Freshwater Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare): Care Guide

Freshwater Angelfish (Pterophyllum Scalare)

Freshwater Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) are captivating and popular aquarium fish known for their unique shape and graceful movements. Native to the Amazon Basin in South America, these fish exhibit a striking triangular body, allowing them to hide among plants and roots in their natural habitat. They can grow up to 6 inches in length and display a variety of colors and patterns, including silver, black, gold, and marble. 

Angelfish are cichlids, which means they are part of a larger family known for their intelligent behavior and complex social structures. In the wild, they prefer slow-moving waters and are adept at adapting to various water conditions, making them relatively easy to care for in home aquariums. Moreover, angelfish are known for their breeding behavior, often forming monogamous pairs and fiercely protecting their eggs and fry, offering aquarists a glimpse into their intriguing social dynamics.

Common Name(s)Freshwater Angelfish
Scientific NamePterophyllum scalare
OriginAmazon Basin, Orinoco Basin, and various rivers in the Guiana Shield in Tropical South America
Temperature76°F to 86°F (24°C to 30°C)
SizeUp to 6 inches (15 cm) in length
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons (114 liters) for a pair; larger groups will require more space
Food & DietOmnivorous; includes flake, live, frozen, and pellet foods. They can eat brine shrimp, bloodworms, and more
Lifespan10 years, with proper care
Water pH6.0 to 7.5
Tank MatesCompatible with many species, but avoid very small fish that could be seen as prey. Good with tetras, corydoras, and some cichlids
BreedingMonogamous; lay eggs on a flat surface. Parents tend to the eggs and fry
Common DiseasesIch, fin rot, and freshwater velvet; proper water quality and nutrition can prevent most diseases

Freshwater Angelfish Care

Freshwater Angelfish are considered moderately hardy and can be relatively easy to care for, making them suitable for both beginners and experienced fish keepers. Angelfish thrive in well-maintained aquariums with a temperature range of 76°F to 86°F (24°C to 30°C), a slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.5 to 7.5), and soft to moderately hard water. 

They require a varied diet consisting of flakes, pellets, and live or frozen foods to stay healthy. While they are generally peaceful, their size and tendency to become territorial during breeding make them better suited for medium to large tanks with ample hiding spots and space to swim. With proper care, including regular water changes and tank monitoring, Angelfish can be a rewarding addition to a community aquarium.

Food & Diet

To ensure Freshwater Angelfish can thrive in your aquarium, providing them with the right diet is crucial. Here’s information on their food and diet: 

Variety Is Key

Freshwater Angelfish are omnivores, meaning their diet in the wild includes both plant and animal matter. In captivity, it’s important to mimic this variety to ensure a balanced diet. Their diet can include:

  • Flake and Pelleted Foods: High-quality flake foods and pellets formulated for tropical fish can provide a good base for their diet. Look for products that are high in protein and contain added vitamins and minerals.
  • Frozen Foods: Frozen foods are a convenient alternative to live foods and are often safer due to the lower risk of disease transmission. Options like frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia are great choices.
  • Live Foods: Live foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and micro worms are excellent for angelfish, providing them with protein and encouraging their natural hunting behaviors. However, live foods should be sourced from reliable suppliers to avoid the risk of disease.
  • Vegetable Matter: Although angelfish are not heavy plant eaters, incorporating some vegetable matter into their diet can be beneficial. Blanched vegetables like spinach, zucchini, and peas can be offered occasionally.

Feeding Schedule

Angelfish should be fed 2-3 times a day, with only as much food as they can consume in about three minutes per feeding session. Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality and health issues.

Special Considerations for Juveniles

Juvenile angelfish have higher nutritional needs for growth and development. They should be fed more frequently, up to 3-4 times a day, with a diet rich in protein. Baby brine shrimp are particularly beneficial for young angelfish.

Signs of a Balanced Diet

A well-fed angelfish will have bright colors, clear eyes, and an active demeanor. Their growth should be steady, and they should not exhibit signs of malnutrition or obesity.

