Freshwater Angelfish Care Guide


Freshwater Angelfish Care Guide

Angelfish are a popular choice for freshwater aquarists for several good reasons. They are graceful, peaceful, and just large enough to be impressive without requiring a massive aquarium. And unlike the saltwater variety they are inexpensive and easily cared for, even by beginners! Breeding them is a little more difficult, but if you’re looking for a gentle cichlid to keep in your freshwater aquarium there are few better choices than Freshwater Angelfish!

Freshwater Angelfish Care Sheet

Characteristic Detail
Scientific Name Pterophyllum scalare
Adult Size 6 inches
Temperament Peaceful; Schooling
Lifespan 10-12 Years
Care Level Beginner
Water Temperature 76-84℉
Appearance Round and Compressed, with Silver, Black, and/or Gold tones
Water pH 5.0-7.0
Diet Carnivorous
Tank Size 30+ Gallons

Angelfish Overview

Typical Freshwater Angelfish Behavior

Angelfish are true cichlids and therefore closely related to some of the most aggressive fish in the aquarium hobby! Despite this, they are some of the most peaceful and relaxed of the family, making them a good choice for many freshwater aquariums. They won’t dig up the substrate or tear plants apart like other cichlids tend to and they will ignore the majority of their tank mates.

Angelfish are also very tolerant of each other and actually prefer being kept in small groups of 6 to 12 other fish. A lone freshwater Angelfish will still do well but they are fairly sociable if given enough space!

Angelfish Appearance

Angelfish have a graceful, elongated appearance that makes it obvious to see how they get their name. Even wild-type Angelfish have long, trailing dorsal and anal fins. Their tall fins and compressed shape evolved in order to help them weave in and among weedy plants in the Amazon. Coupled with their silver base and black stripes they effortlessly blend in among the shadows and lights of the shallows to remain hidden from predators.

There are many captive bred varieties of Angelfish now that have diverse appearances. Selective breeding has led to some having even longer fins than their wild angelfish relatives (Veil Angelfish). And others come in shades of grey, marbled patterns, pure silver, albino, and even a yellow-gold color. Among the different variations, there are koi angelfish, silver angelfish, albino angelfish, altum angelfish, and marble angelfish. Depending on the local fish store you go to, you can find plenty of these different colorful fish across the aquarium trade.


Life Span

Angelfish life expectancy are fairly long lived freshwater fish. When well cared for, you can expect them to thrive for 10 to 12 years, with rare specimens living up to 15 years of age in a freshwater aquarium! In my tank, I currently have two koi angelfish which have been living together for over five years.

How Big Do Angelfish Grow?

5 to 6 inches in length is normal for an adult Angelfish. They will occasionally grow an inch or two beyond this but that is rare. Angelfish tend to be taller than they are long, and can grow 8 to 12 inches in height. So aquascape accordingly, especially if you are keeping a group of other angelfish together.

Sexing Angelfish

Unfortunately, sexing Angelfish is nearly impossible (especially compared to other aquarium fish); both the males and females are next to identical in appearance. The fish likely tell through behavioral and hormonal releases. But we have just a single clue: the shape of their breeding organs.

Angelfish males have a pointed breeding tube that’s almost always visible at maturity and extends even further when well fed. Females have a more rounded shape to their breeding organ and it can also extend outwards if full of food or eggs.

Compatible Tank Mates for Angelfish

Angelfish are one of the most mild mannered cichlids in the hobby and are excellent community tank companions for most medium to large fish. They are peaceful fish but can still be opportunistic predators. Therefore you should not keep adult koi Angelfish with smaller fish that can be swallowed, including Neon Tetras or Guppies. While some silver angelfish have been known to live with small fish, they don’t typically make for suitable tank mates.

However, the majority of peaceful to semi-aggressive community fish are a good match for these hardy fish. Gouramis, larger Danios, Killifish, Swordtails, and Barbs are just a few choices. You can also keep them with other peaceful cichlids, including Severums (Heros efasciatus) and Kribs (Pelvicachromis pulcher).

