Chances are—even if you’ve never owned a fish before—you know what an angelfish looks like?
They have a distinctive and pleasing shape that appeals to both new fish keepers and those who’ve been maintaining aquariums for years.
Angelfish are of the Cichlidae family. Moderately sized and tall, they come in a wide variety of colors. Predominantly bred in captivity, hobbyists have created many different types over the years.
Attractive and hardy, they can make a great addition to your home aquarium. If you’ve been considering bringing one home, this article is for you.
In the following guide, we cover everytthing you need to know on angelfish care. From buying healthy specimens, to setting up your tank right, from what and how to feed them, to the basics of breeding, and from tank mate compatibility to some interesting facts and figures.
Quick Overview and Statistics
Hailing from the Amazon river, they are now mostly captive-bred and available in aquariums all over the world. Here’s a bit of information on the Pterophyllum scalare:
|Scientific Name(s):||Pterophyllum scalare|
|Origin:||Amazon river, captive-bred|
|Adult Size:||6 inches|
|Color Form:||Black, Blue, Silver|
|Lifespan:||8 to 10 years|
|Minimum Tank Size:||30 gallons|
|Typical Tank Setup:||Angelfish love a heavily planted tank. Driftwood can also be a good addition to their tank—just make sure everything has smooth edges.|
|Water Conditions:||Freshwater, 75-82° F, KH 1-5, pH 5.8-7.0|
|Tank mates / Compatibility:||Angelfish, cory cats, minnows, gouramis, guppies, hatchets, killifish, loaches, mollies, platies, pleco, rainbowfish, rasboras, swordtails, tetras|
Angelfish are a classic aquarium choice. Appealing to fish keepers of all skill levels, they make for an attractive tank inhabitant. Whether you’re looking for exotic colorways or traditional ones, there’s probably an angelfish out there that will appeal to you.
They are an elegant and attractive fish. Extremely thin and tall, with triangular fins, the name Pterophyllum actually means “winged leaf.” This is an apt description of the physical characteristics that set them apart from other cichlids.
Their unusual, diamond-like body shape enables them to hide more easily among vegetation. Naturally occurring colorways usually include vertical striping that further helps them blend into their background.
A favorite for aquarium keeping, many captive-bred colorways have been created as well. These colors include solids and non-naturally occurring markings. Hobbyists have created many different color lines over the years.
Some colors you might come across include albino, black, gold, silver, marbled, koi, zebra, and leopard. This is in no way an exhaustive list. Fish may interbreed when housed together, regardless of their color type.
Behavior and Temperament
Frequently billed as semi-aggressive, they are generally peaceable. Strongly driven by food, you will want to make sure no smaller fish are housed with them. They will turn on tank mates if hungry and should always have plenty of food provided to them. They may also show aggression and be territorial during breeding season too.
Nevertheless, if their tank is large enough and they are provided adequate food, they are content to live among others. The tank companions provided in the chart above are generally well-suited to being housed with angelfish.
It is possible to introduce other types of tank mates, just be advised to do so with caution. While some fish may fall prey to them, it is also possible for the angelfish to be hurt by others as well.
Habitat and Tank Requirements
The key to proper care begins with having a happy and successful group of fish. That always starts with their tank environment. Look for species who thrive under the same conditions for the best mixed-tank results.
The following information will help you put together the kind of tank that best suits them.
What Size Tank do They Need?
Their unique shape dictates the kind of tank they are most comfortable in. Their extra height means they enjoy a greater depth to their tank.
For best health and happiness, they should be kept in at least a 30-gallon tank. Larger tanks are of course also appropriate too, especially if they are cohabitating with other fish.
Water Type and Parameters
Angelfish live in freshwater tanks. The water should be between 75 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit and kept slightly acidic, pH 5.8 to 7.0 being the acceptable range.
Carbonate hardness should be kept at KH 1-5 for an ideal environment.
What Substrate Should Be Used?