Avoiding Common Dietary Problems

  • Overfeeding: This is a common problem that can lead to water quality issues and health problems in angelfish. Feed them in moderation.
  • Poor Quality Food: Low-quality food can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Always opt for high-quality, brand-name foods.
  • Lack of Variety: A monotonous diet can result in nutritional gaps and decreased immunity. Ensure a mix of different food types.

By ensuring your Freshwater Angelfish receives a balanced and nutritious diet, you can contribute to their health and longevity. Remember, the exact dietary needs can vary based on the fish’s size, age, and health, so adjust feeding practices as necessary.

Temperature & Water Parameters

To ensure the health and vitality of Freshwater Angelfish in a home aquarium, it’s essential to maintain the appropriate water conditions. Here are the optimal temperature and water parameters for them:


  • Optimal Temperature Range: 76°F to 86°F (24°C to 30°C).
  • Maintaining a stable temperature within this range is crucial for the well-being of angelfish, as significant fluctuations can stress them and make them susceptible to diseases.

Water Parameters

  • pH Level: 6.0 to 7.5.
    • Angelfish thrive in slightly acidic to neutral water. Keeping the pH within this range will help ensure their health and comfort.
  • Water Hardness (dGH): 3 to 8 degrees.
    • Soft to moderately hard water is ideal for angelfish, reflecting their natural Amazonian habitat.
  • Ammonia (NH3): 0 ppm.
    • Ammonia levels should always be kept at 0 ppm, as ammonia is toxic to fish even at low concentrations.
  • Nitrite (NO2): 0 ppm.
    • Like ammonia, nitrite is harmful to fish and should be undetectable in a well-cycled aquarium.
  • Nitrate (NO3): Less than 20 ppm.
    • While less toxic than ammonia and nitrite, high levels of nitrate can stress fish and lead to health issues. Regular water changes can help control nitrate levels.

Additional Considerations

  • Water Changes: Regular water changes (about 10-25% weekly) are recommended to maintain water quality.
  • Filtration: A good filtration system is essential to keep the water clean and remove harmful substances.

Maintaining these conditions will help create a healthy and visually appealing aquarium for your Freshwater Angelfish, allowing them to display their full beauty and natural behaviors.

Tank Setup

Setting up a tank for Freshwater Angelfish requires careful consideration of their natural habitat and behavior. These elegant fish thrive in a well-planned environment that mirrors their native Amazonian waters. Here’s a guide to setting up the perfect tank for your Angelfish:

  • Minimum Tank Size: For a pair or small group of Angelfish, start with at least a 20-gallon tank. However, a larger tank (55 gallons or more) is preferable, especially for a community tank or if you plan to breed them. Angelfish are tall, so a tank with greater height is beneficial.
  • Substrate: Use fine sand or smooth gravel that won’t damage the Angelfish’s delicate fins.
  • Plants: Angelfish appreciate a densely planted tank that mimics their natural environment. Use tall plants like Amazon swords, Java fern, or Anubias. Floating plants can also provide shade and reduce stress.
  • Decor: Include driftwood, rocks, and caves to create hiding spots and territories. Be mindful of sharp edges that could harm the Angelfish.
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting is sufficient for Angelfish, and it also supports plant growth. However, too much light can promote excessive algae growth.
  • Filtration: Use a high-quality filter to keep the water clean and well-oxygenated. Angelfish prefer a gentle current, so adjust the filter output accordingly.
  • Maintenance: Perform regular water changes (about 20-25% weekly) to maintain water quality. Test the water parameters regularly to ensure they remain within the ideal range for Angelfish.

Behavior & Temperament

Freshwater Angelfish are known for their interesting behaviors. Here’s a detailed look at their behavior and temperament:

Social Behavior

  • Semi-aggressive Nature: Angelfish are generally peaceful but can become territorial, especially during breeding. They may show aggression towards smaller fish or those with similar body shapes.
  • Group Dynamics: They do well in groups, especially if raised together from a young age. However, as they mature, their social hierarchy can lead to dominance disputes among males.
  • Compatibility: They are best kept with fish of similar size and temperament. Small, fast, or fin-nipping species should be avoided as tank mates.

