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This Story Will Surprise No One (Platy Breeding Setup)


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This story picks up at the end of the summer when it was almost time to bring my summer tubs in. In brief, I had one tub with orange platys and one with blue platys. The plan was to transition them into a 55 gallon permanent breeding setup in my fish “area,” which is in the dining nook of our kitchen.


This first post is going to be about the setup of the breeding tank itself, since that’s probably more interesting than the story itself. 😄 

I’ve been planning this setup in my head since @Brandy mentioned automatic fry sorters last fall during a discussion about matten filters. My brain stopped in its tracks and I thought “this is the best thing I’ve ever heard of!”

So over the next few months, I kept my eyes open and eventually acquired everything I’d need.


The plan was to have the orange platys on one side, the blue platys on the other, and all their fry would get pulled into the middle.

I also wanted it to look nice, since we’d be looking at this tank a lot. So I picked out a bunch of pots and a nice stick that my husband can’t believe I paid $35 for. The saucers under the pots will let them sit above the substrate.

After planning out the setup, I got to cutting holes in the matten filters. (The slit allows the pots to sit flush against the sponge.)


Ta-da! Sorters are in! I made the sorters stick into the middle at an angle so they’d create a bit of a swirl in the water, hopefully increasing the overall circulation in the middle compartment.


I decided to put actual soil in the pots, but this time (unlike what I did in my community tank), I was going to cover that soil with a nice deep sand cap!

Since the pots are so deep, I also wanted to try to defend against huge anaerobic areas. So I put tubes of plastic craft mesh down the middle. Sort of like you do in a compost barrel to make sure it stays aerated.

I was hoping a layer of gravel at the bottom would help too.


As I filled the pots with soil, I made sure to put a layer of gravel around the middle tube so the dirt wouldn’t just pour in and fill up the space.


I ordered some aqueon lights for the outer sections. Unfortunately they didn’t fit around the rim of a 55 gallon. So my dear husband chiseled some gaps for me. I don’t think they’re deep enough to threaten the structural integrity of the tank. Time will tell I guess…!


I chose a mingdak (I think) light to put under the center bar. That was the best way I could think of to light the middle section without getting a huge shadow. It comes with suction cups but those weren’t going to work since the bottom surface of the bar isn’t flat. So I turned to electrical tape.


I put everything in place…


You can see why the large pots were necessary—the fry sorters wouldn’t have stretched to the bottom, even if they were fully extended. I didn’t want to stretch them too much because the taller they are, the more air flow you need to get water through the uplift tube. Plus I just thought this looked nice. 😊

Added sand substrate. Now I understand why people have those little zen boxes where they can rake sand all day.


Started to fill with water. There was something soooo soothing about watching the water creep over the sand.

After I got it half full of water, I added some plants!



Hubby said it looks like something you’d see in a modern art museum. ☺️ I still don’t think he’s realized I stole one of our mugs to use as the smallest pot. 😁

I added a few snails and let the tank sit and cycle. I added a bit more water every few days, which gave the air time to move out of the matten filters. I didn’t do a hard core cycle because the tubs each had a sponge filter that I was planning on moving in with the platys.

So far, everything was going great. Beautiful, peaceful, all according to plan.

To be continued…

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Alright, so since I have a chronic illness and my mental+physical energy is limited, I found a way to spread the tub take-down over several days.

To start with, I got out my handy dandy aquarium coop net and took a few casual scoops out of the orange platy tub. Using my handy dandy specimen container, I brought whatever I caught inside to start their new stage of life in my 10 gallon grow-out tank. This is the tank where I planned to move the fry as they get larger.

And this was my first hint that I may have gotten more than I bargained for.


Maybe four scoops. Four not-even-trying scoops. 67 fry.

Ohhh wow.

A few days later I started draining the blue platy tub. I put a piece of mesh over the end of the hose and scooped up fish as the water slowly drained. I had one tub for plants and the other for fish. It was slow going but it went well!


I ended up with lots of tiny fry and several VERY big mamas. Oh… and one male. Can you find him? 😄 


These fry were sooo hard to spot. I ended up going back several times over the next 24 hours, including once at night with a flashlight. Fed all the mosquitos in the neighborhood that night.

And then I did the same for the orange platy tub. Those fry were much easier to spot, but no easier to catch. The aquarium coop nets are amazing, but the smallest fry can fit through the holes. Plus they were able to hide under the large gravel I’d placed on the bottom of the tub. I couldn’t bear the thought of dumping out the lat bit of water knowing there were still fry in there, so eventually I just had to stop looking for fry and pretend I got them all. I did try very very hard, so I’m sure I got the vast majority of them.

