Angelfish Care Sheet: Types, Tank Mates, Breeding and More…

The Freshwater Angelfish is one of the more peaceful South American Cichlids.

Their showy appearance has earned them a place in the hearts of fishkeepers all over the world.

Not only is this fish beautiful but they are community friendly and make the perfect accent to a planted tank.

Has the King of the Aquarium earned a place in your tank?

Read on for everything you need to know about Angelfish…

Angelfish

Angelfish
Other Common Names: King of the Aquarium, Veil Angelfish
Scientific Name: Pterophyllum scalare, Pterophyllum leopoldi, Pterophyllum altum
Family Name: Cichlidae
Distribution: South America
Size: 6 inches
Color: Silver, gold, black, blue, marbled, koi and albino
Care Level: Intermediate
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Lifespan: 8-10 years
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Peaceful cichlids and medium sized fish

Overview

Pair of Angelfish

There are actually three species of freshwater Angelfish in the Pterophyllum genus: Pterophyllum scalare, Pterophyllum leopoldi and Pterophyllum altum. However, P. scalare (the Common Angelfish) is the one that you are most likely to find for sale.

All three species are lovingly referred to as the King or Queen of the Aquarium and in captivity they reach a maximum length of six inches.

These beauties come from the Cichlidae family and are native to most of South America, including: Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Guyana.

Angelfish can be found at pet shops and aquarium suppliers both on and offline. You will usually find P. scalare in their most basic color form, silver.

Since there are so many breeds and varieties there are some dealers that are dedicated entirely to Angelfish.

A regular P. scalare costs between $15-$25, with specialty varieties ranging up to $80 or more.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: Cichlids and freshwater fish.
  • Nicknames: King of the Aquarium, Veil Angelfish.
  • Color Forms: Silver, gold, marbled, albino, blue, black, koi.
  • Size: 6 inches.
  • Tank Size: Minimum 30+ gallon.
  • Tank Temperature: 75°F to 85°F.

Angelfish Care Sheet

Pterophyllum scalare

While this is a good beginner Cichlid, it is not a good beginner fish in general.

You should have at least some fishkeeping experience before keeping Angelfish. However if you are looking to try the Cichlidae family out for the first time, this is one of the easiest species to start with.

They need a very clean tank as they generate lots of waste.

You will need to monitor the water very closely and perform a 10-25% water change every 2 weeks

Fin rot is a very common problem with this fish. This is the result of a bacterial infection that can be caused by a buildup of waste.

The first sign of fin rot is a white lesion along the edge of the fins. Eventually, it will form deep ulcers across their body.

Keeping a clean tank is the best way to prevent fin rot and other bacterial infections. This species is known to carry hexamita parasites, which can spread to the rest of your fish. You should quarantine new Angelfish for 2 weeks before you add them to your community.

Diet

Freshwater Angelfish are omnivores which means they eat meat and plants.

In the wild they eat tiny live prey such as insect larvae and microworms.

The healthiest diet is one that mimics their natural diet as closely as possible. Fortunately, it is not very difficult to feed them the right foods.

You can feed them a combination of high protein fish flakes and live prey.

Tubifex, bloodworms and other microworms can be given both live and frozen. Frozen bloodworms are especially important for a breeding pair. Other small prey includes daphnia, brine and mysis shrimp, and insect larvae. These live foods give your fish an opportunity to exercise their hunting instincts.

You should also make sure that your Angelfish get their greens.

In addition to supplementing their diet with algae flakes you can offer cooked green vegetables as a treat. Try cooking and blanching some cucumber, peas, or lettuce.

Here is a list of all of the best foods to feed your Freshwater Angels:

  • Fish flakes
  • Tubifex worms
  • Bloodworms
  • Microworms
  • Mysis shrimp
  • Brine shrimp
  • Insect larvae
  • Daphnia
  • Moina
  • Algae flakes
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas

These fish are extremely ravenous eaters.

If given the opportunity they will steal food from the other fish in your tank.

You must come up with a strict feeding schedule for your Angels to follow, and you should not feed them alongside their tank mates. Feed them once in the morning and once in the evening and remove any food that is left over.

Silver Angelfish

Behavior

You might not expect a Cichlid to be easily scared but Angelfish certainly are. Any sudden movement, sound, or sight will startle them into hiding.

Frightened fish tend to remain in one area of the tank, close to their chosen territory. If your fish spend a lot of time in one spot then it is worth looking into what might be distressing them.

