Platy fish are the ideal place to start for beginners new to fishkeeping. They’re low maintenance, passive, and thrive in groups of different species.
More importantly, they have vividly coloured bodies with a varied range of appearances. Platies have many hybrids and breeds with their species, all of which sport unique colours that can add a lot of flair to your community aquarium.
In this in-depth guide, we’ll discuss how to care for platyfish without breaking the bank.
|Level of Care
|Very varied appearance
|Can live for over 5 years
|Reach a size of 2.5 inches or more
|10 gallons minimum
|Heavily planted tank with freshwater
|Very peaceful with similarly sized community fish
- The Variable Platies
- The Swordtail Platies
- The Southern Platies
Platies have become commonplace in fishkeeping today and undergo extensive hybrid breeding to create species with different fin shapes and colours.
The Variable Platies and Southern Platies have been interbred to the point that it is difficult to tell individual specimens apart.
Southern Platies first became commonplace in fishkeeping in the early 1900s, and the Variable Platies came a little later in 1932.
Swordtail platies are generally a lot rarer. They are also referred to as Spike Tail platies because of the unique shape of their fins. All platies are hardy fish but have a small life span. They have a maximum life span of about 3 to 5 years if properly taken care.
You’ll quickly find Variable Platies and Southern Platies for sale in most pet stores, but the Swordtails are generally a lot more challenging to come by.
Platies are small with a large flattened appearance with a thick body. They have small short fins and a tail that is shaped like a fan. Most platies have large eyes, and a pointed nose, almost like a cartoon.
They have been extensively cross-bred from the Variable and Southern platies. Breeders prefer Swordtail platies to create more variations in fin shapes and colours.
Irrespective of the species you pick, platies are too curious species that will make your aquarium look lively.
Southern and Variable platies have a sturdy and shorter appearance, lacking the ‘sword’ that is seen on Swordtail platies. Their colours vary a lot, and you’ll see almost all kinds of colours under the rainbow, including blue, white, yellow, green, and red. The colour often corresponds to their natural habitat.
Platies also have varied patterns on their bodies, including:
- Variegated patterns with dark splotches of varies shapes and sizes
- Comet pattern with two black patches throughout the body, the outer margins of the tail is coloured in black
- Wagtail with black fins and tail
- Salt and peppered design with light or dark spots that are sprinkled generously over the body
- Rainbow pattern with an attractive iridescent appearance that reflects all kinds of colours
- Tuxedo with black on one half of the body and different colour on the other side of the body
- Mickey Mouse with three colours just before the tail end that bears an uncanny resemblance to Mickey Mouse.
As with other species, Platies also have albino variants.
They do have tiny variations in sizes between the different species. Female Variable platies reach a maximum length of about 3 inches while Southern platies barely make past 2.5 inches. Male platies are always smaller than females.
Sexual dimorphism becomes obvious when young platies have reached the age of about four months. Females will have a straight appearance and are generally larger when fully grown.
Male platies may take longer to achieve their varied, colourful appearance. Their anal fins look like rods and are known as their gonopodium.
Platy fish are known for being passive and peaceful. While they are not schooling or shoaling species, they do get along well with small groups. They’re incredibly active in the tank and will quickly breed.
Platy fish are active swimmers who occupy the middle portion of the aquarium, among plants, and like to hide between floating leaves.
While they don’t get aggressive or violent, male platies can overwhelm the females very quickly. To prevent the females from getting overwhelmed, always keep a higher ratio of females to males. A percentage of 3 females to 1 male is ideal for preventing them from getting too stressed out.
It is also worth noting that platyfish will actively try to jump out of their tank because they can be very active. To prevent nasty surprises like this, make sure the tank lid is always appropriately covered.
Tank Requirements and Conditions
Platy fish originate from the rivers of Central America. The three most common species come from the fast-moving freshwaters of South America:
- The Variable platies are native to the rivers of Mexico, from Rio Calzones to Rio Panuco
- The Swordtail platies are only found in Mexico’s Rio Soto La Marina
- The Southern Platies inhabit the river system of Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico
Keep in mind that platies are small active fish and require at least 10 gallons of water to move freely. The temperature of the water depends on the variety of fish you have.
