Angelfish Care Guide – How to Keep Freshwater Angelfish?


How Care for Freshwater Angelfish?

Angelfish are by all means the most recognized and adored freshwater fish that have become common in many aquariums.

An angelfish is scientifically known as Pterophyllum scalare (although there are other species) and it is found in the family Cichlidae.

Anyway, that’s not so important for now unless you want to become a marine biologist.

If you are an aquarium hobbyist, you must be fully aware of the graceful swimming behavior of angelfish among other attributes that make it a favorite choice of fish for many aquariums.

But one thing remains certain; the wild-caught angelfish are extremely rare in aquariums, leaving only the captive-raised varieties for those looking to stock their aquariums.

Once in the aquarium, angelfish need little maintenance to keep them alive and active throughout.

In this piece, you are going to learn the best way of taking care of your angelfish starting from the tank conditions to their general behavior all the way to their lifespan.

Angelfish Tank Conditions

Angelfish is native to South America, specifically, the Amazon River Basin. This means the tank conditions should be the same as those found in Amazon. Despite that, these beautiful fish are the easiest ones to keep because they are strong eaters and fully compatible with several other freshwater species of fish.

As such, they don’t necessarily need a lot of attention from aquarists since they can do better in a wide range of setups. Let’s start with the common angelfish tank conditions so you may know exactly what you need when setting up your aquarium

Water Parameters

When filling the aquarium, ensure that you are using a good quality water source. You can achieve this goal by purchasing water from any local fish store nearby. The amount of water to fill the aquarium will depend on its size although it could be a difficult task that may require several gallons.

Buying water from the approved fish store is one way of ensuring that all parameters are correct and free of chlorine. However, you may take up the task of measuring your tank’s pH with the help of a home testing kit. This is a very important step especially if you are not sure of the source of water in the tank.

Wait for at least 24 hours before testing the water because the pH levels change after being exposed to the air. The right pH level, in this case, is between 6 and 8.

Should you find that the water does not have the recommended pH levels, you can either raise it by adding crushed coral, shells, baking soda or chemical buffers. On the other hand, you may lower the pH levels by adding wood or chemical buffer designed for lowering the pH.

The hardness of water is also another parameter to be looked into. The recommended hardness is between 3 degrees and 8 degrees dKH or 54 and 145 ppm. And the temperature should be kept between 78 degrees and 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tank Size

The fact that the angelfish are smaller in size, it doesn’t mean they will not grow. These fish can grow to sizes of about 8 inches tall and 6 inches long. That’s, you need a tank that can accommodate your angelfish even when they are fully grown.

Ensure that your tank has a capacity of at least 55 gallons or you can go for a bigger one depending on your budget.

In addition, the total number of angelfish in the tank will also matter the most when choosing the tank size. Below is a general guideline you can use to select the right tank size for your angelfish:

  • Nickel-sized fish-1 angelfish per gallon
  • Quarter-sized fish-1 angelfish per 2 gallons
  • Dollar-sized fish-1 angelfish per 3 gallons
  • Ready for pairing-1 angelfish per 5 gallons.

Given that angelfish can grow to about 10 inches, it is advisable (as mentioned earlier) that you take a tank that can hold a minimum of 55 gallons or even larger.

Water Filtration

Maintaining good water filtration in the tank is necessary if you want to ensure that your angelfish thrives in a conducive environment.

That’s why it is advisable to change at least 10% to 25% of tank water once or twice every month using the Siphon Vacuum Gravel Cleaner or Aqueon Aquarium Water Changer.

Water filtration keeps the tank free of a contamination thus preventing your angelfish from getting infections from bacteria. Often times, angelfish become very sensitive to the aquarium’s poor water quality.

As a matter of fact, these are among the types of fish that respond to frequent changes in water. This implies that if the filtration is not done properly, it could lead to some sort of catastrophe.

Aquarium Substrate

By the time you decide to set up an aquarium for your angelfish, the first thing to consider is the substrate to be used. This could be confusing especially for the newcomers in the world of aquarium hobby but there’s always a way out of that confusion.

A simple substrate made of gravel materials will be a better idea for a start. Even though using gravel as part of your aquarium’s substrate is a sound idea, the downside of this material is the tendency to hold more waste.

This should not discourage you from using gravel because this material is easy to clean and it does not require a lot of maintenance. Also, it is fairly cheap, so you won’t have to go deeper into your pockets to have it in your aquarium.

Apart from using gravel, you can as well go for sand and use it as your substrate. Sand is literally a beautiful addition given that the natural habitat for angelfish somewhere in the Amazon Basin has a sandy bottom.

Using sand will likely give the aquarium that realistic and natural look although it is more difficult to clean. Despite that downside, and is preferred more than gravel when it comes to making a substrate for angelfish aquariums.

Plants for Angelfish

The natural habitat for angelfish in the Amazon Basin is characterized by plenty of vegetation. This fact alone should give you enough reasons to include several plants alongside your angelfish in the aquarium.

