How To Care For Swordtails

How To Care For Swordtails

Swordtails are popular and vibrant freshwater fish that make a great addition to any aquarium. With their colorful bodies and iconic sword-like tails, they bring life and personality to your tank. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced fish keeper, caring for swordtails is relatively easy. In this guide, we will walk you through the essential steps to provide the best care for your swordtails, ensuring they thrive and flourish in your aquarium.

Key Takeaways:

Here are the key points you need to keep in mind when caring for swordtails:

  1. Tank Size: Swordtails require a minimum tank size of 20 gallons.
  2. Water Parameters: Maintain a temperature between 72-78°F (22-26°C) and a pH level between 7.0-8.0.
  3. Tank Setup: Provide hiding places with plants, caves, and driftwood for the swordtails to explore and feel secure.
  4. Diet: Feed a balanced diet consisting of high-quality flakes, pellets, frozen or live foods.
  5. Tank Mates: Swordtails are generally peaceful, but avoid keeping them with fin-nipping or aggressive fish.
  6. Breeding: Swordtails are livebearers and can breed easily. Separate females when pregnant to protect the fry.
  7. Water Maintenance: Perform regular water changes and monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.

Now let’s dive deeper into the world of swordtail care.

Tank Setup

Creating a suitable environment for your swordtails is essential for their well-being. A tank with a capacity of at least 20 gallons is recommended, providing ample space for swimming and socializing. Adequate filtration is necessary to maintain water quality, as swordtails produce a moderate amount of waste. Additionally, an air or water pump will ensure proper oxygenation of the water.

To mimic their natural habitat, incorporate live plants, such as Java Fern or Amazon Sword, which provide hiding places and add oxygen to the water. Driftwood and rocks can be added to create caves, giving your swordtails more hiding spots and territories to explore. Ensure the tank has a secure lid, as swordtails are notorious jumpers.

Water Parameters

Maintaining suitable water conditions is crucial to the health of your swordtails. Keep the water temperature between 72-78°F (22-26°C) and maintain a pH level between 7.0-8.0. While swordtails can tolerate a range of water parameters, consistency is key. Sudden changes in temperature or pH can stress the fish.

Regularly test the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels in your tank. Ammonia and nitrite should always be at zero, as their presence can be toxic to your swordtails. Nitrate levels should be kept below 20-30 ppm. Perform regular water changes, around 25% of the tank volume every two weeks or 10% every week, to minimize the accumulation of toxins.

Tank Mates

Swordtails are peaceful and sociable fish that generally get along well with other community fish. Good tank mates include other peaceful species like mollies, platies, tetras, guppies, and peaceful bottom-dwellers like Corydoras catfish. While swordtails are generally peaceful, they have long, flowing fins that may be tempting for fin-nipping or aggressive fish like bettas or tiger barbs.

Avoid overcrowding the tank and keep an eye on aggressive behavior. If any signs of aggression appear, it’s best to separate the fish involved to prevent injuries or stress.


A nutritious and balanced diet is crucial for the health and vitality of swordtails. They are omnivorous and have a hearty appetite. A combination of high-quality flakes or pellets, supplemented with live or frozen foods, will provide the necessary nutrients. Feed them once or twice a day, only what they can consume within a few minutes.

You can vary their diet by occasionally offering bloodworms, brine shrimp, or daphnia. These live or frozen foods simulate their natural feeding behavior and provide essential proteins. Remember to remove any uneaten food after a few minutes to prevent water pollution.


Swordtails are livebearers, which means they give birth to free-swimming fry rather than laying eggs. Breeding swordtails can be an exciting experience. To encourage breeding, provide dense vegetation where females can hide, such as Java Moss or floating plants like Water Sprite. Make sure to keep a ratio of one male to two or more females to avoid excess harassment of one female.

When the female is pregnant, you’ll notice a dark triangular spot near her anal fin. This is called a gravid spot, indicating the presence of fry. If you want to protect the fry from being eaten, you can transfer the pregnant female to a separate breeding tank with a sponge filter or use a breeding net or breeder box in the main tank. Ensure that the fry have access to hiding places or add artificial spawning mops to prevent them from being eaten by the adults.

Caring for swordtails can be a rewarding experience. With their graceful appearance and lively nature, they can bring a splash of color and excitement to your aquarium. By providing the right environment, maintaining water quality, and offering a varied and nutritious diet, you’ll ensure that your swordtails live long and healthy lives. So go ahead, create an underwater world that both you and your swordtails will enjoy!