Taking Care of Swordtail Fish Community with Q&A Forums

The Swordtail fish (also known as Xiphophorus helleri) can be found in several different colors such orange, red, yellow, green or black with a color mixture. The males are easily recognizable by the lower end of their tail which resembles a sword. They are a versatile, popular fish due to their attractiveness, their adaptability to a variety of water conditions and they are simple to care for in aquariums.

male swordtail

** Note: Questions Regarding Fishkeeping Posted Below

From Mexico, the female and male are similar in their variety of colors. The female does not have a sword at the end of her tail, as the male does. They are all around the same size which is about two to three and a half inches long. Occasionally you will find a female that is larger. These fish are sturdy and independent little fish and they usually care for themselves when they are in the presence of bigger fish.

Sometimes the males will show aggressiveness towards other males. They willingly eat dried food such as tropical flakes that are dried. They also consume tubifex worms, insects, tiny crustaceans (like brine shrimp), bloodworms and some plant matter (like soil for plants and vegetables). Fish food can be purchased at a variety of websites and pet stores.

Aquarium Setup & Habitat Parameters

If you decide to purchase some swordtails you want to keep in mind that you will be buying young fish so they will eventually grow, so you might buy only three or four. The adult swordtail fish are not as easygoing as the young fish and they tend to be slightly territorial. So inside a tank you want to maintain about 40 liters per fish.

swordtail aquarium

When it comes time to choosing an aquarium, keep in mind that swordtails can live harmoniously in a communal tank since they tend to be a peaceful fish. Do not place them in a tank with fish that are so big that they will eat them however. Sadly the parents sometimes eat their babies, so you must ensure the newborns are protected from the adult fish until they grow.

Swordtails should do well living with many fish that are similar to their size or slightly larger inside of a 10 gallon tank (or larger). They do especially well inside a tank that provides them with plenty of space to swim. You also want to choose an aquarium that has a minimum length of about one meter.

This will indicate that a tank that holds at least 200 liters of water is appropriate for holding four fish. For instance you could start out purchasing three females and one male. Often two males inside the same tank will not work out. There tends to be a hierarchy among swordtail fish as usually there is only room for one aggressive male, so having another male could cause harm.

Swordtails are excellent swimmers and jumpers. They can swim extremely fast and you will often see them jumping out over the surface of the tank water. Obviously they could jump out which would be harmful to them so you want to be sure that you have a strong water stream inside the aquarium.

image of swordtail fish

Swordtails are “Livebearers” & Breed A Lot

Also live-bearing fish (including swordtails) tend to produce a lot of excrement, so be sure to purchase a good water filtration system and clean the bottom occasionally. These species also will enjoy a tiny pinch of salt inside their water (however it is not required). The water should remain neutral to a little alkaline (a pH of about 7.0). The temperature of the water should be about 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 25 degrees Celsius. Tropical temperatures are very important for these fish to be healthy.

As far as placing floating plants inside of the tank, it is safe to place many inside. However keep in mind that can also hide little fry. Swordtail fish thrive in hard water. These fish quickly find themselves adapting to new conditions as long as their tank provides them with an appropriate environment. So keep in mind that a good tank will provide them with light that is not too bright, enough space to swim, enough plants, a moderate flow of water and clean water conditions.

Do not expect swordtails to reproduce quickly. However in the event they do, you must be ready to handle up to 150 baby fish that are produced at one birth. They will bear their babies alive and they do not lay any eggs. Because they are livebearing fish, you must have two to three female fish per male because the males will be aggressive to the females. Plants can work wonders as a hiding space for the females.

When it comes to breeding, the swordtail does this well inside an aquarium. As common with livebearing fish, you really only need to have one male and one female placed nearby. Breeding commonly occurs in community aquariums.

As you see with guppies, a swordtail can be involved with internal fertilization. The male’s anal fin changes into a gonopodium in which he uses this to inseminate the female mate. You can tell if the female is pregnant as she will have a dark, distended spot on the lower portion of her abdomen (this spot is the eyes of the emerging fry). When the little fry are born they emerge from their mother fish almost fully developed in about five weeks.

