Platy Fish Care – How to Care for Platies
Platy fish are colorful, strong-bodied, active and unpretentious fish that are easy to breed and care for. They’re a live-bearing species that spawn fully-formed, ready-to-swim juveniles.
If population control measures are not implemented, platies breed often and produce a lot of juveniles, which you may or may not welcome in your aquarium.
Platies reach sizes of 2.5 inches with females being larger than males. You’ll find them in several dozens of color variations that are sure to add some liveliness to your aquarium.
In what follows, I’ll let you in on my best tips for platy fish care, so you’ll know what you can do to offer them a healthy environment in which they can live their best life.
Aquarium Size for Platies
At six months of age, platies reach full size maturity. Their sizes vary from 1.5 inches to 2.5 inches. They have short bodies that are a bit fuller and short and wide tail fins.
Platies are peaceful fish that won’t cause trouble in the aquarium they’re added to and make an excellent tank mate to freshwater fish that have the same peaceful temperament.
They live up to 4 years in captivity, which isn’t very long compared to other species, which is why you should strive to offer them the best conditions you possibly can.
Not being big fish, a medium-sized aquarium will be ok for your platy provided that you don’t keep them in large numbers. The minimum size that I would recommend for them is 15-20 gallons.
If you have the space and resources, do yourself a favor and get the bigger aquarium. It will not only offer your platies plenty of swimming space, but it will also make it easier for you to have water parameters be more stable.
Platies should be kept in a small group of 5 with the observance of some rules concerning the number of males to females.
This is important to avoid overbreeding, but also to prevent females from getting stressed. If there are too many males, they will constantly chase females to reproduce.
Female to Male Platy Ratio
Therefore, apart from population control, another important reason to stock platies in the right number is to avoid exposing female fish to stressful conditions.
Besides exhaustion, females that reproduce too often may develop health problems and have a shorter lifespan. Therefore, a single male for two or three females is plenty.
Alternatively, if you’re worried about setting up a mixed-gender aquarium, you can opt for an all-female or all-male aquarium to avoid overpopulation and overstressing female platy fish.
Females are less brightly colored, but they’re usually bigger and have a rounded abdomen. Male are more colorful and more active, so if you’re choosing based off aesthetic reasons alone, male platies would be a better pick.
Water Parameters for Platy Fish
Platy fish are classified as hardy fish that will tolerate a range of water conditions. This doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy good water conditions or that you shouldn’t strive to offer them the best conditions.
For excellent health and development, the following water parameters should be provided:
- Water temperature: 72°F- 78°F
- Water pH: 7.0-8.3
- Water hardness: 4 – 12 dGH
Other parameters: 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrites, maximum 10 ppm nitrates
If you’re using tap water to set up your platy aquarium, make sure you de-chlorinate your tap water and treat it against other contamination issues as well. Chlorine is not safe for your platies even if present in very small quantities.
Therefore, make sure you pick up a tap water conditioner that will get rid of chlorine and other by-products that are a result of chlorination. I use SeaChem water conditioner.
Changing Water for Platies
It goes without saying that you should let your aquarium water go through the nitrogen cycle before you can add any fish to it. It may take a while before you can add fish to your aquarium, but it’s a necessary step that will pay off on the long run.
Otherwise, in the absence of a healthy colony of bacteria that feed on ammonia and nitrites, toxin levels get out of hand and your fish will die or suffer irremediable health problems.
Once the nitrogen cycle is completed (it can take up to 6-8 weeks for it to complete), you can start adding fish to your aquarium and continue monitoring for toxin levels.
After the nitrogen cycle, you can maintain healthy water conditions in the aquarium by performing regular water changes weekly at a 30% rate for a normally stocked aquarium.
This will help remove waste and debris from the water and detoxify the water column. It also replenishes the water with nutrients.
Just like when you set up your aquarium, during water changes make sure you remove chlorine from your tap water before you add it to the aquarium.
Feeding Your Platy Fish
Although platy fish are omnivorous and will accept just about any fish food, it’s important to know what they feed on in the wild and strive to meet their nutritional demands.
In the wild, platies primarily subsist on insect larvae and algae. In captivity, you should make sure your platies have their nutritional demands met by offering them flakes with vegetable components.
They’ll also accept vegetable supplements and boiled vegetables like squash, cucumbers, spinach, etc. You can offer them spirulina tab and freeze-dried and frozen foods too.
Feeding your platies once or twice a day is enough. Make sure you don’t go overboard with the amount you’re feeding them.
Overfeeding can result in your fish dying either from the inability of their digestive systems to process so much food or because of ammonia spikes that result because of the increased waste production.
Moderation and variety are key to ensure that your fish go through a healthy development and that their water isn’t fouled because of the increased waste production.
Water Filtration for Platy Fish Tank
My readers often ask if platies need a filter in their aquarium or they can go without. I always recommend adding a filter to your aquarium regardless of the fish species you’re keeping.
Aquarium filters are easy to set up and they don’t require much in the way of maintenance. Be sure to pick a silent one or one that doesn’t create much noise.
In some cases and depending on how many fish you have in your aquarium, a simple air pump fitted with a sponge filter will do the trick, other times a hang-on-back or canister filter may be required.
If you have only a few fish and live plants in your aquarium along with a ticker substrate (4-6 inches), and you’re willing to perform weekly water changes at a 50% rate, you can get away without a filter.
In my opinion, however, it’s just easier to have a filter system that will make sure toxins and debris are removed from the aquarium regularly.
Water Heater for Platies
You may also wonder if platies need a water heater in their aquarium. The preferred water temperature for platies is between 72°F- 78°F.
Unless you can meet their requirements otherwise (people living in tropical climates will be able to pull this off), you need to set up a heater too.
In climates where temperatures in the winter drop below freezing level it’s not likely you can meet these water requirements without a heater.
Set up a heater with a thermostat to keep temperatures stable throughout the periods in which outside temperatures are low.
Low water temperatures or sudden temperature changes can cause the immune system of your fish to weaken, which can lead to a series of diseases and illnesses.
Artificial Light for Platy Fish
What about lighting? Do platy fish require artificial light? It depends. For the most part,
you don’t need to set up artificial lighting for you platies.
You do need to provide them with some natural light though. The natural light that comes through your window is enough to keep platies healthy, but if you’re keeping live plants in your aquarium, you’ll need some artificial lights too. This unless you choose aquarium plants that do fine in low level lighting conditions.
If you know the keeping requirements of platy fish, you’ll be able to provide them healthy conditions in which they can thrive. It’s important to set up the aquarium with the right parameters and all the required equipment (filter, heater, etc.).
Platies aren’t difficult to keep and you’ll often see them recommended for beginner fishkeepers that are still learning the ropes and might make some mistakes here and there that other, more sensitive fish, would not forgive.
Platy fish are also easy to breed and they make the perfect addition to a community aquarium if you’re looking to set up a freshwater tank with multiple other fish.
Make sure you observe platy male to female ratio recommendations, so you don’t end up with a lot of fry. Also, make sure their diet contains vegetable matter too as it’s important for their health.