Varieties of Platy Fish (Xiphophorus spp.)

Hardy, Compatible With Other Fish, and Easy to Breed

Platy fish with variegated pattern of purple and yellow glittery scales

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Platys are one of the several livebearing species of freshwater fish popular with aquarium enthusiasts. Grouped together with their close cousins, the swordtails, platys are part of the genus known as Xiphophorus. They are hardy, compatible with other fish, and are extremely easy to breed. They also come in a variety of attractive colors and forms. 

Although platys comprise only a couple of species within the Xiphophorus genus, there are considerable variations in color and even fin type within these species. Furthermore, the species interbreed so readily that many specimens sold in the trade are mixed hybrids. However, they all do well in similar conditions, so unless your goal is to breed a pure line, this doesn't really matter. Choose your variety based on whatever appearance you like. 

  • 01 of 09

    Color Variations

    Platy fish

    Mark Dumont/Flickr/CC By 2.0

    Platys are one of the more colorful freshwater fish, with base colors that range from pale yellows all the way to deep black and many shades in between. As with many fish species, there is also an albino variant. Within each of the color groups, there are many shades, along with a number of names used to describe them. It is common for platys to exhibit several colors as well as various shades all in the same fish. Colors seen in platys include:

    • Black, half-black, and black finned (wag tail)
    • Blue
    • Brown
    • Gold/yellow: referred to as gold, golden, marigold, sunburst, sunset
    • Green
    • Red: referred to as blood red, brick red, coral red, velvet red
  • 02 of 09

    Wagtail Pattern

    Wagtail pattern

    Marrabbio2/The Spruce

    When the rays of the caudal and dorsal fins are black, the pattern is said to be a wagtail. Wagtails can occur with virtually any body color and can be combined with other color patterns. For instance, the painted or variegated pattern may be combined with the wagtail trait. Red or gold are the most commonly seen colors of wagtails, but the variation can also exhibit blue, gold, or green colors. The wagtail color pattern is also frequently seen in another species within the genus, the swordtails.

  • 03 of 09

    Variegated Pattern

    Variegated pattern on fish

    JuTa/The Spruce

    Dark splotches of various sizes and shapes all over the body is a common color pattern. Usually called the variegated pattern, it's also referred to as painted, as it resembles the dabbling of an artist's brush. Variegated patterns may be combined with any base color, as well as with other color patterns or tail variations. The highly popular Mickey Mouse platy is a type of variegated color pattern.

  • 04 of 09

    Salt-and-Pepper Pattern

    Salt and pepper variation

    vxixiv/The Spruce

    In this slightly different twist on the variegated pattern, there are a number of dark or light spots (rather than blotches) that are liberally sprinkled over the body. As with other color patterns, the salt-and-pepper type may be combined with several different color and fin variations.

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  • 05 of 09

    Tuxedo Pattern

    Red tuxedo platy

    Marrabbio2/The Spruce

    The tuxedo variation refers to a dual pattern in which the posterior portion of the fish is black while the anterior portion is another color. Red and gold are commonly seen colors in tuxedo patterns and the combination can be extremely attractive. As with other types of color patterns, the tuxedo trait is often combined with additional color variations, such as the comet or twin bar pattern.

  • 06 of 09

    Rainbow Pattern

    Rainbow wagtail

    Marrabbio2/The Spruce

    A number of colors in a single fish is known as a rainbow color variation. Often these fish display colors in true rainbow fashion, ranging from dark to lighter colors, ending with a black tail. An attractive iridescent rainbow color pattern is also available, sold under the name neon.

  • 07 of 09

    Comet or Twin Bar Pattern

    Comet fish

    Marrabbio2/The Spruce

    The comet or twin bar trait is another color variation that is often combined with other color patterns. In this variation, the caudal fin is edged in black on both of the outside margins. The twin black bars makes the tail fin stand out noticeably.

  • 08 of 09

    Hifin Variation

    Hifin wagtail

    Thomas R. Reich, PhD/The Spruce

    There are two common fin variations in platys—the hifin is the most frequently seen trait. In hifins, the dorsal fin is elongated, sometimes quite significantly. As with other traits, the hifin variation can be found in fish with a variety of different color patterns.

    Unfortunately, any tail variation in which all or part of the tail is elongated lends itself to being nipped. Elongated fins are also more prone to disease when the fish is stressed, or if the water conditions are not optimal. Owners of fish with these variations should monitor their health closely and address problems quickly.

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  • 09 of 09

    Pintail Variation

    Pintail variation


    Seen less often than the hifin, this variation is easily spotted. In the pintail, the center portion of the tail fin is elongated, jutting out like a pin. Sometimes the fish is mistaken for a swordtail, which is actually a different species within the same genus.