Here’s another reason I’m sure I got the vast majority of them:


I took pictures and I counted.

I got over 300 baby platys out of my summer tubs! 😱

All that from nine females (6 blue and 3 orange) and two males (one of each color). I’d started with a total of 15 fish, so apparently I lost four adult platys over the course of the summer—two from each tub. How convenient that each tub ended up with one male and several females!

Yeah, 300 babies… apparently these parent platys had not been eating their fry like I’d thought they would.

Oh—and during the take-down, one of the females tried to hide (and then got stuck) in an extra sponge filter I had seeding in her tub. She was in there for at least an hour before I realized! 😬 That’s her little nose:


I had to veeery carefully cut the sponge out from around her. She was fine, though her fins and back had some scrapes that took a week or so to heal.

At this point I was very excited about all my babies of course! But I was also quite worried how I was going to keep their water clean. Plus it just seemed like a LOT of fish…

To give the females a break, and to slow the growth of this booming population, I decided to put all the females on one side of the 55 gallon and the two males on the other side. No more mating!

So far so good. I was exhausted from the tub tear down, but I’d got everyone inside and I just had to wait for the platys to settle in.

And hopefully the two sponge filters from the tubs plus the slightly-cycled matten filters plus the soil from my backyard plus the plants from my other cycled tanks all had enough beneficial bacteria on them to keep the water clean.

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Oh wow, that is a lot of platies! So cute to see so many of them that small and your tank looks so nice.

I bought some of those matten filters to have on hand for dividing up guppy fry once they are old enough to sex. I will be interested to see how yours work. 

I should know the answer to this as I have platies myself, but how long can the mom fish continue to deliver monthly batches of fry once they are no longer near any males? I bought my 3 platy girls in July from a tank with mixed males and females in it. I've had at least two batches of fry since then and was thinking the mom fish won't necessarily be empty of stored sperm until like February?

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On 10/25/2021 at 6:08 PM, PineSong said:

I should know the answer to this as I have platies myself, but how long can the mom fish continue to deliver monthly batches of fry once they are no longer near any males?

Funny you should ask this…

I don’t know the answer, but I do know my females have NOT stopped growing babies since I separated them from the males. 😳


They’ve been inside for less than a month and I’m sure I’ve passed 400 fry!

As for how the system’s working—the automatic sorters must be doing their job, because the population in the middle compartment keeps growing. 😄 

This picture is was taken yesterday, which was several days after I removed the largest fry to put them in the grow-out tank.


The main downside I’ve seen with this system is that small foods like Easy Fry Food get sucked into the matten filters within a few minutes of sinking. So if the babies don’t find every piece immediately, it sits inside the filter and rots. I was having trouble with nitrite, so I plopped a bunch of anacharis, hornwort, and salvinia in the parents’ compartments. The beautiful scape is gone, but at least the water’s cleaner! And now I feed three squirts of fry food spread over 15 minutes rather than giving them all that food at once. I really do love that easy fry food!

Baby brine shrimp do a little better in a setup like this since once they get sucked into the matten filter, they try to follow the light and swim out. It’s really fun to watch all the babies line up with their noses pointing at the foam, waiting for the bbs to emerge 😄 

Oh and something else works really well—Repashy on a stick! @Guppysnail I finally tried it and it went over great!


The other downside to this setup is that I think the adult platys would like more horizontal swimming space. I had two females who had clamped fins all the time. I put one (my only tuxedo adult) through a round of maracyn, which kind of helped, but once she was back in with her “friends” she started hiding behind the pot. So I took her and the other platy with clamped fins and put them in my community tank. I figured if they dropped any babies, the loaches would eat them.

Unfortunately the platy I hadn’t treated with maracyn didn’t make it through the transition, but the tuxedo platy has settled in and seems much happier.

And pregnant.


This leaves seven females in the 55 breeder setup. They live under the rein of the are Queen Mother. She’s the large blue platy. My husband says she’s pretty enough to be a betta. ☺️ 


As for the males… well, it turns out I’ve got an aggressive one. I was wondering why they were always glass surfing—I even covered another side of their compartment with frosted cling film—but I finally realized the orange male was chasing the blue male constantly. He probably would have chased him to death. The poor thing was on the verge of a heart attack.

