Fish of the Week: Angelfish


Family: Cichlidae

Genus: Pterophyllum

Species: P. altum, P. scalare, P. leopoldi

Natural History

Angelfish are large freshwater cichlids native to the slow moving tributaries of the Amazon river.  They prefer warm water with abundant vertical vegetation in which they can shelter among.  In nature, angelfish will shoal in small schools of multiple fish.  Like many other members of the cichlid family, angelfish have evolved a complex breeding behavior.  Angelfish will form monogamous pairs that will care for their brood from spawning to long after the fry are free swimming. 


Description: Slender, compressed body with a vertical orientation.  The pelvic fins of the angelfish are elongated and compressed, acting like the rudders of a ship to help it maintain a still position in the water column.  The dorsal and anal fin are elongated and have a triangular appearance.

Size: up to 6 inches

Temperature: 76-80*F

pH: 6.0-7.5

Habitat: Slow moving water with ample vegetation, gravel bottom, since angelfish have a tall body form, a tank height of 18” is a minimum requirement for angelfish to comfortably move about the aquarium.

Minimum tank size: 20 gallons (tall)

Aquarium Basics

Angelfish are one of the most graceful and prized of all freshwater fish.  They were one of the first ornamentals exported from the Amazon to the United Kingdom.  Angelfish can grow quite large, especially vertically, so they require a large tanks.  In order to adequately house multiple adults in a home aquarium, they require tanks at least 100 gallons in size.  A pair of adults angelfish can be housed in a 20 gallon tall tank for breeding purposes.  Angelfish prefer a soft water aquarium with a pH between 6.0-7.0.  If kept well, angelfish have been recorded as living 10-15 years.


Angelfish will readily eat a variety of flake and pellet foods.  They should also be supplemented with meaty frozen foods such as bloodworms, beef heart, and artemia.  Angelfish are smart enough to recognize people outside of their tank and they will  get excited and follow people around the tank until offered food.


Angelfish can be kept in community settings with other large and peaceful fish.  It’s best to avoid fast moving fish that might stress out angelfish.  As angelfish grow, they can become more aggressive, especially when sexually active.  Small fish like guppies and neon tetras can become prey for larger angelfish and should be avoided.

Interesting Notes/ Something Fishy…

Angelfish have been bred for so long in captivity that there are now several well defined mutant strains available.  Most of these strains have enhanced features in patterning, pigmentation, and finnage.  Mutant strains include Marble, Zebra, Gold, Blue Blushing, Koi, and many more.


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