Angelfish Care Guide: Tankmates, Tank Setup & Full Details!

Freshwater angelfish, scientifically known as Pterophyllum scalare, are indigenous to South America. They inhabit various river systems, including the Rio Oyapock, Rio Essequibo, and the Amazon.

Growing up to 6 inches in length and 8 inches tall, these elegant fish exhibit a diverse range of colors and patterns. Angelfish are a beloved species of freshwater cichlid, admired for their unique beauty and popularity among tropical aquarium enthusiasts.

Generally peaceful, angelfish may not coexist well with tiny species or fin-nipping fish.

This comprehensive guide will delve into the details of caring for freshwater angelfish, tank setup tips, feeding habits, and breeding techniques.

Scientific name: Pterophyllum
Common names: Angelfish
Distribution: Tropical South America
Size: 3–4 inches
Life expectancy: 10–12 years
Color: Black, silver, or gold, with vertical black bands
Diet: Omnivore
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Minimum tank size: 20 gallons
Temperature: 75–82°F (25–28°C)
pH: 6.8–7
Hardness: 4–12 dGH
Care level: Easy
Breeding: Egg layer


These fishes are the oldest aquarium fishes and are still very popular among aquatic geeks. The Angelfishes were bred in captivity around 100 years ago, and thus they have captively bred origins.

The angelfishes spend most of their time lying among the aquatic plants and roots because their lateral stripes offer an amazing camouflage to them. We are going to discuss the tropical AngelFish (Pterophyllum Scalare) in this post.

The tropical Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) is a voracious large fish with good looks and unusual behavior. The fish has a flattened body on sides and has an extensive and varied-color collection.

The freshwater Angelfishes have a flattened silvery body and have dark stripes on it. These fishes have a sharpened head shape and large fins.

The shape of the fins helps the fishes to hide between the roots and leaves of plants.

The wild angelfishes are predators and have vertical dark stripes on their bodies. The fishes feed on fish juveniles, spineless species, and other small fishes.

The average lifespan of Angelfishes is 12 to 15 years. They have an unusual body shape, and overall, they are easy to breed.

Angelfish Appearance

Freshwater angelfish exhibit a unique and striking appearance that captivates aquarium enthusiasts. They have a laterally compressed body, meaning they are quite thin from side to side.

The most distinguishable feature of angelfish is their elongated, triangular dorsal and anal fins, which give them an elegant, almost angelic look. Their caudal fin, or tail fin, is fan-shaped and adds to their graceful swimming style.

Angelfish come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, with solid silver being the most common.

However, other variations include colored stripes, black-and-silver marble, and even gold or platinum hues. Some angelfish also exhibit a dark, vertical stripe that runs through their eyes, acting as a camouflage mechanism in the wild.

Natural Habitat of Angelfish

Freshwater angelfish thrive in slow-moving, densely planted rivers and streams. These water bodies often contain submerged trees, roots, and other vegetation that provide excellent hiding spots and serve as breeding grounds. In their natural habitat, angelfish prefer warm, soft, and slightly acidic water.

They are typically found in waters with a temperature range of 75-84°F, a pH between 6.0 and 7.5, and a water hardness of 5-18 dH.

Origin and Distribution

Angelfish are native to the Amazon River Basin in South America, spanning across countries such as Colombia, Guyana, French Guiana, Peru, and Brazil.

They inhabit various river systems, including the Rio Oyapock, Rio Essequibo, and the Amazon itself. Due to their popularity, angelfish have been introduced to other regions worldwide for the aquarium trade, resulting in captive-bred populations in various countries.

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Growth, Size, and Lifespan of Angelfish

Freshwater angelfish are relatively fast growers, reaching sexual maturity at around 6-12 months of age. The growth rate of angelfish can be influenced by factors such as genetics, diet, water quality, and tank conditions.

Generally, angelfish grow up to 6 inches in length and can reach up to 8 inches in height from the top of their dorsal fin to the bottom of their anal fin.

With proper care and nutrition, angelfish can live for 10 years or more in a home aquarium. However, their lifespan can be significantly reduced if they are subjected to poor water quality, inadequate diet, or stressful environments.

