Swordtails are a popular aquarium fish species and a popular choice for beginner aquarists planning to keep livebearers. That is because the fish has a peaceful temperament and it is highly adaptive.
As the name suggests, the fish have a long thin lower tail. The fish are livebearers and their young are very easy to rear.
Moreover, the fish exist in many varieties such as Neon Swordtail, Red Wag Swordtail, Red Velvet Swordtail, Marigold Swordtails and Black Nubian Swordtails are some of the various types of swordtails.
The cost of male swordtails is higher than that of the females due to their decorative nature. My work today is to help you understand the characteristics of this fish and their breeding.
Live-Bearers Swordtail Fish – What it Means?
Swordtails are livebearers, which mean that their baby comes out and starts swimming freely immediately. Put differently, they do not lay eggs. The females give birth after 28 days. The fish will breed if you keep them in one aquarium tank with males and the breeding does not require any intervention.
In the wild, these livebearers live in warm water, particularly in Central America and Mexico and they thrive in flowing streams that have dense vegetation. They also live in smaller ponds, drainage vents and pipes.
The fish are known to adjust to various conditions in aquarium tanks and for that reason; they are a good choice for starters. The males can grow to around 6 inches while the females can grow to 5 inches when in the world, but this is unlikely in captivity.
Any swordtail you buy from the store will measure between 1 inch and 2 inches in length. It is good you get a larger tank before you purchase swordtails because they are likely to grow very large.
Livebearers are a perfect choice for people who would want to practice breeding because they breed with little or no intervention from their owners. The young ones are free swimming and are usually large during birth. Their chances of growing to maturity are higher than of fish people raise from eggs.
Sexing Swordtail Fish
Swordtails are among the sexually dimorphic fish. In other words, you can rely on the external appearance of the fish to identify their sex. The male swordtails develop distinct sword-shaped tails as they mature, while the females develop round-shaped tail fins. Moreover, the males show distinct male sex organ close to their anal fin, known as the Gonopodium.
They rely on the Gonopodium to deposit sperms to the females when mating.
The above two ways are the best when it comes to sexing your swordtail fish. The other differences relate to the overall size of the fish. The males are thinner, appear elongated, while the females are round-shaped, and grow a little longer and larger than the males.
Now, you might ask me why I have decided to sex the swordtail fish at such an early stage. Shouldn’t the sexing appear in the breeding section? The key reason I decided to include the sexing in its section is that swordtails are territorial fish – after maturity.
If the females in a tank are less than the males, the male will start fighting amongst themselves for the females – or for the right to mate. Therefore, you have to buy more females than males. That would mean lesser swords in your tank because the males do not have a sword-tailed shape but it will ensure that the fish are peaceful.
Maintain one male for every three females. Swordtail breeders choose one male for every five females.
Breeding Swordtail Fish
The livebearers are a perfect choice for aquarists at the beginner level of fish breeding. One of the things that make swordtails famous among beginners and experts alike is that they are highly adaptive and they do not need any special attention from the owners.
To start the breeding, maintain one male swordtail for every three to four females. The ratio will help you control the aggressive behavior of your male fish and help the females get a break from the males.
By keeping a low number of males in the tank, you will reduce the chances of any rough behavior. As I have stated above, the fish do not need any intervention from the owners when it comes to breeding. You just need to place the fish in a tank, feed them and ensure that the water conditions are right.
Never overstock the aquarium tank and ensure that the swimming space is enough to allow successful breeding. Furthermore, you will have to avoid stressing your female fish.
Identifying Pregnant Female Swordtail
A pregnant female swordtail will show varying pregnancy signs. The gestation period is only 28 days, but it is easy to know whether your swordtail is pregnant or not. The gestation period depends on many factors such as fluctuating water conditions, the feeding and the amount of stress they are experiencing and it can extend to 30 days.
Fortunately, there are some signs you should look for to know whether your swordtails are pregnant.
Remember to scrutinize the female swordtail’s body on a daily basis. As the time nears, she will develop a swollen belly that is slightly square and the belly will appear as if it is nearly bursting. Large dark spots develop on both sides of the body closer to the anus.
At the gravid spot, you will see the uterus pressing the abdominal walls. The time will have come if the fish stops swimming around the tank, loses interest in food and stays at the backside of the aquarium tank or even lies on the gravel for extended periods.
Pregnant Swordtail Fish Behavior
A pregnant swordtail will have a dark gravid spot and the belly will swell. It will be easy to notice a pregnant livebearer particularly if it is closer to giving birth. The belly will be larger than usual and it will struggle to move around your aquarium tank.
Just before it gives birth, it will become inactive, stop eating and will be territorial. After it gives birth, you will have to separate the mother form the babies so that they can survive.
Even before the belly starts enlarging, you can assume that the female swordtail is pregnant if you have been keeping it in one aquarium tank with the males. Transfer the female to a separate tank or a nursery aquarium after the belly is noticeably swollen.
Alternatively, you can place her in a spawning box and leave her in the community tank. Swordtails see the fry as food and they are likely to eat them if you fail to protect them. They have to hide until they are big enough.
How Often do Swordtail Fish Get Pregnant?
Swordtails breed more often, which is the main reason they have managed to increase their population highly in aquarium tanks. Swordtails can produce their first offspring at the age of 8-12 months and can start breeding at the age of 3 months and continue until they are 30-40 months old.
They are known to spawn every month and their gestation is 28 days but can range between 24 to 30 days depending on the amount of carried fry, the water temperature and the health of the swordtail.
To breed your swordtails, you just need to keep both the males and females in one tank and ensure that the water conditions are right. When breeding swordtails, your main concern should be the parents.
The female might eat the fry, but in a heavily planted tank, some of the fry will evade predation. For serious breeding, you have to be careful. Establish a separate aquarium tank for the babies and transfer them immediately after birth. And because swordtails breed faster, you will need a breeding trap or a separate tank.
How many fry can a female swordtail fish deliver at a time?
A swordtail can deliver between 5 and 60 babies at a time and on average, it will deliver 35 newborns. The fish will multiply faster when the water conditions are good and if the owner gives them the right food.
Just like the fry of other common livebearers, the young ones of a swordtail will reach maturity within six weeks. And because they have a tendency of eating their young ones, you will have to separate the babies from the adults until they attain the size of maturity.
The swordtails will be of no value if you cannot separate the young ones from the adults. Ensure that the aquarium tank has many plants.
Why Did my Female Swordtail Fish Die After Giving Birth?
It is common for swordtails to die soon after giving birth. That comes because of the fish giving birth too often. Giving birth all the time will shorten their lifespan because the process will take much out of them.
It can also be due to improper feeding, stress or harassment from the male fish in your aquarium tank. You will have to reduce the males and maintain a ratio of one male to three females.
Bad water conditions can stress pregnant swordtails and cause their demise after delivery. Remember that even though a swordtail might die, you will have between 5 to 60 newborns.
To ensure that your female swordtails will live for a long time, ensure that the water conditions are right and feed them appropriately.