Freshwater fish, Cichlids, Information, South American, Species

Angelfish: Complete Species Overview

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by Jason Matthews


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Angelfish are popular among aquarists because of their arrowhead-shaped bodies and flowing fins. There are two types of angelfish; freshwater and saltwater.

The freshwater angelfish are part of the cichlid family. Although they are known to be peaceful, they can prey on smaller fish and fight their kind during the breeding season.

So, what should you know about angelfish? Here’s a detailed guide.


Scientific Name: Pterophyllum

Common Name: Angelfish

Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

Adult Size: 3 – 4 inches


Primary DietOmnivore
Beginner friendlyYes
Tank preferenceMid-level to bottom dweller
Water temperature75 – 82F
Water parametersa pH of 6.8 – 7, hardness of 4-12 dGH
Tank sizeMinimum 20 gallons
BreedingEgg layer

Fun Fact

In the wild, angelfish are primarily carnivores because they feed on insects and arthropods. However, in captivity, their diets are mixed, and they feed on a balanced diet.


Angelfish species are native to South America, primarily Columbia, Peru, Guyana, and Brazil. Their natural habitat is mostly found in slow-moving swamps, streams, and acidic water. Additionally, they prefer swampy areas with lots of vegetation. However, it should not be too crowded to allow the sunlight to penetrate.


[Image Credit: J Surianto, Pexels]

Thanks to selective breeding and mutations, angelfish come in a wide range of colors. Their arrow-shaped bodies and long fins have a striking, unique appearance. Angelfish have triangular snouts, fan-shaped tail fins, flowing pectoral and dorsal fins, and wide bodies.

Young angelfish have seven black stripes on their bodies which reduce to four as they mature. The most common color is silver; however, angelfish are also available in black, orange, yellow, and white. Here are the other varieties:

  • Albino angelfish: They have white bodies, orange-yellow heads, and red eyes.
  • Platinum angelfish: Pure silver or pure gold without black stripes
  • Marbled angelfish: Combination of marbled black, orange, white, silver, yellow, and gold.
  • Panda angelfish: They have white bodies and black marks that resemble a panda

When angelfish are stressed or sleeping, you’ll notice that their vibrant colors become duller than usual.

Gender Differences

Unlike other species that have apparent differences, it’s hard to distinguish between male and female angelfish by looking at them. However, you can tell the difference when the female is ready to breed.

Both genders have a papilla between the ventral and anal fins. When the female is carrying eggs, the papilla becomes slightly enlarged.

Average Size

Fully grown angelfish grow to 3-4 inches and up to six inches in height. Females normally have a more rounded and smaller body than male angelfish.


Generally, angelfish are peaceful; however, this is not always the case. When stocked with smaller fish, they get aggressive. Additionally, they start fighting to claim their territory when you house too many of them in one tank. Although they form schools, they don’t socialize with fellow angelfish.

Angelfish tend to become more aggressive when protecting a spawn. This temperament is not surprising because, in the wild, angelfish eat neon tetras.


[Image Credit: Jiří Mikoláš, Pexels]

In their natural habitat, angelfish live in a diverse habitat with thousands of fish species. However, in an enclosed tank habitat, they become aggressive and territorial. Because of this, it’s recommended that you should not house angelfish with shy fish varieties that get intimidated by invasive species.

When choosing tankmates for angelfish, the best species are compatible cichlids like dwarf and discus cichlids, dwarf gouramis, plecos, mollies, and pictus catfish. Additionally, avoid stocking angelfish with non-fish tank mates because they are likely to attack shrimps and crabs.

Tank Size and Conditions

When setting up a tank for angelfish, you need to mimic their conditions in the wild. In captivity, angelfish require a fish tank of at least 20 gallons. You can also go for 30 or 40 gallons because this fish variety has a large and tall body and is territorial in nature.

Their natural habitat has slow-moving waters, plenty of plants, fine substrate, and slightly acidic water. Therefore, you should add a soft substrate, such as mud or sand, to the tank.

Avoid using harsh materials because angelfish enjoy digging through the substrate. In addition, you can achieve a smooth flow by using a filtration system.

To mimic the sunlight, you can add LED lights in the aquarium and switch them between 8 and 12 hours daily. You should also add plants native to the Amazon River, such as anacharis and Amazon sword, to make them more comfortable. Furthermore, your tank should have decorations and rocks that angelfish can use as territorial spots.


In the wild, angelfish feed on prey like crustaceans, larvae, and insects. Therefore, when you keep them in your aquarium, you should replicate the same by providing a high-protein and high-fiber diet. However, you should limit the plant matter.

Some high-protein foods to consider include tubifex worms, water fleas, and brine shrimp. You can also add fish flakes and pellets to keep your fish healthy. Feed your angelfish twice a day for about two minutes. Remove the uneaten food from the tank to prevent water contamination. 


[Image Credit: Karina Guseva, Pexels]

Angelfish are among the easiest breeds to breed. These fish varieties reach sexual maturity between six months and one year. In addition, when it’s time to breed, angelfish pair off naturally.

You should have a separate breeding tank and condition the fish by feeding them a high-protein diet.

Once the female starts hanging around the spawning surface, she is ready to lay eggs. The female angelfish lays up to 400 eggs simultaneously, and the males fertilize them externally.

On average, the eggs hatch after two to three days. Allow the parents to look after the fry for four weeks and return them to the original tank.


Angelfish are an easy fish species to breed and care for. You can stock this breed even as a beginner aquarist. The only thing to keep an eye on is their aggressiveness. Avoid keeping them in a crowded tank or with shy species easily intimidated.

Featured Image: J Surianto, Pexels


Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

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