To ensure your angelfish live a long and healthy life, it’s crucial to provide them with an appropriate tank setup, a well-balanced diet, and consistent water quality maintenance.

Angelfish Behavior and Temperament

Freshwater angelfish are generally considered peaceful and sociable fish, making them suitable for community tanks. However, they can exhibit aggressive or territorial behaviors, especially during breeding times or when competing for food or shelter.

Angelfish are also known to be semi-aggressive towards smaller fish, so it is essential to choose tankmates that are of similar size or larger to prevent predation.

Angelfish prefer to swim in small schools, so it is best to keep them in groups of at least 5-6 individuals. They are primarily mid-to-upper level swimmers and tend to avoid the bottom of the tank unless searching for food or exploring new hiding spots.

Angelfish Tank Setup

A proper tank setup is crucial for the health and well-being of angel fish. As they can grow up to 6 inches long, a tank of at least 20 gallons is recommended, with larger tanks being preferable.

Angelfish also appreciate tall tanks as they have elongated fins and tend to grow taller rather than longer.

The ideal temperature range for angelfish is between 75-84°F, with a water hardness of 5-18 dH and a pH between 6.0-7.5.

A heater and a thermometer are essential to maintain a stable temperature and monitor any fluctuations.

Creating the perfect tank setup for your angelfish is essential for their health, happiness, and well-being.

By carefully considering tank decoration, filtration, water parameters, and setup, you can create an environment that closely mimics their natural habitat.

Tank Decoration

  • Live Plants: Angelfish enjoy a densely planted tank that offers hiding spots and shelter. Use live plants such as Amazon sword, java fern, and anubias to create a natural-looking environment.

  • Driftwood: Incorporate driftwood to provide additional shelter and hiding places for your angelfish, while also adding visual interest to the tank.

  • Rocks and Caves: Include rocks and caves to create a diverse landscape, offering more opportunities for your angelfish to explore and feel secure.

  • Swimming Space: Leave ample open space in the middle and upper areas of the tank for your angelfish to swim freely and comfortably.


  • Filter Types: Canister filters or hang-on-back (HOB) filters are recommended for angelfish tanks, as they provide mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration.

  • Gentle Flow: Choose a filter with a gentle water flow to mimic the slow-moving water that angelfish prefer in their natural environment.

  • Regular Maintenance: Clean or replace filter media regularly to ensure the filter remains effective in maintaining water quality.

Water Parameters and Setup

  • Temperature Range: Maintain a stable temperature between 75-84°F using an aquarium heater and thermometer.

  • Water Hardness: Aim for a water hardness level of 5-18 dH.

  • pH Range: Keep the pH between 6.0-7.5, which is slightly acidic and ideal for angelfish.

  • Water Testing: Regularly test the water using a reliable test kit to monitor ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and water hardness levels.

  • Water Changes: Perform weekly water changes of 25-30% to maintain optimal water quality and prevent the buildup of harmful substances.

Setup Process

  1. Select the Tank: Choose a tank of at least 20 gallons, preferably taller to accommodate the angelfish’s unique body shape.

  2. Substrate: Add a layer of aquarium-safe substrate, such as sand or gravel, to the bottom of the tank.

  3. Filtration and Heating: Install the chosen filter and heater, ensuring proper placement and setting the heater to the appropriate temperature.

  4. Decorations and Plants: Arrange live plants, driftwood, rocks, and caves in a visually pleasing and functional manner, providing hiding spots and open swimming areas.

  5. Fill the Tank: Fill the tank with dechlorinated water, making sure the temperature and water parameters are suitable for angelfish.

  6. Cycling: Perform a fishless cycle to establish the beneficial bacteria needed to maintain water quality before introducing angelfish to the tank.

By carefully planning and executing your angelfish tank setup, you can create a beautiful and thriving environment that will allow your angelfish to grow and prosper.

care guide for freshwater angelfish the feisty angel of the aquarium 770309

Tank Decorations for Angelfish

Angelfish enjoy a densely planted tank that mimics their natural habitat. Live plants, such as Amazon sword, java fern, and anubias, provide shelter and hiding spots, while also improving water quality by absorbing nitrates. In addition to live plants, you can add driftwood, rocks, and caves to create a natural-looking environment and offer additional hiding spots for your angelfish.

