspring
  • Males can be aggressive when courting female

Tank Set Up and Parameters

In the wild these fish live in fresh and brackish water.

They are particularly common in stagnant or slow moving bodies of water, such as drainage ditches, swamp pools, and floodplains.

Platies prefer salinities over 10 dGH and prefer water temperatures of 70°F and above.

Because they are found in swamplands, it is common to find overhanging and submerged plants in their environment. Algae also grows in abundance here.

You should start with a 10 gallon tank with base dimensions of 20 x 10 x 12. This allows plenty of space for the fish to swim and explore. A 10 gallon tank can hold a group of up to four Platy Fish. After this you will need to add 2 gallons for each addition.

These fish are surprisingly good jumpers and will rush the surface from time to time so make sure to keep your tank secured with a tight lid or hood.

A hang-on-back filter is the best kind for this setup as it will generate a light current and oxygenate the water at the same time. You do not want to expose them to harsh light as it can leave them at risk for skin cancer. The light intensity should be at 2.5 watts per gallon or less, with no exposure to direct sunlight.

You can use any kind of substrate you want as these fish do not visit the bottom often. Try smooth gravel, sand, mud, or pebbles, and avoid using plastic or dyed gravel.

Your Platy Fish will feel right at home with a mixture of submerged and floating plants.

Hornwort, Java Fern, and Najas Grass are among the best underwater plants that you can use in this habitat. Duckweed, Frogbit, and Salvinia can be floated along the surface of the water.

Tank Parameter Requirement
Minimum Tank Size 10 Gallons
Tank Type Freshwater or brackish
Temperature 68-77°F
pH 7.0-8.5
Hardness 10-30 dGH
Flow Light
Substrate Sandy

History and First Sighting

Xiphophorus maculatus was first discovered by Albert Gunther in 1866 and the discovery was documented by the British Museum.

Nearly 40 years later, in 1904, Xiphophorus variatus was discovered by Seth Meek.

For the next 60 years Platy Fish were used to study genetic inheritance, diversity, and heredity. In fact in 1930 the Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center was established at Texas State University.

The first Platy Fish to occur in home aquariums was documented in 1924.

Both research labs and aquarium hobbyists shared an equal role in the creation of new color varieties. New morphs were introduced to the market starting in the 1950s and by the 1960s these included Swordtail hybrids.

Even today they remain an important research subject in the field of genetics.

They are still examined in the Genetic Stock Center and have been the focus of research for hereditary skin cancers.

Summary

Platy Fish
Other Common Names: Moonfish
Scientific Name: Xiphophorus maculatus and Xiphophorus variatus
Family Name: Poeciliidae
Distribution: Central America
Size: 2.5 inches
Color: Red, yellow, gold, orange, and black
Care Level: Beginner
Temperament: Peaceful
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Livebearers and other peaceful fish

Platy Fish are excellent for both beginners and experts.

They are hardy and fun to keep.

This versatile fish can live in temperate or tropical, freshwater or brackish tanks. With so many varieties available you are sure to find one for your setup.

Watching them give birth can be quite fascinating, and raising the young to adulthood is a truly rewarding experience. There are certainly plenty of things to like about the Platy fish!

How often do your Platy Fish give birth?

Let us know in the comments section below…

David Thomas Author Bio Picture
David Thomas leads the team at Everything Fishkeeping as the Editor-in-Chief. David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.