Platy Fish: Things To Know Before Getting A Platy Fish

 When you peek into most home aquariums, there's one fish you're almost guaranteed to spot. Platy fish are easily one of the most common species of tropical fish found in home and office aquariums, and they are usually the first choice for people new to an aquarium. The platy fish is a tropical freshwater fish and there are many beautiful colors and sizes. The reason for their popularity is their ease of care, but there's a lot more to these amazing fish than meets the eye. Then, how do you care for a platy fish?

Platy Fish: Things To Know Before Getting A Platy Fish
Platy Fish: Things To Know Before Getting A Platy Fish

 Platy fish are relatively low maintenance when it comes to fish care, but they still need the right tank size, water temperature, filtration, feeding schedule, and tank materials to help keep them healthy and happy. Although they are easy to care for, that doesn't mean they can be left to thrive on their own. 

This comprehensive guide was designed to be the only platy resource you'll ever need, and it covers everything from their behavior to feeding. If you're planning on adding a baby platy fish to your aquarium, there's a lot to learn, and we can help you with our ultimate guide to these amazing creatures.

This is an informative article. Nodisk One is not permitted to make a diagnosis or recommend any form of veterinary care. If your pet is in pain or ill, we recommend that you take him to the vet.

What Is A Platy Fish?

 Platy fish are part of the genus Xiphophorus and share a family with other Poeciliidae species, including guppies and mollies, which are also known to be easy to care for and peaceful with other tankmates. These freshwater tropical fish are one of the most popular adult aquarium fish kept by hobbyists and serious aquarists, due to their low maintenance and good looks.

 Platy fish vary in size, with the standard adult male reaching around 1.5 inches and the slightly larger female up to 2.5 inches. These fish are native to North and Central America, which only makes their popularity even more important as aquarium staples. 

 The shape of the platy fish is similar to that of a molly with an almost diamond shape whose head tapers to a thin point and whose midsection widens before tapering again at the tail. These excellent fish come in all shapes and sizes, and due to extensive farming their brilliant colors can vary widely. You can find a platy fish in almost every common color imaginable with its iridescence and although small it is bright and friendly and makes a great addition to any tank.

Platy Overview

- Scientific name: Xiphophorus maculatus.

- Family: Poeciliidae.

- Maintenance Level: Easy.

- Temperament: Peaceful.

- Color: Beige, brown, light orange, pale yellow, deep back, etc.

- Lifespan: 3 to 4 years.

- Size: 7cm (2.8").

- Diet: Omnivorous.

- Minimum tank size: 10-12 gallon tank.

- Temperature: 70-82°f.

- Water Conditions: Mainly alkaline water, but can also survive in other water conditions.

- Tank mate compatibility: Guppies, mollies, and some types of grouse.


 The platy fish are native to Central America and Mexico (South America). The two most common species of platy fish in the pet trade are the southern platy fish (Xiphophorus maculatus) and the variable platy fish (Xiphophorus variatus).

 These platies are often crossed with each other or with swordtail species. There are several selectively bred varieties of variable and southern platy, including wagtail, tuxedo, comet, and rainbow platy. Wild platies are less colorful than the platies found in the pet trade today.

 Both species are popular among aquarists and prolific in the wild. While the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has not recorded any data on the southern platy, the variable platy fish is classified as a "species of least concern".

In The Wild

 Platies can be found in rivers, canals, swamps, and hot springs. They inhabit streams with sandy or loamy bottoms and live in areas of dense vegetation, scurrying in and out of plants to find food and avoid predators. Their native waters are somewhat harsh and alkaline.

 Unlike the bright rainbow of colors you see in the aquarium trade, their natural coloring is rather dull. They are olive green with some dark mottling. All the flashy colors you see in the store are due to many generations of selective breeding.

Adult Size And Lifespan

 The size of a platy fish varies according to sex, environment and species. Male platy fish average two inches in size, while female platy fish reach up to three inches in length. Southern platy fish are a little bit smaller than variable platy fish. The lifespan of a platy fish in captivity is typically two to three years. In nature, lamellar fish live longer. Ideal tank conditions and proper care allow these fish to thrive.


 The main types of platy fish available in the aquarium trade today are actually hybrids of two closely related species: the southern platy fish (Xiphophorus maculatus) and the variatus platy fish (Xiphophorus variatus).

 For many generations, the two species have been interbred for the aquarium trade. At this point, it's almost impossible to tell the two apart, as any fish bred in an aquarium has likely been hybridized at some point.