Make sure to leave some open swimming space in the middle and upper areas of the tank, as angelfish are active swimmers and appreciate room to move around.


Adequate filtration is vital for maintaining water quality and ensuring the health of your angelfish. A combination of mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration is recommended for the best results. Canister filters or hang-on-back (HOB) filters are suitable for angelfish tanks, as they provide all three types of filtration and are easy to maintain.

Choose a filter with a gentle flow, as angelfish prefer slow-moving water. If the water flow is too strong, it may stress the fish and impede their swimming ability. Regular filter maintenance, including cleaning or replacing filter media, will ensure the filter remains effective in maintaining water quality.

Water Parameters and Monitoring

Monitoring and maintaining stable water parameters are essential for the well-being of your angelfish. Regular water testing using a reliable test kit will help you keep track of parameters like ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and water hardness.

Weekly water changes of 25-30% will help maintain optimal water quality and prevent the buildup of harmful substances. Remember to dechlorinate the new water and ensure it matches the temperature of the tank water before adding it to the aquarium.

Keeping a log of water parameters will help you detect and address any issues before they become critical. By carefully monitoring and maintaining water parameters, you will provide your angelfish with a healthy environment in which they can thrive.

Tank Maintenance for Angelfish

Proper tank maintenance is crucial for the health and well-being of your angelfish. By following a consistent maintenance routine, you can ensure that your angelfish have a clean and stable environment that promotes their growth and longevity.

Weekly Maintenance:

  1. Water Changes: Perform weekly water changes of 25-30% to maintain optimal water quality and prevent the buildup of harmful substances. Use a siphon to remove debris and uneaten food from the substrate while changing the water.

  2. Water Testing: Regularly test the water using a reliable test kit to monitor ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and water hardness levels. Ensure that the water parameters stay within the appropriate range for angelfish.

  3. Plant Care: Trim and remove dead or decaying plant leaves to keep your plants healthy and prevent excess organic waste from accumulating in the tank.

  4. Glass Cleaning: Clean the tank glass using an algae scraper or magnetic cleaner to remove algae buildup and maintain clear viewing.

Monthly Maintenance:

  1. Filter Cleaning: Clean the filter and replace filter media as needed, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid replacing all filter media at once to prevent the loss of beneficial bacteria.

  2. Heater Inspection: Check the aquarium heater and thermometer to ensure they are functioning correctly and maintaining the appropriate temperature for angelfish.

  3. Lighting Check: Inspect your aquarium lighting for any signs of damage or wear, and replace bulbs as needed to maintain a consistent light cycle for your plants and angelfish.

Additional Maintenance Tips:

  • Quarantine New Additions: Always quarantine new fish, plants, or decorations before introducing them to the main tank to prevent the introduction of diseases or parasites.

  • Monitor Fish Behavior: Observe your angelfish regularly to detect any signs of stress, illness, or aggression. Address issues promptly to maintain a harmonious and healthy environment.

  • Feeding: Avoid overfeeding your angelfish, as excess food can contribute to poor water quality. Feed them a varied and balanced diet to support their growth and immune system.

  • Keep a Maintenance Log: Track your maintenance activities, water test results, and any changes in fish behavior to identify trends and address issues before they become serious problems.

By adhering to a consistent tank maintenance routine, you can maintain a clean, stable, and healthy environment for your angelfish, ensuring their well-being and enjoyment for years to come.

Acclimating Angelfish

Proper acclimation is essential when introducing new angelfish to your aquarium. This process helps reduce stress and allows the fish to adjust to their new environment, minimizing the risk of illness or shock.

Here’s a detailed guide on how to acclimate your fish to your tank:

1. Prepare the Tank

Before adding new angel, ensure that your aquarium is ready to accommodate them. Check the water parameters, temperature, and filtration system to ensure that they meet the needs of angelfish. Clean the tank and remove any debris if necessary.

2. Turn Off the Aquarium Lights

Turning off the aquarium lights will help reduce stress for the new angel fish and make the acclimation process smoother. Dimming the room’s lighting can also be beneficial.

