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.
Chuck Breiter says
It appears that this fish has a wider tail then on the usual platypus or Variatus. The dorsal also appears higher. Could this be developed into a new form of fantail?
Charles Clapsaddle says
Chuck, For some reason I didn’t see your comment until today. Sorry about that.
I try to select breeders that have broad long fins as long as they are also nicely colored and vigorous. I have tried some intensive selection for long and broad fins in an experimental line, but the results didn’t justify continuing the experiment. Susie, my wife and our business manager, frowns on tying up hatchery facilities for experiments that don’t yield rapid and commercially valuable results. Since I am constantly doing experiments, I have to compromise and let some of them go.
Also, Chuck, it is interesting that someone’s auto-correct converted platy to platypus in your comment.
I really like the intensity of the blue in that pictured Variatus, I hope I can get more of those blue and purple tones in some of my own fish.
My Redtailed Variatus:
Our Redtail Blue Variatus line has two types of blue, the pictured sky blue and a darker blue, which has more purple. I’m keeping both in the breeding colones and have toyed with splitting them into two populations. The interesting thing about raising Variatus is how variable these fish are. I’m currently working on a Lilac Variatus.
David Whitfield says
Indeed they are quite variable, most recently, instead of more blues I’ve been getting ones even more red than my original stock, with a few males almost fully that deep red color.
Tim Mckinney says
I’m glad to see other people keep red tailed blue variatus. I bred Cory’s (all types) red tailed blue variatus and green swords. I developed a white wag sword that was beautiful. I always wanted to develop a hi-fin red tailed blue variatus. I’m planning on starting my tanks up again soon. I’m retired now.
Charles Clapsaddle says
Tim, Glad to hear you are restarting your tanks. We are rebuilding our livebearer stocks as we recover from Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. We have a few breeder hifin redtail blue variatus to start up again. Your white wag sword sounds interesting. Charles
Any update on that true-breeding hifin strain? That sounds impressive.
No update. A year ago Hurricane Harvey struck here. We were without power for eight days, although our generator kept things going except for a couple of failures due to oil leaks. In final preparation for hurricane force winds, we removed the greenhouse covers to save the structures. As a result we got 14″ of rain into the vats, overflowing them. Worse, we got several inches of leaf and twig debris into the vats. We’re just getting to what Susie, my wife, calls my “experimentals” which include the true-breeding hifins. We’ve had to concentrate on rebuilding breeding colonies of the fish that keep us going financially, primarily cichlids. All the while, we’ve been reconstructing our house and outbuildings, which sustained heavy damage. The upshot is that I haven’t had time to process the hifins, but they are due shortly. I have no idea how they’ll look after a year of just being fed.
Patricia Bailey says
Are you still working with these red tail blues?
Yes, we are. Although we are, over a year later, recovering from Hurricane Harvey and the unusually harsh winter following it.