Swordtail and Common platies like to be kept in 70 degrees F, but Variable platies thrive in 72 to 75 degrees F. If the temperature goes too high or dips too low, it will affect their colour.
The water currents should be prolonged or have no movement at all. Keep the pH value between 6.8 to 8 at a water hardness of about 25 dB.
They are a hardy fish and can live shallow water with no water current, such as warm springs, marshes, ditches, and canals. Their natural habitat has plenty of greenery, silt beds, and warm waters.
Platy fish are exceptionally durable fish and can thrive in all kinds of conditions.
That being said, it is recommended to change ¼ of the water every 14 days. Platies will enjoy their aquarium if you can mimic their natural habitat by providing the aquarium with a gravel substrate and dense vegetation.
There are a lot of plants you can choose, including duckweed and Java Moss. The arrangement of the plants depends on the species; for example, Variable platies prefer densely planted aquariums while the Southern platies prefer a more loose setting.
Best Plants to Choose for Platies
Java Moss: These plants are a popular choice in freshwater aquariums and a definite favourite of platies because they provide lots of hiding places for them.
Amazon Sword: This beautiful plant can be grown in a range of conditions and is easy to maintain. It can produce huge very quickly, so keep this in mind before buying it. They can survive in low lighting and with low levels of nutrients.
Java Fern: Java fern is ideal for platies because of its long clustered green leaves. They thrive in most water conditions and only require low to moderate light. It serves as the perfect hiding spot for fish and also doubles as background decoration.
Anubias Nana: An easy-to-keep aquatic plant for freshwater tanks. It grows exceptionally slowly, so make sure to buy enough to fit your tank correctly.
Tank Mates for the Platy
Platies are peaceful fish that don’t get aggressive at all. They co-exist with other fish and can be seen swimming around the tank in groups. You’ll often notice males showing some aggression to each other, but it never gets violent.
Other tank mates for the platies should be similarly sized species, especially if they come from the same species such as the Swordtails, Guppies, and Molies. They also peacefully live with Tetras, Corydoras, Gouramis, and small barbs. You can also keep snails and shrimps without fear of them getting eaten.
Tankmates that you should avoid include Arowanas, Tiger barbs, Vampire Bettas, and Cichlids because they are all large, aggressive fish that could confuse your Platies as prey.
How to Care for Platy Fish
Platies aren’t picky eaters and will thrive in any environment as long as you provide them with a varied diet. They are omnivorous species and will eat small worms, insects, crustaceans, and plants.
They prefer a diet rich in vegetables. Platies will eat most food, including live food, frozen food, and of course, vegetables. Make sure to provide them with a good source of flake food rich in nutrients.
You can feed them tubifex, bloodworms, and brine shrimp every once or twice a week for protein. Complement this with vegetables such as cucumber, spinach, squash, or supplements such as spirulina.
It has been observed that diets rich in vitamins result in the best appearances. Try to feed your platies several times per day, but only introduce as much food as they can eat within 3 minutes. Do not overfeed them, and clean out the tank of residual food matter once they’re done eating.
Platy Fish Diseases
Platy fish can easily fall victim to all kinds of ailments, some of which are preventable while others can be deadly. It is essential to know about common platyfish parasites, illnesses, and diseases as well as their cure.
It is highly recommended to take your platies to a licensed veterinarian when you’re unsure about the disease symptoms.
Ich Disease: This highly contagious disease is caused by ectoparasite, which finds its way in dirty water. It can also attack fish when they’re incredibly stressed out. Ectoparasites can be introduced into the tank by other fish species, decorations, and plants.
Symptoms include difficulty breathing, salt grain-like appearance, and constantly rubbing against the surface of the tank.
The best way to treat Ich diseases is to increase the water temperature to about 80 F, change 70% of the water, and clean the substrate thoroughly. It results in the parasite falling off the Platy fish. You can also add aquarium salt at one teaspoon per gallon.
Swim Bladder Disease: The swim bladder is an organ that affects how your fish swim in the water. This organ is filled with gas, and if it stops working, your platy will have trouble getting around. It is typically caused by poor water conditions, high levels of ammonia, and stress.
Symptoms include difficulty swimming, floating at an angle, and balance issues.
Treatment of the disease involves changing the water quality and finding out triggering factors such as stress.
