Angel Fish

I can remember the first Angel my dad got me; I was astounded. The formidable stature and poise got me from day one. Like Miss Universe right there in my tank. (Ok, I might have had a bit of a crush on her). Just kidding.

Probably the most popular and attractive Cichlids produced from the Amazon Basin, this is also one of the most popular home aquarium fish kept in homes worldwide.

One would expect that caring for Freshwater Angelfish is a problematic affair, but alas, I have great news: Caring for Angels is a BREEZE!

Types of Angel Fish

You will probably hear other aquarists talking about marine angelfish. But these are not true angelfish, which are members of the cichlid family. Real angelfish live in freshwater, usually at about 26ºc. There are several varieties suitable for aquariums.

  • Silver – These are the most popular angelfish, with vertically striped black and white bodies. They are comparatively hardy and adaptable.
  • Black Lace –These look similar to silver angelfish but have a lace-like pattern on their fins.
  • Black –Solid, velvety black, these striking fish are more delicate than their kin, especially when young.
  • Pearl Scale –These fish have distinctive bumpy scales, which give them a striking texture and have variable colors.
  • Blushing –These distinctive fish have red cheeks on white bodies. They can be delicate and are vulnerable to disease in community tanks.
  • Veiltail –Available in a range of colors, these fish have very long, trailing fins. They can be fragile and are vulnerable to nipping by other fish.

Let’s get into caring for your Angels.

Tank Setup / Conditions for your Angelfish

Temperature:  Between 76°F and 82°F (between 24 and 28 Celsius).  Angels do prefer the higher side of the scale, plus it helps prevent disease.
pH: Between 6.5 and 7.5
Preferred Tank Size / Setup Etc.:  As always, the bigger you can afford, the better. Why not go for an incredible community tank with a couple of Angels of about 30 Gallons?  You will LOVE it. A taller tank would be preferable; 16 inches or 40cm is just great.  Remember, they like to swim vertically more than swimming horizontally.

Keep in mind that Angelfish can grow rather big, so the more water they have, the better. Some of my friends in the industry swear by 10 Gallons per fish, so you do the math; more is better. Let’s try to keep our Angels happy.  Remember, these beauties can live up to 10 years if cared for properly.

A quick note on filtration: A canister filter (outside the tank) is always great, as they often don’t inject a jet of water into the tank but a spray bar. This creates a less violent current in the tank, which might stress your Angels a bit.

Provide your Angelfish with some driftwood and rock work for hiding.  Tall plants are a winner. If you are lucky enough and find a breeding pair in your tank, they will use the taller leaves to lay their eggs.  But more about breeding Angels a bit later….

Try not to add very sharp, edgy decorations, as your Angel’s delicate fins might get caught and torn.  Use smooth rocks and wood with less pointy protrusions where possible.

The Amazon Sword Plant is a HUGE hit for freshwater Angelfish; if you can get your hands on some, do it!

Angel Fish
Angel Fish

Tank Mates – Make your Angels Shine in a Community

Angles are more compatible, as we might expect from a Cichlids member. Remember, Cichlids are known to be more on the aggressive side. However, if you keep your angels in a large enough tank and away from fin-nippers, they will do just fine.

I would keep between 2 and 4 in a 30 Gallon tank, with assorted Tetras, some Cory’s, Pleco, and Harlequins. Freshwater Angelfish could become a bit aggressive while breeding. This is because they are very protective of their eggs and the young.

Just remember, the smaller the tank, the more aggressive your Angels may become towards other tank mates.

An easy rule of thumb: Make sure any of the mates you add to your Angel tank is LARGER than your Angels’ mouths – easy enough, right?

Tiger Barbs and Angels don’t mix well – a lesson I learned many years ago.

Feeding your Angels – Easier than you might think…

Angelfish are omnivorous so, they are not too fussy about the diet you supply. My rule of thumb tends more to the carnivore side, though. I have noticed over the years that Angels would go for shrimp and blood worms rather than dried processed foods if you had to feed both types at the same time.

Even though I’m not a massive fan of flake foods, Angels prefer flakes over pellets for some reason, so keep some flakes around. It is important to not stick to only one food type for your Angels; they do like a bit of variety.

Brine Shrimp and Blood Worms are both favorites, have some around for your Angels at all times. Mix ‘n Match you Angels diet as you see fit, or as you see they like. Just remember to vary it and not get caught only feeding one staple all the time.

So You Want to Breed this “Heavenly” Fish?

First things first, and this is probably the most challenging part of Freshwater Angelfish breeding:

Who is the boy, and who is the girl?

Here is the thing. You cannot distinguish the sex of an Angelfish until they are ready to spawn. They reach sexual maturity just before they are one (human) year old. Then there is a slight difference in the papilla. The male papilla will be thinner and pointed, while the female papilla will be more rounded or blunt.

Now, many breeders will start with a randomly selected group of Angels in a tank. Then wait for spawning time, and see who pairs up with who.

Here is an interesting fact about your Freshwater Angelfish:

They form monogamous bonds. So a pair will stick together “till death do them part.”

Another point to remember is that once a pair of Angelfish start breeding, they won’t stop. You will have to have a solid plan to deal with the new babies all the time.

I suggest speaking to your local pet shop first. See if they would be interested in taking in your Angel offspring regularly.

The other option, sadly, is culling the young. But I don’t even want to talk about that here now, as that is entirely against my grain.

Remember the Amazon Sword Plant I suggested earlier in this post? Well, that is an excellent plant for your Angels to lay their eggs on. Once the pair has selected a plant/leave to lay her eggs, both mommy and daddy will start cleaning the area where she will lay. This cleaning process can last a couple of days; they are very fussy about laying their eggs.

Angel Fish
Angel Fish

As soon as a pair goes into the spawning phase, it is a great idea to feed them little extra protein-based food for the spawn duration.

Keep your water temperature between 80 and 85 Fahrenheit (27 to 29 Celsius) for the spawning period. A pH of around 6.5 would be greatly appreciated by the parents too.

The female will lay up to 1 000 eggs in the selected spot on a leaf. The male will then come along and do his part by fertilizing the eggs. Once this is taken care of, your Angels will become VERY protective of the eggs. So, keep tank mates to a minimum, if any at all. Best to keep your breeding pair safely in their tank.

You will notice that both males and females will carefully fan the eggs with their fins during hatching.  This is to keep the eggs clean all the time by creating extra current around them. Remember, they originate from relatively calm waters.

It is sad but necessary to remember that due to our domestication and inbreeding, the Freshwater Angelfish we keep has lost many instincts. This could mean that the parents might resort to eating the eggs and even newborn babies.

If the parents do not eat the eggs, they will guard the offspring with their lives once they spawn. Now you know you have a great breeding pair, and you should take extra care of them. It is important to remember that in most cases if one of the partners dies, it is improbable that the surviving fish will ever breed again. Best to start looking for a new pair altogether.

Your New Angelfish Babies

After a couple of days, the eggs will hatch. The babies will stick to the eggs, consuming the egg contents. After about a week, the fry will start to swim around.

The newborns will stick close to mom and dad for the first couple of days.  You can feed your new babies newly hatched brine shrimp—a great kick-start for the new Angelfish babies.

And there you go!  You have a batch of babies for your local pet shop, friends, or family. Please be kind, and make sure you have that Exit Plan in place at all times. Sitting with schools of Angels you cannot get rid of is heartbreaking.

And That’s My Story

I do hope that I’ve covered the basics of Caring for your Freshwater Angelfish for you.

Feel free to share your experiences with all of us in the comment section below!