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|The Swordtail or Xiphophorus
is a member of the family Poecilidae
in the order
Cyrinodontiformes. The sword fish is endemic to both North
and South America. Their natural habitat stretches from Vera Cruz,
Mexico to Honduras.
literal. These fish are named for the extended pointed region at the
bottom of the caudal fin. This species is sexually dimorphic. The
extended tail is found only among the males of the species. The
different sexes do share the same color palette. The female is often
slightly larger than the male.
another popular fish among freshwater aquarium owners, the plati
commonly referred to as the southern platyfish.
They are so closely
related that they can crossbreed with one another and do so regularly
in the wild.
the southern platyfish, the swordtail’s prolific breeding has
wreaked havoc on previously uninhabited ecosystems. Feral populations
can be found in both Africa and Australia. This ecological
nuisance has caused damage in both of its new spawning
the fish you
see in fish stores today, the swordtail has been selectively bred to
increase its appeal for the aquarium owner. Swordtails come in an
assortment of colors including orange, red, black, green, yellow and
have a good
natured temperament. They are the perfect fit for community tanks. They
prefer the swift moving water and heavy vegetation of tropical rivers
and streams but can make themselves right at home in creeks and canals.
Accordingly they can adapt to a multitude of aquarium conditions.
slightly alkaline waters ranging from pH 7.0-7.3 with water
temperatures between 72-79 °F. They can grow as long as 5
inches and have an average life expectancy of up to 5 years.
They are not picky eaters. They can subsist on a diet of nothing but
tropical fish flakes but regular protein supplements will help maintain
their virility and coloration.
The Swordtail is a live
bearing fish. They share similar traits with other live
bearers. The males have a modified anal fin known as a
gonopodium that is used to inseminate the female during spawning. They
also have a tendency to harass the females of their species.
A mix of 2-3 females per male is recommended to curb incidences of
domestic violence. Providing plants for the females to hide is also
in community tanks. The urge to reproduce is so strong in this species
that the females are hermaphroditic. In populations consisting entirely
of females one will frequently transform into a male to insure the
propagation of the species. The female will develop a dark gravid spot
on her abdomen after she becomes pregnant.
four to six
week gestation period. They will emerge from the female fully
developed. Like most live bearing fish, adult swordtails will eat their
fry. This can be easily avoided by the use of a breeding trap.
hatched shrimp brine, powdered or liquid fry food formulated for live
bearing fish. An economical and readily available substitute is
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