Other Angel Fish are also great choices for companions. They may occasionally squabble or chase each other but they don’t have the personalities or teeth to do any lasting harm. Angelfish tend to group in loose schools and glide through plants together.

Good Tank Mates for Angelfish Include:

  • Mollies, Barbs, Gouramis, and other medium-sized Community Fish
  • Severums, Kribensis, and other Peaceful Cichlids
  • Other Angelfish

Water Conditions for Freshwater Angelfish


While Angelfish are quite hardy they do have strong preferences when it comes to water conditions and temperature is one of the most important considerations. Angelfish are from the central Amazon region where water temperatures stay warm to hot year-round.

Coupled with their habit of staying in shallow portions of the river, they prefer temperatures ranging from 76℉ to as high as 84℉. 80℉ is a good compromise, with rises in temperature useful for promoting breeding behavior or helping them to fight off an infectious disease. These warmer temperatures reflect the angelfish’s natural habitat.

Water Chemistry

As member of the cichlid family, angelfish also prefer acidic to neutral water chemistry (pH 5.0-7.0). They have been captive bred for decades and will do fairly well even in alkaline conditions (pH 7.0+). But their disease resistance decreases and they are not going to spawn in alkaline water.

Angelfish come from streams and rivers full of decaying plant matter. These plant tannins decrease the pH and promote spawning behavior as well. Providing driftwood and Indian Almond Leaves can create a constant source of plant tannins, as can adding small amounts with each water change! Tannins will stain the water a dark color; but this effect is very appealing if you’re interested in blackwater biotope aquariums!

Angelfish are a little more sensitive than other fish to high levels of ammonia and other nitrogenous waste products (nitrite and nitrate). So you should keep a test kit on hand to monitor these parameters if your Angelfish shows signs of stress. As long as you’re keeping up with regular filter maintenance and water changes this should be a non-issue. I would not add Angelfish to a newly set up tank, however. It is much better to wait until a tank is fully cycled.

Tank Setup for Freshwater Angelfish

Angelfish Tank Size

Tank size is another important consideration because Angelfish may start out small and cute but grow rapidly. In addition, because they are a semi schooling fish, they will need plenty of space to keep in a community aquarium. They reach sexual maturity by 8 months and will reach their full adult size in just a few years. Adult Angelfish are solidly in the medium sized category of aquarium fish and should be kept in tanks no smaller than 30 gallons.

And if you’re interested in keeping a small group of Angelfish, you’ll want at least a 40 breeder or better still, a 55 gallon tank for your shoal. This provides them with enough space to make occasional squabbles easy to resolve and enough water volume to handle their biological waste.

Live plants are also a great idea since these cichlids don’t dig and feel comfortable when they can hide. Tall plants like Eelgrass (Vallisneria sp.) and Sagittaria are a natural match. Feel free to also include Amazon Sword Plants (Echinodorus sp.), which are naturally found alongside Angelfish in the wild. Their broad leaves also provide a ready spawning platform for mated Angelfish pairs!

Feeding Your Freshwater Angelfish

What Should I Feed My Angelfish?

Angelfish are true carnivores, feeding on small fish, worms, shrimp, and fallen insects in the wild. Therefore, we want to provide a protein-rich prepared food blend mixed with fresh and frozen foods in your own aquarium.

Cichlid pellets sized for their small mouths are your best bet. Be certain to read the nutritional label and choose blends with animal protein like salmon or shrimp meal as the first ingredient. Blends with wheat or soybean first won’t have the protein that they need for proper health.

Any prepared food, no matter how complete, is no substitute for fresh and frozen food, though. So supplement their diet with thawed brine shrimp, bloodworms, tubifex worms, and other favorites of theirs! The extra fat and protein will also help condition your Angelfish to spawn by providing the nutrients they need for egg and sperm production! In addition to crushed flake food found in fish stores, baby brine shrimp can be fed to juvenile angelfish once they are born.

How Often Should I Feed My Freshwater Fish?

Angelfish are large, moderately active fish. Once they reach adulthood, two feedings per day is enough for them. When younger and actively growing, you should feed your Angelfish three times per day.

