Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons (45 Litres)
Care Level: Easy
Water Conditions: 7-8.5 pH and Medium to Hard
Temperature: 20-26 °C (68-79 °F)
Maximum Size: 2 1/2 Inches (6 cm)
The common platy (Xiphophorus), also known as the southern platyfish or mickey mouse platy is a small, popular live-bearing fish. It is native to North America and Central America and can be found from central Mexico to Belize. But like many other live bearers, it is now listed as an invasive species in several countries, and is still spreading through escapes and releases.
Platies are closely related to the commonly kept green swordtail, and they will interbreed if given the chance. It should come as no surprise that they share similar habitats, and platies can be found in slow moving streams, ponds, canals and drainage ditches.
They stay relatively small in the home aquarium, and both males and females grow to a maximum size of around 2 ½ inches (6 cm). The size difference between males and females is slight, but generally the females will be larger than the males.
Platies do not have an overly long life span and most will live to a maximum age of three years in a home aquarium, though there are rare cases of them living five years or longer. They reach maturity quickly though, and will be ready to breed in as short as four months of age.
Platies are undemanding when it comes to housing, and most will thrive in a well maintained, 10 gallon (37 litre) tank. With that being said, a 10 gallon tank should only hold a handful of platies and problems quickly arise from the fact that platies are extremely prolific live-bearers, and any tank containing them will soon be bursting with fry.
So what is the best size aquarium for the platies then? If you don’t have a plan to deal with continuous “surprise” babies, then you should aim for at least 29 gallons for an tank containing platies. This will allow the fry to grow to adulthood without over-crowding or even crashing the tank. The grown fry can then be sold or given away – something that is next to impossible to do with newborn fry.
I would strongly recommend choosing an Aquaclear Power Filter for any tank containing platies. This filter combines excellent filtration with a durable design, and it will keep your tank sparkling clear for years to come. You can also read the Aquarium Tidings Aquaclear Filter Review here.
If you choose to use an HOB filter, you need to take precautions if you plan on having any fry in the tank. The filter intake will suck numerous fry into the impeller of doom in the filter, so you should use something to cover the intake which still allows water through. Some options are sponges, mesh and some people even use non-toxic stockings.
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Platies are omnivores in the wild, and eat plants, algae, insects and small crustaceans. This diet should be reproduced as closely as possible in the home aquarium, and that be accomplished through feedings that consist of a high quality flake food and live or frozen foods.
In order to choose a high quality flake food, you should always read the ingredients on the container. Generally you want to stay away from fish food that has fillers like rice near the beginning of the ingredients, and try to choose foods that contain fish or other protein sources for the first few ingredients.
As for live foods, platies will happily accept most of the more common live foods. They will eat blackworms, bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, fruit flies and mosquito larvae (illegal to culture in many areas).
If you can’t provide live foods, then frozen foods are nearly as good and far more convenient. They can be fed frozen bloodworms, blackworms, daphina, brine shrimp, and most other live foods that are available in your area.
Getting platies to breed is not difficult – trying to stop them from breeding is where it starts to get difficult. Like most of the other commonly available live-bearers, platies will take care of breeding on their own, and don’t require any special triggers for breeding.
But like other live-bearers, you need to have a larger ratio of females to males if you want the breeding to go smoothly in your tank. A good ratio to have is at least two females for every male, and it’s not uncommon for people to go even further and have three females for every male.
The reasons for keep this ratio are simple – the males continually try to breed with the females, and in a small aquarium there is nowhere for the females to escape to. With the continuous breeding efforts on the male, the female will quickly become stressed, and stress often leads to illness, or even death.
Once a female platy has become impregnating, it’s easy to identify. Her belly will quickly swell to massive proportions (they’re often nicknamed “the bus”), and a dark gravid spot will appear near her anal fin. The gravid spot is caused by dark eyes of the fry pressing against the scales and is common is most live-bearers.
After the female has given birth, either the fry or the adult fish should be removed to another fish tank. Platies are notorious for eating their fry, and while some usually survive in a planted tank, most will become tasty snacks for their parents.
If you want to keep the adults and fry together, it’s important to have a heavily planted tank. Some of the best plants to use are Java moss, Water sprite, or any other dense plant that the fry can hide in.
The newborn fry are relatively well developed, and no special fry food is required. They can immediately be fed powdered flake food, but they will benefit from any live food included in their diet. Some live foods that can be fed to the fry are baby brine shrimp, microworms and banana worms if you can find them.