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Last update: April 3, 2021

Platy Fish: Ultimate Guide (Care, Feeding, Tank)

When you take a look in most household aquariums, there’s one fish you’re almost guaranteed to spot.

The platy fish is easily one of the most common tropical fish species found in tanks in homes and offices, and they’re usually the first choice for people just starting out with an aquarium.

The platy fish is a tropical freshwater fish and they come in many beautiful colors and sizes. The reason for their popularity is how easy they are to look after, but there’s a lot more to these amazing fish than meets the eye.

How do you take care of a platy fish, then?

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

This comprehensive guide was designed to be the only resource on platies you’ll ever need, and it covers everything from their behavior to feeding.

If you have plans to add a platy fish to your aquarium, there’s a lot to learn, and we can help you out with our ultimate guide to these amazing creatures.

What is a Platy Fish?

Platy fish are part of the Xiphophorus genus and share a family with other Poeciliidae species including guppies and mollies, also known as being easy to care for and peaceful with other tankmates.

These tropical freshwater fish are one of the most popular aquarium fish kept by hobbyists and serious aquarists alike, because of their low maintenance care and beautiful look.

The platy fish varies in size with the standard adult male growing to be around 1.5 inches and the female slightly larger at up to 2.5 inches. These fish are found native to North America and Central America, which only makes their popularity as aquarium staples even more substantial.

The shape of the platy fish is similar to a molly with an almost diamond shape that has their head tapering to a fine point and their midsections widening before decreasing again at the tail.

These fish come in all shapes and sizes, and due to extensive breeding, their colors can vary dramatically. You can find a platy fish in almost any color imaginable with being iridescent and although small, they’re bright and friendly and make a great addition to any tank.

The Types of Platy Fish

Most people assume the platy fish is a singular species as they are so commonplace and sometimes hard to tell apart. However, there are three species that fall into the Platy fish category, including:

Swordtail platy (Xiphophorus xiphidium)

This is the rarest of platies and not often kept in an aquarium.

These fish are sometimes known as the Spike Tail Platy, which is because of the sharp spikes found on its fins.

Variable platy (Xiphophorus variatus)

The variable platy is usually referred to as such because of its interchangeable colors and greater diversity in looks, but because they have been bred so much, it’s hard to tell the difference between these and Southern platies.

Southern platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

The Southern platy was the first to be part of the aquarium hobby in the early 1900s around 30 years before the variable.

These are the most common of the species, but they have been bred heavily with the variable which now makes them quite similar.

Natural Habitat Of Platy Fish

Natural Habitat Of Platy Fish

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

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

Originally, the two main species of platy fish liked in Central America 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 tank conditions, including Australia and Hong Kong.

The platy fish has not been fully domesticated and unless kept in a tank, their interaction with humans in their natural environment is minimal.

They merely exist in waterways 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.

Ideal Tank Conditions for Your Platy Fish

Ideal Tank Conditions for Your Platy Fish

The platy fish is loved for being low maintenance and easy to look after, especially if you’re an amateur aquarist.

However, you still need to check a few things off to make sure the platy is living in the right conditions. Keep these things in mind if you plan on keeping these special types of fish.

Tank size

You should keep platies in nothing smaller than a 10-gallon tank with around 20 gallons being the maximum, depending on how many you keep.

As smaller fish they don’t take up a lot of room but still, need adequate space to live.

Temperature

Consider the surroundings of the room where a tank is kept before obtaining the ideal temperature for your platies.

You should aim for between 70 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit for these fish, but if you live somewhere colder or have the air conditioning always on, you might need a heater.

Water conditions

Platies prefer harder water that resembles their natural habitats. If using soft water to fill up a tank, add some minerals to it so it can achieve the right conditions.

Plants should be plentiful in an aquarium with platies as they help to filter the waste produced by the fish and provide ideal conditions for them to thrive.

Air pump

While it’s not necessary to use an air pump with platies, it can help to have a filter running that utilizes one.

This helps keep the tank clean and makes sure your fish have enough oxygen to be healthy.

pH levels

The platy fish is known for varying levels of pH but their preference is for something higher.

Keeping the water’s pH in between 6.8 and 8.5 is ideal for the platy fish but it won’t matter if it’s slightly off.

How, When, and What to Feed Them

How, When, and What to Feed Them

Platies are easy to keep fed and happy, and although they’re known as omnivorous, they do require a lot of vegetation and algae.

To strike the perfect balance, the platy owner should make sure they have their regular fish flakes or food but with enough vegetation in the tank to provide them this mix.

The platy is considered low maintenance with feeding but that doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate live food now and then. Options like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and fruit flies are a special treat for them and loaded with protein, so try to incorporate this into their diet when you can.

As far as feeding schedules go, this depends on their age. Young platy should be fed a few times a day and with smaller amounts as their digestive system matures.

As adults, you’ll be able to feed these fish just once a day like most other mature fish, which makes them generally easy to keep happy.

In the wild, it’s common for a platy to go without food for a day or two, so if you plan on going away overnight and are concerned about them starving, there’s no need to be. Just be sure not to overfeed them when you return to compensate for what they missed, and they should be okay.

The Best Tank Mates for Platy Fish

The Best Tank Mates for Platy Fish

Platy fish are renowned as peaceful and community-friendly fish which is another reason for their popularity.

