Top 17 Best Freshwater Angelfish (With Pictures)

The Freshwater Angelfish is one of the most popular freshwater aquarium fish. This South American superstar has been in home aquariums for over 100 years.

Since their introduction to the hobby in the early 20th century, fish keepers have managed to create a variety of different breeds and colors.

In total there are now more than 15 recognized types of Angelfish.

This beautiful fish comes in black, blue, albino and so much more.

Are you having difficulty deciding which one is right for you? This A to Z list of over 15 popular types of Angelfish should help you make the perfect choice…

All About Freshwater Angelfish

Top 17 Best Freshwater Angelfish (With Pictures) Cover

Freshwater Angelfish are actually 3 different species of South American Cichlid: Pterophyllum scalare, Pterophyllum altum, and Pterophyllum leopoldi.

These species are all native to the freshwater river basins of Colombia to Peru, including several Amazon River tributaries.

Although Freshwater Angelfish come from the Cichlidae family (which is known for their aggression) this particular Cichlid is a bit more peaceful than others.

All 3 species were introduced to the aquarium trade in 1911, with their diamond shaped body and trailing pectoral and caudal fins helping them to gain popularity. Specialty breeding began in the 1950s and most of the popular color forms which we now know appeared on the market at the end of the 60s.

The key to keeping Angelfish is to make sure that everybody has their own territory. You will need 55 gallons or more to safely keep a small group of Angels.

Angelfish also need a fully decorated tank.

Furniture such as rocks, logs and driftwood provide comfort and security for these rather anxious fish. Plants are very important too and you decorate the tank with Amazon Swords, Brazilian Pennyworts, and floating Anacharis. Read 25+ Best Low Light Aquarium Plants for more ideas.

17 Types of Freshwater Angelfish

Species Beginner Friendly Price Rank
Koi Yes $10 to $25 1
Blue No $25 to $80 2
Altum No $100+ 3
Marble Somewhat $10 to $35 4
Black Lace Yes $20 to $30 5
Gold Yes $10 to $30 6
Silver Yes $15 to $25 7
Leopard Yes $20 to $30 8
Pearlscale Yes $15 to $30 9
Albino No $15 to $30 10
Half Black No $20 to $40 11
Smokey Yes $12 to $30 12
Ghost Yes Varies 13
Chocolate No $20 to $40 14
Leopold’s No $40 to $60 15
Raven Yes $10 to $30 16
Common Angelfish Yes $15 to $25 N.A.

Albino

The Albino Angelfish have a white body with red or pink eyes. If there are any bands or speckles, they will be chalky white.

This type of Angelfish does not occur in the wild and must be specially bred in captivity.

You will notice that Albinos are slightly smaller than a typical Angel. However they are still quite aggressive and territorial. Open space and clean water are the key to making sure an Albino fish can safely navigate your aquarium.

Altum

The Pterophyllum altum is the most recently discovered type of Angelfish.

An Altum has a more pronounced diamond shape and also has a thicker set of black bands.

Altums are more sensitive to their environment than other species and require different water conditions too. You can use floating plants, sphagnum moss and leaf litter to add extra tannins to your water and maintain a low ph.

They are one of the most beautiful fish around.

You will also need to make sure that the water is well oxygenated so use an air pump.

Altums are much more comfortable in a shoal than on their own. You will need tat least a 55 gallons aquarium to accommodate a shoal of 5 to 7 fish.

Because they are in demand you can expect to pay anywhere from $100+ per fish.

Black Lace

Black Lace Angelfish
Black Lace Angelfish

Black Lace Angelfish have a solid black body with translucent caudal and anal fins. Their dorsal fin is usually solid black.

Fortunately Black Laces are usually a bit more mellow than other color forms. They are a little less aggressive and therefore get along better in a community tank.

This variety is more beginner friendly because of their peaceful temperament.

You are more likely to find a Black Lace at a dealer or a specialty breeder than at your run of the mill pet shop. Be prepared to pay up to $30 for one.

Black Raven

Raven Angelfish
Raven Angelfish

There are many different types of Black Angels.

Unlike the Black Lace or Black Ghost, Ravens are completely black from fin to snout. Even their eyes are a deep black color. Most black colored Angels have some sort of variation in shading and pigmentation, so a Raven is a particularly rare sight.

Unfortunately though they can be quite skittish so you may not be able to see them as often as you would like to.

Blue

Blue Zebra Angelfish
Blue Zebra Angelfish

The Blue Angelfish is one of the most exotic looking color forms.

They are also one of the most expensive and most sought after.

Banded, Marble, and Leopard patterns can all occur over a blue base color. You can even find a mix of the Blue and Chocolate colors although this is a rare sight. In order to produce blue offspring both parents must carry a copy of the Blue gene.

Chocolate

Chocolate Angelfish
Chocolate Angelfish

The Chocolate type actually comes from the Smokey color form.

This happens when both parents carry the homozygous Smokey gene.

With a regular Smokey the brown markings appear towards the caudal fin, however on a Chocolate variety this deep brown color occurs over the entire body.

The brown color can appear in many different shades but it is usually a deep chocolate as their name suggests. The color occurs on all 5 of the fish’s fins.

This is not a very common color and their rarity makes it too difficult for first timers to obtain.

Common

Common Angelfish
Common Angelfish

The Common Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) is what most aquarists picture when they think of a Freshwater Angelfish.

This is the base species from which most of the different breeds and colors come from.

Their basic color is either silver or gold with 3 choppy black bands.

Common Angelfish are not only beautiful but they are also intelligent and amusing to watch. It is no surprise that they have captivated fish keepers from all over the world.

