Whether you are a beginner in the freshwater fish hobby, or if you are just wanting to add a splash of color to an existing tank, this fish is the ideal choice! Not only will this hardy fish make a great, peaceful addition to a community tank, it also won't take up a lot of space. And if you have always wanted to raise your own fish from fry, only the molly is easier! And would you believe this fish can perform its own sex change?! This fish is a true do-it-yourself-er! It's the ever popular Swordtail!
It's not hard to see why the swordtail is so popular with freshwater fish hobbyists. This fish is one of the most attractive fish available in the hobby. Right off the bat, these brightly colored fish will catch your eye. And the good news is if you don't like one particular color of swordtail, odds are there is a swordtail available in a color you will like! Swordtails can be found in several different color strains and varieties including neon, red wag, lyre tail, green, albino, gold, black, high fin, marbled and spotted.
The name "swordtail" comes from the extended caudal fin evident on the male of the species. The bottom of the male's caudal fin points out like a sword. The males aren't born with this "sword." This fin extension develops as the male swordtail matures. Since females lack this "sword", it may be hard to distinguish between the two sexes until the male matures, although the female will tend to be somewhat larger than the male swordtail - even with his "sword!"
Another reason why the swordtail is such a popular fish for the home aquarium is the fact that it doesn't need a whole lot of space. An adult swordtail will rarely grow larger than 4 ½ inches long. Due to their small size, swordtails can be kept in aquariums as small as 10 gallons. Although the swordtail doesn't need a large tank, it will need plenty of open swimming space. Just make sure to keep the top of the swordtail's aquarium tightly covered, as this fish is a notorious jumper.
The swordtail's tank should be set up to reflect its natural habitat. The swordtail is a native of Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and other areas of Central America. It is even believed that many varieties of swordtails originated from the green swordtail, which was taken to Europe, where many other varieties were then produced.
The swordtail will need light to moderate plant and rock decorations. The swordtail will also need a few hiding places and places to establish as their own territories. These hiding places will on occasion provide the female a place to hide when she is pursued by the male. The swordtail will also need good light levels in their tank. This will help keep the swordtail healthy, active and vibrant in color.
Since the swordtail is a very peaceful fish, it should only be kept with other peaceful, community tank mates. Ideal tank companions for the swordtail can include mollies, platys, angels, corys, plecos, pictus catfish, iridescent sharks, bala sharks and certain tetras. You should avoid housing the swordtail with any type of larger fish that will be apt to swallow it, or any fish that are considered to be fin nippers, like tiger barbs. The swordtail's large fins are great targets for fin nippers.
The swordtail is a brackish water fish. This simply means that their water should occasionally be a combination of salt and freshwater. Most swordtails will do better with a tablespoon of aquarium salt added for every 5 gallons of water in their tank. The water temperature should range anywhere from 68 to 80 degrees. The swordtail's water should also be hard and slightly alkaline, with a pH between 7.0 and 8.0.
While the swordtail is considered to be one of the hardiest fish in the freshwater fish hobby, it should be noted that this fish is susceptible to certain illnesses. In fact it is believed that some of the highly developed strains of swordtails are even more prone to illness. Most swordtails are prone to two main illnesses: fin rot and mouth fungus.
Feeding the swordtail is an easy task. Swordtails are middle level feeders that will readily accept most flake foods. Since the swordtail is considered to be omnivorous, some live foods should also be included in this fish's diet. Swordtails should also be given such foods as bloodworms, glass worms or tubifex worms. With some type of live food provided to the swordtail on a weekly basis, the fish will continue to thrive. Since the swordtail will eat most green foods, the fish will also eat any algae that it finds growing in its tank!
Possibly the biggest reason that the swordtail is so popular in the home aquarium is its ease of breeding. The swordtail is probably the easiest fish to breed in a home aquarium, aside from the molly. The swordtail is a livebearer, meaning that they give birth not to eggs, but to fry. The female swordtail can produce anywhere from 20 to 80 fry, and can have up to 6 batches of fry from just one fertilization. These batches will occur anywhere from 30 to 40 days apart.
If you decide to try to raise your own swordtails, it is possible, but not totally simple. First, it is best to keep the swordtails in trios: one male to two females. If you place more than one male into the mix, they will likely bicker with each other. Also, pay close attention to your swordtails as they mature. In some instances, a lack of hormones may cause an adult female to actually revert to a male!
Plenty of plants will need to be present in the swordtail's tank to protect the fry. Since the parents will often eat the fry, you will have to take measures to separate the parents from the fry immediately. This can be accomplished by using a spawning trap, a special breeder box or a tank divider. The fry should then be fed powdered flake foods. Of course, if you decide to keep the fry and you are successful in raising them to maturity, you will need to consider either buying a much larger tank or making a trip to your local pet store to see if they want to buy your young swordtails. Otherwise, you will be up to your gills in swordtails!
Swordtails are imported nearly year round, so they are found at nearly every pet store and even at those wall to wall discount marts. They are very affordable, ranging in price anywhere from $2.00 up to $6.00, depending on the variety of swordtail. With the swordtail, you won't be out any money for long. After the first batch of fry, the swordtail will make that money back and then some!