Common Names: Platy
Scientific Name: Xiphophorus maculatus
Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons
Care Level: Easy
Max Size: 2 Inches
Temperature: 66-78 F
Tank Level: All
Colors: Black, Gold, Blue, Red, Orange, Green
Breeding: Extremely Easy
Platy fish are a popular choice for tropical fish aquariums because they come in many brilliant colors and patterns. They’re also docile fish, meaning you usually don’t have to worry about them picking on other fish or invertebrate species in your tank.
Furthermore, platies are prolific breeders. Therefore, it’s fun and easy for tropical fish enthusiasts to breed them, creating a range of color and pattern combinations.
Platies are an excellent fish for people new to fish keeping. Although they have specific water parameters you need to maintain for their survival, they’re overall a low-maintenance fish.
There are dozens of different platy varieties, boasting an array of fin types, colors, and color patterns. Some of the most popular platy fish colors include:
However, it’s relatively uncommon to encounter a solid-colored platy fish. Instead, they feature several pattern variations with various colors forming their designs.
If you want to sound like a platy expert when you purchase them from your local vendor, you’re in luck. Below are some of the most common platy patterns you’ll encounter.
Wag platies showcase their fins by developing a pure black color. The remainder of their body is a bright, solid color, offering a beautiful contrast.
Platies with a rainbow pattern are among the more unique varieties, so you may need to purchase them from a special platy vendor. These fish have a minimum of three colors which fade into each other or show up in patches, making them look like a rainbow.
Tuxedo pattern platies look fit for a formal gathering, as the back half of their bodies are pure black. The front half is a different solid color, with red and yellow being among the most common.
Variegated platies are fun to breed because each develops a different patterned coat. To classify as having a variegated pattern, they have a series of black spots over their body with one or more other colors as a base.
Mickey Mouse Pattern
Kids will gush over the Mickey Mouse platy pattern, which has three spots on their tails that form the shape of Mickey’s head.
As if the sample of platy patterns above isn’t a wide enough range, these fish also have various fin shapes. Some of the most notable include:
- High fin
So, by choosing platy fish for your aquarium, you’ll get to select from an unrivaled range of styles and colors.
Platy fish are native to Central and South America, living in lukewarm to warm fresh or brackishwater ranging from Vera Cruz, Mexico to Belize.
It wasn’t until the early 1900s when platy fish made their way north, first arriving in Europe as aquarium fish. Because of how fast they breed, their gorgeous markings, and their tendency to get along well with other fish, platies quickly became popular for tanks worldwide.
You can often spot them in slower-moving natural and artificial water sources in the wild, such as:
As a result, they thrive in areas that have silt and mud as substrates. They also thrive in water with lots of vegetation to eat and hide in, as they’re at the lower end of the food chain.
Some of their favorite types of plants in the wild include:
- Java moss
Since platies are surface-dwelling fish, they love floating and tall plants that reach the water’s top.
Platy fish are relatively small, measuring between two to nearly three inches long as adults. They arrive at their full size at around five to six months of age, where they grow from around ¼-inch at birth.
Females platies are always larger than males of the same age. Whereas females can often grow as large as 2.8 inches, males rarely reach over two inches long.
Furthermore, some breeders have created dwarf platies. These platies typically don’t get bigger than one inch as adults, and yet again, females are the larger sex of the dwarf varieties.
Platy fish have relatively short lifespans, averaging three to four years when you keep them in optimal aquarium conditions.
In addition to meeting your platy fish’s tank parameter requirements, it’s crucial to provide them with a variety of high-quality food to maintain their health.
That said, some people say they’ve had platy fish that lived for five years. Given the plethora of predators, most platies live longer in ideal tank conditions than they do in the wild.
If you have young platy fish, it’ll be impossible to tell their gender. But as they mature and their anal fins grow, it becomes easy to decipher the males from females.
The anal fin is the fin located at the bottom and backmost part of your fish.
Female platy fish have a wider anal fin that has a fan-like shape. In contrast, males have a sword-like anal fin that’s narrower and pointed.
If you only have one platy fish and aren’t familiar with how these fish usually look, it can be challenging to determine the males from the females.
So, other options to help you decode your fish’s gender is by looking at their size once they reach around six months of age. Are they close to three inches long? If so, you likely have a female.
In addition, female platies have brighter colors than their male counterparts, even when they have the same patterns. So, if you see a platy fish with darker hues, you’re likely looking at a male.
Platies are an excellent species to add to a tank with other fish, given that they have a peaceful nature. They rarely show aggression and keep to themselves towards the top of an aquarium.
