Freshwater Angelfish: Graceful and Elegant

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Are you looking to add some elegance and beauty to your freshwater aquarium?

Look no further than freshwater angelfish.

Freshwater angelfish, also known as Pterophyllum, are native to the Amazon Basin and various rivers in tropical South America. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, including silver, black, and marbled. Their unique shape, with long, flowing fins and a triangular body, makes them stand out in any aquarium.

With proper care, freshwater angelfish can live up to 8 to 12 years, making them a long-term addition to your aquatic family.

Quick Facts

Origin and HabitatNative to the Amazon River basin and various rivers in tropical South America
Scientific NamePterophyllum scalare
Types and ColorsBlack, silver, marble, albino, gold, koi, zebra, leopard, and more
Lifespan8-10 years on average, but can live up to 15 years with proper care
Temperament & BehaviorGenerally peaceful, may become territorial during breeding
Tank Size and SetupMinimum 20-gallon tank for one adult angelfish, larger for pairs or additional fish
Water ParameterspH: 6.8-7.8, Water Hardness: 3°-8° dKH, Water Temperature: 78-84°F
DietOmnivorous, can be fed high-quality flakes or pellets supplemented with live or frozen foods
Freshwater Angelfish Care

Origin and Habitat

Freshwater angelfish, also known as Pterophyllum, are native to the Amazon River Basin in South America.

They are part of the cichlid family, which is known for their diversity and adaptability to different environments.

In their natural habitat, freshwater angelfish can be found in slow-moving rivers, streams, and swamps.

They are also commonly found in the Orinoco basin and the Guiana Shield.

The Amazon basin is their primary natural habitat, where they are found in large numbers.

Scientific Name

Freshwater angelfish belong to the genus Pterophyllum, which is a small group of freshwater fish from the family Cichlidae.

There are three main species of Pterophyllum: Pterophyllum scalare, Pterophyllum altum, and Pterophyllum leopoldi.

Pterophyllum scalare, also known as angelfish or freshwater angelfish, is the most commonly kept species of Pterophyllum in captivity.

It is native to the Amazon Basin in Peru, Colombia, and Brazil.

Pterophyllum altum, also known as the altum angelfish or deep angelfish, is native to the Orinoco River Basin in Colombia and Venezuela.

Pterophyllum leopoldi, also known as the Leopold’s angelfish, is native to the Xingu River Basin in Brazil.

All Pterophyllum species have a distinctive triangular shape and elongated fins.

The scientific name for freshwater angelfish is Pterophyllum scalare, which means “winged leaf” in Latin. The name is derived from their distinctive shape and flowing fins, which resemble the wings and leaves of a plant.

The family Cichlidae, to which Pterophyllum belongs, is a diverse group of fish found in freshwater habitats around the world.

Cichlids are known for their bright colors, complex social behaviors, and ability to adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions.

Black Angelfish
Black Angelfish

Appearance & Size

In this section, we will discuss the different types and colors of freshwater angelfish, as well as their average lifespan.

Types and Colors of Freshwater Angelfish

Freshwater angelfish come in a variety of colors and patterns giving you a great selection to choose from.

The most common types and colors of freshwater angelfish:

  • Black Angelfish: The Black Angelfish is a stunning variety that boasts an intense, solid black coloration. It is popular among aquarists for its striking contrast in a planted tank and its relatively hardy nature.
  • Silver Angelfish: The Silver Angelfish is known for its attractive silver color and vertical black stripes running along its body. Its subtle colors and patterns make it a great fit for many aquascapes, while its peaceful demeanor suits community tanks.
  • Marble Angelfish: The Marble Angelfish is characterized by a white and black marbled pattern, giving each individual a unique look. This variety stands out in planted tanks and gets along well with most other species.
  • Albino Angelfish: The Albino Angelfish is striking for its lack of pigmentation, showing a pinkish-white hue with red or pink eyes. Despite their delicate appearance, they are quite hardy and can thrive in a properly maintained tank.
  • Gold Angelfish: Gold Angelfish stand out in any aquarium with their vibrant, shiny gold coloration. They are active swimmers and can add a splash of color and movement to any freshwater setup.
  • Koi Angelfish: The Koi Angelfish exhibits a blend of white, orange, and black colors reminiscent of Koi Carp, hence their name. Each individual possesses a unique pattern, making them a unique and colorful addition to a home aquarium.
  • Zebra Angelfish: Zebra Angelfish are known for their distinctive zebra-like stripes that run vertically across their bodies. This striking black and white pattern combined with their graceful swimming makes them an eye-catching addition to many aquaria.
  • Leopard Angelfish: The Leopard Angelfish boasts a bold pattern that resembles a leopard’s spots, hence the name. This unusual pattern, set against a usually silver or pale gold body, makes this angelfish variety a captivating centerpiece in any freshwater aquarium.
Koi Angelfish
Koi Angelfish


On average, freshwater angelfish have a lifespan of 8-10 years when kept in a suitable environment.

