Platy Fish | Ultimate Care Guide & Types of Platy

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Platy Fish, also known as either “Xiphophorus maculatus” or “Xiphophorus variatus”, depending on the specific variation, can be a great addition to your aquarium. Originating from Central America and Mexico, these freshwater fish are a popular selection due to their variety of vibrant colors, their docile nature, and how easy they are to care for. Although wild platies are generally less colorful and vibrant, they are often crossbred with another type of platy or even with their close cousins, the swordtail fish. Both of these species are vast in the wild, and with aquarists. With many different kinds of platies, aquarists are provided with a variety of options of what exactly they’d like to add to their aquarium.

Platies vary in size based on a multitude of factors including their sex, environment, and species, but they generally range from around two inches to three inches. Platy fish are usually expected to live longer in the wild than the expected two to three years in captivity. As with all fish, it’s important to remember that with the proper care and appropriate tank conditions, they will be able to truly thrive. Overall, platy fish make for an excellent option when someone is just starting out.

Platy Fish Care

Platy Fish are considered easy to care for. A significant part of the reason that platies are such a popular selection among aquarists is that they are relatively low maintenance, and most variations prove to be docile. Although they have their preferences, they can tolerate most tank conditions and adapt quickly. Platies are also known to be a good fish for beginners that aren’t yet well versed in the hobby.


The ideal water temperature for a platy is anywhere within the range of 70-77 degrees Fahrenheit. Thanks to the platy’s high tolerance and adaptability, the large range can make it easier for the aquarist to keep other tank members within their own desired temperature range. Having a large range also means that changes to their environment won’t be as shocking as it could be to some other fish who can only tolerate a range of a few degrees.

Water pH

Platies are flexible and will tolerate a pH anywhere within 6.8-8.0 but a potential owner should note that these fish prefer their water to be more on the alkaline side. When it comes to the hardness of the water, it’s best to opt for a hardness that is within the range of 10-28 dGH as they are used to hard water in their natural wild habitat.

Platy Fish
Platy Fish (Xiphophorus maculatus x Xiphophorus variatus)

Platy Fish Size

Platies can grow to be a range of sizes based on several factors including their environment, diet, and sex. Usually, the females are slightly bigger at a maximum of around three inches while males are slightly shorter at around two inches.

Food & Diet

Another reason that platy fish are a common selection and part of what makes them so easy to keep is that they are omnivores. This means that they will willingly eat a variety of food, including algae and other plant matter to insects or other small crustaceans. So long as their diet is rich in vitamins and nutrients, they are not likely to turn food away. Although they aren’t picky eaters, they truly thrive when their diet primarily consists of flake food and vegetables of good quality. Every once in a while, it’s okay to give them frozen foods.

Do Platy Fish eat algae?

Platy Fish do eat algae. They are known to potentially graze on algae in between feedings.

Platy Fish Lifespan

There are no guarantees when it comes to lifespan as there are so many outside factors that may contribute to the situation, but on average, a platy fish can be expected to live for between three and five years.

Platy Fish Tank Size

Every five-six platies should have ten gallons, although more is always better as platies are very active and would benefit from a lot of space in an elongated tank.

Platy Fish Tank Setup

Platies are not picky and will be okay with whatever substrate the owner chooses to use. Some owners may like to have a substrate that is darker in color in order to truly show off the platy’s colors. These freshwater tanks do not require excessive amounts of maintenance, but it is recommended that a water change of at least 25-30% be done twice a month. Although some owners may prefer to have one, it is not necessary to have a bubbler in the tank, so long as the tank is a significant amount of space. On a similar note, it’s important to avoid filtration systems that cause currents that are excessively strong. Platies are accustomed to slow-moving water. It is also important to avoid harsh lighting. A gentle and moderate light should be used during the day and either turned off or dimmed at night in order to emulate the cycle of day and night. Using plants to provide hiding spots for platies can help them feel at home. Being that platies prefer to be swimming up at the surface, it would also be comforting if the tank had some floating plants.

In the wild, a platy’s natural habitat lies in calm bodies of water including streams and rivers in warmer climates such as Mexico, Nicaragua, and several other countries.

Platy Fish Breeding

Although platies are typically known to be relatively docile, it isn’t uncommon for male platies to bother females or show aggression towards other males when breeding. Preventing this aggression can be as easy as ensuring that there are more females in the tank than males. It is generally recommended that a tank has a female to male ratio of 3:1.

How do Platy Fish breed?

