Angelfish Keeping For Newbies

The freshwater angelfish, described as far back as 1831 as Platax scalaris, is a favourite amongst all keepers of freshwater fish.


Common Angelfish in breeding condition

When I started keeping angels in the early 1960’s they were described in all of my reference books as Pterophylum eimekei but these and many other names are now considered to be synonyms of Pterophylum scalare.

This is the common form of the angelfish that is kept and bred by fish hobbyists worldwide. The elongated finnage and graceful manner makes angelfish keeping very popular. Having decided to keep tropical fish, it isn’t long before at least one angelfish finds it’s way into the aquarium of any new fishkeeper.

Keeping angelfish
Angelfish belong to a family of fish known as Cichlids and although they don’t look like most other Cichlids they do display the same characteristics. The Angelfish is one species where appearances really can be deceptive and anyone new to fish keeping should bear that in mind when adding them to their community of tetras and guppies.

Cichlids are omnivorous by nature and will eat anything that will fit into their mouths and angelfish are no exception. It is an interesting fact that if you start off with a new tank containing small tetras and guppies and one or more angelfish they will all live quite happily together with few problems. As they grow the angels somehow don’t consider the smaller fish as food.

Beautiful Koi breeding angelfish

Introduce some new small neon tetras to your tank though and your angel will soon be feasting on a nice neon snack and you will be one unhappy fish keeper. It is also worth pointing out that if you have any livebearers (guppies, platys or swordtails for instance) and hope to save any of the babies when they spawn you should not consider keeping angels with them.

Angelfish develop monogamous relationships and once a pair bond has been established they will spawn regularly until something happens to one of the partners. Like all cichlids they have a very advanced breeding behaviour in that they look after their young until long after they are free-swimming and become very protective.

If you keep your angels well fed on a variety of live, frozen and prepared dry foods they will spawn continuously. As soon as their brood has become independent they will spawn again. If their eggs or fry get eaten, as is often the case in a crowded aquarium, they will often spawn again within days.

Breeding Angelfish
Once you have kept angelfish for any length of time it seems almost inevitable that you want to breed them. In just the same way that those people who seem to be able to get anything to grow in the garden are referred to as having ‘green fingers’ there are those that seem to be able to get any species of fish to breed perhaps we could say that they have ‘fish fingers’ but where I live they are something completely different.

So if you are one of those people who struggle to get your angels to breed let me offer a little advice. First of all you’ll notice that I said ‘get your angels to breed’ not ‘breed your angels’. Now before you say what is he talking about, this guy’s gone completely off his head let me explain.

You see I believe that us aquarists never ever breed fish. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had tanks full of fry from literally dozens of species over the years but it’s my belief that the fish spawned, I only provided the right conditions for them. And for me this is the key to this whole spawning, breeding thing. You can do whatever you want but unless your fish are happy with the conditions, feel secure in the environment they will never spawn.

So what are the right conditions? Well, because so many species are bred in captivity now and we are working with fish that, in some cases, have been bred in captivity for many generations, the conditions are not as exacting as they used to be.

Having said that I still think that the closer you are able to replicate the conditions found in nature for the species the more likely you are of having success. The next thing to consider is whether you want to raise as many of the fry as possible so you can sell them off and pay towards your hobby or whether you just want to see fish spawning for the pleasure of it.

If you keep your pair of angels in a crowded community tank, most of the fry will end up being eaten by the other fish despite the attention of the parents. To breed angels so that you can raise lots of fry to sell you will need a separate tank and preferably one that is basically bare. For years I used roofing slate to cover the base of the tank but apart from that the tank just contained a vertical flat area, like another narrow piece of slate on which to spawn.

It is important to have some covering on the base of the tank because if you don’t your angels will see the refection of the base glass and often swim upside down or at the very least become very skittish – not what you want when trying to get them to spawn.

Now I can hear many of you saying hang on a minute, not so fast, let’s go back a bit and talk about how to get a pair in the first place.

OK, how do we get a breeding pair? Obviously you could buy a breeding pair from someone who has had a pair spawn, that’s the quickest and most obvious way of getting your pair. They will, of course, be more expensive than two random fish bought from a shop but they are a known pair and as angels tend to pair for life they will spawn again once they have settled into their new home.

 The approach that I prefer to take with any fish that I want to spawn is to buy a batch of young fish and grow them on, allowing them to pair off naturally. I bought six juvenile angels about 3 months ago that were around 2” from the top of the dorsal fin to the base of the anal fin and now at 6” or 7” down the fins one pair has emerged and they are spawning regularly in my community tank.

As space and time permits I’ll be moving these off into a separate breeding tank as described and hopefully they will raise a good batch of fry. I find this method to be the best. It’s impossible to sex young angels, not so difficult in larger angels when the female is usually much wider in the belly region because she is usually carrying eggs, so starting off with 6 or 8 young fish and growing them on is the most successful I’ve found.

You could spend a lifetime with just this one species and there is a lot more to say on the subject of breeding angelfish and angelfish keeping in general and this page is already getting quite long.

I’ve started adding regular posts on angelfish and all aspects of keeping and breeding them so to learn lots more about these fascinating fish head on over to my angelfish keeping pages.


Regards, Trevor Greenfield

Angelfish Keeping

Angelfish Breeding
Hi all One of my Angels is laying eggs as i type!!!! Im all excited as i have never seen this before and its amazing.

How To Take Care Of Your Little Angels

If you are interested in breeding Angelfish, you will need a second tank to separate the breeding pair from the rest of the community, or to rear the fry. It would be best to get at least 3 to 5 Angels to be sure you get one female.

Angelfish Breeders Online
Commercial and hobby breeders of quality angelfish.

My New Angelfish Finally

Yeah!! After researching for about half a year, I finally bought my first fish tank!! and I just bought a pair of angelfish today.

Angelfish Breeding question
I have a breeding pair of angels, and they have been together for about 18 months they spawn about every 16-20 days. My question is how long will they continue to breed? what is the viable lifespan of a breeding pair?