Swordtail Fish 101: Origin, Diet, Care & Breeding

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Every newcomer’s initial concern is how they will master whatever they are about to embark on. The same is true for new fish-keeping enthusiasts. Today, aquarium fishkeeping is a popular pastime among millennials. If you fall into this category, this is the post for you. Your dismay as a rookie must have stemmed from the selection of your fish. What better way to begin this incredible voyage than with Swordtail Fish? Swordtail Fish is a wonderful choice for newcomers and experienced anglers looking for a fresh addition. They are calm, robust, and adaptable communal fish, making swordtail fish care a breeze.

In this article, Healthy Betta will guide you on how to care for swordtail breeds properly, but first, you need to learn about the fish in general.

  • Scientific Name: Xiphophorous hellerii
  • Family: Poeciliidae
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Color Form: Various
  • Lifespan: Up to 5 years
  • Size: Up to 6.5 inches
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons
  • Tank Set-Up: Freshwater with plants and swimming space
  • Compatibility: Peaceful community

Swordtail Fish General Description

The swordtail fish (Xiphophorus helleri) is a famous freshwater species found in North and Central America. They are members of the Poeciliidae family and are linked to other common fish, such as the platy and guppy. Like others in the Poeciliidae family, Swordtail fish are prolific livebearers eager to breed in captivity (more on that later).

They would be surrounded by tropical running water in rivers and streams throughout North and Central America. There would be a lot of greenery growing amid the rocks and rubble. The plants protect the fish from other fish, the flowing water, and the sun. These fish are occasionally found in brackish settings, although this is uncommon and would reduce their life expectancy in an aquarium.

Swordtails are tough organisms, but they require an environment similar to their original tropical freshwater home.

Swordtail fish are among the most popular in the aquarium sector. They are widely accessible in most pet stores and are popular among breeders. Many diverse hues and varieties occur due to their propensity for cross-breeding and simplicity of maintenance. When you combine it with their already iconic appearance, you have a species that is ripe for display!

How does swordtail fish look like?

Swordtail Fish Appearance

The male swordtail fish’s caudal fin is its most distinguishing characteristic. The bottom lobe has been enlarged, resulting in a sword-like projection as long as the rest of the body.

Author’s Note: Because females lack the longer lobe, it’s simple to tell the sexes apart during breeding.

Aside from that distinguishing feature, swordtail fish have a relatively “normal” body form! They have a remarkable resemblance to the Southern platy, a sleek body, a large tailfin, a sharp nose, and an upturned mouth. The fish is broadest in the middle, where the dorsal and pelvic fins occur.

There’s a lot of variation in terms of hue! Wild examples often have an olive-green base with a brown lateral stripe that spans the length of the blade. On the other hand, cross-breeding has provided aquarists with a plethora of distinctive aesthetic alternatives.

The most common morphs are red, orange, and black. There are, however, multi-colored swordtail fish and exotic kinds with different patterns.

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Swordtail Fish Behavior & Temperament

This species is excellent for communities. One of the reasons swordtail fish are so easy to care for is because they are inherently quiet and kind. During the day, they’ll socialize with other fish and explore the higher reaches of the water column.

While swordtail fish are not a shoaling species, they love to be in the company of others. These fish tend to congregate in groups before venturing out on their own.

Having said that, there is the possibility of some aggressiveness. The only time swordtail fish appear to be hostile is when numerous males are in the same aquarium. Males can be territorial; therefore, it’s vital to preserve a larger female-to-male ratio to keep the peace.

Food & Diet Of Swordtail Fish

In the wild, swordtail fish are natural omnivores that consume almost anything. Bug larvae, plant debris, and small microbes are commonly found.

In a tank, swordtail fish thrive on a diverse diet of commercial food and occasional high-protein snacks. Choose nutrient-dense flakes or pellets. Every now and again, serve algal wafers to provide some plant-based cuisine.

These fish enjoy live, frozen, and freeze-dried meals. Brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, and other high-protein snacks are effective.

Juveniles should consume somewhat more protein than adults. They need a lot of protein-rich diets to grow.

Two or three light meals each day are good for both adults and juvenile swordfish. During each feeding, provide enough food for your fish to eat in two minutes. If there are any leftovers, sift them out to avoid contaminating the water.