That said, to avoid fights between male platy fish, you should ensure that you pair three females for every male.
Another situation that can cause your platy fish to develop an aggressive attitude is if you put fast swimmers, fin-nippers, or otherwise confrontational species of fish in their tank.
For example, betta fish are a poor choice for platies, as bettas will often pick on them, given that they also spend most of their time at the top of a tank.
Like all fish, platy fish have a specific set of tank parameters that you’ll need to customize for them to ensure they live a long and happy life.
Minimum Tank Size
You should aim to have no more than five platy fish per ten gallons of water. So, that means you can have one platy fish per two gallons of water.
If you purchase your platy fish young, it’s easy to think you can fit more. However, as your fish grow, they require more space, oxygen, and hiding areas, meaning that they could become stressed if you put too many fish together.
Keep in mind that you should have a minimum of three female platies per male to prevent fights. So, it’s crucial to ensure you balance this ratio and the tank size.
Water to platy fish is like air to humans. So, you’ll need to keep the water temperature, pH, and salinity within the recommended amounts below so that your platies have a high quality of life. With poor water quality, platies have a tendency to get sick, die, or even jump out of their tank!
Platy fish have a higher-than-average tolerance for a large temperature range. So, they’ll be comfortable as long as the water stays between 70 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
That means if you only keep platies in your tropical fish tank, you might be able to get away without having a heater. The exception is if you run air conditioning that keeps the temperature in your home below 70 degrees.
Nevertheless, it’s wise to use a heater for your platy fish’s tank, as keeping the temperature between the tighter and warmer range of 78 – 82 degrees can help ward off stress and infections.
Finally, allow your new platies to acclimate to the water temperature before putting them in your tank. You can do this by setting their bag in your tank to let it gradually adjust to the aquarium’s water temperature.
Platy fish have an excellent tolerance for pH levels. You can keep them in acidic, neutral, or alkaline water ranging from 6.8 – 8.5.
So, more than concerning yourself over the pH of the water, given that most bottled and tap water is within this range, it’s essential to consider how hard your water is.
Platies prefer hard water. If you have soft water, consider injecting your water with minerals, which you can purchase at your local pet store.
On occasion, adding salt to your platy fish’s tank won’t hurt them, although it usually isn’t necessary. Platy fish have a relatively high salt tolerance, given that they sometimes live in brackish water in the wild.
That said, some platy fish illnesses require salt to help them recover.
So, if your platy fish is ill, consider putting one tablespoon of aquarium salt in their tank for every three gallons of water. Removing most of this salt via water cleanings is vital once your fish is on the mend.
Nailing your platy fish’s tank parameters is a necessary but not-so-fun task. So, let’s move on to the much more exciting part of being a fish owner, which is setting up the tank.
Platy fish are used to silt and muddy substrates in the wild. But the reality is that the substrate you use is of little importance to them, given that they spend most of their lives at the top of the water.
Therefore, you’re welcome to choose from the substrate that most appeals to you. Examples include:
Since platy fish dwell at the top of tanks, their favorite decorations are the same substances they’d have in the wild, such as driftwood and floating plants.
Nevertheless, we’re sure you don’t want to neglect the bottom of your tank. Therefore, you’re welcome to arrange decorations at the bottom of your tank however you’d like.
When arranging decorations at the top of your aquarium, it’s crucial to ensure you offer your fish enough space to swim in open water.
Live plants also help boost the oxygen levels in your aquarium, and they serve as mini filters, helping to remove certain toxins.
When choosing plants for your platies, select those that float on the top of the water or grow tall enough to reach the surface. Java moss and ferns are excellent examples.
Just keep your plants trimmed if they take over the top of your tank—you want to make sure your fish can access their food!
Your platy fish might eat some of your live plants in rare cases. However, this usually isn’t an issue if you’re feeding them a well-balanced diet.
If you keep your platy fish tank in an area that receives natural light, it isn’t necessary to equip your aquarium with a lamp. Nevertheless, it’s wise to do so for the following reasons:
- You’ll be able to better keep an eye on your fish’s health
- It keeps your tank looking aesthetically more pleasing
- It’ll be easier to watch your fish play
Should you use an aquarium light, turn it off at night. Platy fish are diurnal by nature, meaning they’re awake during the day and sleep at night.
Installing a high-quality filtration system is crucial for your platy fish’s health.
That’s because filters help remove waste from leftover food and your fish’s excretions. Without a filter, your platies will likely fall ill.