Angelfish can be easily hurt by anything sharp. Providing appropriate care means you’ll need to police the items in the tank and remove anything dangerous.
While they won’t be spending a significant amount of time at the bottom of the tank – they prefer midlevel, though they will swim throughout – opt for a smooth substrate just to be sure of safety. This can be either sand or smooth gravel.
If you have any intention of breeding them, you’ll also want to provide some flat larger rocks, just remember to make sure there are no jagged edges.
As with all tanks, filtration is recommended in order to keep ammonia and nitrates under control.
However, angelfish have a uniquely shaped body that’s just not designed for efficient swimming. So a gentle filtration system that doesn’t generate strong currents is preferred. This will enable them to easily move about the tank while still providing a clean environment.
There are no specific lighting requirements. You may find dimming lights or providing them with darkness can help alleviate any stress caused by reflections, though.
In general, standard aquarium lighting is perfectly suitable, with a normal day and night cycle.
Plants, Decorations, Swims, And Open Spaces
AThey do well in a heavily planted tank. Live plants are preferred to fake plants. They aren’t exceptional swimmers, but due to their shape and size, large open spaces can be nice for them to have access to.
Decorations—including driftwood and larger rocks—are welcome accessories in their tank. Take care that there are no sharp edges that may damage the fins, as they are fragile and susceptible to tearing.
How Many Angelfish Can You Have Per Gallon?
The appropriate number of angelfish per gallon hinges on the size of the specific species. These fish come in all sizes and their long life expectancy provides ample time for them to grow.
Following best practices, this is an approximation of how many fish you can have per gallon, depending on the size of their bodies:
- Nickel sized: one per gallon.
- Quarter sized: one per two gallons.
- Silver dollar sized: one per three gallons.
- Young adult stock ready to pair: one per five gallons.
- Full grown breeding pairs: one pair per 20 gallons.
For best results, err on the side of more space.
Monitor the behavior of your angelfish in its tank and consider upgrading to a larger space if you notice aggressive or territorial behaviors. While it could be just a result of that individual fish’s temperament or a breeding season, it may also be that more space is needed.
Diet and Feeding
They are omnivores. For optimal care, provide them with a commercially available fish food (look for one that’s spirulina-based). However, they can also be given supplemental foods for a varied diet.
When working with very young angelfish, you may find they refuse pelleted or flake food for the first few weeks. If this is the case, consider providing them with live brine shrimp instead.
What do They Eat in the Wild?
In the wild, they will eat smaller fish, shrimp, and prawn. They will also consume algae and plant matter.
What You Can Feed Them in Your Aquarium?
Variety is an important component of their diet. You’ll also want to make sure they’re receiving plenty of protein.
In addition to a flake or pellet food, they can also be given brine shrimp (live or frozen), and blood worms. These can be a tasty treat and boosts their protein intake.
AThey can also enjoy plant matter. Spinach and lettuce are a fun food to provide them with for some additional variety.
When you feed your angelfish in captivity there are a few things you’ll want to remember. The first is that not enough food can lead to aggression and attacks on weaker fish. The second is that overfeeding can lead to fat buildup, inactivity, and death.
You must monitor your angelfish closely and make note of their behavior. Adjust your feeding approach accordingly. You should always begin by following the instructions provided on your commercial fish food. Remember, though, that individual fish populations may need you to tweak those instructions.
Stick to a consistent feeding schedule and make sure food is given in small pieces. They have relatively small mouths and will have difficulty consuming large chunks of food.
What Human Foods Can They Eat?
Because they are omnivores, there are many foods in your refrigerator you may be able to share with your fish. Beef heart can be a great treat and a source of protein. Just make sure all fat has been removed before being given to them.
Boiled peas, pulled from their shell and sliced into small chunks, are also a great nutritional source them. Zucchini and cucumber are other types of human food they enjoy.
How Often Should You Feed Them?
Your angelfish care routine should involve feeding on a regular schedule. Feed them once a day and only what they eat during a short period of time.