You remember how I only found one male per tub? Yeah… maybe not a coincidence.

I decided to put the orange male in timeout.


He escaped timeout though. I came back to find the blue fish in timeout instead. And that’s where he’s lived ever since. 🥲


The orange male now lives with a single pink fry that somehow ended up on their side when I was moving everyone inside. We’ll see what side of the timeout screen the fry ends up on when it starts looking like an adult.

I also had to start a second 10g grow out tank because there were just way too many babies.

So right now the current state of things is…

55g main breeding setup:


10g grow out for medium fry:


And 10g grow out for large fry.


I took about 35 of the largest fry to my LFS last week. What a relief to get rid of some of them!! 😵 I had meant for them to be a free sample, but he ended up giving me $10 and four neocardinia. (I also brought him some plants and got another $10 for those.)

He insisted that he’s happy to take a lot of platys since they always sell well. I told him I had 400 fry and he didn’t even blink. So that’s a good sign! 😄

I’m hoping he’ll take them for 50c each if they’re big enough. Is that reasonable? I’d love to hear what other people get for their livebearer juveniles.

On 10/25/2021 at 9:19 PM, Guppysnail said:

I worry over my 1-200 fry. 300 I would be insane.

I might be going a little insane. 🤪

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Hobbit, I am a tiny bit jealous of your adorable fry, and a tiny bit relieved that so far my platy ladies have either had very small batches or very large appetites. I had seven from one batch and three from another. 9 fry!

I don't even qualify for an automatic fry sorter. Womp womp. I'm hoping to do tubs next summer, maybe that will get them going.



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  • 3 months later...

It’s been a while, so I thought I’d give a bit of an update on how this setup’s working for me.

Mainly it’s working really well!


There are so many fish in here (and so much food gets stuck in the filters) that nitrates are consistently pretty high. I’ve added some pothos to one side and I’m sure that will help.

The fry slurpers are working pretty well, but they definitely don’t catch all the fry. And since the parents don’t seem too eager to eat them all, I do end up with some fry growing up in the parents’ area.

One of the biggest challenges is catching the fry out of the middle compartment as they grow. Even with a nice little fry trap, some fry are just too smart and will never get caught. The driftwood is easily removable (thankfully) but it sure is a pain working around those pots. The price of beauty. 😩 😉 


I’ve started to choose the best fry to keep as broodstock and rotate out the original parents that weren’t quite what I wanted color-wise. And I’ve decided that two females of each color produce PLENTY of babies. So we have our two remaining blue ladies, including the Queen Mother:


And two remaining orange ladies, except one of them is hiding so you only get to see one (and the new broodstock):


All in all I have three grow-out tanks for the juveniles. Two just wasn’t enough with the number of babies I had.


Medium babies:


Large babies (one of two tanks):


Over the last few months I’ve delivered roughly 275 platys to my LFS and got about 0.75c per fish, if I wasn’t trading or gifting.

Overall, I’d highly recommend a matten filter + fry slurper setup if you’re interested in trying to raise livebearers on a large scale!

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On 2/4/2022 at 10:32 AM, eatyourpeas said:

I love your setup! @Hobbit, you just made me realize that I could never breed fishies. It is the sure fire way of ending with a serious case of MTS!!!🤪

This is no joke. Oh, I'll just breed these in a 20L. Oh hey the babies are growing,  let's put them in another tank. Oh theyve really grown let's split them up. Oh look new fry! ... 12 tanks later...

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Argh, I don't know how I missed this update but I'm glad I caught it today. Your orange platies are really fantastic--hard to find them without wag pattern or sunburst. I am wondering how soon blue coloring shows up, if you know? I have dark blue ladies and put a green lantern male in. Now I have 897 silver fry, some with tux and some without, but only very pale hints of blue on a couple. They are smaller than a pinky nail still... 


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@PineSong thanks! The blue definitely takes time to grow in. Same with the red tail, actually. When my blue babies are born they’re just gray. I have a bunch that are 7 weeks old today and they’re looking blue-ish, but not super blue. The few blue platys I’ve kept since birth (maybe 6-8 months old at this point?) got continuously bluer over several months. I think my 8 month old platy is finally at her bluest. Often I bring my fry to the LFS at around 4 months old, and even then they’re not fully blue’d up.

Hahaha I just read that paragraph back to myself and I don’t think I’ve ever used more variations of the word “blue” in my life 🤣

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