There are three types of filters you can and should use for your platy fish:
Biological filters will inject healthy nitrifying bacteria into the water, while mechanical filters will remove physical debris (such as pieces that detach from your live plants).
Meanwhile, chemical filters will remove harsh chemicals from the water that could harm your fish.
Most platy fish can survive without a heater as long as the air temperature in your home doesn’t drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nevertheless, we recommend using a heater. Platy fish typically live in water on the higher range of the temperature scale, and most people don’t keep their homes as hot as the upper 70s or low 80s.
Colder water can also make your platies more susceptible to contracting an illness.
In the wild, platy fish have an omnivorous diet, meaning that they eat both plants and small, live protein sources.
Most people opt to feed their platy fish store-bought pellets or dried flakes made for a platy fish’s nutritional needs.
These are a great place to start. However, you can kick your platy fish’s health up a notch by incorporating other foods into their diet.
Examples of foods that you can surprise your platies with include:
- Brine shrimp
- Tubifex worms
- Blood worms
Overfeeding your platies can have detrimental consequences to their health and your tank’s water quality. Therefore, you should feed your platies as much as they can eat within two minutes once or twice per day.
Once the two-minute mark passes, remove all excess food.
Before long, you’ll be able to better eyeball how much food your fish can consume in that period.
Breeding platy fish is a rewarding process compared to many other fish species, given that they bear live young (called fry).
To breed your platies, place males and females in a 1:3 ratio in a separate, large tank. Now is the time to figure out which colors and patterns you want your fry to potentially have, so choose these mates accordingly.
Then, let the fish get to work. When you see their stomachs growing, you’ll know your females are pregnant.
A platy fish’s gestation period is 28 days. After that time, the females will give birth to their live fry.
Since adult fish will dine on fry (including their own children), many people choose to move the parents out of the breeding tank. Regardless, it’s essential to give the fry plenty of plants and places to hide in, as it’ll create a less stressful environment for them.
No matter how well you care for your platy fish, they can sometimes fall ill. Furthermore, if you’re not providing your platies with optimal tank parameters, the chances of them getting a disease, parasite, or infection is even higher.
Below are some of the most common types of disease that your platy fish might experience.
Swim Bladder Disease
Swim bladder disease is aptly named because this condition causes platies to lose their buoyancy. As a result, their bellies become enlarged, and they swim sideways or upside down.
The following situations can cause your platy fish to develop swim bladder disease:
- High ammonia concentration in the water
- Unfavorable water conditions
- Low water temperature
If you believe your platy fish has swim bladder disease, check your water’s parameters, taking a special note to ensure the water is warm enough.
You should also stop feeding your fish for a few days, reintroducing them to food via cooked, unsalted peas. Antibiotics are also sometimes helpful, provided that an infection is causing the buoyancy issues.
Ich is a nasty parasite that lives on plants, other fish, and decorations. However, healthy fish who aren’t under a lot of stress can often ward off ich on their own.
Your platies will most commonly get ich if you introduce new, infected fish or live plants in their tank. The symptoms include:
- Tiny white spots covering the body
- Itching themselves on surfaces in your tank
- Difficulty breathing
Luckily, ich isn’t a death sentence if you catch it early enough. You can help your platy fish recover from this parasite by doing the following:
- Isolate the infected fish
- Slowly increase the water temperature to 80 degrees Fahrenheit
- Pour one teaspoon of aquarium salt per gallon into the tank
Within one week, you should see your fish improve and can gradually return the water to its standard parameters.
Fin rot, which people also call tail rot depending on the location, is a condition that causes bacteria or fungi to eat away at your platy fish’s fins or tail.
High ammonia concentrations in the water and overall poor water conditions are the most common causes.
Platies with fin or tail rot display the following symptoms:
- Chewed-looking fins or tail
- Fins or tail that sticks together or appears shredded
- Milky secretions from the body
Treating fin rot involves moving your infected platy fish to a quarantine tank. Then, head to the pet store and purchase bacterial or fungal medication, following the instructions to add it to the water.
You should also do up to a 50% water change to help eliminate the bacteria or water from their home tank.
Potential Tank Mates
As docile fish, platies make excellent tank companions. You should always purchase platies in groups, given that these are a schooling fish.
However, these fish also enjoy the company of several fish of similar sizes, including:
- Cory catfish
You can also put crustaceans such as snails and amano shrimp into your fish tank.
Regardless of the species that you introduce to your platies, it’s essential to monitor how they interact together. That way, you can act quickly should any issues arise.