Breeding this species is very easy. Females store the sperm of the males. This means that one fertilization can lead to multiple pregnancies. If your goal is to breed, warmer temperatures will help the process. If you’re not adamant about breeding, you can keep the tank at a slightly cooler temperature which can give the females a break.

Do Platy Fish lay eggs?

Platies do not lay eggs since they are livebearers. They carry their young until they are born. After around an average of thirty days of gestating, the female will give birth to anywhere from twenty to one hundred fry that are immediately free-swimming.

Pregnant Platy Fish

When a Platy Fish is pregnant, you can expect the female to be plump and potentially even develop a black spot on her body which is commonly referred to as a gravid spot, which changes throughout the pregnancy.

What are signs that Platy Fish is about to give birth?

Females are known to exhibit specific behaviors when they are preparing to give birth. First, they will try to find a safe place to give birth. Some of their behaviors that may be less obvious include swimming in circles, being a little sluggish, or staying closer to the surface of the water. Staying close to the top of the water will make it easier for them to take the deep breaths that they need, being that they will have a lack of oxygen.

How do Platy Fish give birth?

It’s important for your platy to be healthy when they give birth as it can be quite difficult otherwise. They either give birth through their gill slits or through their mouth. That being said, you can imagine that it would be difficult to survive birth if something was already taking a toll on the body.

Platy Fish Babies

Comparable to many other species, platy babies are vulnerable and viewed as prey. It’s important to separate the fry if you want them to survive. However, if you’re going for a more natural cycle of life, a select number of fry may find some hiding spots within the plants in the tank where they can keep a low profile until they eventually make it to adulthood.

Platy Fish Male or Female

One factor that may help you determine the sex of your fish is their size. Although it is important to note that variable platies have a tendency to be a little bit larger than southern platies, comparing fish within the same species may help sex them. Generally, males are a little bit smaller than females, with males growing to around two inches in length and females averaging around three inches in length.

Platy Fish Disease

Platies are not more likely to get any specific diseases, but they are vulnerable to the common freshwater diseases such as fin rot, ich, and velvet.

Fin Rot

This disease is caused by stress and a tank with poor water quality. Some platies, such as the long-finned varieties are more prone to being infected with fin rot than other types of platies. Your fish may have fin rot if you notice changes in the coloration of their fins or if they suddenly appear to be ragged or tattered.


This disease is caused by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, a protozoan. If you notice white spots anywhere on your fish’s body, including their fins and gills, and they are suddenly exhibiting lethargic behavior or rubbing against rough structures, they may be ill with ich.


This disease is caused by a parasite called Öodinium. Your fish may have velvet if you notice new, rust-colored cysts that have started to appear. The fish’s behavior might suddenly include unusual swimming patterns, lethargy, and rubbing against rough structures in the tank.

Platy Fish Tank Mates

Platies are known to do well and truly thrive in groups of six. In order to prevent excessive aggression, it’s ideal to keep three female platies for every one male. The ideal tank mates for platies consist of other docile fish of similar size that will keep to themselves and avoid bothering the platies.

Platy Fish and Goldfish

Goldfish and Platy Fish will be compatible as tank mates provided that there is no breeding. Goldfish don’t usually bother with platies as they are too large for them to eat, but their young do not have that same protection as a larger size. Visually, the variety of colors that the platies can bring to the tank will greatly complement a goldfish.

Platy Fish and Guppies

Guppies and platies would be good tank mates as they are both relatively docile and won’t bother one another in the tank. Some of their other similarities are their preferred water conditions. Both guppies and platies are also live-bearing fish.

Platy Fish and Betta

Bettas and Platies should not be put together as tank mates as their temperaments differ. Bettas are aggressive and move very quickly, both of those things being the opposite of the Platy characteristics.

Platy Fish and Neon Tetra

Neon Tetras would also be good tank mates for Platy fish as they aren’t aggressive and grow to a similar, yet smaller, size.

Where can I find Platy Fish for sale?

Generally, Platy Fish can be found in a variety of both online stores and local pet stores.

Platy Fish Price

As with most fish, the variety of the fish can alter the price, but you can usually expect to pay around $3 to $6 per fish. Looking at those that may be slightly more expensive, at around $9.