Ghost

Ghost Angelfish are a particularly alluring variety.

For an Angelfish to be considered a ghost it must not have any dark pigmentation on their body.

As an example the Blue Ghost would be a powder blue color with no bands or spots.

Ghosts can only be bred from parents that are a solid color and carry the gene for a bandless fish.

With no dark pigments to distract the eye this fish will stand out in any aquarium.

Gold

Gold Angelfish
Gold Angelfish

There are two different types of Gold Angelfish.

A coppery gold color is one of the 2 basic colors for all Angelfish. This base color can be solid or come in bands, spots, or a marble pattern. It resembles the bronze color that appears on wild Angelfish.

The other type of gold is copper gold and this is a common base color for the Smokey, Pearlscale, and Marble varities.

No matter what color Gold you have they are sure to stand out in your tank. A shoal of Gold fish provides a beautiful living accent to a forest of green aquarium plants.

Half Black

Half Blacks have two distinguishing characteristics: a crescent moon shape and deep black markings on their caudal fins.

They have a a shimmering silver body, black abdomen, and a black forked caudal fin.

Their diamond shaped body accentuates their crescent shaped fins and gives them a very enchanting appearance.

Koi

Koi Angelfish
Koi Angelfish

Just as there is an Angelfish that looks like a Goldfish, there is also one that resembles the Koi.

Koi Angelfish can be red, orange, and white with a black marble pattern.

Each fish carries a unique variation in colors and patterns, so no two are ever exactly the same. Some may be more red than others, others may have more white. You can even get a Pearlscale or Kohaku Blue variety.

You might expect such a beautiful fish to be very expensive, but this breed is surprisingly affordable and available to hobbyists of every skill level.

Leopard

Leopard Angelfish have a spotted pattern.

The Leopard pattern can occur on almost any base color.

Instead of bands their body has a sprinkling of tiny dark spots. Bands appear on the fins instead of the rest of the body.

The spots grow closer together as the fish gets older, so you may be able to determine the age of the fish by taking a good look at them.

Interestingly, their pattern is relative to the conditions of their environment.

Leopards in a pristine tank will have dark spots that stand out against their base color. However those in poorly kept tanks will have faded spots. A clean tank and a healthy diet are the key to keeping your Leopards looking their best.

Leopold’s

The Leopold’s Angelfish (Pterophyllum leopoldi) is also known as the Roman Nose Angel.

They are the smallest of the 3 species.

To feel comfortable they need to shoal in groups of 6 or more, so you will need a minimum tank size of 55 gallons.

Because of their aggression they are best kept in a single species setup.

Marble

Marble Angelfish
Marble Angelfish

Marble is one of the most diverse varieties out there – there are 7 different types.

The Marble pattern consists of large spots or speckles and can occur on just about any base color.

Koi Angelfish are Marble by default, but the pattern can also occur with Silver, Blue, Gold, Black and Pearlscale types.

Bandless types can also have a Marble pattern too. On a bandless Angelfish the pattern will only appear on the snout and fins.

Pearlscale

White Pearlscale Angelfish
White Pearlscale Angelfish

Unlike Pearlscale Goldfish or Koi, Pearlscale here refers to a scale texture rather than a body shape.

Most Pearlscale are completely white but you can also find Gold, Silver and Blue Pearlscale. They can be bandless or have any type of banded or marbled pattern.

To tell the difference between a white Pearlscale and an Albino you should look at their eyes and scales. Pearlscales have dark eyes and glittering scales, while Albinos have light eyes and dull scales.

Silver

Silver is the most common color for Angelfish.

A typical Silver Angelfish will be glossy and shimmery, with transparent fins and 3 black bands. If a specimen has more than 3 black bands, it is probably a Silver Zebra. You can also get a wild Silver Angelfish, however they are more of a dull bronze color than actual silver.

To make a Silver stand out you should decorate your tank with freshwater plants and natural furniture. Keep a clean environment with good filtration and do not overcrowd your tank.

Smokey

Smokey Angelfish
Smokey Angelfish

The Smokey variety is not that common, however they are one of the most genetically diverse.

These fish have hazy brown or chalky black markings and their base color is usually Silver or Gold. In total there are over 7 different possible phenotypes for the Smokey gene. To breed for specific colors you will need to know which genes are associated with them.

If you breed 2 Smokey parents together then you can produce a Chocolate colored fish. Pairing a Smokey and a bandless parent may result in Smokey Ghost offspring.

You can try breeding Smokey fish on your own, though you will need an extensive knowledge of genetics to select for specific phenotypes.

Which Is The Best Angelfish For You?

Thanks to this amazing South American Cichlid, Angelfish are not only limited to saltwater aquariums. Freshwater hobbyists can now enjoy keeping one of their own.

With so many different breeds you will certainly find one that fits into your aquarium.

There are several things to think about when picking out the right type for your tank:

  • The first thing to consider should be your experience level. Most varieties do not demand much outside of the typical care requirements for all Freshwater Angels. However, there are some that come with a few added sensitivities and eccentricities.
  • Cost is another thing to consider as many of the rarer breeds can be very expensive.
  • Finally, you must think about their compatibility with the other fish in your tank. Some breeds are better for single species setups, while others fit into a community just fine.

We hope that we were able to help you find the perfect Angel for your aquarium. What is your favorite type of Freshwater Angelfish?

Let us know in the comments section below…

David Thomas Author Bio Picture
David Thomas leads the team at Everything Fishkeeping as the Editor-in-Chief. David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.

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