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Xiphophorus helleri 03.jpg
Green swordtail, Xiphophorus hellerii
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cyprinodontiformes
Family: Poeciliidae
Subfamily: Poeciliinae
Genus: Xiphophorus
Heckel, 1848
Type species
Xiphophorus hellerii
Heckel, 1848

See text.

Xiphophorus is a genus of euryhaline and freshwater fishes in the family Poeciliidae of order Cyprinodontiformes. The many Xiphophorus species are all called either platyfish (or platies) or swordtails. The type species is X. hellerii, the green swordtail. Platyfish and swordtails are live-bearers, meaning that they reproduce via internal fertilization. The name Xiphophorus derives from the Greek words ξίφος (dagger) and φόρος (bearer), referring to the gonopodium.

The various Xiphophorus species are native to areas of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and especially Mexico. All small fishes, which reach maximum lengths of 3.5–16 cm (1.4–6.3 in) depending on the exact species.[1] Three species and their hybrids are common in the aquarium trade: the green swordtail (X. hellerii), the southern platyfish (X. maculatus) and the variable platyfish (X. variatus). IUCN lists two Xiphophorus species, the marbled swordtail (X. meyeri) and the northern platyfish (X. gordoni), as Endangered, while the Monterrey platyfish (X. couchianus) is listed as Critically Endangered.

Human uses[edit]

Xiphophorus species are regularly used in genetic studies, and scientists have developed many interspecific hybrids.[2] The Xiphophorus Genetic stock center, founded by Myron Gordon in 1939, is an important source of these fish for research.[3]

In addition, several species are commonly kept by aquarium hobbyists, especially X. helleri, X. maculatus, and X. variatus. In fact, these are a key category in fishkeeping, a group of extremely hardy livebearing fish, along with the molly and guppy, that adapt to almost any water conditions, from cold to tropical, freshwater to fully marine. Unlike some species, these are available almost completely as captive-raised, because of the ease with which they breed.


The currently recognized species in this genus, according to FishBase,[1] are listed below (but see Swordtails and Platies by Axelrod [4]).[5]

Swordtails (Xiphophorus)

Platies (Platypoecilus)


  1. ^ a b Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2012). Species of Xiphophorus in FishBase. August 2012 version.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 23, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2014. 
  3. ^ http://www.xiphophorus.txstate.edu/about/introduction.html
  4. ^ a b c H. R. Axelrod & L. Wischnath, 1991[full citation needed] 
  5. ^ http://psycnet.apa.org/record/1968-10315-001

External links[edit]