Complete Freshwater Angelfish Set Up And Care Guide

In this complete guide, we are going to take a look at Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare). We will cover absolutely everything you need to know about these amazing fish, including care tips, breeding tips, and our very own Angelfish infographic. Lets begin…


Angelfish – Introduction

Angelfish are one of the most iconic freshwater fish out there. Their fins are long and flowing, typical of a fish you would see on a saltwater reef. Luckily for a lot of beginners, Angelfish are actually freshwater fish and can be extremely easy to keep.

Angelfish, once set up in a aquarium, require little maintenance other than proper water parameters and healthy feeding. You may be amazed to find out that Angelfish often reproduce in home aquariums!

Our complete Angelfish care guide will teach you how to set up an aquarium, how to keep your Angelfish healthy, and even how to breed them in your home aquarium.

Angelfish – Quick Facts

  • Native Origin: South America/Amazon River
  • Temperature: 76-82°F
  • pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Water: 5°-13° dH hardness
  • Tank Size: 20-30 gallons minimum
  • Food: Should be fed a mixture of flake foods, pellets, and meaty foods (brine shrimp or bloodworms)

Angelfish Care – Infographic

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Setting up an Angelfish Aquarium

Angelfish grow to be pretty large fish, so it is vital to have a large enough tank to support them. Angelfish that live in undersized aquariums are often unhealthy, unhappy, and aggressive. From my experience, I would suggest a tank of at least 30 gallons to support a few Angelfish. This is especially important if you plan to keep other tank mates. While they can be great community fish, Angelfish are still in the cichlid family and become territorial if space is limited. It is always better to have more space than not enough space!

Angelfish tend to be pretty hefty eaters, which means a lot of waste in your fish tank. Make sure you have a good filter that can handle these type of fish. While a good hang on back filter will work, I would highly recommend purchasing a canister filter. Canister filters can process a lot more water than HOB filters, and they tend to be a lot more effective for freshwater aquariums.


When setting up your Angelfish aquarium, the first major decision you need to make is the type of substrate you are going to use. If you are new to fishkeeping, I would recommend going with a simple gravel substrate. Though gravel tends to trap a lot of waste, it is extremely easy to clean and doesn’t require a ton of upkeep. It is also fairly cheap to purchase, so your wallet will be happy (we can’t always say that in the fishkeeping hobby).

If you are more experienced with aquariums, adding sand as a substrate can be a beautiful addition. Angelfish are natively found in the Amazon Basin in South America, so naturally they are more familiar with a sandy bottom. Sand will give your tank a more realistic, natural look, but can be more difficult to clean. I personally use sand in all my new aquariums and would never switch back to gravel, simply for the looks.

Recommended Aquarium Sand: CaribSea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand
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As I talked about before, Angelfish are from the Amazon Basin where vegetation is abundant. Proving your Angelfish with a lot of plants, rocks, and hiding places is an important part of keeping them stress-free. Unless you plan to purchase a light setup, it is best just to use artificial plants. Artificial plants provide the look and feel of a natural planted aquarium, but require little to no work. When selecting these plants, try to find some that stand vertically and have large leaves. These mimic the plants in the Amazon Basin and will make your Angelfish more comfortable.

Other great aquarium decorations to add to your Angelfish tank are driftwood and rocks. Driftwood perfectly mimics the Angelfish’s natural habitat. Large, vertical standing rocks also provide a great place for your fish to hide and, eventually, lay eggs! Filling your tank with lots of natural-looking hiding places and decorations helps keep your Angelfish comfortable and stress-free.

Recommended Driftwood: Zoo Med Mopani Wood
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When filling your aquarium, it is important to use a quality water source. The best thing you can do is purchase water from your local fish store. Depending on how big your aquarium is, though, this can be difficult and require a lot of buckets! Purchasing your water from a well-known fish store ensures that all the parameters will be correct and chlorine free!

If you want to take a cheaper route, tap water is acceptable to use. Water straight from the tap, though, contains a lot of chloride and can kill your fish. When using tap water, you MUST use water conditioner to neutralize the chlorine and provide a safe environment for your Angelfish. Failing to do so will burn the Angelfish’s gills and eventually lead to death. Natural Rapport produces a great water conditioner that I have used for years in my freshwater aquariums. Make sure to follow the instructions on the bottle very carefully.

Cycling Your Aquarium

Cycling your aquarium is a necessary evil. It can take week to complete, but in the end it is completely worth it. Failing to cycle your aquarium can be harmful and potentially fatal to your fish. To properly cycle your freshwater aquarium, you must first understand the nitrogen cycle.

When organic compounds such as fish waste and food dissolve in your tank, a large amount of ammonia is produced. This ammonia is extremely harmful to your fish and lethal in any amounts. In a healthy aquarium, there is an abundance of beneficial bacteria that convert this lethal ammonia into a less-harmful toxin called Nitrite. Nitrite is “better” than ammonia, but is still potentially lethal to fish. This is where a second set of beneficial bacteria come in and convert the Nitrite to Nitrate. There is only a one letter difference their names, but a huge difference in your aquarium. Even the healthiest of aquarium show traces of Nitrates, and they are usually nothing to worry about unless in high quantities. Nitrates can only be removed through water changes, so be prepared to do them on a bi-weekly schedule.

