Angelfish are elegant and enchanting, and they make beautiful additions to a freshwater aquarium. Part of the cichlid species, Angelfish are tall and thin.
Their exquisitely long fins trail behind them gracefully as they swim, creating a magnificent display. Angelfish are impressive in size, too, growing from 4 to 10 inches long.
These striking fish are endemic to South America, though today many are bred in captivity around the world.
Angelfish have been kept as pets for over a century, and selective breeding through the years has resulted in a rich selection of color and pattern varieties.
Today, they are more popular than ever.
Popular Types of Angelfish
Here are some of the most popular angelfish varieties sold and kept as pets.
This kind of angelfish is known for the marbled markings displayed on its body. Marbles can come in different color variations, though the marbling itself is usually black.
Marble angelfish are one of the most resilient types; they are generally able to adapt to changes such as temperature fluctuations.
The Veil angelfish is sometimes called the Veiltail because of its remarkably long fins, giving tit an even more dramatic flair than other angelfish.
Take care when housing Veils, as their extra-long fins make them more vulnerable to hazards. In particular, watch out for other fish that might take a nip at those extensive fins. Veils may not do well with water temperature changes, so work to maintain consistency in your aquarium.
The Zebra angelfish is so named because of the distinctive vertical striping that runs the length of its body. Behind the stripes, Zebra angelfish have delicate blue coloring.
The Ghost angelfish is distinguished by its shimmering silver color. In adulthood, they often show some partial striping on their bodies. As with other types, there are variations within the Ghost category. For instance, you might see a Half-Black Ghost.
Albino angelfish are marked by their lack of color and their red eyes. Albinos possess an understated beauty, standing in contrast to their brightly colored relatives.
Usually all or mostly white, they do sometimes have some light golden striping. Be aware, though, that Albinos are more susceptible to certain health issues than other types of angelfish and generally have shorter lifespans.
Black Lace Angelfish
On the other end of the color spectrum is the Black Lace angelfish with its all-black body. This stark beauty makes this variety of angelfish a very popular addition to home aquariums.
The Leopard Angelfish is known for its spotted pattern resembling, of course, leopard spots. One thing to note about this variety is that those signature spots can actually fade away if lighting conditions in the aquarium are not ideal.
You’ll see the Gold (sometimes called Golden) angelfish in lots of aquariums, as it’s one of the most popular varieties on the market. Gold angelfish start out looking silvery with light gold, developing a richer golden color as they age.
The Blushing angelfish looks a lot like a Gold angelfish, save for a particular detail. This type of angelfish has orange or red coloring on its gills, which happen to look a lot like blushing cheeks.
Koi angelfish resemble Koi carp with their striking orange and white coloring. Each Koi angelfish displays its own unique and beautiful pattern.
This aptly named angelfish has grey coloring. Some Smokey combinations you might see from breeders or pet stores include Smokey Leopard and Smokey Blushing.
This is a rarer variety of angelfish, and it isn’t always readily available from pet stores. However, you may be able to find one by shopping around online (just be sure you’re dealing with reputable breeders). The reason they’re so hard to come by is that these fish are almost exclusively wild-caught, rather than captive bred like most other pet angelfish.
Caring for Angelfish
Angelfish require specific conditions to be healthy and happy. Remember that these are general guidelines; always check with the breeder or pet shop you buy from to get specific care instructions.
Here are some of the things you can feed your angelfish.
- Cichlid flakes
- Cichlid pellets
- Vegetables (boiled and cut into small pieces)
- Brine shrimp
- Bloodworms and white worms
- Mysis shrimp
The last 4 items on the list can be purchased in frozen or dehydrated form at most pet stores and online. Frozen foods should be thawed out before being offered to your fish.
Try to give them a variety of foods for a rich, diverse diet that will keep them at optimal health levels.
Some people feed their angelfish live food. Many experts do not recommend this, simply because the risk of introducing harmful bacteria into your tank is much higher than with prepared foods.
This can also cause your angelfish assume that any new tank companions are simply today’s lunch special.
Angelfish, in general, should be fed a couple of times per day. The typical rule of thumb is to give them no more than they can eat in about 2 minutes.
Overfeeding leads to an overabundance of waste in the tank, which can result in a buildup of dangerous ammonia and nitrite in the water.
Pet freshwater angelfish thrive in a temperature range between 76 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit (though they’ll need warmer water for spawning).
They like water with a pH anywhere from 6.5 – 7.5 (though this can certainly vary, so check with the breeder or pet store when you purchase yours).
While Angelfish may be able to survive in less than optimal water conditions, it’s best to keep their habitat as close to perfect as possible.
Angelfish like to have plants and rocks in their tanks, as they need plenty of places to explore and to hide.
You should provide a large enough aquarium for your angelfish, starting at a minimum of 20-30 gallons (larger depending on how many angelfish and other inhabitants you’ll place in it).
It’s important to outfit your tank with the proper lighting, filtration system, and other supplies. Make sure you know exactly what you’ll need and how to set it up before you move on to choosing an angelfish to bring home.
There are plenty of fish that can be placed in the same aquarium as an angelfish. Here’s a list of some species that are generally considered to be good tankmates.
- Dwarf Gouramis – This kind of fish can thrive in a range of water conditions, and usually acclimates rather easily to most aquatic environments. Dwarf gouramis are also quite docile and will not challenge other fish. As long as your angelfish is not overly aggressive (in which case, it might pick on this incredibly passive fish), this can be a solid choice.
- Guppies – Many people are able to keep guppies and angelfish together. Just introduce them while your angelfish is still young. Be aware, if you keep these fish together there is always a chance that your guppies will become food.