Although they’re regarded as a good tankmate for most species, there are some that suit their nature better than others, so consider adding these other peaceful fish into the mix if you plan on keeping platies.

  • Swordtails
  • Mollies
  • Guppies
  • Characins
  • Tetras
  • Gouramis
  • Corydoras
  • Shrimps and snails

However, any large or aggressive fish should be kept away, as they will most likely devour platy. These include tiger barbs, bettas, wolffish, and cichlids, so keep these in a separate tank if you want to keep both.

General Care and Health

The platy fish is easy to take care of and they remain in relatively good health with minimal interference.

Provided the tank has been set up to have the right conditions and they eat a balanced diet with healthy water, you shouldn’t have many problems with these low maintenance fish.

These are hardy fish and aren’t prone to many diseases but common conditions like fin rot and ich can affect them occasionally.

You might be able to see this by visible flukes or spots on their body, otherwise, their behavior may change, and depending on how far the condition is, you’ll need to decide what to do with them which can include medication or a change in water conditions.

To ensure the best health and low levels of stress, they prefer to stay in a small group, and away from the aforementioned enemies they might have.

Aim to keep two or three female platies for every male as this helps to divide the attention the males give them and prevents them from being chased all day, as they are ferocious breeders.

With the right care, a platy fish should live between three to five years. Although easy to look after, they have a relatively short lifespan compared to other species, so this should be considered also when you’re planning out an aquarium and what type of fish you’ll keep.

Breeding Platy Fish

Platy fish are known as livebearers which is a type of fish that gives birth to live offspring and not eggs.

The fry of these fish have a better survival rate which is what helps platies to breed so efficiently, and in the right settings, this means up to 50 platy babies being birthed a month by one female.

If your platy are breeding in a community tank, they won’t be looked after by their parents, and it’s common for them to be eaten by other members of the aquarium.

Some filters can also pose a problem as they may be small enough to be sucked up so make sure you keep them covered with a spone in the intake filter.

For those planning on breeding many platies, it’s best to provide a lot of coverage in the tank that will allow the fry to hide.

Rocks, driftwood, plants, and other obstructions keep them away from their hungry, older tankmates and ensure a greater survival rate than if they were left to fend for themselves.

Due to their high breeding rate, it would be hard to keep all of the offspring for yourself, so have a plan in place if you want to keep them alive.

You could donate them to a pet store or give them to your friends with tanks unless you plan on breeding them for profit and selling those that survive. However, keeping all of them will crowd the tank and dirty the water faster, so it’s not advisable.

Costs of Owning Platy FIsh

Costs of Owning Platy FIsh

One of the biggest misconceptions about owning fish of any kind is that it’s a cheap and easy hobby to get into.

This can tempt some people into buying basic starter kits and then finding that they don’t provide the right conditions to keep fish happy or healthy, and certainly don’t apply to all species.

The platy fish is one of the cheapest fish to purchase though, costing between $2 to $4 depending on its size and color.

As fast breeders, it might not take long to create even more of them, so there’s no need to purchase a large group unless this is what you intend for your tank setup.

Once you have the fish costs established, you’ll then need to work out the more expensive costs. An aquarium setup requires many things like a pump, heater, filter, and tank, which will cost hundreds of dollars initially.

Then there is ongoing care, water testing, cleaning, filtration, and feeding, so it makes sense to do up a basic budget covering all of the costs before you commit to getting platy.

A Platy For Everyone to Love

A Platy For Everyone to Love

There’s more than just one good reason why platy fish is a popular choice for aquarium owners around the world, but many, as you can see.

These colorful fish are not only easy to care for but they look great in a tank as well, so there should be nothing stopping you from adding some to yours.

Platy fish are easily one of the best saltwater fish to own and they make great tank mates for so many other species.

With just a little bit of effort and the right conditions, a good aquarist can ensure they thrive, and these fish make a good choice whether it’s your very first tank or something you’ve been doing for years.

Related Questions

Platy fish are a great addition to aquariums, no matter your skill level or expertise when it comes to caring for aquatic life.

If you’ve been wondering what are the best fish to add to your tank or aquarium setup, read on to see the answers to some commonly asked questions people have about the various species.

What Are the Easiest Fish to Take Care Of?

If you’re a newcomer aquarist and want the lowest maintenance fresh water fish to keep, there are some regarded as the best.

Guppies, mollies, neon tetra, betta, angelfish, goldfish, and rainbowfish, are just some of the species that only require minimal care and are ideal for first-timers.

How Often Do I Feed My Fish?

The frequency and amount of feeding depend on the species of fish so you should take some time to research those that are in your aquarium.

Generally, once or twice a day is sufficient for fish feeding and only a small amount of flakes or food is needed, so be careful not to overdo it.

What Fish Don’t Die Easily?

Some fish species are easier to keep alive which can be an attractive trait for the beginner aquarist who is still unsure of their skills.

Species like Plecostomus, the betta, and the standard goldfish are all fairly hardy fish species that are easier to keep alive than most.

By Ian Sterling

I've been keeping fish for over 30 years and currently have 4 different aquariums – it's an addiction. I'm here to teach you everything there is to know about fishkeeping.

I also use this site as an excuse to spend lots of money on testing and reviewing different aquarium products! You can find my reviews here.

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