Keeping Tropical Fish: How to care for platyfish

Keeping Tropical Fish: How to care for platyfish

Platies are an ideal fish species for both beginners and seasoned fish keepers, thanks to their low-maintenance requirements and playful nature. 

In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about keeping platies, including advice and guidance on what they are, how to identify them, how to breed and care for them and more. Once you’ve finished reading this post, you can rest assured that you’ll have the knowledge required to ensure your platys thrive in an aquarium environment.  

So, if you’re ready to start exploring the world of platys and discover how to keep them happy and healthy for years to come, keep reading... 

Platy / Platies (Xiphophorus variatus)




Central America, South America & Mexico.

Tank Dweller

Mid to level.

Adult Size

2-3 inches.

Social Compatibility


Minimum Tank Size






Life Expectancy

2- 3 years.

pH Level

7.0 – 8.0.


18°C - 28°C.


What is a platy fish, and where do they come from?

Platies (Xiphophorus maculatus) are a tropical fish species, native to freshwater lakes across Central America, South America and Mexico. As we mentioned above, platies belong to the Poeciliidae family.

In addition to rivers, platies can also be found amongst marshes, streams and warm springs. They live in areas of dense vegetation, darting in and out of the plants to find food and avoid predators. 

Although commonly mistaken as one, singular species, this isn’t true. There are several different types of platies (e.g. Xiphophorus helleri and the Xiphophorus variatus) found both in the wild and captivity, which is one of the many reasons this fish species is a popular choice for hobbyists. 

You’ll be able to find many different platies that showcase bright and beautiful colours, along with several distinct pattern variations. Platies in the wild tend to look pale brown/ olive green in colour. All the colours and patterns that can be found in pet shops today are down to selective breeding through many generations.

Platy fish are livebearers, which means they give birth to live young, instead of laying eggs. In terms of temperament, these fish species are known for being incredibly peaceful, making them an equally fantastic addition to small and large community aquariums. 

What do platies look like?

Platies are small fish with thick bodies, pointed noses and large eyes. They have small dorsal, anal, and caudal fins, as well as a fan-shaped tail. 

As we mentioned earlier, there is a huge variety of colours that platy fish can be, which include red, black, white, orange, yellow and blue. Several typical platy fish pattern variations also include (but are not limited to): 

  • Variegated platy - these types of platies have black blotches over some parts of the body.
  • Tuxedo platy - black colouring only on the back half of the body. The other half of the body can be of any colour.  
    • Rainbow platy - also known as Neon platy, this type of colouring usually consists of three distinct shades that fade into one another. 
    • Wagtail platy  - all-black colouring located solely on the fins and tail.
    • Mickey Mouse platy - as you may have guessed by the name, this pattern consists of three spots just before the tail that look just like the Mickey Mouse symbol.
    • Comet platy - these platies are of solid body colour. 
    • Hi-fin platy - the dorsal fin is elongated and sometimes pointed, and they can be a variety of colours and patterns.
    • Pintail platy - The middle of the tail fin stretches out into a point (like a pin). Pintail platies can also showcase a variety of colours and patterns. 

      What do platies eat?

      Platies are omnivorous, and in the wild, you’d find them spending their time grazing on a variety of algae, moss, and other plant matter, as well as invertebrates, larvae, and sometimes, fish eggs. 

      With platies, it’s important to provide this type of tropical fish with a diet that will replicate their natural one as closely as possible. 

      So, what can you feed them? We’d recommend a tropical crumb feed on a daily basis, as this will act as a staple food for this species, providing them with the majority of what they require to thrive and stay healthy. For young platies, however, it’s not uncommon for aquarists to feed them twice or three times a day, whilst they are maturing. 

      Also, ensuring you’re adding vitamin-rich foods to their diet is essential, so, we’d also recommend bug bites. This will actually enhance their colouring to appear more vibrant, too. Fluval offer a superb range of bug bites that are packed with nutritional value, which you’ll find stocked over in our aquarium food range. 