Protecting the New Baby Fry Born:

It is not difficult to see when the female is about to give birth as her babies will stretch her belly out and it is visible. At this point you want to take some measures to protect the female by placing her inside of a type of container. Using the container you will move her to a smaller aquarium so she will not be bothered by other fish.

This “nursery aquarium” must have a filter, heater and a few pieces of décor (like some plants) to make her comfortable. Decorations in the tank will also help the babies as it will provide them with a place to hide since the new mom will be hungry after her delivery and there is a good chance she will eat some of her babies.

Another method you could also use to protect the fry is to place a mesh type of floor inside the nursery aquarium that will let the babies gently fall to the bottom of the tank, which can prevent the female from swimming at the same level as her offspring. After the new mother is done giving birth, the female should gently be moved to a tank where she can relax and recuperate from giving birth.

Since the adult swordtails will sometimes eat their babies, they must be placed separately from the adults until they grow. So it is wise to keep them in separate tanks. Water that ranges from slightly alkaline to a little neutral is best for the babies.

The pH level should be about 7.0. For the temperature of the water it is best at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit or 22 degrees Celsius. The babies will eat flake food that is finely crushed, crushed blood worms that are freeze dried or baby brine shrimp. You can also find baby fish food at almost any pet store. To ensure that the fry grow well, be sure that you change the water inside the tank often, perhaps weekly. Also be sure to withdraw any food that is uneaten so it does not contaminate the tank water.

Most Common Questions Asked on Swordtail Fish Care:

Water Temperature Needed for Swordtails?

The Swordtail is a Central America native fish species so the water needs to be of tropical temperatures. Your tank water should be 70-78 degrees Fahrenheit. You will need a heater for your aquarium. When buying your heater, figure on needing 5 watts of energy for every gallon of water your tank is. click here more info

What are Good Tank mates for Swordtails?

Ideally you want to have laid back fish that have similar temperament as swordtails do. Most common species are usually other Livebearers, Gouramis, Platies, Mollies, some Tetras, and even nice cichlids. I stress that beginners take it slow when bringing in new species of tank mates as “trial and test” because the results will end in dead fish. Read this thread

What Size tank or Aquarium do I need?

If your planning on keeping your swordtails in a tiny fish bowl.. don’t do it. Our aim around these communities is to make the best fish habitats possible. At bare minimum for swordtails.. I would go with a 20 gallon tank. A ten gallon may work but please make sure your tank is well established and healthy water parameters. For more info on this topic go here.


Fish are one of the most sensitive and tender aquatic creatures in the world. To humans, fish can be food, pets and wildlife. Of course, there are distinctions between the fish we choose to keep as pets and the fish we eat. There are thousands of different types and species of fish in the world.

One of the common types of fish that most people keep as pet, is the Platies fish; one of the best breeds of fish from the fresh waters of Mexico, where they originate. Keeping them in alkaline is the best choice. Platies fish are commonly recognized in red, orange and yellow when we talk about colors. Fish of this type also includes sword tails and guppies as they belong to the family of poecilidae.

The female Platies fish is bigger by two inches compares to male. Meanwhile, males have gonopodium –a modified fin that helps them internally during the fertilization process. This type of fish is omnivorous and aquarium friendly. Dry foods like insects and worms are the ones they mostly feed on top of other meats and vegetables that a pet owner can provide.

Like any other species in the animal kingdom, Platies fish are very peaceful except that females are the once always being harassed by males. The conflict between the male and female Platies fish can be avoided by making sure that the plants inside the aquarium are equally distributed during the set up.

During mating season Platies fish should be confined inside a community tank with the 1 is to 3 ratios. The count of female is considerably 2 or 3 for a male platies fish to concentrate on one female only. It is tough to identify if the female is ovulating unless Platies babies are due to come out after four weeks. Pet owner should be extra careful because Platies fish consumed their own fry as these are born completely developed. Hence, fry should be put into a separate container and fed like an ordinary fish. Platies fish grows fast by feeding them with powder foods. It is always necessary to separate pregnant females until their due because of the massive distress they are suffering. This is needed to avoid giving birth before its due.

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