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Aquatics: Fish Profile: Livebearer Platys

Updated on November 18, 2011


The Bread and Butter Platy

This profile was inspired by a presentation on wild livebearers I attended at my local fish club. It made me realize that some of the staple fish we have in stores today are very different than their wild counterparts.

What the hobby today calls a "platy" is actually a hybridized fish between different species of platys and swordtails, creating bright colors, long fins, and other characteristics. A wild platy is generally a boring silver or tan fish with maybe a little red or yellow in it. Domestic platies are a stocking staple for most stores and a popular seller.

For simplicities sake (and because most people don't keep wild platy) we will say that a platy (xiphophorus maculatus) is a small, bright livebearer that goes well in community tanks.

Adult size: 2-3"

Temperament: extremely peaceful

Life Span: 2-3 years

Tank size: 10 gallons +

Breeding: Ridiculously Easy

Availability: Private local fish stores and chain stores

Price: Inexpensive

Quick Facts

Common name(s):

  • Red Way Platy
  • Sunburst platy
  • White Platy
  • Any-Color-Platy -- as long as it says platy on the end, it's a platy, just a different color

Scientific name: Xiphophorus Maculatus

Distribution: Central America

pH: 7.0-8.0

Temperature: 68-80F


Care for platys is very simple. They do well with or without an aquarium heater (in fact, they prefer it a little cooler than most tropical fish around 74F) and are fairly peaceful towards other fish. The exception to this being that males may bicker and hound females.

Platys do very well on a basic flake diet with supplements of freeze dried or frozen food and occasional vegetable treats (peas or zucchini work very well).

Platys are livebearers, meaning that they give birth to live babies. These babies develop inside the mother and come out full developed and functional. Platys are very, very easy to breed. All it takes is a male, a female, and some water. Females give birth once a month to up to 30 babies at a time. If you do not want or cannot take care of a lot of babies, purchase only males.

How you set up the tank is unimportant to them provided they have places to rest and hide, either plastic or live plants work very well. Bushy plants like hornwort and frill provide places for the fry to hide from the parents.

Personal Experience

My personal experience with these colorful little livebearers has been both working in a petstore and at home in my own tanks.

I've had the best luck keeping 1 male to 2 or 3 females. Female platys are just as pretty as the males are, so there's not reason not to have a good ratio. Male platys have three things on their little minds: food, safety, and sex! They are horny little guys and will pester a single female to death. Multiple females prevent him from pestering one gal too much. Alternately, if you don't want babies, you can do an all male tank.

Males and females are easy to sex! Boys have "that little thingy" or to be technical, a gonopodium where their anal in it. Think of it this way, if the anal fin is shaped like a fan, it's a girl. If it is shaped like a sword, it's a boy.

As I said at the beginning of the hub, platys have been bred to have a variety of beautiful colors and fin types. Unfortunately, this excessive controlled breeding has resulted in beautiful but weakened fish. This is why I do not recommend them for beginners.

Be very careful picking out platys at the store. They are very prone to fungus, especially fin, tail, and mouth rot. If you see fuzzy white stuff on any of the platys in the tank, don't buy from it. If you see little white dots on any of the platys in the tank, don't buy from it.

Once the platys establish in your tank, they are generally very hardy and will gift you with babies once a month. They are also very active fish and are always cruising around looking for food and swimming around decorations.

Sexing Platys


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    • eveliens profile image

      eveliens 7 years ago from SK

      Platys are extremely enjoyable little fish. I always recommend them for established community tanks for a splash of color and activity. Unfortunately, fry tend to be snacks if you don't pull them out, but occasionally you'll get a couple of surprises that reach full size :)

      Thank you for the comment!

    • chardee42 profile image

      chardee42 7 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Over the years I've had a number of platys in a community aquarium. They are a lot of fun. However, my goal was never to breed them, so the babies were usually eaten. : (