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. We spoke to Dean, a master breeder who has kept these cichlids for over 40-50 years. He also produces high-end strains that are available at the Aquarium Co-Op fish shop. This article reveals his real-world experiences and answers to the most frequently asked questions about keeping freshwater angelfish.
What is an Angelfish?
There is some confusion around the term “angelfish”, as the saltwater aquarium hobby includes marine angelfish. Therefore, we are specifically referring the Pterophyllum genera angelfish cichlids that have long, winglike fins and originate from South America’s freshwater rivers. The three known species of angelfish include P. altum (the largest species), P. leopoldi (the rarest species to find in fish stores), and P. scalare (the most available species found in pet stores).
What are the different angelfish types and colors? New colors and patterns of angelfish are constantly being developed, but some of the most well-known varieties include silver (or wild type), veil, koi, zebra, marble, albino, leopard, and platinum.
How big do angelfish get? These fish get to the size of a small saucer, so be prepared to give them plenty of space. 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 to 7 inches (18 cm) long and 10-13 inches (25-33 cm) high.
Altum angelfish is the giant of angelfish world.
How many years can angelfish live in clean water? Yes, if there is minimal stress and good food, angelfish can live from 8 to 12 year old.
How much do angelfish cost? Depending on the size of the fish and rareness of its color variety, the price can range between $5 to $20 and upwards.
Are angelfish aggressive or timid? Angelfish are often called “semi-aggressive,” by pet shops, because they chase one another in the aquarium. This territorial behavior is due to the breeding. In order to win the female they prefer, males fight and their parents defend their eggs from being eaten by other fish. However, compared to other cichlids, angelfish are relatively peaceful and can be kept in a community aquarium with the right set of tank mates (see below for specifics).
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. Look for young, strong fish with a thicker head and meaty body. If possible, ask the store to feed them so you can select the most aggressive eaters. Also, avoid any fish with cloudy or damaged 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. To help reduce toxic waste compounds and to add beauty to your aquarium, you can add some beginner-friendly aquatic plants. Java fern, for example, provides tall, textured leaves that angelfish can swim around on. It only requires low light and a few drops of Easy Green all in one fertilizer.
Java is a tall, broad-leaved fern that provides cover and enrichment for angelfish.
As for water parameters, angelfish tend to prefer warmer temperatures between 78-86degF. (Dean keeps his tanks around 82degF for breeding and raising fry.) They don’t have a very strict pH tolerance and can tolerate pH levels from 6.0 to 8.0 (although it is better to be in the middle). The hardiness of water may be more important as many angelfish that are captive-bred in the United States are from Florida. This is a state known for its high GH levels and hard water. Angelfish can adapt to hard water without difficulty, but you should also search for local breeders who have similar water parameters.
What size aquarium do angelfish need? This depends on the number of fish you 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 angelfish be kept alone? In our experience, keeping a single angelfish does not seem to adversely affect their well-being. Although they can shoal together and swim in the wild, keeping one angelfish as your aquarium’s centerpiece makes them more docile and easygoing overall.
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 great luck with cory catfish, adult cardinal and black skirt Tetras.
Guppies are a good choice for tank mates due to their small size. You may also consider a larger livebearer type if they’re a concern. The angelfish can help to keep livebearer populations under control by looking after their eggs. Another species that is in the “maybe” category are the betta fish. 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 is the best food for angelfish?
Angelfish are easy to feed and will take all sorts of fish foods, floating or sinking. Some favorites include krill flakes, freeze-dried bloodworms and tubifex worms, and Hikari Vibra Bites. You need to bulk up the adult bloodworms to prepare them for breeding.
For the fry, hatching out live baby brine shrimp is the best way to ensure fast growth and maximum survival rate. The yolk sacs of newly-hatched brine shrimp are very nutritious for baby fish, and their jerky swimming motions trigger the babies’ feeding responses and encourage them to fill up their bellies. Dean enjoys angelfish fry Hikari First Bites and Easy Fry food. 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 worms are the best food to induce adult spawning.
What do Angelfish need to breed?
Unless you’re an experienced angelfish keeper, it can be hard to spot the differences between males and females. The easiest way to get a breeding pair is to purchase at least six juvenile angelfish and then let them mate naturally. The best looking pair will be chosen and moved to an aquarium for spawning. (A 20-gallon high breeding tank is a good size, since it has plenty of height for their fins to fully extend.) Once they breed, you can easily determine the sex since the female is the one laying the eggs. You can then mix the pairs if you are looking for a specific fish with desirable characteristics.
How frequently do angelfish lay eggs each week? If the eggs are not removed or eaten, angelfish can breed quickly and can produce hundreds of eggs per week. The first few spawns are often unsuccessful because the parents may end up eating them. With the right conditions and patience, angelfish can raise their own offspring. The eggs are laid on a vertical surface such as a leaf, filter pipe or section of an aquarium wall. The hatching time depends on the temperature in the tank. Once the eggs are hatching, parents can move the newly hatched fry (fry that cannot swim freely yet), around the aquarium using their mouths. In three to four days the fry will be able to swim freely, and parents will protect their baby cloud. Begin the fry with small, nutritious foods, such as Hikari First Bite and baby brine shrimp.
Even if there is no male present, female angelfish can still lay unfertilized eggs.
How many eggs do angelfish lay? Each successful spawn can produce up to 1000 eggs that can yield 300 to 600 fry.
They won’t all survive to adulthood and survival rates tend to be lower in the first few spawnings. 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: