Xiphophorus Variatus (variegated platy)

Xiphophorus variatus, also known as the platy variatus, belongs to the Poeciliidae family. Other common names of the species are ” variable platyfish” and ”variegated platy”. Xiphophorus variatus may also be known as Platypoecilus variatus (wrong scientific name).
The species is native to Central America (Mexico, Tamaulipas state, Veracruz.) but, has been introduced in different countries presumably due to the aquarium hobby. Because of the resilience of the species( the hardiest species of Xiphophorus genus), they exist in a wide range of habitats, but in general, the species inhibit in lowland backwaters (lakes, swamps) and highland waters (lakes, rivers). The water in these habitats is slightly hard and alkaline.
As the species’ name suggests, the variegated platy has many wild, various forms, which through selective breeding and hybridization with other Xiphophorus species, many pure-bred varieties created by the aquarium industry. Some variations of Xiphophorus variatus are the blue tuxedo, calico, hi-fin golden parrot, sunset platy, marigold platy, e.t.c. They have an average of 3 years lifespan, yet if cared properly, the species can live up to 5 years.
The species have sexual dimorphism with the males being slightly smaller than females. Xiphophorus variatus has an average size of 3 inches (7,5cm). The male variatus platy, like the rest of the Poeciliidae family, have their anal fins modified to the rod-shaped male’s reproductive organ, the gonopodium.
Like the rest of the poeciliid family, this peaceful, social fish is an excellent choice for beginners because of their hardiness and adaptability, easy to reproduce and with stunning colorations. They like to be kept in groups, with the recommended ratio male to female to 1: 2, as female variegated platies get stressed from the persistent chasing by the male variegated platies throughout reproduction. They are also suited for community tanks with peaceful species with a similar size and water chemistry. Some compatible species with Xiphophorus variatus are other species of the Poeciliidae family like guppies and swordtails (If you don’t want hybridization, don’t put them together), peaceful small/medium size tetras, bottom dwellers like Ancistrus, etc.
Because of the natural habitat of Xiphophorus variatus, they should be kept in slightly hard alkaline water. Although Xiphphorus variatus are hardy fish and they can survive in a wide range of water parameters, a pH between 6.8-7.5, with a temperature between 20-24 Celsius (The species inhibit in habitats with lower temperature from the other popular Xiphophorus species), 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 variegated platies. Plants are essential in the aquarium for livebearers as they provide shelter for stressed fish and their offspring.
Xiphophorus variatus 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, detritus, insect’s larvae, etc. Therefore, the nutrition of the species needs to include meat and plant source.
Variegated 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. If the female fish’s gravid spot is visible, it gets bigger and darker when the female is close to delivery.
The female Xiphophorus variatus gives birth to 20-80 fry in one brood. The brood is affected by the age and size of the female fish. Keep in mind the species 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 reach their sexual maturity during the fourth month of their life.

Sunburst tuxedo platy male Xiphophorus variatus tropical aquarium fish


  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 variatus. Retrieved from https://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/xiphophorus-variatus/
  6. Xiphophorus variatus. Retrieved from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=165925#null

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