Breeding Your Freshwater Angelfish

How Can I Condition Angelfish to Spawn?

Conditioning Angelfish to spawn comes down mostly to providing them with clean, warm water and a diversity of prepared and fresh foods. Angelfish are very difficult to sex and can be picky when it comes to choosing a mate. So I recommend raising a group of at least six young other Angelfish together and letting them pair off naturally in your freshwater aquarium. Even if a pair spawns they aren’t so aggressive that they will kill the other fish in the tank. But they will be devoted parents, as are nearly all cichlids!

How Can I Tell if an Angelfish is Pregnant?

A female Angelfish that is carrying eggs will be visibly swollen since her sides are naturally very compressed. The ovipositor (breeding organ) will also be pushed outwards and much rounder in shape than that of a male Angelfish.

Once an Angelfish pair is close to spawning they will start hovering around a vertical hard surface as well. They prefer using the leaves of plants to lay their eggs on but they will also choose rocks, driftwood, or even the intake of a power filter if there’s nothing else to use.


Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Sex Angelfish?

Angelfish males and females look nearly identical. If their breeding organs are visible, the male will have one with a slightly pointed shape while the female’s is more rounded.

Are Angelfish Good Community Fish?

Angelfish will occasionally chase one another but they tend to ignore their tank mates. And even when spawning Angelfish are very mild tempered and are a good match for the majority of similarly sized community fish!

Are Angelfish Difficult to Care For?

Angelfish are a little sensitive to high levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. But as long as you are providing them with regular water changes and maintaining your filter you should have no issues. All in all, while maybe not the first fish to keep, freshwater angel fish make for great beginner fish!

Can Angelfish Be Kept with Other Tropical Fish?

Yes, angelfish can be kept with a variety of other tropical fish as long as they are peaceful and similarly sized. However, care should be taken to avoid fin-nippers or very small fish that could be seen as prey. As beautiful fish with long, flowing fins, angelfish are best paired with non-aggressive species that thrive in a similar tropical environment.

What are the Different Angelfish Colours and Varieties?

Angelfish come in a wide range of colours and patterns, thanks to selective breeding and genetic mutations. Some of the most popular freshwater angelfish colors and varieties are:

  • Leopard Angelfish: These fish have a black base colour with many small white or yellow spots all over their body and fins.
  • Gold Angelfish: These fish have a golden-yellow body with black markings on their eyes, gills, and dorsal fin.
  • Zebra Angelfish: These fish have a silver or white body with black vertical stripes on their body and fins.
  • Platinum Angelfish: These fish have a solid white or silver body with no markings at all.

How Big Should My Fish Tank Be for Angelfish?

Angelfish are relatively large fish that need plenty of space to swim and grow. A general rule of thumb is to provide at least 10 gallons of water per angelfish. However, the bigger the tank, the better. A minimum tank size of 30 gallons is recommended for a pair or a small group of angelfish.

How Fast Do Angelfish Grow?

Angelfish grow relatively quickly, reaching maturity within about 8 to 12 months. Providing optimal conditions by carefully caring for angelfish with a well-maintained tank, proper diet, and stable water parameters helps ensure they grow at a healthy rate. Remember, the growth rate also depends on genetics and the quality of their care.


Taking care of freshwater angelfish, an elegant and popular aquarium inhabitant, necessitates a deep understanding of their unique needs and characteristics.

Their distinct appearance, best described by the query “what does an angelfish look like?”, showcases gracefully arching fins and a triangular body, standing out in any aquarium setup. Although not the smallest angelfish freshwater variety, they do have specific space requirements, needing appropriate tank sizes to flourish. Just as with any aquatic pet, understanding the angelfish requirements in terms of water conditions, tank setup, and diet is crucial for their longevity and health.

Breeding angelfish can be a rewarding experience, but one that calls for particular conditions and keen observation skills to detect signs of spawning and pregnancy. Whether you’re a seasoned aquarist or a newcomer, this guide should provide a comprehensive overview, answering questions from their dietary needs to compatibility with other fish, ensuring your angelfish live a healthy and happy life in your care.


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