 Platy fish are affordable and widely available at online stores and local pet stores. The platy fish costs between $3 and $6 each. However, the price may vary depending on the variety of platy fish. Some varieties, like the Tiger Ruby Platy, can cost up to $9 each. The swordtail platy (Xiphophorus xiphidium) is difficult to obtain and rare in the pet trade.

 Platy fish do best in groups of six. A band of this size costs around $30. Reputable online stores that stock platy fish include Arizona Aquatic Gardens, Live Aquaria, and Aquatic Arts. Buy active fish with bright eyes and healthy coloring.

Types Of Platy Fish

 Most people assume that platy fish are a singular species because they are so common and sometimes hard to tell apart. However, there are three species that fall under the category of Platy fish, including:

Swordtail Platy (Xiphophorus xiphidium)

 It is the rarest of the platies and is not often kept in an aquarium. These fish are sometimes known as the Spike Tail Platy, due to the sharp spikes found on its fins.

Variable Platy (Xiphophorus Variatus)

 The platy variatus is usually referred to as such because of its interchangeable bright colors and greater diversity in appearance, but because they have been bred so much it is difficult to tell the difference between these Platies and southern Platies.

Southern Platy (Xiphophorus Maculatus)

 The southern platy fish first entered the aquarium hobby in the early 1900s, about 30 years before the variable. These are the most common species, but they have been propagated with the variable which now makes them quite similar.

Natural Habitat Of Platy Fish

 To best care for your platies, it's good to understand where they come from and learn more about their native habitat. Platy fish are almost always peaceful freshwater fish and are rarely found in salt or brackish water conditions.

 These fish prefer soft environments and can be found in slow-moving waters like canals, streams, and ditches, which is why the peaceful life of the aquarium suits them well. They prefer areas with grassy banks and loamy bottoms and can survive in many places where other native fish might not be able to.

 The two main species of platy fish originally thrived in Central and North America, spreading as far as Belize and Mexico. However, thanks to humans and hobby aquarists, they can now be found all over the world, provided they have the right aquarium conditions, including Australia and Hong Kong.

 Platy fish have not been fully domesticated, and unless kept in an aquarium, their interaction with humans in their natural environment is minimal. They simply exist in streams where other fish are caught and may be disturbed in the process, but they are not considered a species of fish that would be hunted for food.

Appearance Of Platy Fish And Behavior

 Platy fish are available in a wide range of patterns and colors. The majority of platy fish are calm and get along well with other fish who have similar temperaments.

Colors, patterns, fins and sex differences

 Platy fish have short, flattened bodies with fan-shaped tails and triangular heads. Platy fish are sexually dimorphic. Males are smaller than females and have a gonopod. They become dull when stressed or sick. There are several varieties of platy fish, each with their own unique qualities. The coloring of wild platy fish is different from that of captive-bred fish. Popular varieties include:

1. Comet Platy fish: Also known as the twin bar platy. Comes in several colors, orange and yellow being the most common. Its tail has black stripes along the top and underside.

2. Golden Red Platy fish: The front half of its body is yellow, but the color gradually changes to a deep red, with a sunset gradient. The fins are black or translucent. The most popular color combination are red and yellow, but selective breeding has introduced green and blue variations.

3. Lamellar Hifin Fish: Elongated dorsal fin that curves over the back. Found in a various range of colors and patterns.

4. Mickey Mouse Platy Fish: Named after the Mickey Mouse-shaped marking near its tail. Comes in several shades, but this variety is difficult to obtain.

5. Platy pintail fish: The middle of its tail is elongated and looks like a pin. Less common than the hifin variety.

6. Rainbow Platy fish: Iridescent and colorful, with a rainbow appearance and a black tail. Available in dark and light tones.

7. Red Coral Platy fish: Vibrant red coloring. It has a red fins, tail, and body.

8. Salt and Pepper: Black spots scattered all over his body. The tint of the pattern is always black, but the primary coloration of the body varies.

9. Platy tuxedo fish: Has a black spot in the center of its body that makes the fish look like it's wearing a tuxedo. Variety of colors available.

Typical Behavior

 Platy fish are sociable, peaceful, and friendly to other fish. Although not considered a shoaling species, platy fish become more confident in groups of six. These fish are active and stay in the middle and upper levels of the tank. Platy fish like to explore and hide among plants.

 Platy fish are rarely aggressive, but males often harass females and may show aggression towards other males during breeding. Prevent aggression by ensuring that females outnumber males in the tank. These fish are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day and rest at night.

