Aquarium fish are grouped in various categories. Most popular, I would say, are the livebearers. Of these, guppies, swordtails, mollies, and platys are the classic favorites.
My first experience with livebearers was with mollies. They are serene fish to have. I would say guppies are the most fashionable. Swordtails are dynamic, while platys are the underrated beauties. Why is that so? Platys are less active in motion and are smaller in size compared to mollies and swordtails. They are less striking than guppies in color and tail quality. However, when one experiences taking care of platys, one will then gain a different perspective on them. In my experience, platy fish are sturdier than swordtails and guppies. When you watch the behavior of platys, you will discover much pleasant uniqueness in them. They are fish that a breeder can produce in different strains.
- Easy to breed
- Come in a wide variety of colors and patterns
- Flexible in different tank set-ups such as
- Single specie group
Platys came from two related species of freshwater fish in the genus Xiphophorus , namely X. hellerii and X. maculates.
The two species, the southern and the variatus platy, have been interbred to the point where it is difficult to make a distinction between them. Most platys now sold in aquariums are hybrids of hellerii and maculatus.
Because of their hardiness, platys are easy to keep and are well suited to a community aquarium. Since they can handle water parameter fluctuations much better than any other fish, platys are often used as starter fish for a beginner’s tank for water cycling.
The platy comes in many different color varieties. Classic colors include.
- Red platy
- Red wag tail platy (red body with black tail )
- Red and Yellow Mickey Mouse platy (either red or yellow in body color. They have a black pattern at the tail that looks like the head and ear of Mickey Mouse when you look at them side ways)
- Blue moon platy
- Blue platy
Other strains of platy colors include salt and pepper platys, sunset, and tuxedo platy.
There are also long finned and high finned versions. Despite the color and fin variations, all are the same species of fish.
Breeding platys is rather straightforward and most of the time, it will happen on its own without intervention. Live food is best for breeding.
Being livebearers, these fish do not lay eggs, but release live, free-swimming fry. Pregnant female platys are easily identifiable by the size of their bellies and the darkening of the gravid spot right above the anal fin. Usually, the gestation period is around 28 days, after which the female gives birth to about 20-40 young at a time.
They are notorious for eating their own babies and in order to ensure that the fry have a high survival rate, there should be either heavy planting or the keeper should separate the female from her frys.
Caring for platy fish fry is extremely easy. At birth they are already active little swimmers. The fry will readily accept any small food offered to them.
Powdered flakes, brine shrimp, moina, and tubifex are great food for them. Fry reach maturity in just three to four months, after which they are then ready to breed as well!
Platys are peaceful fish and will live well with a wide variety of fish; these include:
- Live bearing fish, such as guppies, mollies, and swordtails
- Danios – Zebra, Giant danio, leopard
- Catfish – Corydoras and bristlenose
- Tetras – neon, cardinal, rummy nose, black, penguin
- Gouramis – blue, pearl, dwarf, neon, red
- Barb – Golden, rosy
When I attended the Aquarama show in Singapore a few years ago, I was so amazed when I visited a platy farm. I am used to visiting goldfish, koi, and multi-species farms. A farm dedicated to platys was a sight to see. It had such an impact on me that I told myself that one day, I would venture into establishing my own mini platy farm.
I started with classic strains last year, such as the red wagtail, Mickey Mouse, and blue moon. They provide you with a wonderful experience in exchange for the simple care provided to them. Now, more and more strains and varieties are being produced, such as the balloon shape and high fin types. Aquarium fish hobbyists should experience platy keeping, and I am confident about the simple adventure they will have.
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s May 2017 issue.