You will most often find Angelfish in the middle levels of the tank, powering through the gentlest currents. They spend most of their time on the hunt for food.

In shoals they will establish a strict social hierarchy. In these hierarchies they are known to charge, rush, and nip at any like sized fish that come too close to their territory.

Freshwater Angels are surprisingly intelligent and can even learn to recognize their keepers. Over time, they can also learn to memorize their feeding schedule and keeper’s daily routine.

Habitat and Aquarium Set Up

In the wild these fish live in floodplains and other shallow water environments.

They prefer clear water that is covered with floating plants and other vegetation. The swamps in their homeland are slightly acidic, with water temperatures ranging up to the mid-80°F.

Angelfish are usually found in the shallow tributaries and drainage basins of native rivers, where the slowest moving currents occur.

A single fish or a pair of Angels need at least a 30 gallon tank. A small shoal of 4-5 will need at least 55 gallons. Larger groups and multiple shoals will need a 75 gallon tank.

You will need a heater that can maintain temperatures between 75-85°F, with little to no fluctuation in temperature. The pH should be 6.5-7.5 and the water hardness can range from 2-10 dGH.

Use only soft substrate in this tank as Angelfish enjoy digging – soft sand, gravel, mud, and small pebbles are all acceptable.

The currents in your tank should be very low. Undergravel and hang on back filters are the best for generating gentle currents. When looking for a good filter keep in mind that this fish does generate a lot of waste. Your filter should not be too powerful, but just strong enough to clean out all of these extra waste products.

Cichlids are very active fish so you will need to use a hood on your tank.

Allow plenty of open space for your fish to swim freely without bumping or scraping their delicate fins.

Finally, you will need to establish territories. Each Angel in your tank needs their own individual space to call home. Decorate the bottom and middle levels with boulders, pipes, logs, and overturned flowerpots filled with rocks. After that, it is time to pick out the best tropical plants. Use Amazon Sword plants, Brazilian Pennyworts, floating Anacharis, Java Ferns, Java Moss, and Micro Swords to create the perfect replica of a South American swampland.

Tank Parameter Requirement
Minimum Tank Size 30 Gallons
Tank Type Freshwater planted
Temperature 75-85°F
pH 6.5-7.5
Hardness 2-10 dGH
Flow Light
Substrate Soft grains or pebbles

Appearance and Types

Gold Angelfish

The freshwater Angelfish is one of the most beautiful fish around.

From their diamond shaped body to their trailing fins, they are sure to attract attention in any tank. Their long fins resemble a veil which is where their other nickname of Veil Angelfish comes from.

The most common base color is either silver or gold. These colors usually come with incomplete black bands.

Other color forms include a marbled pattern in place of bands, a completely solid colored body, and an albino form. There is even one that resembles a Koi fish.

There are 3 different species of freshwater Angelfish and here is how you can identify them:

  • Pterophyllum scalare: The most common species has a wide, slightly upturned snout at the end of a sloping forehead. Their bands are thin and usually have a few breaks in them.
  • Pterophyllum altum: The Altum Angel has a slightly rounder forehead and a very thin snout. Their bands are thicker and unbroken.
  • Pterophyllum leopoldi: Leopold’s Angel is smaller than either of the other 2 species, with a downturned snout and a more pronounced diamond shape.

This fish is much taller than it is long, which can make it difficult to find the right tank size. While they are only about 6 inches long, they can grow up to 10 inches high.

Their paired pectoral fins are different from most other fish – they are long and filamentous. The dorsal fin is pointed upward and can be flared out to display their full shape. They also have a single anal fin which occurs just before the tail.

Males are also approximately 1 and a half inches larger than females. Females have a forehead that slopes straight down to the snout, while the male’s have a small hump before sloping downward.

While you can find lots of types of Angelfish, some of the most popular include:

  • Silver: This is one of the 2 basic color forms and features a solid colored silver body or black bands against a silver base.
  • Gold: The other basic color form is a solid gold body or a gold base with black bands.
  • Black: Black or Raven Angels are jet black in color. They may have bands but these bands are not visible against the black body.
  • Blue: Blue is usually a base color for the marbled variety. This color is very uncommon and is often more expensive than others.
  • Marbled: The marbled pattern can occur on any base color and refers to the size and the shape of the bands. On a marbled fish the bands are thicker and occur in a spotty formation.
  • Koi: Koi is one of the most exotic looking varieties of all and resembles a Koi fish. Koi Angels have a red, orange, and black marbled pattern against a gold or silver base.
  • Albino: Albinos are stark white or very light yellow, with chalky white bands. Their eyes are usually red or pink.