But, with proper care, some angelfish have been known to live up to 15 years.

In terms of size, freshwater angelfish can grow up to 6 inches in height and 8 inches in length.

The size of an angelfish can vary depending on the species and individual fish.

Temperament & Behavior

Social Behavior

Freshwater Angelfish are known for their peaceful temperament and are generally not aggressive towards other fish.

They are often kept in community aquariums with other peaceful fish species.

Just keep in mind that they can become territorial during breeding and may become aggressive towards other fish during this time.

In terms of their behavior, Angelfish are known to be ambush predators, waiting for their prey to come close before striking.

Marble Angelfish
Marble Angelfish


When it comes to their temperament, Angelfish are generally friendly and can be quite personable.

They are often seen swimming around their aquarium and interacting with their owners.

They can be shy at first and may take some time to adjust to their new environment.

Tank Size and Setup

When it comes to setting up a tank for freshwater angelfish, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Tank Size

One of the most important things to consider when setting up a tank for freshwater angelfish is the size of the tank.

While juvenile angelfish can be kept in tanks as small as 10 gallons, you will need a larger tank as they grow.

Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • One adult angelfish requires a minimum of 20 gallons of water.
  • If you want to keep a pair of angelfish, you will need a tank that is at least 30 gallons.
  • For every additional angelfish, add another 10 gallons to the tank size.

Water Parameters

Freshwater angelfish are sensitive to changes in water parameters, so it’s important to keep the water clean and stable.

ParameterIdeal Range
pH6.8 – 7.8
Water Hardness3°-8° dKH
Water Temperature78-84°F

These are just guidelines, and you should always test your water regularly to ensure that the levels are within a safe range for your fish.

Zebra Angelfish
Zebra Angelfish

Tank Setup & Decorations

Keep the following suggestions in mind when setting up an angelfish tank:

  • Substrate: Wild angelfish are used to sandy bottoms, so sand is a good choice for substrate. You can also use gravel, which is easier to clean than sand.
  • Plants: Angelfish inhabit flooded forests in their natural habitats, so tall plants are a good choice for your tank. Live plants are also beneficial for maintaining good water quality.
  • Decorations: Adding driftwood, rocks, and other decorations can provide hiding places for your angelfish and make the tank more interesting to look at.


Angelfish are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal-based foods.

One of the most common types of food for angelfish is flake food.

High-quality flake food can be nutritious and affordable.

However, angelfish also need a variety of other foods to stay healthy.

You can supplement your angelfish’s diet with frozen or live foods, such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and other small prey.

These foods are high in protein and can be a great addition to your angelfish’s diet.

Some angelfish can be picky eaters, so you may need to experiment with different types of food to find what your fish prefer.

Angelfish tank mates

Tank Mates

Suitable tank mates will be fish that are peaceful in nature and big enough not to fit in your angelfish’s mouth.

If the community consists of young, small fish then your angelfish will see them as food.

Corydoras Catfish: These bottom feeders are peaceful and calm, making them an excellent choice for community aquariums. They thrive in the same water conditions as angelfish and prefer a minimum tank size of 20 gallons.

Adult Tetras: These colorful fish are a popular choice for community aquariums. They are peaceful and won’t bother your angelfish. Neon tetras, cardinal tetras, and black skirt tetras are all good options. But, they need to be adult size as young fish will be seen as food.

Gourami: These fish are known for their bright colors and peaceful demeanor. They prefer a planted aquarium and can coexist well with angelfish.

Plecos: These algae-eating fish are a great addition to any aquarium. They are peaceful and won’t harm your angelfish. They prefer a minimum tank size of 30 gallons.

Discus: These cichlids are peaceful and make great tank mates for angelfish. They prefer a minimum tank size of 50 gallons and require a well-maintained aquarium.

Barbs: These active fish are a good choice for larger community aquariums. They are peaceful and won’t bother your angelfish. Cherry barbs and rosy barbs are both good options. Avoid tiger barbs.

Rainbowfish: These colorful fish are peaceful and can coexist well with angelfish. They prefer a minimum tank size of 30 gallons with plenty of open space to swim in.

Rasboras: These small fish are peaceful and won’t harm your angelfish. Harlequin rasboras and galaxy rasboras are both good options.

Swordtails: These active fish are a good choice for larger community aquariums. They are peaceful and won’t bother your angelfish.

Gold Angelfish
Gold Angelfish


Angelfish are easy to breed in a home aquarium.

In this section, we’ll cover the basics of breeding angelfish, including setting up a breeding tank, selecting a breeding pair, and caring for the eggs and fry.

Setting up a Breeding Tank

Before you begin breeding angelfish, you’ll need to set up a separate breeding tank.

Although they will breed in a community tank, the eggs and fry will be eaten by the rest of the tank inhabitants.

A 20-gallon tank is recommended, as angelfish need plenty of space to breed and raise their young.

Provide a vertical flat surface, like a piece of slate, where the angelfish can lay their eggs.

You can also add broad leafed plants that they can use for a spawning site.

Make sure the tank has a filter and heater, and that the water is kept clean and well-oxygenated.

Selecting a Breeding Pair

Select a healthy pair of mature angelfish for breeding.

Angelfish typically choose their own mates, so monitor your fish for pairing behaviors.

Once a pair forms, separate them into the breeding tank to prevent other fish from disturbing them.

Breeding Season

Angelfish are known to breed year-round, but they may be more active during certain times of the year.

In the wild, they may breed during the rainy season when water levels rise.

In captivity, breeding can be triggered by changes in temperature, lighting, and water chemistry.

Monogamous Pairs

Angelfish are known to form monogamous pairs, which means that a male and female will bond and stay together for life.

If you want to breed angelfish, it’s best to keep them in pairs, rather than in groups.

This will increase the chances of successful breeding and reduce aggression between fish.

Angelfish Food

Caring for Eggs and Fry

The female will usually lay several hundred eggs on the selected surface, and the male will follow behind to fertilize them.

Both parents will then guard the eggs fiercely.

Immediately after spawning, monitor the eggs.

Healthy fertilized eggs should have a creamy or brownish color, while unfertilized eggs will turn white and should be removed to prevent fungus.

Once the eggs hatch, the fry will feed off their yolk sacs for about 5 days.

During this time, don’t feed them, but continue to monitor water quality.

Begin feeding the fry after the yolk sacs are consumed.

Use a high-quality fry food like baby brine shrimp or specially formulated fry powder.

Feed them small amounts multiple times a day for optimal growth.

As the fry grow, gradually increase the size of their food and decrease the frequency of feeding.

After a few weeks, you can start to introduce them to regular flake or pellet food.

Why You Should Consider Angelfish

Firstly, angelfish are undeniably beautiful.

Their long, graceful fins and wide variety of colors and patterns make them a stunning addition to any aquarium.

Each variety has its unique aesthetic appeal, offering a great choice for all aquarists.

Additionally, angelfish are quite hardy and adaptable to various water conditions, making them a good choice for both novice and experienced fish keepers.

They can tolerate a range of temperatures and pH levels, though maintaining consistent, ideal conditions will help them thrive.

Angelfish are also fascinating to observe.

They display interesting behaviors, especially during spawning and when they interact with other fish.

You can spend countless hours watching them gracefully glide through the tank or protect their eggs.

Whether you’re a seasoned aquarist or a beginner, freshwater angelfish can bring beauty, fascination, and serenity to your aquarium hobby.

Their captivating presence, hardy nature, and interesting behaviors make them a truly desirable addition to any fish tank.

Breeding Angelfish

Frequently Asked Questions

Are angelfish compatible with other fish?

Yes, angelfish are generally compatible with other peaceful fish species. However, they can become aggressive towards smaller fish that they perceive as food. It’s best to avoid keeping them with small tetras or other fish that can fit in their mouth. Angelfish can be kept with other cichlid species, but it’s important to ensure that the tank is large enough to accommodate all the fish comfortably.

What is the ideal water temperature for angelfish?

Angelfish are tropical fish and thrive in water temperatures between 75-82°F (24-28°C). It’s important to maintain a consistent temperature in the tank, as fluctuations can cause stress and illness in the fish. A good quality heater and thermometer are essential for keeping the water temperature stable.

How often should I feed my angelfish?

Angelfish should be fed twice a day, with small amounts of food each time. Overfeeding can lead to health problems and water quality issues. A balanced diet of high-quality flakes, pellets, and frozen or live foods is recommended. It’s important to vary their diet to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.

Can angelfish live in a community tank?

Yes, angelfish can live in a community tank with other peaceful fish species. Ensure that the tank is large enough to accommodate all the fish comfortably and that the other fish are not aggressive towards the angelfish. It’s also advisable to avoid keeping them with small fish that can fit in their mouth.

What kind of substrate is best for angelfish?

Angelfish prefer a soft substrate such as sand or fine gravel. This allows them to sift through the substrate in search of food without damaging their delicate fins. Avoid using sharp or rough substrates that can cause injury to the fish.

What are some common diseases that affect angelfish?

Angelfish are susceptible to a variety of diseases, including ich, fin rot, and bacterial infections. It’s important to maintain good water quality and provide a healthy diet to prevent illness. Quarantining new fish before adding them to the tank can also help prevent the spread of disease. If you notice any signs of illness in your angelfish, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or abnormal behavior, seek the advice of a veterinarian or experienced fish keeper.

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Irma Bense is the founder of She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish.She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years.She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas.You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

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