Livebearers – Swordtails

Livebearers: Swordtails, Guppies, Mollies, Platies, Variatus

There are 4 families of freshwater fish that are considered livebearers. The Family Poeciliidae includes mollies, platies, swordtails, guppies and even mosquito fish. They are called livebearers because the females retain their eggs until they are fully developed and give birth to free-swimming fry. Over the years, livebearers have been selectively bred to create a host of different colors, body shapes and fin types. Because they tend to be peaceful, colorful and hardy they make great beginner fish and for many experienced aquarists their first aquarium fish was some type of livebearer.

Natural Habitat for Livebearers
Poecilid livebearers are native to the southeastern United States, Mexico, Central America, northern South America and many islands of the Caribbean Sea. Guppies and mosquito fish have been introduced to many parts of Asia to help control malaria causing mosquitoes and are now established in virtually all tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. They inhabit streams, rivers, pools, lakes and estuary environments.

Livebearers Water Requirements
Livebearers are native to hard, alkaline water but farm raised fish sold today will thrive in a wide range of water conditions. In nature, they are often found in brackish to full marine environments and will benefit from the addition of 1 teaspoon of non-iodized aquarium salt per gallon of water! Livebearers are top to mid-water swimmers and can be kept in aquariums of 2.5 to 20 gallons, however, larger aquariums are easier to take care of and give the fish more room to swim. They will be less stressed and show their best colors in a well planted dark bottomed aquarium with a moderate current.

Swordtails are a very popular species of aquarium fish and a great choice for the beginner or advanced aquarists. Swordtails are tolerant to a range of water conditions and has a very peaceful temperament. In the wild, swordtail are found in the warm waters of Mexico and span much of Central America. Swordtails thrive in flowing streams with dense vegetation. They are also found in small ponds and even in drainage pipes and vents.
Swordtails have a long, thin elongated lower tail. Swordtails are livebearers, meaning they will give birth to live fry instead of eggs. Swordtails readily breed when kept in an aquarium of mixed sex, requiring little intervention. The young are very easy to rear and can be raised in the same aquarium as the adults.

There are several varieties of swordtails including Red Velvet Swordtail, Red Wag Swordtail, Neon swordtail, Pineapple Swordtail, Black Nubian Swordtail and Marigold Swordtails. The most popular is the solid orange variety and is readily available.

Swordtail Requirements
Temperature – 64-82°F
pH – 7.0-8.3
Hardness – 12-30 KH
Max Size: 3″ avg
Diet – Omnivore

Swordtails are livebearing fish and will give birth to live young babies called Fry. Livebearers are an excellent fish to practice breeding because they will often breed with minimal intervention from the owner. Livebearer young are free swimming and fairly large when born, they have a much higher chance of growing to adulthood than fish raised from eggs. Stock your tank with more females in the tank than males. One male to three females is usually recommended for the highest chance of success. During mating, the males will continuously swim next to and nip the females. This can be stressful for the female and the continued pestering from the male can wear them out. It is important to house a larger number of females than males to reduce stress on individual single females.
Feeding: In the wild, Swordtails are omnivores. They will opportunistically feed on plants, insects & invertebrates. You should keep this diet in the aquarium by feeding a variety of processed and natural foods. A diversified diet should include frozen or live foods, blanched vegetables and flake or granular food. Vegetables such as sliced cucumber, zucchini, broccoli and shelled peas can be lightly blanched in boiling water (to ensure they will sink in the aquarium) and fed to your Swordtails.