      For little treats, platyfish can also be given blood worms, daphnia and brine shrimp twice a week.

      To browse the best selection of high-quality aquarium food, click here. 

      Do platies produce a lot of waste?

      Platies aren’t known for producing significant amounts of waste. But, nevertheless, a proper filtration system will still be required to ensure the water quality remains at an ideal level. 

      How do I know if I’m overfeeding platyfish?

      A telltale sign of an overfed platyfish would be that they have long, string-like poop dangling from their behinds. If you spot this, consider reducing the portion sizes. 

      Which fish can I keep platies with?

      Platies are a very peaceful community fish and will get on well with the majority of other small tropical fish. So, as an example, some popular tank mates for platies include (but are not limited to):

      • Zebra danios.
      • Corydoras.
      • Dwarf gourami.
      • Tetras.
      • Rasboras.
      • Rainbow fish.
      • Siamese fighting fish.
      • Otocinclus catfish.
      • Bristlenose plecos.

      Which fish species should I avoid keeping with platies?

      Tank mates to avoid would be any species that grow large enough that they may eat the platies or any fish that are particularly aggressive towards smaller fish. 

      Some non-compatible species, for example, would be (but not limited to):

      • Reed fish.
      • Pictus catfish.
      • Parrot fish (and other Cichlid species). 
      • Tiger barbs. 

      For any further advice on possible tank mates for platies pop in store or give us a call on 01204 582105. Alternatively, click here to be taken to our contact information page. 

      Why would platies show signs of aggression?

      Although platyfish are known for their incredibly relaxed and peaceful nature, there are some instances where they can show aggression. This type of behaviour is usually only seen on a species-to-species basis. 

      If platies are showing signs of aggression towards one another, it could be because the tank is too small or there is overcrowding. Other common reasons include the ratio of males to females being unbalanced (there should always be more females), or they are being exposed to less than idyllic water conditions. 

      How many platies should be kept together?

      Generally speaking, platies thrive in small groups. So, around 3 to 6 platies is a good number to have within an aquarium, along with other peaceful community fish. 

      It’ll simply come down to the size of your aquarium and the split between males and females. The split is incredibly important to consider, and we’ll go into more detail as to why below. 

      How to breed platyfish

      Platies are one of the easiest fish species to breed. And, most of the time, it happens without even trying! So, if you have males and females in the tank, it is more than likely you will end up with platy babies swimming around the aquarium. 

      Female platies have a rounded, triangular anal fin, whereas the male’s anal fin is more pointed and shows an elongated reproductive apparatus, called a gonopodium. 

      And, generally speaking, you should keep one male platy for every three females to prevent the males from constantly chasing the females and trying to mate. In fact, having more females in the tank reduces the stress on individual females, along with ensuring they are not being harassed by the males in the tank. 

      As we mentioned earlier in the article, platies are livebearers. So, they will give birth to live young, and it’s usually between 20- 50 babies at a time. They will breed every 3 to 4 weeks, but once they have given birth, they are terrible parents.

      There are two main methods for raising the fry, which we’ll go into more detail about below. 


      Hatchery is when the female looks like they are about to give birth, you can place them into a hatchery, which will keep the fry away from the other fish in the tank. 

      This is usually until they are big enough to stand up for themselves (normally about eight weeks old). Once the female has given birth, she can then be placed back into the main tank.

      Taking cover

      If your tank has a deep or thick substrate, or even includes built-up areas consisting of rocks, pebbles, hides and caves, the fry will use these sections to instinctively hide away in the crevices until they are large enough to thrive in the main areas of the tank. The same goes for if there are densely planted areas or artificial plants present. 

      Please note that there may be a higher risk of loss through this method. However, the majority of newborn platies should make it to adulthood.

      To browse our selection of aquarium decorations, click here. 

