5 Popular Livebearer Species for Your Aquarium

Learn about five amazing livebearer fish species that are great for beginners, experts, and everyone in between.

Jun 12, 2024byChristopher Dyke
popular livebearer species for your aquarium

Choosing the best tropical fish for your freshwater aquarium can be quite a challenge, especially when you see the amazing variety of species on display at most respectable pet stores.

One group of fish, the livebearers, offers the perfect combination of beautiful colors, interesting behaviors, and a budget-friendly price tag! In this guide, I’ll introduce the five most popular livebearer species in the aquarium hobby and help you decide which type is best for your tank.

What are Livebearers?

baby platy fish
Image credit: Upupa4me from Redmond WA, USA

Livebearers are a fascinating group of fish from fresh and brackish habitats. These fish reproduce by giving birth to free-swimming babies rather than laying eggs. The most popular live-bearing fish in the aquarium hobby are all members of the Poeciliidae, a diverse family from North and South America and Africa.

Livebearers have been favorites in the aquarium hobby for a long time, and today, they are available in an impressive variety of shapes and colors. They are especially easy to breed in captivity because they produce live young. This ability has helped hobbyists selectively breed these fish into forms that look totally different from their wild ancestors.

Live-bearing fish are generally easy to care for, which makes them great for new fish keepers. Most species are omnivores and will thrive on a diet of dried fish foods supplemented with some frozen foods and vegetable matter.

Next up, we’ll meet five different types of livebearers and learn how to care for them in the home aquarium. Let’s get started!

1. Guppy

guppy fish
Image credit: Carlos Eduardo Joos

The guppy (Poecilia reticulata) is the most popular livebearer species and one of the world’s favorite tropical fish! These stunning creatures are a staple in the aquarium hobby, and it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about. Male guppies have amazing color patterns, and many breeds have really fancy fins, too.

Female guppies might not be as boldly marked as the boys, but they are still great-looking fish. However, some females are surprisingly colorful, although they are easy to identify because they grow much larger than males.

Caring for guppies couldn’t be much easier. These hardy fish will thrive in an aquarium with a heater and filter, especially if their tank has plenty of space and live plants to explore. You don’t need a big tank either; some aquarists keep these fish in tanks as small as 5 gallons. However, I would recommend a minimum of 10 gallons, with 15 or 20-gallon setups being ideal for beginners.

Guppy Care Requirements:

  • Temperature: Lower 70s to lower 80s Fahrenheit
  • Tank size: 5 gallons+
  • Recommended pH: 7–8

Want to learn more about guppy fish care? Check out these essential Care Tips for Guppies.

2. Molly

molly fish
Image credit: Gerardeen92

Like guppies, molly fish are available in all sorts of colors and patterns. In fact, there are a few different species of mollies you might find at your local pet store, and there are also many hybrids and fancy breeds to choose from.

They may look similar, but these popular livebearers are much larger than guppies, with some fish reaching an impressive six inches in length! Mollies are hardy and adaptable fish, although they do prefer harder (more mineral-rich) water than many other tropical fish species. In fact, many saltwater fishkeepers include these fish in their tanks, too.

Molly Care Requirements:

  • Temperature: Lower 70s to 80° Fahrenheit
  • Tank size: 29 gallons+
  • Recommended pH: 7.5–8.5

3. Platy

platy fish
Image credit: Marrabbio2

The platy (Xiphphorus maculatus) is a medium-sized livebearer that reaches between two and three inches in length. These peaceful fish are ideal for community aquariums because they get along with many other topical fish species, and they are great for beginners.

Platy fish are available in some really bright and beautiful color morphs and combinations. Both male and female platies have great colors, although you can tell them apart by their fin shape. Female platies have a rounded anal fin, while males have a narrow fin (called a gonopodium) that they use for mating.

These fish are very easy to breed, and they will definitely produce some babies if you keep both sexes. It’s best to keep more females than males to make sure the males don’t bother them too much.

Platy Care Requirements:

  • Temperature: Upper 60s to upper 70s Fahrenheit
  • Tank size: 15 gallons+
  • Recommended pH: 7–8.5

4. Swordtail

swordtail fish
Image credit: Wojciech J. Płuciennik

The Swordtail (Xiphophorus hellerii) is a large livebearer named after its distinctive tail fin. In the wild, only the males grow a long lower half of their tail fin, although captive-bred fish may grow long ‘swords’ on both the top and bottom half of their tails.

Swordtails are available in some really eye-catching colors, including various combinations of orange, black, white, and yellow. These livebearers can grow to about six inches and need a tank of at least 20 gallons for long-term care.

Like other livebearers, swordtails are super-easy to breed in the home aquarium. In fact, these fish will probably multiply in your tank if you have both males and females. All you need to do is provide plenty of hiding spaces in the tank to give the babies a fighting chance of survival until they are big enough to avoid being eaten by other fish.

Swordtail Care Requirements:

  • Temperature: Lower 70s to lower 80s Fahrenheit
  • Tank size: 20 gallons+
  • Recommended pH: 7–8

5. Endler’s Livebearer

endler_s livebearer fish
Image credit: Dgrummon

The Endler’s livebearer (Poecilia wingei) is the smallest species on our list and a great fish for small aquariums. Males grow to just one inch long, while females max out at less than two inches. These colorful Venezuelan fish are closely related to guppies and were considered the same species for a long time. However, Endler’s are now known to be their own distinct species.

Like guppies, the male Endler’s livebearer is much more colorful than the female. The typical specimen has bold black and orange markings on its body and fins and varying amounts of metallic green and blue shades. Endler’s are very easy to breed, and they will hybridize with guppies, so avoid keeping these two species in the same tank if you plan on selectively breeding them.

Endler’s livebearer Care Requirements:

  • Temperature: Mid 70s to mid 80s Fahrenheit
  • Tank size: 5 gallons+
  • Recommended pH: 7–8.5
Christopher Dyke
byChristopher Dyke

Chris shares his home with one dog, three rabbits, two rats, and a whole lot of fish! He’s been crazy about nature and animals since he could talk, and his background includes work in wildlife conservation and professional writing. When he’s away from the keyboard, you can find Chris out camping, fishing, and enjoying the great outdoors.