If they haven’t consumed all the food provided within five minutes, remove any excess. Uneaten food will only break down and contribute to a dirty tank.
Special Care Requirements
An ornamental fish, poor breeding for certain characteristics has left angelfish susceptible to different kinds of diseases and illnesses. Especially if you plan on breeding them yourself, care should be taken to make sure you remove any imperfect fish from your breeding line.
Outside of their tendency to fall victim to hereditary diseases, they are generally hardy and their care is straightforward. You can help your fish stay healthiest by preventing disease, rather than treating it after it happens.
Keep their tank clean, with frequent water changes, and always follow proper quarantine protocols when introducing new fish to the tank.
Compatibility With Other Fish
They can be housed with other fish. They may become aggressive or territorial during feeding and breeding times, though. Overcrowding will contribute to such behavior.
You should keep them with non-aggressive species who aren’t likely to attack their decorative and fragile fins. You’ll also want to keep in mind that they can turn on their tank mates under certain circumstances. Choose your tank inhabitants accordingly.
Angelfish are generally compatible with the following fish:
- Other angelfish
- Cory cats
Other species may be successfully kept with angelfish, depending on the individual temperament of the fish involved. Proceed with caution and closely monitor behavior and interactions.
Can You Keep Multiple Angelfish Together?
Yes. They are monogamous and will pair off into breeding pairs, given the opportunity. It is best to house a larger number of angelfish together until such pairing takes place.
While keeping multiple together is ideal, it does mean you’ll need to invest in a larger tank. If you can’t upgrade to a larger size, you may want to avoid keeping multiples, or invest in an existing breeding pair.
Allow at least 20 gallons per breeding pair and remember that they prefer a deep tank (at least 12 inches deep), as opposed to a wider, more shallow tank.
They are readily available to purchase. You can find popular breeds in chain pet stores nationwide, or even order them online.
If you’re looking for a more specialized or specific type of angelfish, you may want to find a reputable breeder to supply you with your fish. In general, you will receive healthier individuals of stronger, better, stock, when purchased from a specialized breeder.
They will vary in price depending on the age and rarity of the breed. While a young, common specimen may cost just a few dollars, you can also find specialty types that cost quite a bit more. Whatever your price range may be, you’ll be able to find one to ornament your space.
Whether you’re hoping to produce young to sell, or are just looking to enjoy the experience of raising fish, angelfish can be a good breed to work with.
They are relatively easy to breed. This has made creating new color lines a possibility, and also allows even novice fishkeepers to try their hand at breeding.
If you do hope to breed them, however, you will need to have an active role in the process. Unlike in the wild, in your aquarium they are confined to a small place. Lack of sufficient space, stressors, and hunger, can all lead to angelfish eating their own eggs.
Avoid any kind of aquarium gravel in your breeding tank. You may keep plants, and even driftwood. If you find your female is laying eggs on an unacceptable surface, remove those pieces until they lay where desired.
Once your angelfish has gone through a cycle or two of egg laying, they will generally continue to lay in the same location. This is true even if those other pieces have been reintroduced.
You need your spawning site to be removable from the tank. A spawning slate can be a great option. While you can allow the eggs to stay with the mated pair, you must be prepared to lose those eggs to consumption. Should the angelfish become insecure or unsettled in their space, they will eat the eggs, or even the young fry.
If you’re unwilling to risk the hatch, remove the spawning site to a different hatch tank or container. This hatch area does not need to contain the same water from the original tank, but keeping the water clean will be paramount to a successful hatch.
In fact, your breeding pair may not lay eggs at all if their tank is not clean enough. They do best with large volumes of water—up to 40 percent—changed. This water can be changed daily. As a minimum, your care routine needs to include changing 30 percent of the water per week.
If you have a breeding pair that doesn’t seem to be interested in breeding, play with your tank setup. This may be related to the availability of food or to them feeling insecure in the space. You can try darkening the exterior of the tank’s bottom and walls, to reduce reflections and dimming any light sources.
