Angelfish – Species Profile & Facts

The first thing you need to know about the Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) is that it looks absolutely amazing. No wonder it is so popular among fish keepers. Its unique shape with the wing-like fins, its beautiful colors and patterns make it a spectacular fish to look at.

The Angelfish is one of the many breathtaking species that come from the freshwaters of South America. This one falls into the cichlid family, which leaves you with a lot of possibilities when it comes to choosing tank mates.

This article is going to be all about explaining how to properly keep this fish at home. We are going to talk about their diet, tank and water requirements and the breeding process as well. If you want to get one for yourself while being not sure how to take care of it, then keep reading.

We have a lot of useful information here that are going to help you in the long run!

Angelfish Natural Habitat

As we mentioned, the Angelfish comes straight from the South American freshwaters. To be more specific, they come from the Amazon river that runs through Brazil. They are abundant mainly in the river basins of Guiana, Colombia and Peru.

Out in the wild, they got accustomed to slow moving waters, which is what you should imitate in your own fish tank. The Angelfish was basically unheard of until 1920, which is when it got the scientific name Pterophyllum. That is when people started to distribute it in Europe.

Keeping and breeding this fish only got popular in the 1930s in America. They are one of those species who require dim light in order to thrive. In their natural habitat, they hide below layers of plants and rocks that filter out most of the sunlight.

There, they are looking for food such as plant debris, insects, spineless species and small fishes throughout the day. The Angelfish can be found in somewhat salty waters too. However, it is better to keep them in salt-free water because it brings out their colors.

Angelfish Tank Requirements

Digging in the substrate is one of the main activities you are going to see from the Angelfish. Therefore, you will need to lay down some soft substrate so that they don’t hurt themselves. Some high-quality sand or mud is going to be ideal.

You can install a filter but make sure it doesn’t generate too much water flow. Since they prefer slow-moving waters, stronger water currents are only going to make them stressful. You can use any lighting you want as long as you put many plants and rocks into the aquarium that block it.

When it comes to plants, the best way to imitate their habitat is to use the plants that grow in the Amazon river. For example, buying some Amazon Swords, Java fern, Java Moss or Brazilian Waterweed are all great ideas. They create plenty of hideouts for your little pets.

Make sure not to overdo it. The goal is not to block all the light out of the tank. By using too many floating plants, you can make your aquarium too dark.

For one male and one female Angelfish, you will need at least a 20-gallon aquarium. Keeping a whole school of this species can be a beautiful thing. For this, you need to buy an 80-gallon tank so that there is enough swimming space for all of them. Measure an additional 10 gallons of extra space for every additional individual fish you want to keep.

Angelfish Water Conditions

For the Angelfish, you will need to set the heater to a higher temperature, as room temperature simply won’t do. You can keep it anywhere between 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit and they are going to thrive. The water acidity can’t fluctuate that much, as you will only have a small window of 6.8 to 7.0 pH.

It is slightly acidic and it shouldn’t be salty at all. Even moderately salty water can make their colors start to fade. By using many plants, you are only going to make it easier for yourself to maintain the optimal water conditions. The water will be well-oxygenated and cleaner in the tank.

Angelfish Diet and Feeding

Although Angelfish are omnivores, they prefer to eat meaty live foods most of the time. Their menu consists of larvae, rotifers, insects, smaller fish and crustaceans. They only eat plant-based foods in very small amounts. For them, proper nutrition means lots of proteins and a low amount of fiber.

There are many foods for aquarium fish that can substitute the abovementioned wild diet. The main source of protein for your Angelfish are going to be Tubifex worms. Besides that, water fleas and brine shrimp are also rather nutritious.

The list goes on and on, as you can substitute pretty much anything with some high-quality pellets or flakes. As long as it contains the proteins they need, you can feed it to them. The freeze-dried alternatives you can give them are krill and glass worms.

Although freeze-dried foods are not a must, it is important to provide them with a rather diverse diet. The Angelfish should be fed 2-3 times every day. You don’t need to worry about them nipping on the plants you put into your tank.

However, they still need a small amount of plant-based food, which you can mix together with the bigger meat-based portion. This way, they can get the fiber they need throughout the day. Adding a small amount of cooked spinach, romaine or zucchini is even better.

Just make sure to not feed them any vegetable without blanching it.

Angelfish Tank Mates

Countless other amazing fish species live in the Amazon river. Where the Angelfish comes from, there is also an abundance of Banded Cichlids, Discus Fish, Silver Arowanas, Arapaimas, Characins and Oscars. Of course, there is a lot more diversity around them. We only mentioned the ones with a higher population.

But the real question is that could you put them into the same aquarium with the species that live around them? The answer is unfortunately no, because there would be a lot of conflicts and maybe even space issues. When it comes to cichlids, you can only keep the Angelfish with a handful of them.

These are Bolivian Rams, Discus Fish and Dwarf Cichlids. Besides cichlids, you can keep them together with Dwarf Gourami, Pleco, Pictus Catfish and even Mollies and other peaceful cichlids. This might not seem like much, but by combining these species, you can actually set up a very exciting aquarium.

You can only keep South American fishes with the ones that come from the same area. Choosing African species for tank mates, for example, won’t work because those require different water conditions. Not to mention that they thrive in different environments than the Angelfish.

Cichlids with aggressive temperament are completely out of the question because they would generate too much tension. Pretty much every species that harasses other fish and behaves in an aggressive manner should be avoided.

Angelfish Breeding

We have some good news here for the beginners because the Angelfish is not hard to breed at all. Buy a bunch of them, take proper care of the whole school and they are eventually going to start to breed. If there is enough space for the pair to take a separate territory for themselves, then it’s going to be fine.

However, it is better not to let them start the whole breeding process in the community tank. When you see them starting to get separated together, move them to a separate tank. A 20-gallon tank is going to be more than enough for an Angelfish pair.

Lay down some flat rocks, tiles or Anacharis where the female can lay down the eggs. This is when Tubifex worms and other protein-rich foods become a must. Other than that, you should set the heater to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, which is optimal for breeding.

The female is going to lay down about 300 eggs, which are going to be fertilized by the male eventually. Leave the parents together with the eggs, and then the fry for approximately a month. They will take good care of them during this period.

After that, remove the fry to a separate tank of 15-20 gallons of size. You can feed them some brine shrimp and hard-boiled eggs alternately until they get about 6 weeks old. Then you can try to feed them the typical Angelfish diet that the matured individuals eat.


Compared to how the Angelfish looks like, you would expect it to be rather sensitive and demanding to take care of. Fortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it doesn’t take much effort to take care of these little beauties. You can learn everything you need to know about them from this short article.

If you follow all our advice, you will be able to keep one, or even a whole school of Angelfish healthy, colorful and thriving. You can even take the challenge and put them together with the tank mates we mentioned. Ending up with a diverse and decorative tank is certainly worth the effort. We hope this article has motivated you to take the next step and set up a beautiful aquarium.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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