      How long are platies pregnant for?

      Generally speaking, female platyfish will be pregnant for 24 to 35 days, however, the number of days can vary slightly. It’s also worth noting that their ‘labour’ can take up to 7 days to complete. 

      How can I tell if a platyfish is pregnant?

      There can be a few signs to look out for that are usually good indicators that platies are pregnant. 

      This includes behavioural changes (they might be more aggressive than usual, which is out of character for this species), a swollen abdomen, and/or the presence of a dark spot, which continues to grow to be more visible. This dark spot is usually located near the stomach or the anal fin. It’s also worth mentioning that platies can be as young as 4 months old when becoming pregnant for the first time! So, don’t rule out young platies being pregnant if there’s also a male present in the tank. 

      How to care for platies

      Platies are renowned for being an excellent fish species for all aquarists, no matter whether you’re a beginner to the hobby or have been fishkeeping for many years. This is because platies are incredibly easy to keep and are generally quite happy creatures, as long as the water parameters remain ideal and consistent. 

      Water quality and temperature

      Water quality can be checked using an aquarium test kit. Although a heater is not always essential if the room is warm, platyfish do not react well to a sudden drop in temperature. So, having a heater in the tank, on a thermostat, is always a good idea, even if it’s just to ensure that the temperature of the tank remains at a consistent level.

      Space to roam around the aquarium

      Platyfish enjoy darting and swimming around aquariums, so providing some open, non-obstructed spaces will ensure you’re creating an environment that they will enjoy living in. 

      They also like to explore and have their own space away from one another so adding a variety of ornaments and other decorations that they can swim in and out of will provide further stimulation and rest areas for the fish.

      Add aquarium plants to the tank

      Platies are often a popular choice of fish to include in aquascape tanks, or even just heavily planted tanks. This is because platies would struggle to uproot the plants, and won’t cause any harm or damage to their aesthetic. 

      Platies adore planted settings, and you’ll regularly spot them spending their time hiding within the vegetation when they’re not being active. This is because aquatic plants are where platies would find comfort in the wild, so it’s mimicking their natural habitat. 

      Adding plants will also create the ideal environment to grow fry, due to the dense vegetation. It’s worth mentioning that if you’re planning on making sure the tank is heavily planted, you will require some essential equipment to promote plant growth, creating a healthy and thriving live plant aquarium (e.g. a CO2 (or plant) boost, along with an LED plant light). 

      To find everything you need for aquarium vegetation, click here to browse our aquascape collection today.

      If you’re not overly fond of the idea of having multiple live plants in your aquarium, artificial plants are also a popular choice for those who would like to create a low-maintenance environment. 

      Decorate the aquarium with stones and caves 

      As we touched on briefly earlier, aquarium decorations are essential for providing stimulating entertainment to platies. Because of this, you’ll frequently spot platies swimming through and around aquarium decorations!

      So, if you’re planning to add platyfish to your aquarium, make sure to add plenty of rocks, caves and ornaments to their environment. And in terms of the substrate, platies don’t tend to be picky between sand or gravel variations - so take your pick! 

      Create the perfect environment for platies with Complete Koi 

      We hope you’ve found our guide on caring for platyfish useful. This is a truly remarkable fish species, bound to bring you much joy as an aquarist. 

      And remember, if you’re yet to find what you need to create the perfect environment for platies, you’ll be able to find what you need with us today. We have a dedicated aquarium section bursting with a wide variety of premium quality aquarium products, offering everything from equipment and decorations to food, filtration systems, premium tanks and much more. 

      So, make sure to set up the perfect aquarium environment with Complete Koi. Alternatively, if you require more advice, feel free to reach out to us as we’re always happy to help fellow aquatic enthusiasts. Click here to be taken to our contact information page. 

      Shop the best aquarium products & accessories for platies at Complete Koi today

      For more information and advice on aquatics, check out the rest of our blog…


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