Swordtail Fish Breeding Process

Swordtail Fish Breeding Process

The swordtail fish, as livebearers, are excellent at reproducing effectively and swiftly, with little interference from the aquarist. When a swordtail female is pregnant, she will have a large belly with a black gravid area near the anal fin.

Once the fry is born, you must take precautions to keep them alive; otherwise, they will be eaten by their parents or other tank members. You may do this by either introducing more plants that will act as hiding places for young fry or physically removing adults (or fry) from the tank.

The latter is far more efficient since only a portion of them will survive if the young are not isolated from the adults. When the fry is large enough to be no longer considered food by adults, carefully bring them to your tank.

Female swordfish may spawn and give birth every 28 days if kept in the proper living circumstances. Also, if you plan on breeding them, attempt to move the adult goldfish to a different breeding tank to maintain the proper temperature and water parameters for effective breeding.

Also, strive to keep the breeding tank at an appropriate temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Because both male and female goldfish lack paternal instinct after birth, you must guarantee that the adults are removed after spawning or that the tank has enough tiny plants to hide the young from the adult fishes.

For the fry’s diet, tiny flakes and pellets should be used first, followed by adult meals such as infusoria and brine shrimp. Aquarists must feed the young ones until they are large enough to float and swim about the tank.

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Quick Swordtail Fish Care Guide

Swordtail fish are simple to care for and are appropriate for inexperienced aquarists. They can live in a variety of conditions and are low-maintenance. The following are the care instructions:

Tank Size

Because swordtail fish are of normal size, they do not require a lot of room. However, because they are energetic swimmers, it is preferable to allow them enough room to swim around. A 15-gallon tank is an excellent place to start. This equates to a 15-gallon tank for a single fish. If you intend to maintain additional fish in the tank, you should aim for a tank at least 30 gallons in size.

A tank with a minimum volume of 30 gallons will provide ample area for your swordtail to swim around and explore. Meanwhile, there will be plenty of room for more fish to thrive.

Water Parameters

The following water conditions must be maintained in the aquarium for swordtail fish:

  • Water pH: anywhere between 7.0-8.4
  • Water Hardness: 12-30 DH
  • Temperature: 65-80°F (21-28°C)

Tank Decorations

Swordtail Fish Care Guide & Tank Set-up. Source: Youtube/Aqua Kri

They are usually found in North and Central American freshwater bodies, such as Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. They would, of course, be surrounded by tropical running water, lush flora, and boulders, and trash. Although swordtails are tough fish, it is ideal to be introduced to their natural tank configuration. The most crucial things a swordtail fish requires are room and some plants to hide in.

Swordtails are also active, swimming about the plant’s mid and surface levels. As a result, the substrate should not be your primary focus. You can select a substrate suited for your tank’s other bottom dwellers.

If you don’t have any other fish in your tank, the sandy substrate present in their native environment may be the ideal option. You may also offer them additional shelter by using rocks and driftwood. Similarly, the plants you place in your tank should be your primary emphasis. This fish’s native environment is densely forested. They use the plants to conceal themselves from other fish, from the heat, and when they are agitated.

Plants that provide safe havens for the fish should be used. Artificial or real plants can be used; however, live plants maintain your aquarium healthy. Popular alternatives include Java fern, Anubis, and others. Distribute your plants throughout the tank, providing enough area for them to swim.

Swordtails are not just energetic explorers but also skilled jumpers. As a result, a sturdy tank lid can be an important addition to preventing difficulty.

Tank Lighting

Swordtail fish are freshwater species that live in streams and other tiny bodies of water. They are used to the bright and warm beams of the sun. Plantation will be used to replicate the natural habitat of the swordtail fish. A bright lighting system with a color temperature ranging from 6700k to 10000k would be perfect for the fish and the flora to thrive.

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Common Possible Diseases

Swordtail fish, like other livebearer species, are extremely resilient. They have a better chance of remaining healthy than other egg-laying fish.

However, no fish is immune to sickness! All of the typical illnesses can affect swordtail fish.

Ich is one of the most common health problems in the fish-keeping industry. It is an ectoparasite that wreaks havoc on a fish’s immune system. It is critical to handle it as soon as possible since it typically manifests as white spots all over the body.

