Care Guide for Freshwater Angelfish – the Feisty Angel of The Aquarium

Care Guide for Freshwater Angelfish – The Feisty Angel of the Aquarium

Angelfish are a very popular fish because of their long and majestic fins, spirited personalities, and ease of breeding. Dean, a master breeder, has been keeping these unique cichlids successfully for 40 to 50 years. Dean also produces high-end strains for sale at the Aquarium Co-Op Fish Store. This article reveals his real-world experiences and answers to the most frequently asked questions about keeping freshwater angelfish.


What is an Angelfish?

It is possible to confuse the term “angelfish” as there are many species of angelfish in saltwater aquariums. However, the marine angelfish hobby also has angelfish. We are referring specifically to angelfish cichlids from the Pterophyllum family that have long, winglike, fins and hail from South America’s freshwater rivers. P. altum, P. leopoldi and P. scalare are the three most common species of angelfish.

What are some common angelfish colors and types? The most widely-used varieties are silver (or the wild type), veil or koi and marble.

How big can angelfish grow? These fish reach the size of small saucers, so make sure they have plenty of room. The common P. scalare angelfish has a body length of up to 6 inches (15 cm) and a height (including their fins) of 8 inches (20 cm). Altum angelfish, P. altum, can grow up 7 inches (18 cm), 10-13 inches (25-33.3 cm), and tall.

Altum angelfish is the giant of angelfish world.

How long do angelfish live? If given a clean environment with minimal stress and high-quality foods, angelfish can live up to 8 to 12 years long.

What is the cost of angelfish? It depends on its size and rarity of color. Prices can go from $5 to $20.

Are angelfish aggressive? Many pet stores label angelfish as “semi-aggressive” because they are known to chase each other in the aquarium. This territorial behavior is due to the breeding. Males spar with one another to win their favorite female, and parents often defend their eggs and fry from being eaten by other fish. Angelfish, unlike other cichlids are peaceful and can be kept together in a community aquarium. (See below for details).

How Do You Pick Healthy Angelfish?

When buying angelfish at a store, look for ones that are the size of a U.S. nickel, quarter, or half-dollar coin (0.8-1.2 inches or 2-3 cm). The best part about fish keeping is watching your fish mature from a young age into an adult. While angelfish are a relatively slender fish, don’t pick ones that are overly thin. Young, healthy fish should have a thicker head than a meaty body and a thicker head. If possible, ask the store to feed them so you can select the most aggressive eaters. Avoid fish with damaged or cloudy eyes. For the best chance at success, bring home the most healthy fish possible.

How Do You Set up an Angelfish Aquarium?

Angelfish can live in many different types of tanks, including bare, community, and planted tanks. Try adding a few beginner-friendly aquatic plants to help consume toxic waste compounds and add a beautiful slice of nature to your aquarium. For example, java fern provides tall, textured leaves for your angelfish to swim around, and it only needs some low light and a few squirts of Easy Green all-in-one fertilizer to stay alive.

Java Fern grows tall, wide leaves that provide shelter and enrichment to angelfish.

Angelfish prefer temperatures between 78 and 86 degrees F for their water conditions. (Dean keeps his tanks around 82degF for breeding and raising fry.) They are not very picky about pH and can live in a wide range from 6.0 to 8.0 (although closer to the middle is always better). Water hardness may matter a little more since many captive-bred angelfish in the United States come from Florida, which is known for having hard water or high GH levels. Angelfish are able to adapt to water that is soft, but it is possible to find a local breeder with similar water conditions.

What size tank do angelfish need? The aquarium size depends on how many fish you plan to have. In a community tank that holds 29-gallon, you should limit the number of adult angelfish to four. If you have a 55-gallon tank, it is best to start with 5-6 juvenile angelfish. You can always remove them later if they become territorial. If the angelfish are kept in overcrowded conditions, make sure to increase the frequency of your water changes to keep the water quality high.

Can an angelfish be kept alone? We have found that keeping one angelfish in your aquarium does not adversely impact their health. They can swim or shoal together in the wild but it seems that having one fish as the focal point of your aquarium makes them more relaxed and docile.

If aggression is a problem, keep one angelfish as the center fish in a group of fish.

What fish are compatible with angelfish? Also, given how large they can grow, don’t buy any nano fish or small creatures that can be eaten by your angelfish (like microrasboras or dwarf shrimp). We’ve had good luck with black skirt tetras, adult cardinal tetras, and cory catfish.

Guppies are on the “maybe” list for tank mates because of their smaller size, so you may want to try a larger type of livebearer if you’re worried about them. Angelfish are a great way to control any livebearer population by taking care of their eggs. Betta fish is another species in this “maybe” category. The angelfish may try to attack the betta fish, so consider choosing a giant betta or regular betta with shorter fins to increase their swimming speed.

What’s the Best Food For Angelfish?

Angelfish are easy to care for and can eat any type of fish food, whether they are floating or sinking. Hikari Vibra Bites, freeze-dried bloodworms, tubifex worms, krill flakes and freeze-dried bloodworms are some of their favorites. Frozen bloodworms are essential if you want to feed the adult to make them more suited for breeding.

The best way for fry to grow fast and survive is to hatch live baby brine shrimp. Baby fish love the yolk sacs of freshly-hatched brine shrimp. Their jerky swimming motions stimulate babies’ eating responses and encourage them fill their stomachs. Dean loves to eat his angelfish fry Hikari First Bites (easy fried food), and Fluval Bug Bites (prepared foods). You should ensure that both parents and children have access to a wide range of foods so they can get the necessary nutrients for healthy growth.

Frozen bloodworms are the perfect food for quickly inducing adults to spawn.

What Do Angelfish Need to Breed?

It can be difficult to distinguish between males from females if you are not an experienced angelfish keeper. It is best to buy at minimum 6 juvenile angelfish. Then raise them until they are adults and allow them to pair naturally. You can choose the most attractive pair and place them in an aquarium to spawn. A 20-gallon breeding tank is ideal as it allows their fins to extend fully. You can determine which fish are male and female once they have bred. Afterwards, you can mix up the pairs if you want to match up two specific fish with desirable qualities.

How often do angelfish lay eggs? Angelfish readily breed and can lay hundreds of eggs every one to two weeks if the eggs are removed or eaten. The first few spawns are often unsuccessful because the parents may end up eating them. Your angelfish can still raise their own offspring if they have the right conditions and some patience. The eggs are usually laid vertically on a filter pipe or stiff leaf. Depending on the tank temperature, the eggs will hatch in two to three days, and the parents may move the newly hatched wigglers (fry that cannot swim freely yet) around the aquarium with their mouths. The fry will become free-swimming in three to four more days. Parents will keep their babies between them for protection. Begin the fry with small, nutritious foods, such as Hikari First Bite and baby brine shrimp.

Female angelfish can still produce unfertilized eggs even if there’s no male.

How many angelfish eggs can you lay? A successful spawn can produce between 300 and 600 eggs.

Unfortunately, they won’t all make it to adulthood, and the survival rate tends to be lower for the first few spawns. There may be some defects in the offspring like missing pectoral fins, bent spines, and malformed tails. Poor genetics, or parents accidentally moving eggs or fry in an unintentional way can cause these defects. One of the toughest parts of being a fish breeder is culling fry and not passing on damaged fish to other hobbyists.

The reason Dean keeps breeding angelfish after so many years is because they are a very popular fish that stores always seem to have a demand for. Just a couple pairs of angelfish can entirely fund the cost of running a small fish room. If you’ve never kept them before, you can’t go wrong with this fun and colorful fish. For more suggestions on the best aquarium fish for beginners, check out our top 10 list: