American Cichlids – Freshwater Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare)

Updated on January 30, 2021 by

Belonging to the Chiclidae family and originating from the native Amazon river basin, the Angelfish is one of the rare freshwater beauties, sometimes called the freshwater Queen.

It has wing-like coated fins with exuberance and radiant beauty that will brighten up the aquarium. Angelfish is quite easy to nurture, matures in about 10 months and lives up to 10 years

Quick stats – Angelfish

OriginSouth America
Max size6” / 15 cm
AquariumMin 30 gallon / 100 liters
Water75-82° F / 23-28° C

KH 1-5, pH 5.8-7.0

Care levelModerate
ColorsGold, black, silver

Angelfish description

The Angelfish belongs to the Chiclidae family and originates from the Amazon river basin. They are also found in the river basins of Peru, Colombia and Guyana. They are radiantly colored and are peaceful creatures, unless their territories are threatened.

This demands that enough tank room must be provided to house a few Angelfish, as they can be aggressive when they become territorial. The males and female Angelfish look alike, being difficult to differentiate, even for an experienced fish keeper.

The remarkable difference between the male and the female is the size of the tube between the anal and ventral fins which is relatively thicker in females than in males, and can only be distinguished when they begin to spawn.

Therefore, one can only tell the difference by actually watching them spawn, which is really an amazing experience. Being a popular species, the Angelfish can be easily found in most aquarium and pet shops alike.

Angelfish in the natural habitat

They are mostly found in the Amazon river basin. They are also found in many parts of river basins across Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Guyana.

In these habitats they are located in slow-moving, slightly acidic water bodies with much vegetation, so as to provide them with protection against predators and also provide them with the means to ambush for prey.

Angelfish - Pterophyllum scalare

Angelfish in the ideal aquarium

The ideal aquarium should be at least 30 gallons or larger, less than that would be calling for a territorial war and uncomfortable Angelfish.

This will require keeping 1-2 males with a few females. But since the sex of the Angelfish is rather difficult to determine, it is recommended to house the Angelfish from a young age and let them form pairs.

The water in their aquarium should be regularly maintained and monitored, aiming to keep the parameters in the values mentioned in the table above, but it is most likely mandatory to use a heater and filter. Water changes should be done regularly, changing at least 50% of the water at each interval.

Regarding the fact that Angelfish prefer areas with dense vegetation, the water flow of the aquarium should be gentle, decorated with large broadleaf plants and driftwood, properly arranged to provide shed to the Angelfish.

The bottom can also be lined with standing rocks to provide hiding spots and also safe spots for laying eggs during spawning. This will mimic the natural habitat of the Angelfish and thus provide them with comfort.

Sand is a preferable substrate to gravel for filling the tank, as gravel will tend to trap and hold more waste in the long run. This will also better mimic the natural habitat of the Angelfish such as the Amazon basin which provides a sandy base.

Also sand looks more natural than the gravel. However, the challenge when using sand comes to the cleaning process, which is more difficult compared to cleaning gravel, and also lasts a bit longer.

The aquarium should also be provided with 8-12 hours lighting to mimic the natural light cycle providing the Angelfish with warmth and comfort.

The Angelfish is compatible with other cichlids such as Discus, Rams and also with Catfish. However, more territorial cichlids than the Angelfish such as Oscars and Convicts should be greatly avoided.

Tiger Barbs should be avoided at all since they are well known fin-nippers and will cause a lot of inconvenience to the Angelfish.

Angelfish feeding

Omnivores by nature, the Angelfish truly enjoy small live prey. Such recommended live food includes: larvae, small fish, tubifex and insects. Feeding the Angelfish is not a hassle as they can live on a variety of food, including vegetables too, not just meaty foods.

Also, quality flake food, as well as live and frozen foods such as brine shrimp and bloodworms is greatly appreciated. Their feed should be highly proteinous with lots of fiber too. A mixture of flaked food and meaty frozen foods is necessary to keep the Angels strong and healthy.

Angelfish can be quite greedy when it comes to food, so they need to be duly fed, at least 2-3 times a day bit by bit as much as they can eat that moment, and not stockpiling the aquarium with lots of food, which will only lay waste.

Canva Pterophyllum scalare fish

Angelfish breeding

Usually, after a period of 6-12 months, Angelfish are grown, sexually mature and ready for breeding. When introduced into the school, Angelfish naturally locates a pairing mate. When this is done, the tank should be prepared for breeding, or better still a spawning tank should be prepared where the pairs are transferred to avoid spawning in the main tank where the eggs or fry are threatened to be devoured by others.

During breeding, the pairs should be fed more often than before. They should be fed heavily for about 3-4 times a day. This stimulates them a lot during breeding.

During this period, the tank water should be changed more often, replacing about 40% of the water, to ensure that the tank is neat at all times.

Adding to the fact that Angelfish prefer a spawning slate to lay their eggs, the tank should be fitted with a few spawning slate tilted to an angle to provide them with multiple options to lay their eggs.

When a mature pair is formed, it takes about 5 to 8 days, before the Angelfish start spawning. After that, the eggs may not hatch due to inadequate air circulation, or the Angelfish may end up eating their eggs. Therefore the eggs should be removed and placed in another tank with the same water conditions as the spawning tank, where the eggs can hatch within 2-3 days.

After a period of 2 to 3 weeks, the fry are mature and ready to explore new aquarium worlds.

Angelfish - Pterophyllum scalare

To conclude

The Angelfish will certainly add exuberance to your aquarium. They can be very peaceful, but not when their territories are threatened.

Their aquarium should be provided with dense vegetation, large broadleaf plants and driftwood to mimic their natural habitat, thus providing them with comfort and helping them establish territories.

Owing to the fact that they are heavy eaters, they should be duly fed 2-3 times a day with just enough they can consume at that moment, so as to avoid laying up waste in the tank. Food rich in protein and fiber makes a good diet for the Angelfish.

Special care should be given to the Angelfish eggs to ensure they have the necessary water conditions to hatch, and that they are not devoured by their parents or other fish.

Freshwater Angelfish FAQs

What is the best food for Angelfish

Being omnivores, they can live on a variety of foods, including live and green plants. But small live prey such as tubifex worm, larvae, and smaller fish would certainly make the day for the Angelfish.

How many Angelfish could be housed in a 30 gallon tank

Since the sex of the Angelfish is hardly determined before spawning, an Angelfish group of 4-5 should be maintained until their sex is determined. Then one male with 2-3 females would make an ideal Angelfish group.

What is the lifespan of freshwater Angelfish?

With utmost care and optimal tank conditions, the beautiful Angelfish can live up to 10 years.