If you're looking for an easy-to-care-for freshwater fish that doubles as a conversation piece, you can't go wrong with the Mickey Mouse platy (also known as the golden moon platy or moonfish). The Mickey Mouse platy boasts a "hidden Mickey" design located near its tail, is tolerant of a wide range of water conditions, and is relatively easy to breed. Rather than laying eggs, this species bears live young; the sudden appearance of the tiny fry can be fascinating for both young and old fishkeepers.
Common Names: Golden moon platy, mickey mouse platy, moonfish
Scientific Name: Xiphophorus maculatus
Adult Size: 1 to 2 inches (3 1/2 to 5 cm)
Life Expectancy: 5 years
|Origin||Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico|
|Social||Peaceful, suitable for a community tank|
|Tank Level||Mid dweller|
|Minimum Tank Size||10 gallons|
|Diet||Omnivore, eats most foods|
|pH||7.0 to 8.2|
|Hardness||10 to 25 dGH|
|Temperature||64 to 77 F (18 to 25 C)|
Origin and Distribution
Native to North and Central America from Ciudad Veracruz, Mexico, to northern Belize in Central America, this platy is not considered to be endangered. Nonnative populations now reside in a number of locations within the United States, including California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, and Texas.
Colors and Markings
If you are wondering where this adorable fish got its nickname, just look closely at the tail area, and you'll discover a "hidden Mickey." Near the base of the tail is a large round black spot upon which are perched two smaller round "ears" that give it the spitting image of the popular Disney character, Mickey Mouse.
The fish itself may be pale yellow to gold, red to orange, or even bluish in color. The fins may range from pale yellow to red- or black-tinged. There are also long-finned and high-finned varieties. Despite the color and fin variations, all are the same species of fish.
The Mickey Mouse platy is very peaceful and lives sociably with a wide variety of other fish. Because they are not schooling fish, they don't need a great deal of room in which to move. Small tanks, therefore, are very comfortable habitats.
And yet, Mickey Mouse platies often prefer the company of other members of the genus Xiphophorus. These are all livebearing fish, such as the guppies, mollies, and swordtails. Other compatible tankmates include angels, catfish, danios, gouramis, and tetras.
Mickey Mouse Platy Habitat and Care
The Mickey Mouse platy is a terrific choice for new aquarium owners. Like other platys, the Mickey Mouse tolerates a wide range of conditions, and are suitable for even small aquariums. They will graze on vegetation, so keep that in mind if you have live plants. The ideal substrate is small to medium-sized and darker in color, which also serves as a good contrast to show off the pretty colors of this fish.
Water conditions are not critical. Alkaline water of moderate hardness is ideal, which is very similar to most city tap water. The temperature of a typical community tank, 76 to 78 F, will do quite nicely for the Mickey Mouse platy.
Mickey Mouse Platy Diet and Feeding
In nature, this fish feeds on live foods such as insects and worms, as well as vegetation. However, they are not picky and accept virtually any food, including flake, freeze-dried, frozen, and live foods. Live foods, such as brine shrimp, glassworms, and bloodworms, are a good supplement. Frozen or freeze-dried varieties of the same foods offer a good alternative.
A varied diet including plenty of vegetable matter ensures good health. Fresh produce such as lettuce, spinach, cooked peas, or zucchini will be readily accepted. In lieu of fresh veggies, try spirulina.
Like all live-bearing fish, Mickey Mouse platys exhibit sexual dimorphism, meaning males and females have externally visible physical differences. Females are generally larger, and sometimes are less vibrantly colored than the male. Males are easily recognized by the presence of the gonopodium, a modified anal fin used to hook the female and deposit sperm. Males also have a more pointed caudal fin.
Breeding the Mickey Mouse Platy
Like other livebearing fish, this fish is sexually mature as early as 4 months of age, which means young fish should be sexed and separated as early as possible. Females who mate retain sperm packets and can continue to give birth without mating again for a number of months.
Once mating has occurred and the eggs are fertilized, it takes about 30 days for the fry to emerge. The temperature can slow down or speed up the process; warmer water shortens the gestation period. Typical broods are 40 to 60 fry that are born free swimming.
As the fry develop, the belly of the female becomes larger. Eventually, the eyes of the fry can be seen through the stretched belly of the mother. As birthing time draws near, you should be prepared to shelter and protect the fry. Otherwise, the parents and any other fish in the tank will eat most if not all of them.
One option is to place the female in a breeding trap just before birth. The trap is designed so that fry fall through slits that are too small for the mother to follow. The downside of this is that the small trap is unnatural and stressful for the mother, so she must be moved well before she begins giving birth.
The better method is to have a separate birthing/nursery tank that is heavily planted with fine leafed vegetation. As the fry are born, they hide in the plants. Once the mother has given birth to all of her fry, she is removed.
The fry are born as fully formed very tiny fish. Initially, they need very fine foods to feed upon. Freshly hatched brine shrimp are ideal, but liquid or powdered fry food will serve as well. Feedings are required several times per day, which means that debris will build up more quickly in the tank, thus requiring daily water changes.
More Pet Fish Species and Further Research
If you’re interested in similar species, check out:
Check out additional fish breed profiles for more information on other freshwater fish.