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  • Xiphophorus Helleri (Swordtail)



    Quick Ref.
    Species: Xiphophorus Helleri
    Geo. Location: Guatemala, Mexico
    PH: 7.0 - 8.0
    Temperature: 72 - 80F
    Water Hardness: 5 - 30dh
    Size: 4.0"
    Diet: Flakes,frozen/live foods, algaes
    Difficulty: 1

    Photo Credit: Andrzej Zabawski
    Notes: Xiphophorus Helleri is a very popular fish among beginners. Its bright colors as well as its easiness to keep and breed makes it one of the most attractive fish to the hobbyists. Most commonly sold under its bright orange/red colors with black tail, this fish was first discovered in South America under its green appearence. Since then, Swordtails have become widely available and are now found under pretty much any shapes and colors (neon, lyretail, green albino, wagtail, marigold, highfin, spotted, tuxedo are just a few of them). Due to its massive breeding, this fish has changed a lot since its discovery and the species that we now see in our tanks are very different from its ancestors.
    This hardy fish is usually peaceful and can live as long as 4 years in captivity. It does better in groups and does great in community tanks with other livebearers like Guppys or Platys. It can become aggressive against other males when competing for a female.
    Swordtails do not require too much space to develop. A 10 gallon aquarium will do just fine for a pair. The tank will have to be planted with lots of swimming places. Some hidding areas will be required by the females that are constantly arrast by the males. 1 male to at least 2 females is a good ratio. Swordtails like brackish type waters and for this fish to thrive, it is recommended to add 1 tablespoon of salt per 5 gallon (although not required). The tank will have to have a good lighting level and a cover as they are great jumpers.
    Xiphophorus Helleri's main caracteristic is the male's sword at the end of its tail. This sword can be as long as a few inches and develops as the male growths. For this reason, it is not recommended to keep swordtail with fin nippers.
    Swordtail will eat pretty much any kind of foods. On a daily basis, flakes are usually recommended. Once a week, feed them live foods like bloodworms or brine shrimps. They will also eat algae tablets.
    Xiphophorus Helleri is closely related to Xiphophorus Maculatus (Platy). If kept in the same tank, cross breeding can and will occur.

    Breeding: Swordtails are livebearers, which means they give birth to already formed fry. There are a few ways to differentiate males from females. The first and most obvious is to look at the tail of the fish. If it is long and in shape of a sword, it is a male. However, when young, this diphormism is not always obvious and male Swordtails are well known to be late developpers. The presence of a gonopodium in the male species is another way to tell males from females. Gonopodiums are extension of the anal fin rays that the male uses to fertilize the female. Females, in conterpart, have a gravid patch at the end of their belly right under the anal fin. This patch gets bigger as she gets ready to give birth. Fermales are also usually bigger than males. It's been said that females can sometimes change sex after breeding a few times. Opinions are divided on this subject. I actually have had a few females that changed sex after after a while but I'm not sure if they were actual females or really late developping males. Some hobbyist also believe that females become males when there is a male shortage. All these facts remain to be proven.
    Xiphophorus Helleri is one of the easiest tropical fish to breed. Females can give birth to 3 to 6 batchs of fry with only one fertilization (20 to 80 fry every time - spawning is approx. 2 hours long). A happy female will give birth every 4 to 6 weeks and the gestation period last approximately 3 to 4 weeks. It is a very prolific fish.
    Swordtails will breed in pretty much any kind of water. They usually prefer hard and alcalin water and do very good in our municipal tap waters. As soon as the female give birth, remove the parents from the tank as they would eat the fry. The best way is to have a small tank ready for the fry to be isolated. This tank will have a small sponge filter, hidding places and java moss/plants. If the parents can not be removed from the tank, make sure to have a lot of Java Moss and hidding places for the fry to hide from their parents/other fish. Feed the fry with crushed flakes and do water changes on a regular basis, this will help the youngs to grow rapidly.

    If you are interested in Swordtail reproduction click Here to see a complete guide on commercial production of this fish.

    Contacts pierre@fishandtips.com