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 shares his real-world experiences as well as answers to most commonly asked questions regarding keeping freshwater angelfish.
What are Angelfish?
There may be confusion over the term “angelfish” because the saltwater aquarium hobby has marine fish angelfish. So we are specifically talking about angelfish Cichlids of Pterophyllum that have long, feather-like fins, and were sourced from South American 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 types of angelfish colors are there? There are many varieties of angelfish. Some of the most popular are silver (or wild type), veil and koi.
How large are angelfish? They can reach the size and shape of small saucers. Common P. scalare angelfish can grow up to 6 inches (15cm) in length and 8 inches (20cm (including their fins). Altum angelfish, P. altum, can grow up 7 inches (18 cm), 10-13 inches (25-33cm), and tall.
Altum angelfish are the majestic giants of the angelfish world.
How long can angelfish live? Angelfish can live for 8-12 years if they are kept in a healthy environment with high-quality food and minimal stress.
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 in nature? Angelfish have been known to chase each others around the aquarium. This territorial behavior is due to the breeding. The males will fight for their preferred female and the parents will often protect their eggs and fry from being eaten. Angelfish are calmer than other cichlids and can be kept in an aquarium that has the right mix of tank mates (see below).
How can you pick healthy angelfish?
If you are looking for angelfish to buy at a shop, make sure they are about the same size as a U.S. quarter, half-dollar, or nickel coin (0.8-1.2 inches, 2-3 cm). Half the fun of fish keeping is watching your fish grow from a young age to full adulthood. Angelfish are relatively slim fish. But don’t choose ones that are too skinny. You want young, robust fish with thicker heads and a more meaty body. You can ask the store to provide food for them, so you can pick the most aggressive eaters. Also, avoid any fish with cloudy or damaged eyes. Bring home the healthiest ones possible for the best chance of success.
How do you set up an angelfish aquarium?
Angelfish can live in many different types of tanks, including bare, community, and planted tanks. You can help your fish to eat toxic waste and add a touch of nature to their aquarium by adding some aquatic plants that are easy to learn. 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.
As for water parameters, angelfish tend to prefer warmer temperatures between 78-86degF. Dean keeps his tank at 82degF when he is breeding or raising fry. They don’t have a very strict pH tolerance and can tolerate temperatures ranging from 6.0 to 8.0 (although it is better to be in the middle). Water hardiness may be an issue as many captive-bred angelfish in America are from Florida. Florida is known for having high GH levels or hard water. Angelfish can be adapted to soft water easily, but you may also want to look for a local breeder that has the same water parameters as yours.
How large is an angelfish tank? 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. Even though they do shoal and swim together in nature, having only one angelfish in your aquarium will make them more friendly and docile.
If aggression is a problem, consider keeping a single angelfish as a centerpiece fish amongst other community 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. (Certainly, the angelfish will help keep any livebearer population under control by going after their fry.) Betta fish are another species in the “maybe” category. The angelfish may attempt to attack the bettafish, so it is worth considering a giant betta (or regular betta) with shorter fins to increase their swimming speeds.
What is the best food for angelfish?
Angelfish are easy to feed and will take all sorts of fish foods, floating or sinking. Hikari Vibra Bites, freeze-dried bloodworms, tubifex worms, krill flakes and freeze-dried bloodworms are some of their favorites. You need to bulk up the adult bloodworms to prepare them for breeding.
To ensure rapid growth and maximum survival rates for the fry, hatching baby brine shrimp live is the best method. The eggs of the newly-hatched brine fish are extremely nutritious and stimulate baby fish’s feeding behaviors. Dean enjoys angelfish fry Hikari First Bites and Easy Fry food. Both the parents and children should have access to a wide variety food selection in order to ensure that they receive all the nutrients necessary for healthy growth.
Frozen Bloodworms are a great food to induce adults to spawn quickly.
What does an angelfish need to breed?
Unless you’re an experienced angelfish keeper, it can be hard to spot the differences between males and females. It is best to purchase at minimum 6 juvenile angelfish. Then, let them grow up to adulthood and allow them to pair naturally. Pick the best-looking pair and move them to their own aquarium for spawning. The breeding tank should be 20 gallons high, as the fins can extend to this height. You can determine which fish are male and female once they have bred. You can then mix the pairs if you are looking for a specific fish with desirable characteristics.
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 couple of spawns often fail because the new parents can end up consuming them.) With the right conditions and patience, angelfish can raise their own offspring. The eggs are typically laid on vertical surfaces like a stiff leaf, filter pipe, or a section of aquarium wall. 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 begin to swim in about three to four days. The parents will then protect the babies and keep them safe. At this time, start off the fry with tiny, nutritious foods like baby brine shrimp and Hikari First Bites powder.
Female angelfish can still produce unfertilized eggs even if there’s no male.
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 spawns. You may also notice deformities in your offspring such as missing pectoral fins or twisted spines. These defects can be caused by genetic problems or accidental damage by parents to the eggs or fry during moving. 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. The cost of running a small aquarium can be covered by just a few angelfish. 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: