Angelfish Care Secrets & Tank Setup Guide

Last Updated on February 3, 2019

Angelfish are easily recognizable by their elongated, triangular dorsal and anal fins and colorful, striped body.

Freshwater angelfish, named after the unrelated marine angelfish, are a popular cichlid species originally from the Amazon region of South America and are relatively calm and slow-moving, only occasionally getting excited or territorial during feeding and spawning.

Angelfish care requires some specific considerations unique to angelfish including aquarium conditions, water temperature, pH, and feeding. These aspects of Angelfish care are easy to learn and will make for a happier, healthier angelfish.

Angelfish Facts

Scientific Name:Pterophyllum
Water Type:Fresh, Salt
Water Temp:75-80 °F
Habitat:Rivers and coral reefs
pH Level:6.5 - 7.2
Size:7cm - 50cm (3in - 20in)
Tank Size:
20-30 gallons minimum
Lifespan:8 - 15 years

Angelfish Tank Setup

There are five key factors in providing the ideal aquarium for angelfish care:

  • Aquarium size
  • Water temperature
  • Filtration system
  • Water pH
  • Live plants

 Tank Size

When considering aquarium size for angelfish care, it is best to factor in the ratio of angelfish to gallons of water. The following guide should be used as a rule of thumb:

  • 1 gallon of water per nickel-sized angelfish
  • 2 gallons of water per quarter-sized angelfish
  • 3 gallons of water per silver dollar-sized angelfish
  • 4 gallons of water per full grown angelfish

For breeding, a pair of angelfish should have a minimum for 15 gallons of water unless the fry will be raised with the parents in which case the aquarium should be 25 gallons or more. Taller tanks are better because they are such tall fish, so before buying a tank, consider the tank height.

Angelfish Aquascape

In any freshwater aquarium, angelfish needs a lot of live plants and driftwood. Plants are good indicators of water quality, they will die before fish do and they help keep water clear and free of algae while adding oxygen.

Choose a broadleaf plant such as Amazon Sword Plants, Java Moss, Water Sprite and Java Fern to promote spawning.

When pairing up they spawn on the leaves of Amazon swords. They like dark water, which can be created from driftwood, pete moss, and/or black water dyes. Plants are very important in the tanks especially if you keep veiltail angels (long finned) because these angelfish are weak and spend their time floating around in the plants. They feel safe with all the plants and wood, and it adds a lot of stereotypical Amazon jungleness to the tank.

Good tank mates

They live off of tetras, bugs, and dead animals in the wild, but if fed well and with lots of plants, can easily be kept with schools of tetras. They “herd” them together and keep the schools in form. It is best to get small angelfish to start out with and put them with tetras, that way they can grow up with them and are less likely to think of them as good. All angelfish except Altum angels are the same species and should be cared for the same. All of them can go together and get along, apart from territory, spawning sites, or other cichlid behaviors. They are considered new world cichlids and are just weird compared to their cousins. Discus and angels are two very strange forms of cichlids, but probably shouldn’t be kept together. Discus need a lot of attention and angelfish can become very aggressive towards them because they see them as competition for food, which is not the case because discus are very passive.

Moons, mollies, guppies, and swordtails all have live babies at regular intervals. Your angelfish enjoy hunting these down and devouring them with a “pop” that you can sometimes hear. Feeder guppies and feeder white clouds were invented for these guys. They really enjoy hunting down their prey — as would most other cichlids. Most people don’t think of them along these lines, but angels are dedicated hunters in spite of their misleadingly fragile-looking “winged” angel appearance.

Some of community tank fish for angelfish are:

  • Altum angelfish
  • Other angels
  • Possibly discus, but due to high stress level of discus, its not easy in the home aquarium
  • Tetras (larger than neons are best)
  • Corydoras
  • Dwarf cichlids

Angelfish Water Parameters

Water Temperature

Water temperature for angelfish care depends on whether breeding is intended or not. A higher water temperature is better for immune systems and spawning, around 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.

Fish intended only for show, however, are more versatile. Lower temperatures result in longer lifespan but slower growth. Temperatures between 74 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit are sufficient for non-breeding angelfish. Monitor your angelfish with an aquarium thermometer to be more precise.

Filtration System

Because angelfish are not adapted for efficient swimming, a high flow filtration system may be stressful for them. You need to ensure a low water flow in aquarium. Opt for a sponge filter or an under-gravel filter (or both). For larger tanks, a small power filter makes an excellent supplement. Regardless you will still need to do regular partial water changes for a healthy, clean aquarium.

Water pH

Wild angelfish prefer slightly acidic water, while domestic bred angelfish can often tolerate more neutral water. For breeding, an ideal pH is between 6.5 and 6.9. Use a cichlid buffer or pH regulator to adjust your levels. Always keep an eye on your levels with a pH test kit to avoid dangerous fluctuations.

Angelfish Food

Flake fish food is sufficient for an angelfish, and cichlid foods are also a good staple choice, but they should be fed a varied diet. Live foods such as adult brine shrimp, black worms, blood worms, mosquito larvae, chopped earthworms and guppy fry are favorite foods of angelfish. You can raise brine shrimp yourself, but it may be best to avoid other live foods because they often carry parasites and could cause disease.

Angelfish can also be fed frozen foods such as brine shrimp or blood worms. Or make homemade angelfish food from raw beef heart (finely ground) and unflavored gelatin. Freeze the food immediately and make sure there is no fat in the meat.

Adult angelfish should be fed once or twice a day and only as much as they can eat in five minutes. Angelfish will overeat but won’t digest excessive food. Overfeeding contributes to dirty aquariums and problems like ammonia buildup. Use a fish feeder if you’d like, to avoid overfeeding.

The temperature and age of your angelfish also affects how much you should feed. If you keep the water above 77 degrees Fahrenheit, you may want to increase how much food you feed your angelfish to correspond with its higher metabolism. Growing angelfish need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day.

Keeping the Tank Clean

Changing the water

Changing the water regularly keeps the quality of your water high and your angelfish healthy. How often you should change the water will vary, but it is nearly impossible to do it too often, as long as you only do partial changes.

The more angelfish that are in the tank, the more often the water should be changed. Higher temperature, heavy feeding and higher pH also require more frequent water changes.

Make sure that the water being added is of the same hardness and pH as the existing water. Use water conditioning chemicals or cichlid buffers to prepare your tap water.

Younger angelfish require the water to be changed more often than fully-grown stock. Breeders should change 50% of the water each day, while regular show fish can be changed as little at 20% a week.

Removing debris

Overfeeding the fish leads to excess debris. Make sure to use a net to remove any uneaten food or floating matter to keep the tank clean.

You should also remove debris from the bottom of the tank with a siphon or gravel vacuum. Insert the siphon into the tank and suck lightly or pump the siphon until water begins flowing through. Run the siphon along the bottom of the tank, stirring up the rocks and gravel to remove embedded debris. Remove only as much water that is needed to remove the waste and then replace the water.


Algae in aquarium can be removed with a magnetic scraper, an abrasive sponge or manual scraper. You can also buy an algae-eating fish like a Plecostomus to fight algae, but make sure it is a fish that is compatible with your angelfish. (Plecos will not eat enough algae to keep yours under control if you have a phosphate problem.) Avoid keeping your tank in direct sunlight or using non-aquarium lighting, both of which cause algae blooms.

Angelfish Diseases

Angelfish virus is highly infectious and potentially deadly. Symptoms include: clamped fins, listless behavior (nose pointed slightly upwards) and excess slime. There is no cure for angelfish virus and infected angelfish can stay infectious for up to 6 months. They should be quarantined or properly disposed of. Avoid this and other diseases with stress relief products and vitamin supplements
Flagellates, such as Hexamita, are common in overcrowded, overstressed angelfish. Symptoms include decreased appetite and chalky, white feces. To treat, use stress relief products and raise temperature of the water slightly.

Capillaria is a parasite that causes an angelfish to lose its appetite. They will usually mouth their food and spit it out if they are infected. Capillaria, as all parasites, requires a special medication for treatment.

Angelfish Types & Colors

They come in many varieties now such as the marble angels, which have broken bands, and the zebra lace, which looks like wild angels with black, speckled fins, and bright red eyes. They are both the same fish but with different strains. Some other types includes

  • Gold angelfish are a light shade of yellow and mature into a golden color
  • Zebra angelfish have a black body and narrow white stripes.
  • Silver angelfish have black vertical markings, and tawny heads.
  • Kole angelfish are white with black markings. Young kole angelfish have red markings beneath the eyes that fades as they mature.
  • Smoky angelfish are silver on the front half and dark gray or black on the back half.
  • Pearly gold angelfish are a shimmering gold color, more brilliant than the gold angelfish.
  • Black angelfish have completely black bodies.
  • Blushing angelfish are a delicate white with gold markings on top.
  • Black lace angelfish are black with wide, whit stripes.
  • Blue blushing angelfish are a soft gray color and can change shades depending on their mood.

General Tips for Angelfish Care

  • While treating an angelfish for sickness, it can help the process along by raising the temperature of the water slightly.
  • It is recommended to keep angelfish alone, as they may contract diseases from other species of fish.
  • Be careful not to distress angelfish just after they have spawned. Stress can cause angelfish to eat their young. To make sure this doesn’t happen, use a refugium.
  • Angelfish can have a lifespan of up to 10 to 12 years. Lowering the water temperature may lengthen lifespan, but weakens their immune system.
  • Angelfish prefer a calm environment with little noise.
  • It can be difficult to tell a male angelfish apart from a female angelfish. The best time to notice is during spawning. A male fish has a shorter, pointier breeding tube while a female has a blunter one.
  • Filtering tap water can make it more suitable for adding to your aquarium.
  • To prevent parents from eating fry, you can raise them separately by transferring the eggs into a refugium once they are spawned.



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