- Plecostomus – The plecostomus (also known as a “pleco” or “suckermouth catfish”) is usually a very amicable companion for angelfish. As a bonus, this fish will help keep the aquarium clean by ingesting algae and other tank debris. One issue with adding a pleco to your tank is that they can grow very large rather quickly, possibly overwhelming the size of your aquarium. Look for varieties that don’t grow very big, such as the Bristlenose plecostomus.
- Corydora Catfish – This fish, often called the “Cory cat,” is a really popular angelfish tank companion. This is mostly because of its non-confrontational nature and minimal care requirements. These little fish need companionship, though, so don’t just buy one.
- Mollies – Incredibly adaptable, Mollies make hardy tankmates for angelfish. They probably won’t bother your angelfish, and are strong enough to deal with it if your angel gets a bit aggressive sometimes.
- Swordtails – These hardy fish are strong and do well in a cohabitating situation with angelfish.
- German Blue Ram Cichlids – These lovely cichlids are quite passive, and usually fare very well in aquariums with more aggressive types of fish. Note that German Blue Rams can be extra sensitive to environmental factors and require very specific water conditions.
- Kribensis Cichlids – “Kribs” (AKA Kribensis Cichlids) can be a good choice for your angelfish tank. These pretty fish can be fairly aggressive, though they will usually refrain from fighting with angelfish provided there’s plenty of room in the tank.
- Keyhole Cichlids – Keyhole cichlids are fairly rare. If you find some, they can make excellent friends for your angelfish. Keyholes are relaxed and peaceful, and usually don’t attempt to square off with other fish.
- Tetras – Most tetras will peacefully coexist with your angelfish. Some tetras may try to bite the fins of an angelfish, so choose one of the less aggressive varieties such as Lemon tetras or Head and Tail Light tetras. Tetras like to live in schools, and should be placed together with at least 5 others.
- Aquatic Snails – While obviously not fish, snails can make great companions for angelfish. Neither the fish nor the snail is likely to bother the other, and snails can help keep your aquarium clean by feeding on algae and fish waste.
- Kuhli Loaches – Long, eel-like loaches are usually quite peaceful and tend to keep to themselves. They are most active at night. Kuhli loaches thrive in groups, so be sure to get a few of them.
- Platies – Tiny and colorful, platies work well in angelfish aquariums. They are peaceful, don’t require a lot of space, and are pretty easy to care for.
- Bala Sharks – Many people successfully keep Bala sharks with their angelfish, which makes for a gorgeous aquatic environment. One very important note, though: Bala sharks can grow to be pretty big, so you’ll need a very large tank to accommodate one.
The following do not make good tank companions for angelfish. Never place angelfish in the same aquarium with any of these.
Other Things You Should Know
- Angelfish do best when grouped with other angels (plus, there are few things more captivating to behold than multiple angelfish in a well-kept aquarium).
- It’s best to introduce tankmates when your angelfish is still young. At maturity, Angelfish can become territorial and hostile with new additions.
- Regarding tankmates, be careful about placing smaller fish in the aquarium with your angelfish. It’s not unheard of for angelfish to attack and even eat smaller fish. When placing a new roommate with your angelfish, monitor their interaction for a bit. Watch for aggressive behavior from either one, and make sure your new friend doesn’t take to nipping at your angel’s elongated fins.
- See that your angelfish has plenty of room to thrive and grow. Tanks that are too small can cause angelfish to become aggressive and can be detrimental to their health and well-being.
- Change some of the water in your aquarium regularly to make sure harmful levels of toxins don’t build up. Clean out filters and replace media as needed. Keep a water testing kit on hand so you can ensure it’s just right for your angels.
If you want to breed angelfish at home, you’ll have to take special care to see the process through.
It’s virtually impossible to spot the difference between male and female angelfish when they aren’t spawning, so many breeders start off with a group of angelfish to watch for them to pair off into male/female couples.
Alternatively, you may be able to purchase a breeding pair from a pet store or on the internet.
Once you’ve established a breeding pair, it’s best to provide a separate tank just for them. It’s especially important to keep the water conditions stable during this mating time.
If everything works out, the female will eventually deposit clusters of eggs around the tank. The male will then fertilize them. After this process is complete, most experts recommend taking the adult fish back out of the breeding tank.
This is because they might just gobble up the eggs and hatchlings, so it’s best not to risk it!
Choosing a Healthy Angelfish
When you’re looking at angelfish online or in a pet store, be discerning about which ones you choose. Ideally, you want to bring home only healthy fish. Here’s what to look for.
- Fins – Look for angels with intact fins that don’t look ragged or damaged.
- Eyes – Healthy angelfish will have clean, clear eyes. Cloudy or bulging eyes can indicate poor health.
- Behavior – Find fish that seem alert and engaged. Healthy angelfish should swim around and explore their tank (although they do enjoy hiding behind objects and plants). Avoid fish that seem lethargic or that swim erratically. Rubbing against objects in the aquarium can also be a symptom of sickness.
- Appetite – Watch fish at feeding time to ensure that they seem to be hungry and able to eat.
- Color – If you’re looking at a colored variety, look for bright colors. Dulled coloration could be a sign of illness, as can blotches and discolored spots.
- Size – If a particular fish looks either bony or bloated, it’s probably not a good sign.
- Living conditions – Don’t purchase an angelfish from a tank that is dirty or looks neglected. If there are sick or dead fish in the aquarium, steer clear.
Many health problems in angelfish are caused by poor water conditions, overcrowding, or improper diet.