3. Float the Bag

Upon bringing the angel fish home, float the sealed bag containing the fish and their transport water in your aquarium for about 15-20 minutes. This allows the water temperature in the bag to equalize with the tank water temperature, preventing temperature shock.

4. Net and Transfer

Once the acclimation process is complete, use a clean, soft net to gently scoop the angelfish from the bucket and transfer them to the aquarium. Avoid adding the transport water to your tank, as it may contain contaminants or pathogens.

5. Observe and Monitor

Keep a close eye on the newly added angelfish and their tankmates for the first few hours to ensure that they are getting along well and adjusting to their new environment. Look for any signs of stress, illness, or aggression, and address issues promptly.

By following these steps and acclimating your angelfish properly, you will help ensure a smooth transition to their new home and minimize the risk of stress or illness.

Angelfish Diet and Feeding

A diverse and balanced diet is crucial for angel fish to maintain optimal health and vibrant coloration.

  • High-quality angelfish flakes or pellets: These food options are specially formulated for the dietary needs of angelfish or cichlids. Quality flakes or pellets contain vital nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and proteins that contribute to their growth and overall well-being. You may alternate between flakes and pellets to provide variety and ensure a balanced diet.

  • Live and frozen foods: Angelfish thrive on a diet supplemented with live and frozen foods, which provide additional protein and essential nutrients. These foods simulate their natural diet in the wild, improving their overall health, coloration, and breeding potential. To avoid overfeeding, incorporate live or frozen foods into their diet 2-3 times a week.

  • Vegetables and plant matter: Angelfish benefit from a diet that includes plant-based foods. These provide essential vitamins and minerals that support their immune system and overall health. Introduce plant matter like spirulina flakes or blanched vegetables to their diet every few days, ensuring they receive the necessary nutrients.

Angelfish Tank Mates

When choosing tank mates for angelfish, consider their temperament, size, and compatibility. Selecting the right tank mates helps create a peaceful community where all inhabitants can coexist and thrive.

  • Tetras: Tetras are schooling fish that are generally peaceful and can share a tank with angelfish. Opt for larger tetra species, as smaller ones may become prey. Neon tetras, for instance, are not suitable tank mates due to their small size.

  • Barbs: Although some barbs can be fin-nippers, peaceful species like cherry barbs and gold barbs are compatible with angelfish. Ensure a proper school size for the barbs to minimize stress.

  • Corydoras catfish: These peaceful, bottom-dwelling fish help keep the substrate clean and make excellent tank mates for angelfish, as they occupy different levels of the aquarium.

  • Gouramis: Gouramis are labyrinth fish with a similar temperament to angelfish. Dwarf gourami or honey gouramis can coexist with angelfish without any issues, as long as the tank size is adequate.

  • Plecos: Many pleco species grow too large for angelfish tanks, but smaller species like the bristlenose pleco can live harmoniously with them. Plecos are also beneficial algae eaters, helping maintain the cleanliness of the tank.

Breeding Angelfish

Successful angelfish breeding requires attention to detail, optimal tank conditions, and a well-prepared breeding environment.

  1. Select a breeding pair: Angelfish reach sexual maturity between 6-12 months. Observe their interactions and body shapes to identify pairs that have formed. Males tend to have a more pointed dorsal fin and a larger, more triangular body shape, while females have a rounder, more prominent belly when gravid.

  2. Set up a breeding tank: Ensure the breeding tank has stable water parameters and a sponge filter to maintain water quality without creating strong currents. Provide hiding spots with plants or decorations for a stress-free environment.

  3. Provide spawning sites: Angelfish prefer smooth, vertical surfaces for egg-laying. Providing options like tall, flat rocks, slate, or PVC pipes encourages spawning behavior.

  4. Condition with a nutritious diet: Enhance the breeding pair’s diet with high-quality protein-rich foods, such as live or frozen brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. This helps improve their overall health and stimulate spawning.

  5. Monitor and maintain water parameters: Consistent water conditions, with a temperature around 80°F and a slightly acidic pH (6.5-6.9), are essential for successful breeding. Perform regular water changes to maintain the water quality.

