FIA is community supported website. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More.

Freshwater Angelfish Care, Overview, Breeding & More

Angelfish are arguably the most recognizable freshwater fish adopted by aquarists worldwide. They are admired for their stunning appearance, graceful swimming patterns, and passive behavior.

New varieties are becoming available as various subspecies are interbred for varying results. They’re aptly named after their soft flowing lines and arrow-shaped bodies.

Very few fish species come close to the electrifying appearance of angelfish. You’ll quickly get used to watching them for hours on end.

Species Overview

Level of CareRelatively easy
TemperamentGenerally peaceful but may get aggressive
AppearanceSilver, black, or gold with dark bands
Life ExpectancyUp to 10 years
SizeSix inches
DietOmnivorous species
Tank Size20 gallons
Tank EnvironmentFreshwater with a swampy environment and sand substrate
Tank MatesPeaceful with similar-sized species

They belong to the Cichlidae family with the scientific name, “Pterophyllum scalare”. They should not be confused with the Marine Angelfish, which belong to a completely different family.

They originally come from the Amazon River in Brazil. You can also find them in the river tributaries in Guiana, Colombia, and Peru.



Their most distinguishing feature is their trailing pectoral and elongated dorsal fins, and their fan-shaped caudal fin. This unique shape allows them to move quickly among roots and plants or hide from predators.


Most freshwater angelfish have four large black bands, although juveniles are born with seven rounds that decrease in number as they mature.

Standard color forms include silver, gold, marble, and black. Marbled have rough spots and irregular bands instead of straight black bars.

Some variants are bred to resemble other fish species, such as Koi or Goldfish. The Koi angelfish has a white or silvery body with red-orange spots and a natural black-marble pattern that resembles koi fish – after which it is named.

Platinum or gold angelfish are completely silver or gold, with no visible bands. Some variants resemble pandas.

As they are called, panda angelfish have distinct white scales with spotted black patterns all over their body. Other popular species include queen angelfish with their vibrant colors and emperor angelfish with their light and blue vertical lines.


Most angelfish will reach a size of up to 6 inches, which is why they should be kept in a spacious tank. Some species are known to grow tall and wide at 10 inches.

Behavior & Temperament

Some people believe that koi angelfish are aggressive, but they are mostly peaceful for most years. They can, however, get aggressive eaters and increasingly territorial during the breeding season.

Their aggression becomes more pronounced in smaller tanks, so make sure you provide them with plenty of room to move around. When provoked, these will create small hierarchies to fight for their positions.

If you spot your queen angelfish locking lips, this means they’re fighting each other. They prefer to form small schools but will not socialize with others once their groups are formed. That being said,

These are not as aggressive as other cichlids. As long as other fish stay out of their way, they will not bully them or try to hurt them.

You can watch them move in and out of your aquarium plants in the middle portion of the Aquarium. They often become timid in an overcrowded tank but are otherwise very active.

They are among the few species with playful parental instincts and will go to great lengths to protect their eggs and fry. A parent will spend provide for their juveniles for up to two months.

Outside of mating and competition, it is rare to see these interact with one another. Don’t expect to see cooperative foraging and swimming patterns all too often.


If these fish get proper nutrients, they can live for over ten years.

Black angelfish in an aquarium

Tank Mates

They may be pretty to look at, but they’re also notorious for their temper tantrums – which, as we noted above, are few and far between.

They will become aggressive to certain non-cichlid species, which is why you should be careful about the choice of tank mates. If the other species become too submissive, it could die of extreme stress.

If the fish fights back, it could be a source of nightmare for your angelfish. In this section, we’ll discuss ideal fish that you can pair with them – the right balance for all tank mates in your Aquarium.


Rainbowfish species are easy to provide for and don’t get in the way. They are easy on the eyes too with an iridescent blue and bright yellow color. At a size of 4 inches, these guys are too big for your angelfish to pick on. Both species will avoid each other and mind their own business.

Corydoras Catfish

We have a bit of a bias toward catfish because of their unique appearance and the sensory barbels that look like whiskers – hence the name ‘catfish’. Corydoras catfish are bottom feeders and scour the lower portion of the aquarium in search of good food.

