Sexing swordtails is important for the diversity of your aquarium. The optimum ratio between the genders also aids in keeping a balance.
Is your Swordtail Male or Female and what is the optimum ratio for both the genders? The basic difference lies in the presence of anal fin elongation. In the males, the anal fin elongates into a pointed stick-like gonopodium while the females have a fan-shaped anal fin. The optimum ratio of Swordtails is three or four females for every male.
However, Swordtails are not similar to other aquarium fish in terms of their size, breeding rate, and specific tank requirements. Hence, if you read on, I will guide you through the process of rearing a swordtail.
Male and female swordtail anatomy
Before we learn the efficient way to rear swordtails, we need to be quick in gendering Swordtails. The environment of an aquarium is highly affected by the sex that dominates your tank.
Swordtails’ sex difference is easily identified by their appearance and presence of gonopodium. Gonopodium is basically the name for male’s extended anal fin. The male swordtail has long and elongated anal fin which is developed over time. However, females have a round, fan-shaped anal fin. Male’s gonopodium is basically responsible for releasing sperm.
As far as appearance is concerned, contrary to males who have long and slim bodies, female swordtails are round. They tend to grow in size when they become impregnated.
Swordtails are very active therefore, they require a larger tank to swim around freely. In addition to that, if you plan on breeding your swordtails, then you must know that the size of females tends to become double of their actual size while they are pregnant. Hence, they require considerably more space than their male counterparts.
Safe ratio for swordtail genders
Swordtails tend to breed faster if the male dominates because they harass female swordtails and try several times to mate with them. Therefore, you need to have an optimum ratio of fish in your tank.
If the ratio is not optimum then that results in the illness of the swordtails and distress in the tank. This is mainly due to the domination of male swordtails.
Swordtails cannot stay healthy in normal water conditions. Certain parameters need to be maintained in the tank for them to stay alive and well. All of these parameters are explained in detail in the next subheadings.
Breeding rate of swordtails
Swordtails are livebearers. Instead of laying an egg, female swordtails produce a young one. As mentioned above, the optimum ratio is three females for every male. The reason for this is the energy of male swordtails. They tend to run after female swordtails and harass them until they die. If the males dominate, then the females will have no room to rest.
It also depends on the rate of the breeding that you desire. With the optimum ratio, breeding rate will be controlled. If there is one male swordtail for every female swordtail then the breeding rate will increase and the aquarium will remain agitated.
In case you wish for no breeding, then you can have either all male swordtails or all female swordtails, although the former would cause the fish to become aggressive in the absence of females.
If you wish to have a large group of swordtails then the breeding issues will also minimize as the swordtails get along well in a group, but that depends on the size of the tank as well.
Impregnation of a female swordtail
You can identify an impregnated female swordtail from a mile away because they have swollen bellies and a dark gravid spot around their anal fin. When the female is close to giving birth, it becomes more obvious due to her appearance and behavior.
Impregnated swordtails eat less, hide out more and remain lethargic when they are close to giving birth. Therefore, it is precautionary to take good care of them. Even after they have given birth, it is important to keep them in a separate tank to make sure they survive and remain away from the male swordtail’s sight, otherwise he will try to chase her again.
It is, however, more important to remove the young fry from the tank after birth. This will make sure they survive till they are fully developed as an adult otherwise the adult swordtails will consume them. You can take protective measures and add plants in the water to create more hiding spots for the young fry. The ideal method is to isolate the fry into a different tank.
Size of the tank
The size of the tank depends upon the number of swordtails you wish to keep. The swordtails’ average size is about 6 inches for males and 5 and a half inches for females. Hence, before you decide on keeping a swordtail, you need to provide it with a tank that can acquire 10-15 gallons (45-50 liters) of water.
However, Swordtails are one of the most active aquarium fish you’ll come across. Therefore, if you plan on getting more than one swordtail then the average size for the aquarium is one that can hold up to 30 gallons (133 liters) of water.
Another precaution to take besides getting a larger aquarium for swordtails is to get an aquarium that is covered. Swordtails tend to jump a lot. Hence, that can result in a negative situation if there is no lid.
Swordtails’ water temperature and pH has to be very specific. They can’t survive or live a healthy life if their water parameters are not up to the mark. Swordtails prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline pH for their water hence the optimum pH range is between 7 to 9.5.
Since the water temperature of their natural habitat is 21 to 28 degrees Celsius (72-82F), they feel more comfortable if their tank temperature is within this range.
Apart from that, the amount of nitrates and ammonia in the water should also be maintained. They do well in hard water with a fine quantity of Magnesium and Calcium ions so you need to make sure the hardness level doesn’t lie outside of 12-30 dGH.
Swordtails adjust quickly to the changes in their environment. However, if changes in these conditions are made drastically, they might end up ill. Water parameters are strongly affected by the filtration system. If you don’t have a proper set up for that, your swordtails won’t live to the best of their abilities.
Food for swordtails
Swordtails are basically omnivores which means they need vegetation as well as meat. They feed on plants, invertebrates, insects like bloodworms, brine shrimp, flies, larvae of mosquito and daphnia.
As they prefer a similarity in the water parameters, plants in the tank and space of the tank to their natural habitat, they desire the same food available in their wild natural environment.
Apart from that, if you rear swordtails then provide them processed vegetables which may include shelled pea, cucumber, and zucchini medallions or broccoli. These vegetables should be slightly blanched in boiling water and fed occasionally. Blanching is only done to make sure the food doesn’t float in the tank and the swordtails are able to grab it.
Other than that, you can feed them flakes, frozen live insects or regular granular food. As mentioned above, swordtails are easily adaptable to their environment. It lies in their best interest to be provided with the same conditions as their natural habitat and food plays a vital role in this regard.
Which fish should be kept in the company of swordtails? Since swordtails are active and they tend to live peacefully, they get along with a number of fish which include Corydoras, mollies, tetras, platies, and angelfish. There are some restrictions with Corydoras and tetras and that is to keep them in groups. Apart from that, choose only those Corydoras and tetras that prefer living peacefully. Also, avoid rearing the majority of males together because that will cause stress in your tank as males tend to cause agitation.
What is the average life span of a swordtail? The average life span of a swordtail is three to four years. They usually die due to illness rather than due to age. Their death may also be due to constant stress in the tank. On average, female swordtails die around the time they give birth because their bodies can’t handle the stress. However, with time their color changes and dulls. Although it rarely happens, some swordtails even live more than five years.
Do Swordtails mate with other species? Yes, swordtails can mate with other closely related fish like the platies. Generally, female swordtails tend to mate with male platy. Hence, if you are looking forward to having mixed breeding, then you can rear these species of fish. However, it is advisable to buy pure breeds of both species before mating them.