Caring for Your New Swordtail
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Swordtail Factoids

Origin

Central America

Maximum Size

Over 4 inches in a large tank

Housing

20L aquarium great

Security

Loves planted aquaria

Temperature

Prefers 75 to 80o

Attitude

Good natured, eager eater, fantastic jumper

Foods

Loves all foods.  Likes vegetable matter.

Water

Prefers pH above neutral.  Add salt.

Sex Differences

Mature males sport the sword plus gonopodium

Gestation Period

6 weeks

Number of Young

Dozens – likes to eat babies

Life Span

Two years on average

LA
Get that top fin up.  Straighten that tail.  Four demerits, Mister.  Good gonopodium, tho.

Original Origins:  Green swordtails originally came from around Guatemala.  Selective breeding and crosses with closely related species have all but replaced the original green and Montezuma swords.  You now see swords in nearly every color but blue.

Loree D, Oregon, April 17, 2008
On your page about swordtails you said that they come in every color but blue. I recently found a blue wag at a local pet store. She is obviously not a platy; longer and slimmer. Her back is blue and she has a little orange on each side, also has the wag pattern. She was in with several others when I bought her and they looked the same although not all of them had orange sides. I had never heard of a blue swordtail before this.

A:  I've still never seen one.  Can you send me a picture?  LA

Added June 2, 2008

LA
I'll never be able to say I've never seen a blue swordtail again. Obvious male.

LA
Sold to us as a mystic blue swordtail.

LA
They are blue (a reflected color).
 

John Faust, Phillips. WI, July 10, 2010
Hi folks. As to no blue swordtails look up Bitter Root Tropicals. They breed gorgeous blue wag swordtails. They sell them via some online auction. Truly stunning fish. Haven't seen the metallic blue sword you show a pic of here in Wisconsin yet , but now that I know they are out there I will be looking for them.
I have a black male swordtail in with red painted females, orange as I call them twin bar female swords, black female swords, blue Mickey mouse platy females, blue tuxedo platy females. He has 12 females in with him so he's a busy happy boy. Most if not all females were carrying young when I got them so with the big gobs of java moss I am finding lots of fry. That and I keep them well fed and do water changes etc.
I plan to separate the painted out a bit later as well as the orange twinbar. Each color will go in a separate 55 gallon tank.  My black male has blue in his black so hoping he and the blue platys will combine for a deeper better blue.
Sorry about all the babble. Neat site you have so just had to share where to find blue swords and babble about my breeding efforts tho just starting.

A:  Sounds like you're making progress.  The biggest problem with livebearers:  They tend to crowd and thus stunt each other.  Now you have to think in terms of culling the herd.  Pull out the youngsters that don't meet your standards.  It's a tough job but necessary if you want to improve your stock.  In addition, you need lots of tanks and/or massive water changes.  One of the icons in the hobby, Jim Langhammer in Detroit, built a system that changed 90% of his water with aged water every day.  He was able to raise 80 to 100 swordtails to commercial size in a 20H.  Very impressive production.  LA

LA
Obviously not a wild caught swordtail.  Female, no gonopodium.

LA
Lyretail gonopodiums grow too long to function.

New Origins:  Fish farms in Florida and the far east crank out huge volumes of swordtails.  Through selective breeding they’ve added high dorsal fins as well as lyre tail finnage.

Water Conditions:  Swordtails prefer a pH above neutral.  Our Des Moines water works great.  Swords also like salt in their water – one teaspoon per gallon. A little more couldnt hurt.

LA
More hi-fin lyre tail swordtails.  Gonopodium on bottom male.

LA
Reds -- most popular of all the swordtails.

Appeal:  Anyone spotting the blood-red swordtails can’t resist their velvety beauty.  Those who like fancier varieties admire the finnage on the high-finned varieties.  In the reds alone, you see blood reds, regular reds, brick reds, tuxedo reds, painted reds, corals, peppermints, red eyes, and red wags (black tail and fins).  And most of these same variations continue into yellow, pineapple, marigold, neon, lemon, candy cane, and black.

LA
Every one of these swordtails is a male.

Size:   Sold at under two inches, swordtails grown in large tanks can easily double that length.  Swords separated by sex grow the largest.  We have seen (once) a six-inch swordtail.

LA
Swordtails mix very well in most community tanks.

LA
Swordtails add color and action.

Jumpers:  Of all the species of livebearers, swordtails like to jump the most.   We for sure recommend a good tank cover – with no holes.  We put 30 Montezuma swords in a 20H with a cover.  By the next morning every one of them had exited the tank (and this mortal coil) via a one-inch hole where the heater belonged.

LA
Gravid spot.  You can see the babies' eyeballs.

LA
Deceased female swordtail with her unhatched eggs delivered by Caesarean section.

LA
Can't see the babies' eyeballs on albino female swordtails.  Albino over white?  Over black better.

LA
Neon swordtails, female and male..

Sex Comments:  Males chase the females all the time.  Provide your males two or three females.  Females grow larger than males.  You can see the eyes of the developing babies in the female’s gravid spot.

LA
Occasionally swordtails pick on angels, but large angels pick back.

No Goldfish:  Oddly enough, swordtails don’t mix well with goldfish.  Swords constantly pick, pick, pick at goldfishes -- apparently snacking on their slime coating.  Sometimes they will also pick at angelfish and gouramis.

Swordtail Foods:   Swordtails eat whatever you feed them.  They need foods with algae or other vegetation in them.  They also constantly snack on the algae growing on your tank’s walls.  Swords also love live foods, frozen foods, and their own fry.  Swords also respond well to those worm flake foods that increase their litter sizes.  Feed several times a day for maximum production.

 

LA
Baby swordtails before hatching inside their mother's body.

Saving Fry:  Swordtail eggs hatch inside the female.  Swordtail fry taste good to other fishes (and to mom).  They start life only a little larger than baby guppies.  If you want baby swords, you need to keep your eyes open.  Healthy females release live fry every six weeks.  Give expectant moms a well-planted 10-gallon tank so the babies can hide.  Those so-called breeder traps are too small.  Moms can find their babies too easily.  Keep mom well fed on brine shrimp or she will devour every one of her fry.

Protective Plants:  Hornwort makes the ideal plant in a swordtail breeding tank.  It grows well in any kind of water.  Just give it light.  It also grows thousands of tiny pine-looking  leaflets for the babies to hide within and provides multiple areas for tiny edible protozoans to thrive upon.

Fry Foods:  Baby swordtails eagerly eat powdered dry food.  They also love newly hatched shrimps – even the frozen ones.  They grow best when fed several times a day (up to a maximum of five times).  Add snails to clean up the excess.

LA
Swordtails make good community fishes.  They also make great jumpers.  Keep yours covered.

LA
Swordtails make a great community tank inhabitant.

LA
"Koi" Swordtails, a relatively new development.

Filtration: Swordtails like clean water, but avoid those baby-eating power filters.  Use an under gravel or sponge filter instead.  LA.
 

Jessica Denison, Queensland, Australia, May 31, 2010
Hey LA! I've just bought myself my second swordtail and was I suprised! I thought you might like this picture of my swordtail to add to your fact sheet. I've never seen colours like this on one! He was the only one like him in all the stores I've seen :)!
By the way I love your site! It's helped me so much :)!!
All the best,

JD

 

A:  Thanks for the pic.  I'll add it to my swordtail page.  Unfortunately, the male hi-fin lyretail swords are unbreedable.  Check out his equipment.  LA

 

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