Not just plants alone, you can as well include rocks, stones and all sorts of hiding places to ensure that your fish has the right environment to grow in. Additionally, rocks and plants provide a perfect hiding location for angelfish in a bid to keep them stress-free.

Using artificial plants is yet another idea that you can use to achieve the same goals as using natural plants. This means that your angelfish will have the look and feel of a more natural planted aquarium despite using artificial plants.

During your selection, ensure that you settle for those artificial plants that have large leaves and can stand vertically to give an impression of what these fish are used to in their natural habitat.

Besides plants, you can add other decorations such as rocks and driftwood. More often than not, driftwood plays an important role in mimicking the natural habitat that the angelfish are used to. Large rocks can provide a safe haven for the fish to hide or lay eggs.

In general, filling the tank with plenty of natural looking setup and other related decorations plays a significant role in keeping your angelfish stress-free and comfortable throughout.

Angelfish Feeding

Normally, angelfish feed at mid-water or at the surface but in their natural habitats, they forage along the sandy bottom, searching for worms and tiny crustaceans.

Being omnivores, angelfish can thrive on commercial flake food (color flakes and tropical flakes), tropical granules, live or frozen food, and shrimp pellets.

For better results, make sure that you feed them by rotating their diet on a daily basis. On top of that, feed them on what they can finish in a time of 2 to 3 minutes utmost.

The feeding should be done once or twice each day using any of the following types of food:

Commercial Flake Food

Commercial flake foods for angelfish come in different forms to provide specific nutrients. For instance, there is Aquacarium Tropical Flakes which come as natural fish food to feed angelfish.

This type of commercial flake food is all natural, meaning that there is no addition of artificial colorings. In addition to that, Aquacarium Tropical Flakes doesn’t cloud water thus making it a great choice of diet for fish in the aquarium.

This commercial flake food is prepared in small batches for easier feeding to your angelfish.

Still on the commercial flake food, you will find API Fish Flakes to be quite reliable when feeding your fish. The product contains one API flake food in a 5.7-ounce container.

This food flake contains some of the key ingredients that are included to provide a complete, balanced diet for your angelfish. In fact, API Fish Flakes include plenty of menhaden as well as squid to provide your fish with the correct amount of amino acids for optimal growth.

The product is formulated to make it easy for your fish to consume it with less waste remaining in the water.

Another type of commercial flake food designed for your fish is TetraMin-Plus Tropical Flakes. This type of flake is naturally balanced and it contains shrimp flakes to give your fish maximum flavor.

Unlike the other types of commercial flake foods discussed above, TetraMin-Plus Tropical Flakes comes with real shrimp’s flavor and aroma to act as a natural attractant for your angelfish.

Homemade Food for angelfish

In their natural habitats, the angelfish diet is made up of invertebrates, small fish and insects. You can replicate this diet in your home aquarium so easily and effortlessly.

Making your own angelfish food is a good way of providing your fish with a healthy diet that contains the right dietary requirements for the fish.

This type of food is cost effective and a lot easier to prepare than you may have thought. In this regard, your homemade food may consist of plant food such as spinach, seaweed, kale, and lettuce.

Also, you may include plants such as Egeria, Cabomba, and Limnophila as well as varieties of fruits and vegetables that are rich in vital nutrients.

Meat, especially from other fish species or other aquatic animals, is a favorite delicacy for angelfish when prepared skillfully at home.

Certainly, homemade food for angelfish can save you money and time while keeping your fish healthy and active all the time.

Live or Frozen Food

Live food is always difficult to obtain in most cases but feeder blackworms, guppies and brine shrimp are available in most fish stores.

Ensure that the source of your live food for your angelfish is a reputable one to protect your fish from contracting diseases.

For the frozen foods, you will find blackworms, bloodworms, brine shrimp and daphnia to be a better choice. Needless to say, angelfish prefer more meaty diets than the rest and their favorite ones are blackworms and bloodworms.

Therefore, feeding your angelfish should not be a problem anymore now that you know the type of diet they can take. In case you realize that your angelfish is not eating, it is obvious that there is a problem.

Quite a number of angelfish are likely to stop eating if their environment or water quality is somehow degraded beyond the normal parameters. If that happens, ensure that you test the water first before taking any action should you notice that your fish is not eating.

Angelfish Breeding

Angelfish are quite unique when it comes to breeding. First of all, they start by forming long term relationships and eventually breed without interventions from the aquarists. In other words, they don’t need a breeding trigger to start the breeding process.

They just breed continuously when they attain sexual maturity. In this case, you need a better plan to deal with large numbers of fry prior to breeding angelfish.

While a majority of the wild angelfish makes excellent parents, a good number of those in the aquarium hobby tend to breed among themselves. The inbreeding has resulted in lost parental instinct in most of the fish kept in aquariums.

This should tell you that these fish are capable of devouring their own eggs or fry, making it difficult to breed them.

Upon reaching sexual maturity, most of the angelfish start spawning as soon as possible. They start by picking any available broad leaf plant (similar to the Amazon sword) and take some days cleaning its surface.

The cleaning process is initiated to remove algae and debris from the leaf’s surface in readiness for the female to deposit her eggs.

