Platies are small freshwater fish that often do well in community tanks. Any fishkeeper has concerns about whether their fish need companions of their own kind or whether they are comfortable living alone. After all, no one wants sick or unhappy fish!
The platy is a schooling fish and does better around its own kind. However, some platies may be happy to live alongside other types of fish instead. For the happiest fish, keep your platies in small schools of 3 – 6 fish, preferably other platies.
In this article, you will find advice on how many platies to keep, which other types of fish your platies will live peacefully with, and whether they are good fish for beginners. I will also explain why fish school, and offer more information about platies. The article will also explain how much space you’ll need in your tank.
What are Platies?
Platyfish are freshwater fish of the genus Xiphophorus, found in Mexico and Central America. Xiphophorus fish are either swordtails or platies; however, platies do not have a sword-shaped tail.
There are two species of platyfish, the southern platy, and the variatus platy; however, the genus has been interbred frequently. Most platies are a mix of both types of platy and occasionally swordtail species as well.
Your platies will grow to around 7 cm (2.8 inches) at maximum, whichever kind you get. The tiny freshwater fish come in many colors, including:
- Mickey Mouse
- Blue Mirror
- Bleeding Heart
Are Platies Schooling Fish?
Platyfish and swordtails come from the same genus; however, platies are schooling fish, and swordtails are not. Nevertheless, swordtails prefer living in groups.
Many people think of schools as vast numbers of fish congregating, but a school can be as small as a few individuals. Platies, for instance, are schooling fish, but they do best in smaller groups.
Platies can live alone, but it is not usually recommended. The platyfish is a very social species and prefers living in a community of its own kind.
There’s a great YouTube video about platies by Myaquariuminfo here:
Do platies need a school?
Preferably, you should let your platies school. Single platy is not going to do as well and may even get sick. A sick or dead fish can jeopardize your whole tank, not to mention that it’s unfair on the individual fish. Fishkeepers have a responsibility to care for their fish, including comfort and happiness, not just food and medicine.
Aquarists and fishkeepers regularly discuss fishkeeping ethics, and one of the major concerns is fish numbers. In the wild, fish would live in much larger numbers than it’s possible to offer them in your fish tank, but they are also much more vulnerable in a river or the ocean than they are in a tank. Despite this, experts recommend providing your schooling fish with a small school, so they can live, socialize, and behave as naturally as possible.
How many platies should I get?
Ideally, you’ll want 3 – 6 platies in one school, but this can differ depending on your tank’s size and how many other fish you have living there.
Platies are an easy fish to determine gender, and you’ll need three females for every male. Otherwise, the males harass the females too much, and this can cause your female platies to become distressed.
To identify males and females, take a look at the anal fin. In females, it’s fan-shaped, and in males it’s long and flat with a point.
Why do fish school?
Most types of schooling fish live in shoals because it helps them survive predators. However, grouping together also helps fish find and consume food, before something eats them. There are also many types of highly social fish, like platies, who just prefer company.
Are Platies Good Aquarium Fish?
The tiny, freshwater platies are excellent fish for beginner fishkeepers. They are known as peaceable, community fish, and they are not aggressive. They’re also easy to breed, as long as you keep them from eating their fry, so platies are ideal for first-time breeders.
If you’re a beginner fishkeeper, I recommend Freshwater Aquariums for Dummies, available from Amazon. It will guide you through the aquarium set-up process in plain English, and it’s so packed with information, even experienced fishkeepers might learn something new. The book is available in digital, print, or even audio, so however you like to read, you’ll be able to access Freshwater Aquariums for Dummies.
Which types of fish can platies live with?
Platyfish live comfortably with many other types of fish, including:
- Swordtails (your platies can breed with these)
- Other species of platy
Make sure that nothing in your tank is likely to eat your platies, like cichlids or bettas. Platies are prone to eating their fry, so if you’d like to keep the babies, you’ll want to remove the platy fry from the tank their parents live in. You can also provide plenty of plant cover for the fry to hide in.
If you don’t have space for a second tank, try using a tank divider, like the Shiroumiya Aquarium Fish Tank Divider from Amazon.com. It comes in three different sizes and is excellent for separating fish or even for creating two smaller tanks.
How much space do platies need?
Platies need much more space than you would think. They are active little fish, and like rectangular tanks with lots of room to swim. You can keep 3 platies in a 46 l (10 gallon) tank, and 6 or 7 in a 68 l (15 gallon) tank.
If you’d like a few more platies, consider keeping at least 8, and no more than 10 platyfish in a 91 liter (20 gallon) tank.
What do platyfish eat?
Your platies are omnivorous fish, so they eat a mixture of plants and meat. A high-quality flake forms the core of their diet, but supplement this with vegetable matter and some form of meat. Platies can eat any of the following:
- Algae wafers
- Brine shrimp
- Frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms
- Fresh vegetables
For bloodworms, I recommend Hikari Bio-Pure FD Blood Worms, available from Amazon.com. It’s bacteria and parasite free, and won’t cloud your water. It comes in two sizes, and it’s almond-free.
Platies are schooling fish, but they don’t necessarily need to live in a school. However, it is much better for your platy if it isn’t alone. In this article, I looked at why platies need a school, how much space they need, and what they can eat. I also covered which other types of fish platies can live with and why fish school.
Remember to keep three female platies for every male, and consider a rectangular tank with lots of swimming space. You’ll also want to watch out for platy fry, as mom and dad will eat them.
Enjoy caring for your platies, but make sure that all your fish are happy, healthy, and comfortable.