Photo of an Orange Freckled Swordtail male.

Orange Freckled Swordtails

Photo above is a male Orange Freckled Swordtail. The grid behind him is in inches and shows his size.

Those of you who have read many of my past articles and blogs know that a common theme throughout my writings is serendipity (could also be called “luck”). This interesting fish arose from a mistake. The result was serendipitous.

Sometime in the Summer of 2015 someone made a mistake. I’m quite sure it wasn’t me, but it could have been. I prefer to blame one of the two possible female culprits (they know who they are). In any event, some surplus male Xiphophorus alvarezi were inadvertently put in the same vat as some Blushing Swordtail females. Fortunately, the Blushing females weren’t our breeders. Since females of the species in the family Poeciliidae (guppies, swords, platies, variatus, and their relatives) store sperm, once they’ve been exposed to the “wrong” males they are useless as “pure” breeders. Why is this? The stored sperm can last for months and, if they are mated to more than one male, the male parent can’t be known for sure.

I discovered the mistake in in the Fall of 2015 when we processed the Blushing Swords. Processing consists of netting out the fish from each of the vats containing that variety, inventorying the fish, reconstituting the breeding colony, and sorting the remaining fish into adults, juveniles, and fry to sell. Our practice is not mix fish from one vat with others until the inventory is complete. In this case, that prevented Blushing females exposed to the X. alvarezi males from being mixed with our breeders. For some reason (another case of serendipity), I didn’t place the exposed females into a mixed swordtail vat to be sold as such, but instead put them in their own vat. There they remained until the next time we processed the Blushing Swords, in January 2016. The photo below is a typical female Blushing Sword.

Photo of a female Blushing Swordtail.

A female Blushing Swordtail.

Upon doing that processing, I found not only the female Blushing Swords, but their hybrid offspring. The offspring were a pleasing orange color spangled with black freckles. I’ve found in most swordtail crosses the offspring have enhanced red or orange coloration and that certainly proved true here.

In yet another case of serendipity, I asked Susie (wife and business manager) what she thought of them. I had intended to discard them into the mixed swordtail vat, but Susie (as I had secretly hoped) actually liked them. In the normal course of business, I like to keep what Susie calls my “experimentals.” To Susie these are worthless fish that tie up valuable greenhouse space that could be used for commercially viable fish. To me they are interesting fish deserving a few or more generations to reach the status of commercially viable. Susie takes a dim view of this and, as a result, my experimental vats are limited. But, since she liked them, the fish got a reprieve. The photo below shows a typical female Orange Freckled Sword female. The grid behind her is marked in inches to show her size.

Photo of an Orange Freckled Swordtail female.

An Orange Freckled Swordtail female.

Since that time, we’ve gone through a few generations of these fish. It has proven to breed true enough to be given a strain name, Orange Freckled Swordtail. Each generation there are some non-freckled fish and a few fish that look like our Blushing Swords, but the bulk of them are Orange Freckles. Both sexes display the freckles on an orange body. Both grow large. We have a limited number of adults we’ll be releasing soon, some selected juveniles, and a fair number of fry.

Good fishkeeping!