Platy Fish Breeding

 Platies are live fish, like most of their close tropical freshwater relatives. A practical factor for beginners is the ability of platies to breed without too much attention from the aquarist. They will reproduce very often and with a lot of fry. Aquarists with experience like to state, "Platies are easy to breed". Preventing them from reproducing definitely is. Given their ability to reproduce very quickly and very efficiently, you can end up with more Platies than you need in no time. If you take care of it properly, the only thing you should worry about is overcrowding.

 The pregnant female platy can produce broods monthly. With a huge belly and a dark gravid area near to the anal fin, it is easily identified. These fish can breed easily in a well-planted community tank with thick vegetation and a breeding trap for fry. A 10-20 gallon tank with stable water conditions, dense planting, and a regular filter is suitable for fish to produce fry. Typically, a Gestation lasts between four and six weeks.

 Once the fry are born, they are free-swimming in search of food. however, the potential fry aggressor (even the parents are known to eat them) should be removed from the tank. Planted tanks can only protect fry so long before they are eaten. Although plants can help in the short term, removing one of the two is definitely a superior solution.

Sexual Dimorphism

 Sexual dimorphism is less in Platy fish. The caudal fin of the male is a little more pointed and the anal fin has a tick-like organ used for reproduction. Females are about an inch longer than males.

How Often Do Platy Fish Make Babies?

 Platies are viviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. Compared to baby fish that hatch from eggs, live fry are generally larger, faster, and have a much higher survival rate. Under the right conditions, female platies can give birth to 20 to 50 babies per month.

Will Platy Fry Survive In A Community Aquarium?

 Adults do not care for their young and, if given the chance, would gladly consume them. (In fact, allowing other adult fish to eat the fry so that only one or two of each batch survive is one method of managing their population).

 If you want to increase their survival rate in a community aquarium, provide plenty of decorations, rocks, wood or live plants as cover for the fry to hide behind. Also, if you're using a hanging or canister filter, be sure to cover the filter's intake tube with an appropriately sized pre-filter sponge so they don't get accidentally sucked in.

What Should I Do With Platy Fry?

 If you keep the fish well-fed, more and more fry will appear, which means the water gets dirty faster. You can give the excess fish to friends or donate them to a pet store, to keep the water quality high. If you want to breed fish for profit, consider selling the offspring to a local fish market.

Platy Fish Diet And Food

 In the wild, platies are omnivores. They graze on algae and plant matter they find as well as insects, larvae, fish eggs, fry, and any other small creatures they can find. I never knew them as picky eaters. They will gladly accept flakes, microgranules, frozen foods and freeze-dried foods as well as live foods like daphnia.

 They are voracious eaters that swarm all over the tank as soon as you put food in the water. You know how sharks go into a feeding frenzy as they devour an unsuspecting victim? It's pretty much like that. Just smaller and much cuter.

 If you have a very large shoal or have slower moving fish in the tank with them, you may want to put food in several places around the tank to make sure everyone has something to eat. to eat. Be sure to feed them a basic diet of high quality ingredients like whole fish or shrimp. They also need plant matter in their diet, so look for ingredients like spirulina, kelp, or seaweed meal. It's always a good idea to feed fish a varied diet to ensure they get all the nutrients they need.

Platy Fish Common Disease And Treatment

 Platy fish are hardy and not prone to any particular disease. However, common freshwater diseases that affect lamellar fish in captivity include fin rot, Ich, and velvet.

Fin Rot

 Fin rot is a disease caused by stress or poor water conditions. Long-fin platy fish varieties, such as the hi fin platy and pintail platy, are more prone to fin rot than other platies. Symptoms include ragged fins and changes in fin coloration. Regular water changes and medicines can be used to treat fin rot.


 The protozoan Ichthyophthirius multifiliis is the culprit behind the illness known as Ich. Fish with Ich develop white salt-like spots on their bodies, fins, and gills. Other symptoms include lethargy and blinking behavior. Flashing occurs when the fish rubs against rough structures. Quarantine infected fish in a separate tank and raise the temperature two to three degrees. Treat Ich by adding one tablespoon of salt per five gallons of water.


 Velvet is a disease caused by the ร–odinium parasite. The parasite affects the body, causing the formation of rust-colored cysts. The main symptoms are unusual swimming patterns, blinking and lethargy. Treat the velvet by quarantining the fish, keeping the lighting low, and adding copper sulfate to the tank.

Tank Mates

 Platy fish are peaceful and not aggressive towards other fish, but there should be more females than males in the tank. Keep every three female platy fish with one male. platy fish should not be housed with aggressive or fast-moving fish like bettas.

 The best tank mates for platy fish are peaceful species of similar size that won't bother platy fish. These include:

  • Corydoras.
  • Crabs.
  • Danios.
  • Gouramis.
  • Guppies.
  • Mollies.
  • Shrimps.
  • Snails.
  • Swordtails.
  • Tetras.

Tank Mates To Avoid

 It can be difficult to mix platies with other live carriers like guppies and swordtails. Males of other species will harass female platies trying to mate with them. Definitely avoid any fish listed as aggressive or semi-aggressive, platies just can’t hang with Pushy, nippy fish like barbs and cichlids shouldn't be mixed with platies. Also Long-fin platy varieties should not be kept with renowned fin-claws, such as tiger barbs and tetras.

Any fish over 10 centimeters long should be avoided to prevent the platies from being intimidated.

Platy Fish Ownership Costs

 The idea that keeping fish of any type is a simple and inexpensive hobby is one of the most common myths. This can lead some people to buy basic starter kits only to find that they don't provide the right conditions to keep fish happy or healthy, and certainly don't apply to all species.

 Platy fish is one of the cheapest fish to buy, costing between $2 and $4 depending on its size and color. As a fast prolific breeder it may not take long to create even more so there is no need to buy a large group unless that is what you intend to set up for your tank.

 Once you have established the fish costs, you will then need to determine the highest costs. An aquarium setup requires many things like a pump, heater, filter, and tank, which will cost hundreds of dollars upfront. Then there's ongoing care, water testing, cleaning, filtration, and feeding, so it makes sense to make a basic budget covering all costs before committing to becoming a platy.

How To Set Up A Platy Aquarium

Let's go over the equipment you would need to set up your own aquarium platy:


 The Platies are native to Mexico and Central America, so they need hot temperatures between 70° and 80°F (21°-27°C). You will need to add a heater to your tank to provide them with the temperatures they need.

It's crucial to keep the temperature in your aquarium steady. Fish experience a great deal of stress from sudden temperature fluctuations.


 Platies don't really have any particular substrate needs. They sometimes swim along the bottom, but they really don't interact with the substrate. So gravel, sand, bare bottom, choose what you prefer. The fish really won't care.

Plants And Decorations

 Platies love plants. Have densely planted areas in the tank mimic the habitat where these fish live in the wild. Dense planting also gives fry a place to hide from marauding adults determined to eat them.

 It works best when there are both planted sections and open swimming areas. They don't need things like caves to hide in, but they will run through holes in the scenery in a really cute and entertaining way.

Water Parameters

  • Temperature: 70°-80°F (21°-27°C).
  • Ammonia/Nitrite: 0.
  • Nitrate: <30 ppm.
  • pH: 7.0-8.0.
  • GH: 10-28 dGH (167-467 ppm).
  • KH: 3-5 dKH (54-90 ppm).

 Platies originate from tropical waters that tend to be a bit on the harder side and have a slightly alkaline pH. But, they have been tank bred for many, many generations and are quite flexible when it comes to water parameters. They can adapt to softer or harder water with proper acclimatization.

Platy Fish Facts

  • Many colors and variations are available among Platy fish like red coral, red and black tuxedo, red wagtail, salt pepper, etc.
  • Platies are tough fish that can stay with many other tank mates in a community tank.
  • These omnivorous fish are not at all picky about their food. They eat all types of packaged and domestic fish meals.
  • Females are slightly plump and roughly an inch longer than males.
  • Platy fish is a live fish. Inside their bodies, they fertilize the eggs before releasing them after they have hatched.
  • It is not difficult to breed them. It's hard to get them to stop.
  • Males may harass females for breeding purposes.
  • It is important to maintain the male/female ratio.
  • When there are two to three female platies, one male is adequate.
  • Platies may end up eating their babies, thinking they are food.
  • They only live two to three years on average.
  • As active fish, they are very fond of swimming and playing.
  • Planted aquariums are the best option for them as they provide plenty of hidden shelter.
  • Due to their peaceful nature, they are compatible with endless fish like guppies, mollies, swordtails, etc.
  • Once the juvenile platies have survived the first four months, they are fairly easy to raise.
  • These fish should at least be kept in an aquarium of about 10 gallons to swim freely inside the tank.

In Conclusion

 In case you didn't know, I really like these little fish. My son's first aquarium had a large school of platies and we really enjoyed them. They are hardy and easy to maintain, they are colorful, active and you have a wide variety of colors to choose from. Plus, the platies are also just plain adorable.

 To keep them, you don't need a huge aquarium or an elaborate setup. I think they are a great choice for beginners. They make an impressive community fish that can be mixed with almost any other peaceful little fish.

I highly recommend this species. A platy tank is never boring. You can spend hours watching them wander around the reservoir and play.

Only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, are used by Nodisk One to substantiate the information in our articles.