Environmental Influence on Behavior

  • Impact of Tank Conditions: The environment plays a crucial role in their behavior. Poor water quality or inadequate space can increase stress and aggression.
  • Need for Hiding Spots: Providing plants, caves, or other hiding places can help reduce stress and aggression, offering a sanctuary for subordinate fish or a retreat for stressed individuals.

Activity Level

  • Generally Peaceful but Active: They are relatively active swimmers, especially when in a spacious tank. Their activity levels can increase with the right tank mates and environmental enrichment.

Freshwater Angelfish are fascinating creatures with complex behaviors influenced by their environment, social dynamics, and individual temperament. While they can exhibit semi-aggressive tendencies, creating a balanced and spacious aquarium setup with compatible tank mates can minimize conflicts and showcase their graceful and intriguing nature. Regular monitoring and adjustments to their environment can help maintain a harmonious aquarium.

Tank Mates

Freshwater Angelfish are a popular choice for many aquarium enthusiasts due to their unique shape and generally peaceful demeanor. However, their compatibility with other fish is an important consideration when planning your aquarium setup. Here are some suitable tank mates for Freshwater Angelfish:

  • Tetras: Tetras species such as the Neon Tetra, Cardinal Tetra, Black Skirt Tetra, and Rummy-nose Tetra are potentially good tank mates. These fish are generally peaceful and share similar water condition requirements. However, choosing larger tetra species will help prevent angelfish from seeing them as food.
  • Corydoras Catfish: These bottom dwellers are peaceful and can help keep the tank clean by scavenging for food. They are also hardy fish that can coexist well with angelfish.
  • Dwarf Cichlids: Such as Apistogramma and Rams (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi). These are smaller cichlids that can hold their own with angelfish without being aggressive.
  • Loaches: Kuhli Loach and Yoyo Loach are good choices. They are peaceful and tend to keep to themselves, occupying different areas of the tank than angelfish.
  • Plecostomus: Plecos can grow quite large but are generally peaceful. They can be good tank mates for angelfish, helping keep algae in check.
  • Gouramis: Dwarf Gourami and Honey Gourami are peaceful species that can share a tank with angelfish. However, monitor for any signs of aggression, as angelfish and gouramis can sometimes have territorial disputes.
  • Livebearers: Such as Mollies, Platies, and Swordtails. These are generally peaceful fish that can coexist with angelfish. However, angelfish might prey on the fry of these species.

Tank Conditions and Other Considerations

  • Water Parameters: Ensure the tank’s water conditions (temperature, pH, hardness) are suitable for all species.
  • Tank Size: A larger tank (55 gallons or more) is preferable to prevent territorial behavior and provide ample swimming space.
  • Plants and Hiding Spots: Provide plenty of vegetation and hiding places to reduce stress and aggression among tank inhabitants.
  • Feeding: Ensure all species receive appropriate food. Angelfish are omnivores, so a varied diet will benefit the entire tank.

It’s essential to observe the fish’s behavior when introducing new species to the tank. Even generally compatible species can have individual differences in temperament. Start with a well-thought-out community plan, and be prepared to make adjustments if necessary.

Common Disease & Health Issues

Freshwater Angelfish, like all aquarium fish, are susceptible to certain health issues and diseases. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Ichthyophthirius Multifiliis (Ich or White Spot Disease): This is a very common parasitic disease in aquarium fish. It is characterized by white spots on the skin, fins, and gills of the fish. Fish with ich may show signs of irritation, such as rubbing against objects, and may have difficulty breathing or become lethargic.
  • Fin and Tail Rot: This bacterial infection causes the edges of the fins and tail to appear ragged and frayed. It can progress to more severe stages if left untreated, potentially leading to the complete loss of fin tissue. Poor water quality often exacerbates this condition.
  • Hole-in-the-Head Disease: This disease is characterized by pits or holes on the head and face of the fish. It’s thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including poor water quality, nutritional deficiencies, and possibly parasites.
  • Freshwater Velvet Disease (Oodinium): Caused by a parasitic dinoflagellate, this disease presents as a velvety, dusty coating on the skin of the fish. It can lead to severe irritation, respiratory distress, and if untreated, death.
  • Bacterial Infections: Various bacterial infections can affect angelfish, leading to symptoms such as ulcers, red streaks or spots, swollen body parts, and abnormal swimming behavior. Poor water quality and stress can make fish more susceptible to bacterial diseases.
  • Fungal Infections: Fungal infections typically manifest as cotton-like growths on the skin, mouth, or fins. They often occur after another injury or infection has weakened the fish’s defenses.

