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 are Angelfish?
There can be some confusion about the term “angelfish” since the saltwater aquarium hobby has marine angelfish, so we are specifically referring to the angelfish cichlids of the Pterophyllum genus that have long, wing-like fins and come from freshwater rivers in South America. P. altum is the largest known angelfish species, while P. leopoldi is the rarest and most commonly found species in fish shops.
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 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 are the magnificent giants of the angelfish kingdom.
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.
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 stems mainly from 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 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?
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). Fish keeping is half the fun. Watch your fish grow from their young years to adulthood. Angelfish are quite slim fish. However, they are not recommended for those who are too thin. Young, healthy fish should have a thicker head than a meaty body and a thicker head. Ask the store to give them food so that you can choose the most aggressive eaters. Avoid fish with damaged or cloudy eyes. To maximize your chances of success, you should bring home the best fish.
How do you set up an angelfish aquarium?
Angelfish can be kept anywhere you like – bare tanks or community 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 tanks at around 82degF to breed and raise 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). Water hardness is an important consideration as many American captive-bred angelfish are from Florida. Florida is well known for having high levels of GH 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 tank do angelfish need? The aquarium size depends on how many fish you plan to have. For a 29-gallon community tank, keep no more than four adult angelfish with other tank mates. 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. While they do shoal or swim together in the wild, having just one as the centerpiece fish in your aquarium seems to make them much more easygoing and docile overall.
If aggression becomes a problem, you might consider keeping one angelfish in your community as a focal fish.
What fish are compatible with angelfish? You should also avoid nano fish and other small creatures, as they can grow to be quite large. 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. 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. Hikari Vibra Bites and freeze-dried tubifex and bloodworms are among their favorite foods. 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 baby fish will be very happy to eat the yolks of newly-hatched brineshrimp. They also love the jerky swimming motions that trigger their feeding response and encourage them, in turn, to eat more. Dean enjoys angelfish fry Hikari First Bites and Easy Fry food. Make sure you provide both the adults and their young a wide variety of foods to ensure they get all the essential nutrients needed 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. The easiest way to get a breeding pair is to purchase at least six juvenile angelfish and then let them mate naturally. You can choose the most attractive pair and place them in an aquarium to spawn. 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. Afterwards, you can mix up the pairs if you want to match up two specific fish with desirable qualities.
How many angelfish lay eggs per week? The angelfish are able to breed rapidly and can lay hundreds if they are eaten or removed from their eggs. 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 typically laid on vertical surfaces like a stiff leaf, filter pipe, or a section of 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 another three to four days, the fry become free-swimming, and the parents will protectively keep their cloud of babies between them. Begin the fry with small, nutritious foods, such as Hikari First Bite and baby brine shrimp.
Even if there are no males, the female angelfish can still mate and lay unfertilized egg.
How Many Eggs Can Angelfish Lay? An angelfish spawn can produce as many as 1000 eggs and can give birth to 300-600 fry.
Unfortunately, not all of them will make it to adulthood. The survival rate is lower for the first few generations. You may also notice deformities in your offspring such as missing pectoral fins or twisted spines. 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: