Platy Moonfish

Variegated Platy ~ Variatus Platy ~ Swordtail Platy

Family: Poeciliidae Picture of a Red Platy (Platy or Moonfish)Xiphophorous maculatus
Latest Reader Comment - See More
I only have one platy but I think it is pregnant. Maybe it mated in the pet shop??? It definitly has got fatter! But not much,only a bit. Is it pregnant at all?  Maeve

   The Platy is considered the color king of the live-bearer fishes! It is one of the best beginner fish and is excellent for community aquariums!

   The Platy or Moonfish, Xiphophorous maculatus and the Variegated Platy or Variatus Platy, Xiphophorous variatus are a short stocky fish lacking the extended tail fin or "sword" of their close relative, the Swordtail  Xiphophorous helleri. These bright colored fish can be kept in a smaller tank than the Swordtail and are more peaceful, active, and hardy. They are also dependably prolific.

   Although nowadays the platies have been interbred with themselves and with swordtails to the point where it is now hard to separate species. Originally there were two common species available to the hobbyist: the Platy or Moonfish Xiphophorous maculatus, and the the slimmer and more elongated Variegated Platy or Variatus Platy Xiphophorous variatus.

   Today platies come in all colors and mixtures of colors. Many beautiful color variations and hybrids have been produced. Platies cross easily with each other and with other Xiphophorous species, thus a wide variety of popular platies are available today.

   An aquarium best suited to the platies is well lit with plants. Like all livebearers, they do like a bit of salt though it is not necessary. The plants should be loosely arranged for the Platy or Moonfish and densely planted with open swimming areas for the Variegated Platy or Variatus Platy. Have some floating plants for the fry to hide, though Platies don't eat their fry other community tankmates will.

   The male platies won't show their colors until they are mature and they will show best if the aquarium is kept at the cooler end of their temperature range.

For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Freshwater Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Xiphophorous maculatus
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cyprinodontiformes
  • Family: Poeciliidae
  • Genus: Xiphophorous
  • Species: maculatus
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Platies - Moonfish - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 64.0 to 77.0° F (17.8 to 25.0° C)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

   The Platy or Moonfish Xiphophorous maculatus are found on the Atlantic coast of Mexico and Guatamala, and northern Honduras. It was first introduced in 1907. They were often called "Moonfish" because of a crescent shaped dark spot at the base of their tail, especially on the yellow colored ones.
   The Variegated Platy or Variatus Platy Xiphophorous variatus are found in southern Mexico from Rio Panuco to Rio Cazones. It was identified in 1904 but not introduced into the hobby until 1932. They were an immediate hit and become one of the best liked livebearers.
   There is also a very sensitive species called the Swordtail Platy Xiphophorous xiphidium in which the male has a short sword. This delicate platy is rather rare and not seen much in the hobby.

   So many beautiful color variations and hybrids have been produced, it is difficult to find the pure-bred original strains. Today pure breds are the exception rather than the rule and their colors vary depending on the waters they originated from.

Popular varieties developed from the Platy or Moonfish:
   The solid colored fish include the very popular Red Platy or Coral Platy which will be either a deep blood red or a brick red and the Golden Platy which has an all over bright yellow color.
   The term "Moonfish" is applied when the fish have a specific color along with a black crescent shaped dot on the tail fin, these include the Red Moon, Blue Moon (Blue Platy), and the Gold Moon (Gold Crescent).
   The term "Wagtail" is applied when the fish have a specific color along with black on the tail, these include The Red Wagtail Platy, the Gold Wagtail Platy, the Black Wagtail Platy, and the Mixed Wagtail Platy.
   The term "Tuxedo" is applied when the fish have a specific color along with a black coloration below the lateral line from the gill to the tail, these include the Black Platy often called the Black Tuxedo or Green Tuxedo and has a greenish body.
   The Salt-and-Pepper Platy is mixed with a bit of all the colors and it breeds these colors true, the Mixed Platy has various colors with no particular pattern and it doesn't breed true.

Popular varieties developed from the Variegated or Variatus Platy:
   Redtail Platy varieties have a tail that is bright red.
   The Yellowtail Platy varieties will have a yellow tail fin.
   The Sunset Platy varieties have a tail with more than a single color but with yellow being prominent, though they are also called this when they have yellow dorsal fin and a red tail fin.
   In the Rainbow Platy varieties the tail has multiple colors with no one color being prominent.
   The Hawaii Platy has an entirely black body with a yellow dorsal fin and red tail fin.
   The Marigold Platy is yellow on the dorsal fin and top of the body with the lower half and the tail fin being orange.
   Other popular varieties include the Comet Platy, Gold Twinbar Platy, Sunset Fire Platy, Blue Mirror Platy, Two-Spot Platy where there are two small dots at the top and bottom where the tailfin begins and the similar Mickey Mouse Platy where the two small dots have a large dark spot in the middle, Half-moon Platy, and Bleeding-heart Platy.

   Many characteristics including special finnage such as Topsails, Sailfins, Hifins, and Plumetails or Brushtails come from Swordtail cross breeding.

  • Scientific Name: Xiphophorous maculatus
  • Social Grouping: Groups - Platies are not a schooling fish but they appreciate lots of company!
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed

Fish Keeping Difficulty

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

   These fish are considered omnivorous as the Platy or Moonfish and the Variegated Platy or Variatus Platy will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods. But they have a very high herbivorous requirement, and their diet needs to include lots of algae and other vegetation. Feed brine shrimp (either live or frozen), tubifex, or blood worms as a treat. They will enjoy the proteins but they must also have a vegetation diet.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day

Aquarium Care

  • Water Changes: Monthly

Aquarium Setup

  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L)
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 64.0 to 77.0° F (17.8 to 25.0° C)
  • Range ph: 7.0-8.3
  • Hardness Range: 15 - 30 dGH
  • Brackish: No - This is not a brackish fish, however it does seem to appreciate the addition of a little salt in the water. Around 1-1.25 teaspons of aquarium salt should suffice. Removed water should be replaced with salted water, however if the aquarist is topping off due to evaporation freshwater should be used.
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All

Social Behaviors

   They are an excellent community fish that is very peaceful, and does not look for trouble with other tankmates.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive

Sex: Sexual differences

   The female is larger and generally rather plain, though in many of the fancy platies today they have more color. The male has a gonopodium. It is difficult to sex platies until they are mature as the male does not attain his coloration until then.

Breeding / Reproduction

   The Platy or Moonfish and the Variegated Platy or Variatus Platy will readily reproduce in the aquarium. See the description of how to breed livebearers in Breeding Freshwater Fish - Livebearers.

  • Ease of Breeding: Easy


   The Platy or Moonfish and the Variegated Platy or Variatus Platy is readily available.


Animal-World References

Author: David Brough, CFS & Clarice Brough, CFS.
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Lastest Animal Stories on Platies - Moonfish

Maeve - 2012-05-17
I only have one platy but I think it is pregnant. Maybe it mated in the pet shop??? It definitly has got fatter! But not much,only a bit. Is it pregnant at all?

  • Anonymous - 2013-09-18
Amanda - 2003-12-28
I have one male platy. He lives with 3 mollies and many tetras in a 55 gallon fish tank. I love his bright orange colors. He is very active. He is one of the first fish that I ever had. I am going to get him a couple of females soon. They are a very hardy fishy and can live through just about anything. They really are a great beginner fish.

  • joel w caretr - 2013-09-15
    I have a 60 gallon tank with platies in it. Also I have a couple of mollies in with them. I am thinking of putting some sword tails in with them.
Penny - 2009-12-04
Platies do eat their young. I witnessed it this morning. A little one (born last night) was cornered in the tank by the mom and eaten. Today we put up a tank separator to keep the other survivors safe.

Phyllis - 2008-11-22
I just love my (wild colored) Variatus! They are so active, easy to breed, and peaceful in my 20gal. tall community tank. My tank has low lighting (with a full glass top cover), 2" of Eco brand soil, 1med. piece of beautiful Mopanzi wood, Java moss, Java ferns, 1lg. Anub., 1lg. Balanese Crypt., good amount of Italian Val. (in back corners), 1sm. bunch Pennyroyal, and lots of floating Duckweed. I use a 30gal. Whisper hang on filter (set on low flow). The care of my tank is easy - remove overgrowth of most of duckweed (once a month), trim and remove any dead leaves (whenever found), rinse off filter every month (replace with new one every 6 months), replace fish/plant grow light tube (every 6 months - even if it's not burned out), top off water (as needed when it dehydrates down to 1" - usually once every 2 wks.), divide/remove extra grown plants (yearly), and remove baby Variatus when they are 1/4th grown (I give most of them away) - THAT"S IT! It houses 2f.Variatus and 1m.Var., 3f.Oto. cats and 2m.Oto. cats. (these are the best algea eaters EVER), 1m. Pearl Gourami, and 1m.Sunset Gourami! I just love my beautiful "LIVE" aquarium and gorgeous (wild colored)Variatus are my favorites fish!

ivor whitehouse - 2005-10-28
platies are the fish i used to cycle my two tanks as they are quite hardy. i have a problem with the breeding though as they just will not stop. have given nearly two hundred away and have added two silver sharks to one tank which feed on the fry as live food. have considered splitting the males from females or even putting them into a tank without heat as they are supposed to survive quite well at room temp and their colors show up better. funny thing is i will go to all lengths to save a little one if it gets caught in my filter or ends up in the bucket during a water change even though i'm over run with them. i refer to them as ratty platies because of their never ending breeding which is second only to their continual hunger. an easy and pleasing fish to keep if you can control the birth rate. would recommend as a good starter fish, just stick to the males if you don't want a tank full. the males are the best to look at and a little more interesting in their habits like displaying at each other.

CR7721 - 2004-02-27
I have two platys in a 20 gallon tank along with 12 other fish.The platys will stay to themselves out in the open water and are great community fish. For fun they will chase each other around without nipping fins. They are very colorful and come in many different shapes and sizes. They should be kept in tanks with tempuratures between 72-78 degrese. They will eat everything such as flakes, tablets, and live, but I suggest flakes and maybe live as a treat. Overall I think platies are community fish that can be kept,in a tank with almost any other types of fish because they are so peaceful.


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