Prevention and Treatment:

  • Water Quality: Maintaining high water quality is crucial in preventing many diseases. Regular water changes, proper filtration, and monitoring of water parameters (such as temperature, pH, and ammonia levels) are essential.
  • Quarantine: New fish should be quarantined in a separate tank for at least two weeks before being introduced to the main aquarium to prevent the spread of diseases.
  • Diet: Providing a varied and balanced diet can help keep angelfish healthy and better able to resist infections.
  • Medications: There are various medications available to treat the diseases mentioned above. It’s important to diagnose the condition accurately to choose the right treatment and to follow the medication instructions carefully.

Consultation with a veterinarian specialized in aquatic animals is recommended for accurate diagnosis and treatment advice, especially for severe or persistent health issues.


Breeding Freshwater Angelfish can be a rewarding experience for aquarium enthusiasts. These beautiful fish, require specific conditions and care to successfully breed. Here’s how to breed them:

Setting Up the Breeding Tank

  • Tank Size: A 20-gallon tank is suitable for a breeding pair, but a larger tank (30-40 gallons) is preferable for better space and water quality control.
  • Water Conditions: Maintain the water temperature between 78-84°F (25.5-29°C). The pH should be slightly acidic to neutral (6.5-7.0), and water hardness should be kept soft to moderately hard.
  • Filtration: Use a sponge filter or a gentle filtration system to keep the water clean while protecting fry from being sucked into the filter.
  • Environment: Include vertical surfaces for spawning, such as broad-leaf plants or a piece of slate leaned against the tank side. Providing hiding places with plants or decorations can also make the angelfish feel more secure.

Selecting and Introducing Breeding Pairs

  • Selection: Angelfish pair off naturally. It’s often recommended to start with a group of juveniles and allow them to pair off as they mature.
  • Isolation: Once a pair has formed, isolate them in the breeding tank to prevent aggression from or towards other fish.

Spawning Process

  • Inducing Spawning: Spawning can be encouraged by slightly raising the water temperature within the ideal range and performing regular water changes.
  • Egg Laying: The female will lay eggs on the chosen vertical surface, and the male will follow to fertilize them. This can happen repeatedly over several hours.
  • Egg Care: Parents often care for the eggs by fanning them with their fins to prevent mold and eating unfertilized or dead eggs. However, some pairs may eat their eggs or fry, especially if they are inexperienced or stressed.

After Spawning

  • Egg Hatch: Eggs typically hatch within 2-3 days, depending on the temperature. The fry will feed off their yolk sacs for the first few days.
  • Feeding Fry: Once the fry begin swimming freely, start feeding them with specially formulated fry food or finely crushed flakes. Live food like baby brine shrimp can also be introduced at this stage.
  • Fry Care: Perform daily water changes to maintain high water quality. Be gentle and careful to avoid harming the fry.

Tips for Success

  • Monitor Water Quality: Regular testing and maintenance of water parameters are crucial for the health of the eggs and fry.
  • Patience and Observation: Breeding angelfish requires patience. Pay close attention to the behavior of the fish and the condition of the eggs and fry, making adjustments as needed.
  • Separate Aggressive or Inattentive Parents: If the parents consistently eat their eggs or fry, consider removing the eggs to a separate tank for artificial hatching and raising.

Breeding angelfish can be challenging but fulfilling, offering an opportunity to observe the fascinating reproductive behaviors of these fish and contribute to the hobby by raising healthy, beautiful angelfish.

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