Angelfish – Questions and Answers

Angelfish keepingOver the past few years I’ve been writing down questions that I’ve received on how to breed angel fish. And just recently, I decided to type them out and let everyone see them.

I can say now that breeding angelfish isn’t difficult but for many years I struggled. Like most Cichlids, angelfish retain their natural instinct to breed without our intervention. Fortunately, even after many generations of breeding in captivity they haven’t lost their ability to spawn. Raising the young is another matter.

We often talk about breeding fish but in reality all we do is provide the right conditions for them to breed themselves. The secret, if there is one, is providing those right conditions.

So here they are… Questions that people have asked on How to breed angelfish.

What are the growth stages of Angel Fish?

  • Egg – 0 to 60 hours
  • Wigglers – From hatching to free Swimming – Depending on the temperature, this usually occurs on the 7th Day
  • Fry swimming – From free swimming to taking the form of an Angelfish
  • Juveniles – When they take on the appearance of an angelfish
  • Adults – Usually around 6-9 months once they are at breeding stage

How can I tell male angelfish from female angelfish?
There are some subtle differences that an experienced angelfish breeder can use to help identify mature males and females. Some angelfish enthusiasts say that the angle of the anal fin in relation to the belly of the angelfish, will identify the sex. Others say that some male angels may have a hump on the crown and some may be larger than the females.

In a group of angels that haven’t recently been fed, females can often be identified as being the ones with a fully belly region.

There seems to be so many ways of telling them apart, but none seem to be 100% correct. These differences do not exist on immature angelfish, all of the time. Therefore, the only sure way to tell the difference between mature males from mature females is to examine the breeding tubes during spawning. The female’s breeding tube is wider and more blunt than the male’s.

Does the pecking order change when a pair is formed?
Everything changes when a pair is formed! Normally the pecking order will stay as it is until a pair is formed. Once a male and female form a pair, then it does change everything in the tank. The pair will normally become aggressive in defending their territory.

The rest of the inhabitants in the tank will be forced to take cover and can often be found cowering in the corners. To be fair to the rest of the fish, I suggest that you either remove the pair from the tank, or the other fish.

Can two different types of angelfish breed?
Yes they can. Whether it is black, koi, golden, silver etc, they will spawn with any other type of angel. That is how new varieties are created. New varieties are being created all of the time by selectively crossing angels with different characteristics. It doesn’t matter if they have standard fins, veils or super veils, pearl scales, blushing or not.

I have two angles now, so how do I tell if they are male or female?
Depending on the size of the angelfish now, it may take some time before you can tell their sex. The only real way of telling whether you have a male or female is by waiting for them to spawn. At that time, you will be able to see their breeding tube.

The female’s tube is blunt and much larger than the male’s since they have to deliver the eggs. Their breeding tubes can be said to be like a pencil. The female has a blunt tube, while the male has something similar to the tip of the pencil, shorter and more pointed. When the female is ready to spawn her lower body will become thicker as she starts to produce eggs.

Don’t be surprised when spawning starts to find that you have two females. It’s not unusual for two females to spawn if you only have two females. When the urge to spawn starts, there not being a male about doesn’t stop it from happening.

Can I get a pair of angels from keeping two angels?
With only two angels it is hard to get a pair. It has been done, but getting five or six angels and growing them up gives you a better chance for a pair. The chances of getting at least one pair from six angelfish is quite high.

I do not want to breed angelfish. What should I do?
If you are keeping your angelfish in a community tank, then another fish will generally eat the eggs when the lights go out. Sometimes, the parents will eat them once it gets dark. If you get parents that are protective enough to hatch their eggs in a community environment, there is still a chance that they do not survive. Breeding angelfish is not rocket science, but it is not that simple either.

What size do you sell baby angels at?
The answer to this will depend on what size the fish store wants to purchase them at. Some places will buy them when they are one inch in body size. Some want them bigger.

Normally, fish stores will take them when they are between one inch and one and a half inches in body size. They want them to be big enough to eat normal dried food and fend for themselves.

What can I do to make sure the youngsters grow quickly to their adult size? What food should I feed them and how often should they be fed?
As a fish breeder, you want your fry to grow as quickly as possible so that you can sell them on. I feed my young angels very heavily on a variety of dried foods including different sizes of granular foods working up to Tetra Prima. When possible I feed two or three times a day. If I’m around I will feed every hour.

However, when you feed this much it’s important to do more water changes. One tip for maximum fry growth is regular water changes. Young fish give off a growth restricting chemical to prevent them from lack of oxygen. The Germans used to call it schreit schtuff. Regular water changes dilutes this chemical and keeps your fry growing.

The foods you feed your fry on changes as they grow. Initially newly hatched brine shrimp is the only food they can take. Follow this with micro worm and grindal worm. Once they begin to take on the adult angel shape you can start them on fine granular food.

Frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms make a change but when growing on fry to sell we want to keep the cost down to a minimum. I do feed daphnia to my adult angels to bring them into spawning condition but only from my own culture tubs. Feeding daphnia collected from the wild often brings with it both types of flukes and other unwanted pests.

I also advise against feeding live tubifex worms, often called sewer worms because of where they are found. To be safe I advise only feeding dried foods or foods that you have cultured yourself.

When do angelfish reach adult size?
That depends on how well they are fed and how warm they are kept. The metabolism of  fish, being cold blooded animals, is affected by the temperature in which they are kept. In warmer water they will grow much quicker than they will in lower temperatures. If kept at the recommended 75 degrees they would normally reach adult size at around 10 to 12 months.

What’s the correct size tank to breed angelfish in?
A 20 – 25 gallon tank is adequate to breed a pair of angelfish. It will also provide sufficient space for the fry to grow on in before you need to move them into larger quarters.

What about a fry tank? What’s a good size for them?
As I said above , a 20 – 25 gallon tank will allow the fry to reach the adult shape at about 4 – 5 weeks old. Remember, you need to
make sure that you maintain high water quality by doing regular water changes. Once they reach this size, you will need to get yourself a growing on tank. For this I recommend a minimum size of 36″ x 15″ x 12″ or bigger.

What size and how old before angelfish start pairing up?
Angelfish will begin breeding more by age than by size. There is no hard and fast rule, a pair of angelfish may form at around 8 to 12 months. You may find that you get a pair earlier than this, while other times, you may find that they pair up later than 12 months.

How big are angelfish eggs?
They are about the size of a pinhead.

What happens during the first week once they laid their eggs?
If the female has deposited her eggs, and the male fertilizes them, the following should occur;

  • Day 0: The pair spawn.
  • Day 1: Any infertile eggs will turn white.
  • Day 2: More eggs may turn white. If the adult pair are still with the eggs they will pick off any fungused eggs. Today, wiggling tails may emerge some of the fertile eggs.
  • Day 3: Tadpole shape forms with large yolk sack, fry remain stuck to the slate.
  • Day 4: Small eyes begin to form. The fry will survive on their yoke sacs.There is no need to feed them yet.
  • Day 5: Eyes grow larger, yolk sack shrinks. Today, you should start your baby brine shrimp hatchery.
  • Day 6: Some fry are free swimming.
  • Day 7: Most of the fry should be free swimming. This is the time to start feeding them baby brine shrimp.


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