It is in stark contrast to the angelfish which dominates the upper and mid-levels of the tank. You’ll never regret adding them to your tank.

Dwarf Gourami

These fish are shy and require dense vegetation to feel at home. They are generally easy-going and won’t interfere with your angelfish. You may be tempted to get more than one of these because of their distinctive appearance. Please don’t add more males though because they’ll endlessly fight each other.

Zebra Loaches

Zebra loaches are also bottom feeders and generally stay out of your angel fish’s way. They don’t grow huge, which means they won’t pose a threat at all. More importantly, they’ll do a fantastic job of cleaning the tank’s substrate – which is an effective way to keep diseases and infections at bay.


Platies are playful, active little fish that are perfect. They look majestic with all those different colors and patterns. An aquarium with platies never gets boring. Although they prefer hard water, platies can quickly adjust to the tank conditions.

They’re livebearers and are known for breeding rapidly fast, but if you want to keep their population, you’ll have to separate the juveniles in a separate tank. If you don’t separate the Platy fry, the adult angelfish will gobble them up.


Molies are livebearers and come in a variety of colors and shapes. They don’t require a lot of attention and will quickly adjust to their new environment.

Their average length is about 4 inches, which is big enough to keep angelfish at bay. Angelfish will eat all their babies, so if you want to breed mollies, do so in a separate tank.

Tank Conditions

Although emperor angelfish come from reasonably soft, acidic water, they are a hardy species that can adapt to waters of various pH values and hardness levels. That being said, your goal should be to mimic their natural environment.

Can easily do it by maintaining the tank between 74 to 81 °Fahrenheit. It would help if you kept a thermometer in the tank to monitor the temperature. An aquarium heater should adjust the heater if the water gets too cold or too hot.

The pH value of the water should not exceed seven or fall below 6.6. It is an exact range, so make sure you have a pH meter installed in the aquarium to judge the water quality.

Because of their unique shape, these species prefer to live in large tanks with a capacity of at least 20 gallons or more. However, if you want to keep many of these in a beautiful setup, buying an aquarium that is 60 gallons or larger is recommended.

Another advantage of buying a larger aquarium is that they will feel a greater sense of security, and parents will be less likely to eat their eggs and hatched young.

You don’t have to replace all of the water in the tank. Instead, it would help if you tried to replace about 10% of the tank’s water every few weeks.

They do not appreciate low water quality and will become vulnerable to diseases if you don’t change the water.

Some experienced aquarists believe that changing 50% of the water every day contributes to healthier fish – however, this may not be feasible for beginners.

2 zebra angelfish

Tank Setup Guide

Since they are used to small amounts of current in their water bodies, you should use an under-gravel filter to generate low flow aeration. It should be relatively easy to perform.


They live in swampy environments with lots of mosses and aquatic vegetation for hiding. They like to dig, so use a substrate that is soft and fine. It will prevent them from room getting cuts and scrapes to their fins and scales. The right combination for a substrate would be fine sand with mud.

Any rocks or wood in the tank should be smooth and not jaggedy because it could harm the relatively fragile angelfish bodies.


Since their natural habitat contains lots of vegetation, you’ll have to provide lots of aquatic plants. It would help if you tried to source South American plants such as Anacharis, a right choice. Other apparent options include Java Moss, Java Fern, and Amazon sword plants.

Amazon sword plants are ideal for them because of their smooth, natural surface on which females can lay their eggs.

Here are some of the best aquarium plants:

Java Fern

Java fern is an excellent option tanks because they are incredibly hardy and will survive most conditions.

These are great for them because they will provide them with some leaves to lay their eggs on, which is an excellent option if you want to breed and spawn a pair of angelfish.

Jungle Vallisneria

Jungle Vallisneria closely resembles your average backyard grass. They are an excellent option to have in tanks because they grow tall and provide them with a place to hide. It can look incredibly gorgeous when they swim through all the blades of grass, where they are free to hide and swim.