  6. Observe spawning behavior: When angelfish are ready to spawn, they will clean the chosen spawning site and display mating rituals like nipping and swimming in circles. The female lays the eggs in rows, while the male follows closely behind to fertilize them.

  7. Protect the eggs and fry: Angelfish are generally good parents, tending to their eggs and protecting them from threats. However, if they become stressed or perceive a threat, they may eat their eggs. In such cases, consider separating the eggs and parents or using a breeding net to protect the eggs. Once the eggs hatch, provide the fry with appropriate food, such as infusoria or newly hatched brine shrimp.

Signs of Stress in Angelfish

Stress in angelfish can be detrimental to their health, making it essential to recognize and address stressors as early as possible. Signs of stress in angelfish include:

  1. Changes in coloration: Stress can cause angelfish to become pale or lose their vibrant coloration. This may be temporary, but if the color change persists, it’s crucial to identify and resolve the stressor.

  2. Loss of appetite: Angelfish that are stressed may lose interest in food, even if it’s their favorite. Keep an eye on their eating habits and address any sudden changes.

  3. Erratic swimming or hiding: If angelfish are stressed, they may swim erratically, dart around the tank, or hide in the corners or behind decorations. It’s essential to determine the cause of the stress and resolve it quickly to prevent further health issues.

  4. Gasping at the surface: Angelfish gasping at the water’s surface can indicate stress due to poor water quality or a lack of oxygen. Check your water parameters and ensure your filtration and aeration systems are functioning correctly.

  5. Fin clamping: Angelfish may clamp their fins close to their bodies when they’re stressed, which can be a sign of disease, poor water quality, or other stress factors.

To minimize stress in this fish, maintain a clean and stable tank environment, ensure proper tank mates, and address any potential health issues promptly.

care guide for freshwater angelfish the feisty angel of the aquarium 770309

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Angelfish

Angelfish, like any other fish, can suffer from various health issues. Some common health problems and their treatments include:

  1. Ich (White Spot Disease): Ich is a parasitic infection that causes small white spots on the fish’s body, fins, and gills. Treatment includes raising the water temperature to 86°F for a few days and using over-the-counter ich medication.

  2. Fin rot: Fin rot is a bacterial infection that causes frayed, discolored fins. Treatment involves improving water quality and using antibiotic medications specifically designed for fin rot.

  3. Fungal infections: Fungal infections appear as fluffy white growths on the fish’s body or fins. Treat with antifungal medication and maintain good water quality.

  4. Swim bladder disease: This condition can cause difficulty in swimming or maintaining balance. Adjusting the fish’s diet to include more fiber-rich foods and maintaining optimal water parameters can help treat this issue.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

  • Perform regular water changes and test the water parameters frequently to maintain a stable environment.

  • Use a high-quality filter to remove waste and toxins from the water.

  • Avoid overfeeding and remove uneaten food promptly to prevent water quality issues.

  • Quarantine new fish before adding them to the main tank to prevent the spread of diseases.

Should You Get an Angelfish for Your Aquarium?

Angelfish can be a beautiful and rewarding addition to a tropical freshwater aquarium. However, they require proper care and attention to thrive. If you are willing to invest time and effort into maintaining a suitable environment and providing for their needs, angel fish can be a great choice.

Conservation Status

Angelfish are not currently listed as endangered or threatened, and their populations are considered stable.

Availability & Pricing

Angel fish are widely available in pet stores and through online retailers. Prices vary depending on size, color, and rarity, but generally range from $5 to $30 per fish.

Frequently Asked Questions About Angelfish

Q: What size tank do angelfish need?

A: Angelfish should be kept in a tank of at least 20 gallons for a pair, with an additional 10 gallons per additional fish.

Q: What is the ideal water temperature for angelfish?

A: The ideal water temperature for angelfish is between 75 and 84°F.

Q: Are angelfish aggressive?

A: Angelfish are generally peaceful but can display aggression towards smaller fish or when protecting their eggs and fry.


Angelfish can be an attractive and engaging addition to a tropical freshwater aquarium. By understanding their unique needs and providing them with a suitable environment, a balanced diet, and appropriate tank mates, you can ensure a thriving, healthy community of angel fish in your aquarium.