In the absence of suitable plants, angelfish will just find a flat rock or the aquarium glass and lay their eggs there. The eggs are laid in a straight line. This way, you can easily tell when the angelfish have bred.

To prevent the angelfish from devouring their young ones, you can remove the parents from the aquarium or the eggs.

But it is important not to remove the eggs from the tank because the parents will keep on spawning every 7 to 10 days. If you are not careful, you may end up with a large number of eggs.

If the angelfish still possess their parental instincts, you will notice that they will resort to taking turns to fan the eggs using their fins in a bid to make them hatch.

Once they have hatched, the fry will immediately become free-swimming while the parents will take up the task of protecting them throughout.

Most significantly, the fry must be fed before they start swimming. Their diet should consist of microworms, baby brine shrimp or any other commercial fry food. Upon reaching two weeks, the fry should be fed on finely ground flakes.

Angelfish Tank Mates

In most cases, angelfish have mild temperament although they can display aggressive behavior in some occasions. At their tender age, angelfish are known to be sociable and spend much of their time mingling with different schools of fish.

As they grow older, they gradually become territorial. Under certain circumstances, they may become hostile towards other species of fish by nipping at their tails and fins.

More often than not, you will see some squabbles among the angelfish. That is normal anyway but you should be on the lookout for any form of hostility. This behavior is common especially when angelfish are subjected to some kind of threats or aggressive behavior from other fish.

However, you can control that type of territorial or hostile behaviors by taking into account the following helpful tips:

One of the best ways of controlling territorial or hostile behavior among angelfish is to provide them with good companions. Most of the time angelfish tend to be less hostile to other types of angelfish. So, adding another angelfish to the tank is actually a noble idea.

Most aquarists suggest you should keep the number of angelfish in the tank at a minimum of 6.

Apart from adding another angelfish to the tank, you can as well introduce Festivum cichlids or mid-sized tetras to serve as good companions.

You may include the loaches, catfish and African butterfly fish in the companion list as well. Other ideal companions include the rasboras,mollies, corydoras, plaities,german rams, kribensis, blistlenose, swordtails, gouramis, rainbow fish and discus.

Should you feel like including some small fish, then you may try zebrafish. These types of fish are capable of swimming fast although angelfish being cichlids will not be an issue anymore.

Apart from that, you will find barbs to be a great choice for tanks mates although a lot of care is needed when making it a companion of the angelfish. This is due to the fact that some types of barbs tend to be aggressive and might end up nipping the angelfish’s tails and fins. Just choose the less aggressive ones.

Introducing companions to your angelfish is a great idea but you need to be extremely cautious. This means that you should be careful with your selection in relation to the size of fish your tank you intend to introduce new companions.

Nevertheless, you may feel free to carry out your experiments to find out which combinations are blending with others perfectly. Otherwise, fishkeeping hobby entails a lot of learning day-in-day-out.

Angelfish Tank Maintenance

The best part of keeping your lovely angelfish healthy, stress-free and happy is to have an aquarium that is in good working condition. To keep your aquarium in that working condition needs some amount of time, not to mention that much-needed commitment. So, if you think you are the lazy type, then the aquarium hobby is not your piece of cake.

First forward, water should be changed after every two weeks. Once the two weeks elapse, change between 10 % and 20% of the total amount of water in the tank with the fresh one.

But before you add fresh water, ensure that it is free of chlorine and ready for your angelfish. Also, siphon all the water from the substrate in order to get rid of the algae and the accumulated dirt in general. Don’t let that waste to decompose and create an unfavorable environment for your fish.

Getting rid of such waste materials from the aquarium can help keep nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia in check.

Make sure that the whole tank is clean before you add fresh water into it. Wash the filters and any other accessories found in the tank to remove all the slime and gunk. Doing so will prevent parasites from infecting your fish with diseases.

While cleaning the filters, keep in mind that you need to use the tank water. Never wash your filters using running tap water in order to protect the beneficial bacteria. Water changing is a better way of ensuring that your angelfish are safe and stress-free in their aquarium environment.

Are Angelfish Aggressive?

Angelfish are known to have mild temperament but when they feel threatened, they become hostile and aggressive. So, it is absolutely right to say that they are aggressive.

What is the Average Lifespan of Angelfish?

The average lifespan for the angelfish is 5 years but with very good care, they can live up to 10 years.

At what Age Can Angelfish Breed?

Angelfish attain their sexual maturity at a minimum age of 8 months. That is when they are mature enough to start pairing up in preparation for breeding.

How Often Can a Female Angelfish Lay Eggs?

Angelfish will lay eggs after every 7 or 10 days.

Will Angelfish Eat their Fry?

Yes, they might eat their fry but when they (fry) start free-swimming they won’t eat them.


Angelfish are very fascinating species of fish. Even though they are a little bit temperamental, they can become hostile at other times and that is normal.

For you to manage them, you will need medium level fish-keeping skills that will help you handle them properly. Unfortunately, these fish are not for newcomers in the aquarium hobby.

Angelfish   Updated: November 25, 2019
avatar Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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