Caution: If a virus causes inflammation of the swim bladder, it cannot be cured, and the fish will have to be removed from the water and disposed of properly.
Fin and Tail Rot: Both fungi and bacteria can cause fin and tail rot disease. It can be challenging to tell which of these are targeting your fish. The most common triggering factors are ammonia burns and low water conditions.
The fins and tails will start rotting, and look like it’s been shredded or chewed up. A milky colour will appear on the body in advanced stages.
The best way to treat fish and tail rot is to quarantine your diseased platies in a separate tank. You have to identify if the disease is caused by fungal infection or bacteria. In the case of a fungal infection, the treatment should involve fungal medication.
For bacteria, you should administer an antibiotic treatment. Both will be tough on your platies but are necessary for their survival.
Regularly change 50% of the water in the aquarium to keep the tank quarantined.
How to Breed Platies
Platies are livebearing fish, which means that females will keep their eggs inside their bodies until the fry are fully developed. They are active breeders and don’t need much prodding to engage in spawning.
All you need to do is to keep the male and female platies in the same tank for them to initiate breeding. The only tricky part is identifying males from females among young platies, but females are plain-looking and larger while males are smaller in appearance with a colourful body.
Platies are known for eating their fry, which means you should keep them in a separate tank with about 20 gallons of water and adequate filtration.
However, you can breed platies successfully in their regular tank, make sure there are enough hiding spaces with dense plantation so that the fry can find a place to hind.
Female platies will carry up to 80 fries. They will carry their eggs for 30 days before giving birth to live fry. Platy fry knows how to swim from the get-go and need nutrition involving egg yolk and dry food.
Popular breeds from the original strains of Variable platies are Yellowtail, Redtail, Sunset, Hawaii, and Marigold Platy.
Popular varieties derived from Southern platies are the Salt and Pepper, the Moon, the Half-Moon, the Blue Mirror, the Bleeding-Heart Platy, and the Coral. These names have been aptly selected based on their appearance and colour variations.
What to Feed Platy Fry?
As soon as the platy fry are born, they’re ready to eat. It will not eat regular food because it won’t fit in fry mouths. Find flakes designed for small fry.
Alternatively, you can also crush regular flakes into smaller bits. It would help if you kept fry on a varied diet to accelerate their growth so they can quickly mature into healthy adults.
Juvenile platyfish have a short digestive cycle and are always ready to eat every time. Make sure to feed fry frequently (at least five times a day). Do not overfeed them because it will cause digestive issues for your fry.
Other than flakes, you can also feed them egg yolk paste, baby shrine shrimp, vinegar eels, and micro-worms.
How to Tell if a Platy is Pregnant?
It is easy to identify pregnant platies because their abdomens become very large, and their skin may become transparent enough to make out individual ‘eyes’ as the fry develops in their bodies. Occasionally, pregnant female platies will develop a black mark on their abdomens as an indication of their pregnancy.
Are Platies Aggressive?
Platys are known for being peaceful community fish that get along well with other species. You will only notice high aggression levels when you introduce two males in the tank, and they’re only sizing up each other most of the time.
You might find that males overwhelm the females, which is why it is essential to keep more females in the tank at a ratio of 3 to 1.
How do Big Do Platys get?
Like most freshwater fish found in slow-moving streams and canals, platies are small and only reach a maximum size of about 3 inches.
How Long do Platys Live?
While platies are incredibly resistant to disease and can live in a range of water conditions, they have a relatively short life span of about five years if they correctly care.
Where to Buy Platies?
Platies can be bought from pet stores, online stores, forums, and hobbyists. You should have no difficulty finding Common platies and Southern platies. However, Swordtail platies are a bit harder to come by. They are so commonplace that you’ll quickly find an assortment of them for only about $5.
Conclusion: Are Platies the Right Choice for Your Aquarium?
Platy fish are beautiful, active, and peaceful. They are incredibly resistant to all kinds of diseases and thrive in a range of water conditions. They are the right choice for anyone new to fish keeping as a hobby. You have to maintain the proper water conditions and feed them regularly.
Just make sure to keep the tank densely populated with lots of plants and your platies will be happy.
Pro Tip: Do not keep them with fish known for bullying others. Keep them in a peaceful community, and you’ll do well.