This illness is highly infectious and can take out an entire population in a matter of days. Fortunately, it is treatable with quarantine and over-the-counter drugs.

The same is true for fungus, another prevalent health condition. Cottonmouth, a fungal illness that affects swordtails, is common. It causes fluffiness to form around the fins and mouth. In most circumstances, antibiotics will kill fungus.

Staying on top of tank conditions is the greatest approach to avoid sickness. Monitor the parameters attentively (get an aquarium test kit) and replace the water every two weeks.

Author’s Note: Swordtail fish appear susceptible to illness following significant temperature swings. High amounts of ammonia and nitrates might induce unnecessary stress, raising their hazards. Keeping the environment in good condition can help to prevent breakouts.

Swordtail Fish Tank Mates

Swordtails, which are peaceful and energetic, mate nicely with similar species. They are gregarious fish who will love the company of other passive tank mates.

This may be observed in nature, where they coexist with Platies, their near cousins.

Other appropriate species are easily found; the difficult part is choosing which ones to pursue. In the tank’s mid-levels, you may combine them with Mollies, Rosy Barbs, Neon Tetras, Dwarf Gourami, Pearl Danio, or Angelfish.

Dwarf Corydoras, Kuhli Loaches, Otocinclus, and Zebra Loaches are all fantastic choices for bringing some activity to the lower levels.

Avoid aggressive species that may assault and harm your swordtails. This eliminates most Cichlids, such as Jack Dempseys and Convict Cichlids. In the wild, they would not encounter any predatory fish.

Try adding some invertebrates to mix in some diverse behaviors. Ghost Shrimp and Apple Snails are two unusual tankmates that are sometimes neglected.

Aquarium (Swordtail fish) after 12 months. Source: Youtube: Farmer HĐT

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FAQs About Swordtail Fish

Is it possible to keep swordtail fish together?

Swordtails do not shoal, but they are gregarious and like to be in a group of their own type. Males are typically aggressive against one another, therefore keep only one male in smaller tanks (15 gallons). A larger tank (30+ gallons) can accommodate more males, maintaining a male-to-female ratio of one male for every four females.

What is a suitable tank size for swordtails?

Some aquarists have successfully kept swordtail fish in as little as 10 gallons in freshwater tanks. Most experts, though, recommend starting with a minimum of 15 gallons. These fish are quite active, and the increased area will benefit them much.

Can swordtails kill each other?

Although swordtail fishes are generally friendly and calm, males can become territorial early. If fast action is not done, situations might quickly deteriorate, potentially leading to the death of the stronger one.

How many Swordtails can be kept in a 55-gallon tank?

55-gallon tanks have a large capacity and can hold up to 12 swordtail fish. It all boils down to the type of habitat you establish and the diversity you add into the tank, though. More often than not, you should have more females than males and provide adequate space in the tank for all of the fish to swim about comfortably.

How often do swordtails give birth?

Female swordtail fish may give birth every 28 days if optimal breeding conditions. They give birth to live young immediately after being fertilized since they are livebearers.

What’s the Lifespan of a swordtail fish?

Swordtails are livebearers, which means that the act of giving birth may be very taxing on their little bodies. They become more sluggish, and their colors seem duller as they age, but they do not just perish in old age. They begin to decline as they age, but typically a sickness or physical stress kills them. Three to four years is the usual life span. Some die early as a result of the stress of childbirth.

Final Thoughts About Swordtails

If you’ve ever wondered, “How large do swordtails get?” “What fish can coexist with swordtails?” We hope this article has provided you with all of the information you require. These gorgeous freshwater fishes are a great addition to your tank and will enhance the aesthetic of your home aquarium.

The nicest aspect about keeping these fish is how easy they are to care for. You don’t have to worry about premature mortality because they adjust to current living situations and greatly minimize your strain.

As long as you are aware of the fundamental care instructions and the needs, we are certain that you will have no trouble housing a swordtail fish until their optimal lifespan. We hope this guide has provided you with all of the information you were looking for.

To know more about other tropical fish and how to take care of them, you can visit our Tropical fish section. We provide all comprehensive guidance on taking care of popular freshwater fish such as plecos, tetras, and gouramis. Also, you can get some useful tips on creating a healthy fish tank community and much more!

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