Xiphophorus maculatus (platy)

Taxonomy:
Xiphophorus maculatus which is most known as platy belongs to the Poeciliidae family. Other common names are ”southern platyfish” and ”moonfish”.
Distribution-Habitat:
The species is native to Central America (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, northern Honduras). Furthermore, the species occur as introduced species to other states. Because of the resilience of the species, they exist in a wide range of habitats, but in general, platies occur in lowland backwaters (lakes, swamps) and highland waters (lakes, rivers). The water in these habitats is somewhat hard and alkaline.
Description:
The wild platies have a rounded caudal fin and an olive-brown colored body with sometimes red coloration. However, because of the selective breeding of these fishes plus the hybridization with other Xiphophorus species, there are many colors and caudal fin variations (salt and pepper platy, sunset platy e.t.c). For the exact reason, the domestic varieties that we see in aquariums are different from the wild form. They have an average of 3 years lifespan, yet if cared properly, platies can live up to 5 years.
The species have sexual dimorphism with the males being slightly smaller than females. Platies have an average size of 3 inches (7.5cm). Male platies, like the rest of the Poeciliidae family, males have their anal fins modified to the rod-shaped male’s reproductive organ, the gonopodium. In some varieties (kind of transparent belly), behind the anal fin, you can see the ”gravid spot”, which expands and darkens in color when a female is close to delivery.
Habits:
Like the rest of the poeciliid family, platies kept in groups, in a ratio of 1 male per 2 female, as they get stressed from the persistent chasing by male platies throughout reproduction. They are also suited for community tanks with peaceful species with a similar size and water chemistry. Some compatible species are other species of the Poeciliidae family like guppies and swordtails (If you don’t want hybridization, don’t put them together), bottom dwellers like Ancistrus e.t.c.
Because of the natural habitat of Xiphophorus maculatus, they should be kept in slightly hard alkaline water. Although platies can survive in a wide range of water parameters, a pH between 6.8-7.5, with a temperature between 20-25 Celsius, and hardness between 100-150 mg/l, suits the species.
Because most livebearers are active species and inhibit in highly oxygenated waters, consume more oxygen and produce more carbon dioxide, with the result that they need a reasonable space in the aquarium. An aquarium with pure 40 liters of water is suitable for a group of 3-4 swordtail platies. Plants are essential in the aquarium for livebearers as they provide shelter for stressed fish and their offspring.
Platies are omnivorous and can eat prepared food and small live-foods (brine shrimp, micro-worms, daphnia, white worms, tubifex). In nature, their diet consists of algae, insect’s larvae, and so on. Therefore, the nutrition of the species needs to include meat and plant source.
Breeding:
Platies are very easy to breed, you only need both genders. Like the rest of the poeciliid family, they give birth to live fry. The male chases the female, and when the female platy is ready, she stays immobile for a few seconds until the male fertilizes her. The action is repeated continuously by the male platy. It’s interesting that females can store sperm inside their body for months and get pregnant, without a male. The gestation period lasts 4-6 weeks and affected by environmental factors, diet, age and size of the female platy. As I mentioned earlier, if the gravid spot is visible, it gets bigger and darker when the female is close to delivery.
The female Xiphophorus maculatus gives birth to 20-80 fry in one brood. The brood is affected by the age and size of the female platy. Keep in mind that platies are cannibals and eat their young. A planted tank may help the babies to survive. You can also place the offspring in breeding traps as well as in nursery tanks for their safety. The young platies reach their sexual maturity at the age of 4 months.

Xiphophorus maculatus fish in the aquarium
“iStock.com/voltan1.”

References: 

  1. Earl Schneider and Dr. Leon f. Whitney 1957, The Complete Guide
    to tropical fishes
  2. David Alderton 2005, 2008, Encyclopedia of aquarium and pond fish, Published in the United States by DK Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7566-3678-4
  3. Wilfred L. Whitern 1983, Livebearers, ISBN 0876665180
  4. Clarice Brough, Platies series: livebearers 3
  5. Xiphophorus maculatus. Retrieved from https://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/xiphophorus-maculatus/
  6. Xiphophorus maculatus. Retrieved from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=165922#null

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