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Platy Fish (Xiphophorus sp.) Care sheet

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Platy fish are probably one of the most famous freshwater community fish in the hobby, but did you know that there are different types and colors of this fish? In general, all species of Xiphophorus are extremely easy to keep and a favorite for hobbyists just starting out in freshwater fish farming. This article specifically discusses the care requirements for the southern game fish (Xiphophorus maculatus).

Read on to find out everything you need to know about the different types and colors of platy fish, and how to keep one in your own freshwater aquarium!


Xiphophorus comprises about 30 different species of fish found throughout Mexico and many northern regions of Central America. These fish are often referred to as platies, or swordtails.

There are three main aquarium species within Xiphophorus: the southern platy fish (Xiphophorus maculatus; also known as the sunfish), the swordtail platy fish (Xiphophorus helleri), and the variatus platy fish (Xiphophorus variatus).


The southern platy fish is probably the most common freshwater fish that you are likely to encounter at your local pet store. These fish lack the particularly elongated caudal fin that can be found in swordtail plates, but they have very similar body shapes and are available in many of the same colors.

Instead, the southern platy is a small fish with short fins and a fan-shaped tail. They often have a balloon-like stomach, which is especially noticeable when women are carrying roasts. These fish were bred in the aquarium hobby to show off most of the colors like yellow, orange and red that even have their own names.

How big do platies get?

Adult southern platy fish grow to be about 5.1 to 6.4 cm long when fully grown. male platies tend to get a little smaller than females.

On average, these platies will live around 3 years, although some hobbyists have succeeded in keeping them up to 5 years!

Platy fish colors

The southern platy was bred as an aquarium hobby to enhance the fins as well as the colors and patterns. As a result, these peaceful fish can be found in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with a distinct brand name.

Each color / pattern was most likely tried with a different color, creating overlapping designs. Remember that every designer fish can have color variations and that no two fish are the same!

Sunburst platy

Probably one of the more attractive freshwater fish, the Sunburst Platy is a nice mix of yellows, oranges, and sometimes black if the fish is a Wag variety. These fish have a bright yellow central part that fades to a warm orange at the front of their face and towards the tail fin. This orange continues on the caudal fin for a real sunburst platy.

If the fish is a sunburst wag platy, the caudal fin, dorsal fin, anal fin, and sometimes the pelvic fins are a silky black that contrasts sharply with the lighter colors.

Mickey Mouse Platy

The Mickey Mouse platy is named for the black markings near the tail that resemble the silhouette of the famous character. The most common colors of Mickey Mouse platies are yellow, oranges, red, and blue. This Mickey Mouse pattern can also be found on other colorations such as sunburst platies.

Platy weight

A Wag Platy has black caudal, anal, dorsal, and sometimes pelvic fins. These fish are most commonly found in a two-tone red whisk variety, but other more specialized colors such as sunburst and metallic blue can also be seen.

Natural habitat

Xiphophorus maculatus is native to many areas of Mexico and the rest of Central America. They can usually be found in slow moving warm springs, canals, swamps, and streams that are rich in vegetation.

Because of their popularity in the aquarium hobby, these tropical fish have been introduced to various other parts of the world and are found in the natural systems of many countries. While they haven’t had too much of an impact, some regions have reported adverse impacts.

Platy aquarium requirements

The easy maintenance and attractive colors of the southern platies make them such a popular beginner species. While these peaceful fish are perfect for beginners, it can sometimes be easy to get carried away and get too many, especially after they’re born in your tank!

Platies need at least a 37.9L tank as adult fish can be quite active. These fish tend to stay above and in the middle of the water column, so it is best to provide as much free space as possible for swimming while also providing plants and other decorations for the fry to hide. These fish can be kept on either sand or gravel bottoms, but their colors look best on darker backdrops.

Most of the time, southern platies are kept as tropical freshwater fish and usually require heating to keep the water temperature at a constant level between 18.3-25.0 ° C (65-77 ° F). If you plan to keep platies in a cooler aquarium, it is still recommended that you use a heater to better control the natural fluctuations in ambient temperature. These fish also prefer a relatively neutral pH and should be kept in water at a value of 6.8-8.0.