Platy Fish vs Molly Fish

Both platy fish and molly fish are good fish to keep as they are generally expected to be peaceful and relatively tolerant to a range of water parameters. When it comes to deciding which fish you should add to your tank, there are a few things to consider. First, if you’re looking for a specific body type, platies are generally rather short and round whereas mollies are described as long and lean. The two can also be found in specific colors, some of which you may be looking to include or avoid. More importantly than the look that you are trying to achieve in your aquarium, it’s important to consider the tank mates that these fish can tolerate as they are not the same. If you are looking to start a tank, this doesn’t come into play as much, but if you are trying to add some life to an already established tank where you currently have fish, this is a large part of your decision. Due to the similarities in diet, behavior, and size, platy fish and molly fish can be kept together or separately depending on the aquarist’s preferences.

Platy Fish Types

There are many different types of Platy fish. Here’s a list of some of the popular types of Platy fish.

Southern Platy fish

Southern Platies (Xiphophorus maculatus) are generally slightly smaller in size than variable platies. This is partially due to the shape of their body. Southern platies are known for having shorter and rounder bodies than variatus platies.

Variatus Platy

Variatus platies are usually slimmer and slightly longer in appearance than southern platies, giving them a reputation for being the slightly larger one out of the two.

Mickey Mouse Platy

This platy is marked by its differentiating Mickey Mouse-shaped mark near the fish’s tail. These platies are known to come in a few different colors but can be difficult to find and obtain.

Sunburst Platy

The pattern and coloration of these fish give the illusion of a sunrise. It may be slightly difficult to distinguish the difference between the sunburst platy which emulates a sunrise and the sunset platy which emulates, well, just that.

Red Wag Platy

Less obviously named than some of the other platy variations, the red wag platy is a red-orange color but also features a significant amount of black coloration, primarily on the fins.

Bumblebee Platy

With a similar black and yellow coloration, this platy can bring the feel of a bumblebee to your tank! There are usually black spots around the fish’s head and the body is a golden yellow color.

Blue Platy

Usually, a variation of the Mickey Mouse platy, this fish has a beautiful blue color to it that can add some vibrant coloration to your aquarium.

Green Lantern Platy

It’s not hard to imagine why these platies may be hard to find when you take a look at their beautiful green scales that appear to be shiny and almost iridescent.

Panda Platy

These platies are the implied black and white, their body being all white while their fins are black.

Sunset Platy

The sunset platy appears to be a fan favorite with its rich colors emulating a sunset and bringing bold coloration to any aquarium.

Dalmatian Platy

Similar to panda platies, the dalmatian platy has an entirely white body, but black spots are also featured throughout the body, similar to a dalmatian.

Hi Fin Platy

These platies can be found in a variety of patterns and colors. The similarity across all of them is their lengthy dorsal fin that arches over their back.

Swordtail Platy

These platies are similar to pintail platies, the main difference being that the bottom of their tail is even more elongated and comes to a sharp point, earning the title swordtail.

Dwarf Platy

As one could probably assume, dwarf platies are simply a smaller version of regularly sized platies due to an extra genetic mutation. They grow to be around an inch in length, compared to the usual 2-3 inches.

Rainbow Platy

These platies are known to have a seemingly rainbow-like appearance, complemented with a black tail. This colorful and iridescent fish can be found in lighter tones or darker tones.

Painted Platy

The painted platy can be easily identified by observing the black, orange, and yellow coloration. Their body is usually a yellow or orange color while black splotches gradually make the shift from black to orange throughout.

Black Platy

Although one may assume that black platies would be entirely black, this is actually a rarity. Usually, black platies are primarily black, but they may have other colors thrown into the mix.

Orange Platy

As one could assume, orange platies are named after their vibrant coloration. Making the distinction between platies that are orange and orange platies can be fairly difficult as orange is the primary color in multiple variations.

Comet Platy

Comet Platy, also known as Twin Bar Platy, can be found in several colors, but orange and yellow are the most frequently seen. Both the top and bottom of the tail feature black stripes.

Gold Red Platy

As you can imagine simply by reading the name, these platies consist of both gold and red. The front half of their body is a gold/yellow color, and it gradually fades into a deep red, giving the fish a look similar to a sunset. Their fins help to emphasize the color of their body as they are typically either black or translucent. While the gold and red variation is the most common, selective breeding has introduced variations that may include blue and green.

Pintail Platy

This platy is less common than the previously mentioned Hi Fin platy, with an elongated tail that appears to be pin-like.

Red Coral Platy

As implied by the name, this platy is colored a vibrant red throughout.

Salt and Pepper Platy

Despite this platy’s potentially misleading name, the primary color of their body can vary. The name comes from the fact that these platies have black spots scattered throughout its body.

Tuxedo Platy

This platy has also been known to come in a variety of colors, the consistency that earned the name “tuxedo” comes from the patch of black in the center of the fish’s body.