Java Moss

Java moss is an excellent option for aquariums because it is exceptionally soft. It provides a peaceful spot to lay their eggs on, or just a rest of it if they want to. More importantly, Java Moss does not have much in the way of maintenance. They have a low growth rate and don’t require much trimming.

Amazon Sword

Amazon swords are recommended for aquariums because they grow in a variety of temperatures and PH levels.

They do require a medium amount of light, however. Their growth rate isn’t exceptionally high, so it won’t need trimming anytime soon. Not only will the Amazon Sword add flair to your tank, but it will provide cover.

Water Wisteria

Water wisteria is recommended if you have a large aquarium. It is a rooted plant, so you’ll need to root it within the aquarium’s substrate. You can’t tie it with driftwood.

Water wisteria will grow up to 20 inches tall and 10 inches wide. However, you can cut them down to size relatively easily you could. Some aquarists use them as a background plant and leave them to grow.

Water wisteria provides plenty of hiding spots and more importantly, supports eggs as well.


They are tropical fish that receive about 12 hours of light every day. These conditions remain consistent throughout the year. Although it is not crucial to keep the lights in your tank for 12 hours a day, you strongly recommend you.

Moreover, light is good for the color of your angels. Bright lights will positively impact pigmentation by making certain pigments darker, allowing adults to show their unique patterns and designs.

Careful not to go overboard with the lighting because excessive brightness will cause undue stress, especially if they don’t have a place to hide. They can withstand harsh bright lights, but they will never acclimate to them.

Freshwater Angelfish Food & Diet

They thrive if they are fed a mixture of live and frozen foods such as mosquito larvae (if possible), bloodworms, and brine shrimp. Their diet should comprise protein-rich food but can also consist of flake foods and pellets.

They will occasionally eat algae and plant material, but the bulk of their nutrition comes from live prey, just like in the wild.

Do add a little bit of plant food in the tank to ensure they get enough fiber in their system, to help with digestion and prevent constipation.

A good source of food would be tubifex worms. They provide them with all the protein angelfish need to survive.

Throw in some krill and freeze-dried glass worms to offer some extra proteins.

You can also supplement their diets with romaine, zucchini, spinach, and blanched vegetables. It is recommended to slightly boil the vegetables before you give to them.

Angelfish are voracious eaters that need to be fed twice a day. If you’re taking care of a mating pair, you’ll have to increase this to 4 times a day.

Although they tend to overeat food, it is essential to stick to a strict feeding schedule unless you want them to become obese with their fins sticking out. Overfeeding also leads to health problems and could deteriorate the tank’s conditions.

Breeding Guidelines

The main reason why angels are so popular is that they are relatively easy to breed. When introduced to a school, the angel will start pairing off naturally.

Once paired, they will hunt for suitable territory in the tank and mate. Once you’ve noticed that your angelfish have paired off, you can expect them to breed anytime now.

Although it is not required, it is recommended to create a separate breeding tank with a 15-gallon aquarium, a low flow filter, and a tall slanted surface.

Ideal spawning surfaces include PVC pipes, tiles, and some plants. Should keep the breeding pair on a diet that is full of protein.

Once the female is ready, she will spawn around 500 eggs that the male will then fertilize. These parents are less likely to eat their own young and will raise them for about two months. Fries will reach maturity at ten months of age, which may be too long for beginners.

Their eggs will hatch in 7 days. You can tell they’ve been adequately fertilized when the fry begins to move inside their eggs. White eggs mean that they’re not fertile or that they’ve infection has killed them.

Where to Buy?

Angelfish can be purchased from most online shops, pet stores, and forums. If you want to buy rare varieties, you may have to search for specialist breeders. The average price is about $10. However, rare breeds will cost over $40 or more depending on the variety.


With their mesmerizing colors, angelfish are perfectly suited to your aquarium. They generally like to keep to themselves and thrive in a community tank and on their own.

They come in a wide range of colors and varieties and will fit into most aquariums. In comparison to other fish, these are slightly more complicated.

Angelfish have been the go-to choice for hobbyists over the years and will continue to play an essential role in home aquariums.