Platy aquarium pals

Platy species are a popular aquarium fish with all hobbyists because of their easy-care requirements, their colorful range and their compatibility with other tank colleagues. These fish can be kept with a variety of freshwater fish such as tetras, guppies, and corydoras. They don’t do well with more aggressive fish like tiger spines or cichlids.

It is important to keep in mind that southern platies are relatively active fish and tend to dominate the upper and middle water columns in the tank. It is best to avoid slower moving species that could be easily stressed from higher activity.

How many platies should be kept together?

Platies are best for groups. Although they don’t form tight schools, they can still be seen swimming in the same areas of the tank. However, it is recommended to only get one male per 3-5 females as males can start fighting each other, especially during the spawning season. It’s also important to keep the male to female ratio low to cut down on the amount of fries you end up with!

When keeping platy fish, it is recommended that you only keep one species together, although the colors can be mixed as long as they are of the same type. This is to prevent the emergence of hybridized fish; Although these species together belong to the same genus, they should not be crossed as hybridization can lead to unnatural mutations, sterilization, or other inhumane results.

Platy fish behavior

Platy fish are one of the easiest freshwater fish to keep. They fill the middle and upper water column with splashes of color, absorb almost all food and adapt to a variety of water parameters.

These fish can be active swimmers, so it is best to give them the space they need to display their natural behavior. Otherwise, they will live happily in your tank for several years!

Do platies train fish?

While platies like to live in groups, they don’t form schools or schools like other species. Instead, these peaceful fish like to live in smaller groups, with one male for every pair of females.

Because of their preferred regions of the tank, they look more like they are in a school, but in fact, they only stay where they are most comfortable!

Are platies aggressive?

In general, platy fish are one of the least aggressive types of freshwater fish currently available in the aquarium hobby. However, some hobbyists have problems with males constantly looking for females to reproduce. This can quickly cause the females to become stressed, which can result in less frying and maybe even dead fish.

If you find that your males are particularly disruptive to your females, try removing some males or adding additional females.

Platy fish diet

In the wild, southern platies are omnivores. This means that they rely on both plant and animal foods to meet their nutritional needs. In the aquarium, these fish will eat almost any type of food that is offered to them.

It is important for sunburst platies and other vibrant colorations to provide high quality nutrition to keep their colors strong. It is best to offer a variety of foods in live, frozen, and freeze-dried forms, with a protein-rich fish feed flake or pellet being the main diet.

Otherwise, worms (earthworms, blood worms, Tubifex worms), brine shrimp, mosquito larvae and / or other food for aquariums can be offered to these fish.

Breeding of platy fish

For the most part, you don’t have to make any real effort to grow southern platies and they will naturally appear in the tank when conditions are right. In most situations, what matters is when your fish hatch, not how you get them to breed. As long as you have a female and a male platy fish in your aquarium, they will most likely breed.

Southern flatfish are a live species. This means that the female carries eggs that are directly fertilized by the male; She will carry these eggs until they are ready to be born as free swimming brood. It is usually easy to tell when a female is pregnant as she will be much rounder than the other fish. It might even be possible to see darker areas through her stomach.

If you want to successfully raise fry from the southern platy, it is recommended that the fry either be removed after birth or that sufficient plants and other decorations be provided for the fry to have a chance of survival. If the roasts are not removed, there is a high likelihood that the other platies and fish in the tank will eat them quickly.


The southern platy fish is one of the most common, simplest, and most colorful freshwater fish. These fish come in a variety of colors such as Sunburst, Mickey Mouse, and Wag varieties that add a pop of color to any community tank. These fish are especially popular with hobbyists who may be their first time trying to breed fish, although the amount of roasting can get overwhelming if not kept in check.

If you have any questions about the southern platy fish or any other species of platy, or if you have any experience keeping sunburst platy or any other variant, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

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