Platies Ultimate Platy Fish Care Guide: Food, Parameters, Tank

Ultimate Platy Fish Care Guide: Food, Parameters, Tank

Platy fish are a popular freshwater fish in the Poeciliidae family that’s very popular in the fishkeeping hobby. Platies are liked because they are fairly easy to care for and have a peaceful temperament.

This guide provides our best advice about caring for platy fish.

Platy fish facts and overview

Native to:Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras
Common names:Platy fish, platies, southern platies, variable platies, swordtail platies
Length:Up to 3 inches
Color:Orange, red, yellow, blue, white and many patterns
Diet type:Omnivore
Diet food:Pellets, flakes, frozen, freeze dried, live, blanched fruit & vegetables
pH:7.5-8.5 pH
Temperature:75-80°F (24-27°C)
General hardness:10-20 dGH (178-356ppm)
Care level:Somewhat easy
Group size:6 or more
Cost:$3-5 USD

What is a platy fish?

Platies are a freshwater fish in the Xiphophorus genus that are very popular in the fishkeeping hobby due to their abundance and ease of care. Platy fish are considered livebearers because they give birth to live fry instead of laying eggs like most species.

Are platies tropical fish?

Platies are considered freshwater tropical fish because they live in heated freshwater aquariums. However, they are often bred abroad or live naturally in brackish water with some degree of salinity. Platies do best in aquariums heated to between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit (24-27 degrees Celsius).

Where do platy fish come from?

Platy fish are native to Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and other countries along the eastern coast of Central America. However, most platies bought from local fish stores have been bred locally or nationally. Many fish retailers will even buy platy fry locally from amateur fishkeepers.

Female platy

How long do platies live?

Healthy platy fish will live between 2-3 years in an average aquarium. Some may live as long as 5 years when they are well kept and stress is minimized. However, many platies experience shorter lifespans in suboptimal environments with soft water.

Platies are considered a versatile aquarium fish because they can adapt to a variety of water parameters. While this is true, they certainly tend to live happier and healthier lives in water with adequate general hardness (magnesium & calcium ions).

How much do platy fish cost?

Platies are usually sold at retail for between $3-5 USD. They are one of the less expensive freshwater fish species because they are abundant. Most local fish stores will sell at least a couple platy varieties.

Platy appearance and behavior

How big do platies get?

Platies grow to about 3-inches when fully grown. Platy fry are only a couple centimetres in length to begin with, but will rapidly grow over the first few weeks. It takes about 6-8 months for platies to grow into their adult size.

Different types of platy fish

Xiphophorus maculatus (Southern platyfish) and Xiphophorus variatus (Variable platyfish) are the two primary platy species common in the fishkeeping hobby. In reality, there are more than 20 closely-related fish species within the Xiphophorus genus.

Xiphophorus hellerii (Swordtails) are another related species that you’ll often find at your local fish store. All of these species are capable of breeding with each other.

Different types of platyfish

In fact, many of the platies you buy from your local store will contain some mixture of these three platy varieties, among others.

Platies also come in dozens of colors and patterns. Red wag tail and mickey mouse are two of many popular platy varieties you will likely see in the fishkeeping hobby.

Caring for platies

Are platies easy to keep?

Platies are relatively easy to keep because they will live in a variety of water parameters, behave peacefully with many community fish species, and wil voraciously eat whatever you feed them. However, there are certain conditions that platy fish will do best in.

For example, we have found that understocking, proper male-to-female ratios, and planted tanks are a few things that have noticeably improved our platy fish health and happiness.

Are platy fish good for beginners?

Platies are a fairly good beginner fish because they have a peaceful temperament and will live in a variety of water parameters. This allows entry-level hobbyists to learn fishkeeping fundamentals without posing too much risk to their aquatic life. However, platies can become stressed and show signs of aggression under circumstances where other species may not, such as bettas.

How many platies should be kept together?

A group of 6 platies or more is best because it tends to prevent loneliness or aggression. Small groups in small tanks often create territorial issues among the small group. It’s best to keep at least 3 female platies for every 1 male. This prevents the males from pestering any individual female too much.

Platies are excellent community fish and pair well with many similar-sized freshwater species, especially other livebearers such as guppies and endlers.

What should you feed platy fish?

Platies are omnivores and require a varied diet of protein and vegetables. A great technique is to feed your platy fish a high-quality pellet 4-5 times per week and then mix in a variety of live and frozen foods the other 2-3 days. You can also feed platies blanched and unseasoned vegetables and fruit such as garlic, strawberries and zucchini.

Platies eating blanched strawberries

How often should you feed your platy fish?

A once-per-day feeding schedule is best for platy fish to eliminate problems from overfeeding. If you’re using pellets, flakes or frozen foods, feed them enough that they will consume in less than one minute. You can toss chunks of blanched vegetables and fruit on the bottom of the tank for an hour before removing.

Platies asking for food

Tank requirements

Best tank size for platies

Many people recommend keeping platies in tanks that are 10-gallons or larger. IN our experience, 10-gallon tanks caused frequent aggression and stress issues. Our platies’ quality of life improved dramatically after adding them to a 20-gallon tank.

We have found that groups of six or more platies tend to work better than groups of 3-4. Platies are social fish and prefer groups. As a result, a 20-gallon tank size is usually the best place to start.

20-gallon planted tank with platies

Best water parameters for platies

Platies do best in 7.5-8.5 pH, 10-20 dGH (178-356ppm), and 75-80°F (24-27°C). Platies especially benefit from having hard water.

Platy FAQs

Will platy fry survive in a community tank?

Some platy fry will survive in a community tank if there is an abundance of live plants or hiding spots. The fry tend to have instincts that help them stay away from predators as best they can. Breaking line-of-sight between adult fish and fry will improve their survivability. You may consider placing them in a breeder box or grow out tank to ensure their survival.

Platy fry a few days old

Are platy fish schooling fish?

Platies are not schooling fish because they do not swim in synchronized patterns. However, they enjoy living in groups of other platies or community fish because they are rather social.

Do platies like a high current?

Platy fish are strong swimmers and can manage a fairly strong current. However, a moderate or low current is ideal for platies to reduce stress.

How do you tell if a platy is stressed?

Clamped fins is the most obvious stress symptom in platy fish. Stress may also cause platies to exert aggression towards other platies or hide on the bottom of the tank. Like most fish, stress is a major cause of disease among platies so it’s important to avoid stressful environments whenever possible.

Platy on right with clamped fins

Do platy fish sleep?

Platy fish sleep when the aquarium lights are turned off for the night. They don’t have eyelids so they sleep with their eyes open. They usually remain fairly stationary while sleeping.

How do you identify male and female platies?

Male platies have a stick-shaped anal fin called a gonopodium, while females have a triangular anal fin that points down. Other than that, male and female platies are fairly indistinguishable from one another in terms of shape and size.

How many babies can platy fish have?

Platies usually have between 30-90 baby fry. The gestation period takes about four weeks and birthing can take between a few days and weeks. Newly pregnant platies often have longer birthing periods.

Ryan Ferguson

Founder, Rooted Tank

Ryan Ferguson, the founder of Rooted Tank, started fishkeeping in 2019. He has continued to level-up his planted aquarium skills and wanted to share his journey and knowledge with other aquarists.


227, 25 Auburn Meadows Avenue SE, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T3M 2L3