Photo: A very nice male Redtail Blue Variatus either challenging another male or displaying for a female.
We raise a variety of Variatus-type Platies. I say “Variatus-type” because while they look like Xiphophorus variatus (Variegated Platy), they are commercial strains and might have genes from other Xiphophorus species such as X. hellerii (Green Swordtail) and X. maculatus (Southern Platy). All three of these species readily hybridize. One strain we raise is the Redtail Blue Variatus. This fish we developed in-house from another Variatus strain. It very closely resembles the Blue Parrot Variatus.
Back in 2003 our hatchery sustained considerable damage from Hurricane Claudette. Prior to that storm we raised primarily rainbowfishes. After it we expanded into cichlids and livebearers. To do so, we ordered fish in box lots from Ekkwill and 5-D hatcheries in Florida. A box lot of Variatus was about 300 fish. One lot ordered became, with some selection, our Redtail Black Variatus. The fish as received were a mixture of golden bodied fish with yellow dorsals, orange to red caudals, and a black tuxedo. The tuxedo ranged from barely existent to almost fully black bodied. We picked the fish with most black to create the Redtail Black Variatus. In subsequent generations some fish without the tuxedo pattern emerged. The best were kept and became our Sunset Variatus strain. A few fish with blue instead of gold in the body also appeared. They were the foundation for our Redtail Blue Variatus.
Variatus Platies are highly variable; in fact, I’ve always thought the common name should be “Variable Platy” rather than “Variegated Platy.” That variation appears in each of our Variatus Platy strains even today after many generations of selection and inbreeding. And it’s true of the Redtail Blue Variatus. A typical male has a baby blue body, a yellow dorsal, and a red tail. Females usually have grey bodies, clear dorsals, and orange tails. The photo shows this. But, some males show black freckling in the blue. Other males have darker blue. Some females have blue bodies, both dark and light. For the longest, I selected both types of fish for a single breeding colony. Last breeding cycle I set up two breeding colonies, one with light blue males and females and the other with dark blues. I wanted to see if I could select for two different blue types.
We just recently processed the resulting offspring. The descendants of the light blue breeders were about 75% light blue while those of the dark blue were 75% dark blue. These results were encouraging, so I set up two breeding colonies again. I made sure the select breeders only from their respective previous colonies; that is, the light blue breeders only came from the light blue breeding colony and the dark blue breeders from the dark blue breeding colony. Why? Because, I hope to accumulate genes coding for each color type within each population. Next cycle I hope to find the percentage of each breeding colony’s offspring increases from the about 75% rate this last time; the goal being to develop two separate and largely true breeding strains. By the way, Susie, my wife and hatchery partner, prefers the light blue males and the dark blue females. I don’t think it’s feasible to develop a strain meeting that goal. I suspect the light bodied females produce the best light blue males and the dark bodied females produce the best dark blue males.
I also set up a third breeding colony (Susie isn’t enthusiastic about what I call “experimental vats,” since they don’t usually produce sellable fish very soon) with both dark and light bodied females and two Hifin males from an earlier “experimental vat” wherein I crossed a line of what appears to be true-breeding Hifin Platies with Redtail Blue Variatus with the goal of producing Hifin Redtail Blue Variatus. That cross produced two nice males. I’ll blog more about that experiment later.