Platies are one of the most-popular types of fish for small aquariums. (They are also known as the “sheep head fish”.) These are omnivorous freshwater fish that are native to South America. While they can be kept in a community tank, platies do best with other platies. These smallish fish only grow to be about 1.75 inches long, and they are peaceful towards other aquarium fish.
While it’s true that Platies aren’t the flashiest freshwater fish out there, they are, in our opinion, one of the best fish for your aquarium. Why, you ask? Platies are relatively hardy, so they’re a good choice for beginners and they have a long lifespan, too, so you can expect them to be in your home for many years to come.
Platy Fish have a narrow and long body. Their body is thicker between the nose and dorsal fins and gets narrower towards the tail. The dorsal and pectoral fins are small and they have a fan-shaped tail.
The females are always larger and can measure up to 3 inches. The males are smaller and reach a maximum length of 2.5 inches. The length also tends to vary between different types of Platy fish.
There are 3 different types of Platy fish: Southern Platy, Variable Platy and Swordtail Platy. The Southern and Variable Platies have a smaller body while the Swordtail Platies have an extended, sword-shaped tail. The different types of Platies have been crossbred over the years to produce the desired color and fin patterns.
Popular color variations include orange, white, red, yellow and blue. There are a few different established patterns that are listed based on the color and patterns. Some of the different pattern types are listed below.
The many different colors and patterns these fish have make them a great choice for families that want a little more variety for their aquarium.
Platies are known to be peaceful and docile. They are not aggressive with other species which can make them an easy target.
They are active and good swimmers. They will spend most of their time swimming in the middle of the tank. Platies are also known to jump a lot, so it is important to keep the lid of the fish tank closed at all times.
Platies are schooling fish which means they like to stay in small groups. They should be kept in a group of 5 to 6. Platies also like to breed so the best ratio for a small group is to keep only one male in a group with four to five females. The ratio will ensure females are not hounded by the male fish.
Platies originate from the warmer waters and are found in the slow-moving water. Platies are tough little fish and mostly live in regions with a thick covering of plants. Their ideal water temperature is between 65° to 77°F. If your aquarium has some medium growth plants inside the tank can help create a natural tank that resembles their natural environment.
The minimum size tank you can keep 5 Platies in is a 10 gallon tank. Given that Platies are active swimmers, having a larger tank will be better as it will give them a larger area to swim around. If you plan to build a community fish tank or add plants, then the tank size should be at least 20 gallons.
They prefer slightly warmer temperatures in the range of 65 to 77° F.
The pH should be kept between 6.8 to 8 and the water hardness should be between 10-28 dGH.
Platies have no specific lighting requirements. They will be fine with any light in the tank. If you do plan to keep them with other types of fish, they may need a normal day and night cycle. This can easily be set up using a timer that will turn the lights on and off.
Platies love live plants, adding them to your family’s aquarium does more than look nice, it helps your family’s aquarium feel like their natural habitat. Plants also create hiding places for them to hide from more aggressive fish.
The best plants for them are the ones that do not grow very large. Platies are active swimmers and prefer to live in open space. Large plants can clutter the tank and make it difficult for them to swim. Smaller plants like Java Fern, Amazon Swordtail and Hornwort are best for Platies.
If you have a community fish tank, you can give them more hiding places by adding rocks and caves. They will be less stressed if they have places to hide if threatened by other fish.
Avoid adding sharp rocks or other decorations to your tank. Platies have soft fins that can easily get damaged by them.
Platies do not have specific substrate requirements. A substrate will be needed only if you are planning to add living plants to your tank.
A standard filtration system should also be added to the tank. The filters will help to keep the nitrites and ammonia levels under control.
Platies are tough little fish which makes them easy to care for. The only major stress they’re likely to have is if there are sudden changes in water conditions. The easiest way to prevent these changes is to measure tank conditions every day. Things like temperature, pH, water hardness and level of toxic compounds are generally easy to control and keep constant.