Interesting Facts and Trivia
- They are related to other popular aquarium fish, like Oscars and parrot fish.
- More prone to Ich than other species, you’ll want to make sure you get your fish from healthy stock and keep a clean tank to avoid an Ich infestation.
- Males and females have no discernible difference—you can identify their sex only during their breeding season.
- Theya re intelligent, there’s speculation that they can identify and recognize their owners.
- Females can produce 100-1000 eggs per breeding season.
- After a female lays her eggs, the male will fertilize them individually.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do They Eat Other Fish?
Yes, they can and will eat other fish. Place fish of similar size and temperaments as tank cohabitants to help minimize this. You’ll also want to make sure they are being fed appropriately to avoid them preying on others.
Do They Eat Their Babies?
Yes. While they can successfully raise their fry, they may also eat them. Should they feel threatened, insecure, or uncomfortable, they will consume their young. If you want to guarantee this doesn’t happen, you’ll need to remove the eggs to a safe hatching place—preferably as soon as they are laid and fertilized.
Can Cichlids Live With Angelfish?
While angelfish are a type of cichlid, they are also one of the more docile of the cichlid species.
Many cichlids are aggressive and should not be housed with angelfish. They aren’t well-equipped to swim efficiently and are fragile and susceptible to being damaged during fish attacks. Avoid placing angelfish with other aggressive species.
Some cichlids that can live successfully with angelfish include symphoson, heroes, rainbow cichlids, dwarf cichlids, and acaras. In general, cichlids from South America are less aggressive than cichlids from other areas.
How Long Does it Take for Angelfish Eggs to Hatch?
Amazingly, it takes about 60 hours from the time of lay for the first eggs to hatch. After hatching, the new fry will be “wigglers,” free from the egg, but still attached to the spawning site. If left with the breeding pair, the adults will care for and protect the new fry during this period.
During this period, there is no need to feed or disturb the wigglers. This stage will last approximately five days. After that time, the fry will become free swimmers and can be fed and treated as you would any other angelfish. You may need to double-check that provided food sources are small enough for the new fry to easily eat.
How to Tell if if Their Eggs are Fertilized?
Fertile eggs will be an amber-brown color and translucent. Infertile or non-viable eggs will begin to grow a creamy white colored fungus.
Do They Eat Their Own Eggs?
Yes, they will eat their own eggs. If they perceive there is any threat to them or to their young, they will opt to eat the eggs instead of leaving the eggs exposed to the threat. To remove the risk of this happening, remove the eggs and allow them to hatch in a separate tank.
Do Angelfish Have Teeth?
Yes, they do have teeth. In fact, they have an unusual jaw that has an extra joint, enabling the jaw to protrude, grab food, and tear into it.
The extra joint is responsible for allowing them to bite, even while the jaws are fully extended. They actually have a second set of bristle-like teeth to help them chow down on whatever they come across.
How Fast do Angelfish Grow?
They will grow quite quickly when they are young and small. They can easily double in size over the course of a month or two, growing from nickel-sized to quarter-sized.
As they age, however, their rate of growth will slow down. Warm waters can encourage growth to happen more quickly, but may negatively impact their expected lifespan.
Remember, a fish’s growth is directly impacted by its environment. If you’re looking for them to grow quickly, provide an extra large space for them to grow into, rather than one that suits them for the moment. Make sure they’re given plenty of quality food and that they live in a stress-free environment.
Angelfish are a classic aquarium fish for a reason—they’re attractive, suitable for beginners, come in a wide variety of colors, and are a hardy species.
As long as your fish have plenty of room, a clean space to call their own, and a protein-heavy diet, you can have long-lived tank inhabitants. If you’ve been on the fence about adding an angelfish to your tank, give it another consideration—you won’t be disappointed by the addition.
What has your experience been with angelfish? Love them, or hate them? Have a favorite colorway you’ve been dying to add to your tank? We’d love to hear about your experiences—drop us a not in the comment section below.
Happy fish keeping!