Tank Mates

Although Angelfish are community friendly they can be fierce when they defend their territory.

They tend to only bully other fish that are a similar size so you should avoid keeping them with similar sized species. Also their trailing fins are particularly enticing to small fish that like to nip, so this is something that you will need to consider when stocking your community.

Peaceful Cichlids like Dwarves, Blue Rams, and Bolivian Rams are unlikely to cause very much trouble. The Discus is another Cichlid that is peaceful enough to avoid starting a fight.

Outside of other Cichlids you can try peaceful Catfish. Non-venomous Corydoras, Pictus, and medium sized Plecos come with the added benefit of cleaning up any extra algae in your tank.

Swordtails, Platies and Mollies should be able to get along well enough with an Angel.

You can also keep Angelfish together.

The guidelines for keeping a shoal include a tank size of 55 gallons or more, more females than males, and up to 6 individuals per shoal.

While some keepers consider Tetras to be a safe pick, including them can be very risky. Not only are they small enough to eat but many species are notorious for fin nipping.

You should also avoid shrimp, small crabs, or other invertebrates that are likely to be eaten.

Very pushy Cichlids (such as Oscars and Convicts) should be kept away at all costs. These big bullies will not shy away from picking on the much smaller Angel.

Freshwater Angelfish

Breeding Angelfish

To breed Angelfish you must first get your pair into breeding condition.

You can do this by isolating the two into a breeding tank which includes Amazon Sword or another leafy plant. Raise the temperature above 75°F, keep the pH at around 7.0, and offer frozen bloodworms up to 4 times a day.

When they are getting ready to breed the female’s body will get rounder and the male’s colors will deepen.

To prepare for spawning they will clear out space for a nest by digging in the substrate and nibbling at the plant they will use as the spawning surface.

Females lay between 200 and 300 eggs per spawn.

Once the eggs are laid the male will fertilize them externally.

While both parents do care for the eggs, they might also eat them. It is therefore safer to remove the parents once spawning is complete.

The larvae will hatch in about a week and survive off of their yolk sacs for the next 2 days. If you allow the parents to remain in the tank they will secrete their own food for the fry.

After the larval stage you can provide infusoria, larval brine shrimp, and commercial foods made specifically for fry.

After about a month juvenile Angelfish can eat the same foods as the adults.

In 2 to 3 months your new Angels will be ready to join the main tank.

History and First Sighting

Pterophyllum scalare was discovered and described by Liechtenstein in 1823.

It was 32 years later until Pterophyllum leopoldi was discovered, and Pterophyllum altum was the last species to be discovered in 1903.

By 1911 all 3 species were available for home aquariums. P. scalare was the most popular Angelfish for home aquariums and this trend continues to this day.

Back in the 1900s this fish was used as a showpiece and status symbol.

Unfortunately though towards the end of the 1900s the pet trade contributed to a decline in all 3 species. In 1992 only 0.8% of imported freshwater fish included Angelfish. It is unknown if this decline was the result of population decline, or simply a fall in popularity.

Thanks to captive breeding, hobbyists enjoy this lovely fish without impacting wild populations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to tell if Angelfish eggs are fertilized?

Fertilized Angelfish eggs are transparent whereas unfertilized eggs are stark white.

How big do Angelfish get?

Most Angelfish grow to around 6 inches long. It is possible for an Angel to grow longer than 6 inches but this is very rare in captivity.

How long do Angelfish live?

The minimum expected lifespan is 8 years, but some can live for up to 10 years.

Are Angelfish hard to keep?

This is one of the easiest Cichlids to keep.

Freshwater Angelfish are highly recommended for keepers getting their first Cichlid, who already have some experience with other fish.

Wrapping Up

With so many great things about Freshwater Angelfish, there are plenty of reasons to give them a home in your aquarium.

They make an excellent choice for anyone looking for their first Cichlid!

Angels feel happiest when they have their own space in the tank. They are rather picky about their tank conditions and need a pristine environment with plenty of furniture and decorations.

You can keep them in a single species tank or incorporate them into a community.

All in all, there is quite a lot to love about this showy South American fish. Is a Freshwater Angelfish the king or queen of your aquarium?

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.