Every other week a 25 percent water change should be done. If you have a smaller tank then the water should be changed every week. Smaller tanks tend to build up harmful chemicals like ammonia and nitrates faster.
Platies are peaceful and non-aggressive. They do best when housed with other peaceful fish that will not attack or eat them.
Popular tank mates for Platies include:
Platies of different types can also be housed together. Avoid keeping Platies with Cichlids, Tiger Barbs, Bettas and Vampire Tetras and other aggressive fish species that can harm your Platies.
Platies are resistant to many common infections and generally do not get diseases. Still, there are a few health issues that they are known to have. Some fish diseases can be difficult to spot but monitoring changes in their behavior or coloration can help to identify diseases early on.
Common diseases include:
Ich is one of the most common diseases found in Freshwater fish. The disease is caused by a parasite that affects the gills and fins of the body. Poor water conditions and stress are major reasons that can lead to the fish catching this disease. When a fish becomes infected with Ich, it tends to rub against hard objects such as decorations, rocks and the substrate.
Symptoms include white spots on the body, breathing difficulty and fish rubbing against hard surfaces. In comparison to other fish diseases, these symptoms make it easy to identify if your fish is infected.
A major concern is that this disease is highly contagious and can easily spread to other fish in your aquarium. If not treated early on, it can even cause respiratory issues.
Treatments include slightly increasing the water temperature, adding medication to the tank and performing a large water change. If you have a community fish tank then it is suggested to move the infected fish into a quarantine tank and then treat them.
Fin and tail rot is a common freshwater disease that is named after what happens to the fish that have it. Fish infected with fin and tail rot will have fins or tails that appear frayed, or parts of them missing. The disease may also cause white milky areas on the body, especially on the tail or fins.
Symptoms of Fin and Tail Rot
Like Ich disease, fin rot is also a result of poor water conditions and high stress levels. Fin and tail rot can be caused by fungi or bacterial infection. Identifying the cause of the disease, bacteria or fungi, is important to treat them because both are treated differently. Infected fish should be quarantined and treated in a separate tank.
The easiest way to prevent your fish from catching this is to keep their water as clean and healthy as possible. After that the next biggest causes are stress, or attack from other fish. Try not to keep fish that can attack other fish, and give your smaller fish plenty of places to hide with plants or decorations.
Antibiotics will be needed to treat any fish that have this disease.
Velvet disease is also caused by a parasite. The parasite burrows itself into the body of the fish which results in gold-colored cysts. The cysts can turn into lesions and even cause bleeding. Sometimes the skin of the fish will also peel off. Velvet disease is highly contagious and immediate treatment is needed. Generally, copper medication and performing a water change of 70-90% can help to treat the disease.
Platies are omnivore fish. In their natural environments, they like to eat algae, fish eggs, insects and other smaller fish or fries. In captivity, it is easy to feed them as they do not tend to be picky eaters and will eat anything that you offer them.
Commercial flakes, pellets, brine shrimp can be great sources of protein. Occasionally they can also be fed brine shrimp, bloodworms or tubifex.
Platies should also be given plant food like algae wafers, flakes and spirulina. A varied diet will help them to get all the types of nutrients.
They should be fed 1 to 2 times every day. Platies can be greedy eaters so see how they behave when you feed them. If they act aggressively, you can increase the frequency of feeding or put the food in multiple places inside the tank. It will ensure all the fish in your tank get the food they need and the Platies do not become aggressive.
Breeding Platy Fish is easy as they can be bred without a lot of attention from their owners. The males will always look for females to mate, so keeping 3 to 4 females with one male will help each female to get time to rest.
Another good thing about Platies is that they give birth to fries (young fish), instead of laying eggs. Platies can give birth to as many as 80 fries at one time! Normal tank temperatures and water conditions will be enough to take care of the fries.
One major concern is that parents are known to eat their fries. Moving the fries to a separate growth tank will prevent the fries from getting eaten.