The Fish-less Cycle

Now that you know how the nitrogen cycle work, you need to learn how to effectively complete this cycle in your home aquarium! I am a huge advocate of the Fish-less cycle (not adding ANY fish until cycle is complete). While this may take a little longer, it saves a few unlucky fish from ammonia/nitrite poisoning.

Before starting your fish-less cycle, you should purchase a test kit. The API Freshwater Test Kit is the absolute best on the market. To begin your cycle, have your aquarium completely set up (substrate, water, plants, decorations, filter, heater)and add a few pinches of flake food each day. As this flake food deteriorates, you will notice a huge spike in ammonia on your test kit. Make sure to test your water at least once a day to stay up-to-date.  As ammonia spikes, the first type of beneficial bacteria will begin to grow. As these bacteria grow, they will consume the ammonia and convert it to nitrite. This first part of the cycle may take anywhere from 2-3 weeks. Make sure to add a little pinch of flake food once in a while to feed your ammonia-consuming bacteria!

Once ammonia begins to drop (the first type of beneficial bacteria are doing their job!), you will notice a spike in Nitrites. At this point, the second type of beneficial bacteria will begin to reproduce and grow in numbers. This bacteria, of course, consumes the nitrite and converts it to nitrate. As always, remember to keep adding a few flakes of fish food to sustain the cycle. In another 2-3 weeks time, you will notice the nitrites begin to fall off (remember to test your water every day) and nitrites begin to spike. Once Ammonia and Nitrite hit zero on your test kit, your cycle is complete! Do a large water change to reduce nitrates and your tank is ready for fish. Add you fish one at a time every few days instead of all at once. The beneficial bacteria are still growing and you don’t want to overwhelm them!

Adding Your Angelfish To The Tank

Once your cycle is complete, you are in the clear to add your fish! If you want to be on the safe side, it is best to get a few hardy species such as mollies or guppies and add them to your aquarium first. Watch them for a few days and make sure they look healthy before adding your Angelfish.

When the time finally comes to add your Angelfish, make sure your tank is set to the proper temperate. Angelfish like a temperature of 76-82 degrees. If you still need a heater for your tank, I would highly recommend looking into the Aqueon Pro Heaters, I have used them for a whole and they are extremely durable and reliable.

Slowly acclimate your Angelfish to your aquarium by floating them in the bag for 20-30 minutes. When the temperatures are evened out, you can finally release your fish into the tank. You have been building up to this for weeks and it is an exciting time, congratulations!

Feeding Your Angelfish

Angelfish are aggressive eaters and definitely look forward to meal time. It is important to feed your Angelfish a healthy, balanced diet if you want them to thrive and be happy in your new home aquarium. I would recommend a mixture of flake food and meaty, frozen food to keep you Angelfish as healthy and strong as possible. I usually give my Angelfish TetraMin Tropical Flakes a few times throughout the day supplemented by frozen brine shrimp or blood worms at night. You can decrease the amount of frozen food as the Angelfish get older, but this is not necessary. Live brine shrimp is also a great treat once in a while!

Only feed you Angelfish as much as they can eat in a 60 second period. It is better to feed your Angelfish 3-4 times a day in small quantities than one large meal. Feeding too much as one time will only increase the amount of uneaten food and make your aquarium dirty. In fact, overfeeding is the most common mistake made by new fishkeepers!

Maintaining Your Aquarium

A huge part of keeping you Angelfish happy and stress-free is having a healthy aquarium. Keeping an aquarium requires a good amount of work, so if you are looking for a set-and-forget kind of hobby, this probably isn’t for you!

Water changes should preferably be done on a bi-weekly schedule. Every other week, swap out between 10-20% of the total tank volume and replace it with fresh water. Before adding the new water, make sure it is dechlorinated and ready for your fish. During water changes, you should scrub the glass of your aquarium to remove any build up or algae. You should also use a siphon to suck up any settled waste on the sand/gravel. Getting rid of this waste before it has a chance to decompose will help keep your ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in check.

During water changes, you should also do a thorough cleaning of your filter. Put a few cups in a bucket and splash your filter around to remove any gunk or slime. This will help prevent your parasites from building up and infecting your fish. It is very important to ONLY use existing tank water to clean your filter, do not run it under the faucet or anything. Doing so will kill all of the beneficial bacteria, which, as you know, are very important to the health of your tank.

Missing a water change here and there is not a huge deal. I commonly let my aquarium go for a month without doing a water change. As long as you are testing your water often, you shouldn’t have nay problems. Just make sure you do water changes at least once a month. Your fish will love you for it!


Setting up a successful Angelfish aquarium is a lot of work. If done properly, your Angelfish will live for years and bring you a ton of joy. As they grow, you will notice that each Angelfish has his/her own unique personality, something that is not common among many fish. You put a lot of hard work into your aquarium, enjoy it as often as you can!

2 thoughts on “Complete Freshwater Angelfish Set Up And Care Guide”

  1. My daughter has had many fish, betas, guppies, goldfish, etc. but I really want to know if my guppy’s will get bullied or eaten by the angelfish that I would like to buy my daughter for her birthday. We have a 20 gallon tank and will have 3 guppies. (1 male 2 females with hopefully one angelfish.) if the guppies do reproduce we will give away the young, but I would just like to make sure this is okay.

    • There is a good chance that some of the guppies will end up being eaten. Some people like this since it helps control guppy populations, but I wouldn’t recommend keeping them together if this would bother you.


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