How to Care for Your Angelfish
Angelfish are easily recognizable by their elongated, triangular dorsal and anal fins and colorful, striped body. Freshwater angelfish, named after the unrelated marine angelfish, are a popular cichlid species originally from the Amazon region of South America and are relatively calm and slow-moving, only occasionally getting excited or territorial during feeding and spawning. Angelfish care requires some specific considerations unique to angelfish including aquarium conditions, water temperature, pH, and feeding. These aspects of Angelfish care are easy to learn and will make for a happier, healthier angelfish.
Preparing the Aquarium
There are five key factors in providing the ideal aquarium for angelfish care:
- Aquarium size
- Water temperature
- Filtration system
- Water pH
- Live plants
When considering aquarium size for angelfish care, it is best to factor in the ratio of angelfish to gallons of water. The following guide should be used as a rule of thumb:
- 1 gallon of water per nickel-sized angelfish
- 2 gallons of water per quarter-sized angelfish
- 3 gallons of water per silver dollar-sized angelfish
- 4 gallons of water per full grown angelfish
For breeding, a pair of angelfish should have a minimum for 15 gallons of water unless the fry will be raised with the parents in which case the aquarium should be 25 gallons or more.
Water temperature for angelfish care depends on whether breeding is intended or not. A higher water temperature is better for immune systems and spawning, around 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
Fish intended only for show, however, are more versatile. Lower temperatures result in longer lifespan but slower growth. Temperatures between 74 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit are sufficient for non-breeding angelfish. Monitor your angelfish with an aquarium thermometer to be more precise.
Because angelfish are not adapted for efficient swimming, a high flow filtration system may be stressful for them. Opt for a sponge filter or an under-gravel filter (or both). For larger tanks, a small power filter makes an excellent supplement. Regardless you will still need to do regular partial water changes for a healthy, clean aquarium.
Wild angelfish prefer slightly acidic water, while domestic bred angelfish can often tolerate more neutral water. For breeding, an ideal pH is between 6.5 and 6.9. Use a cichlid buffer or pH regulator to adjust your levels. Always keep an eye on your levels with a pH test kit to avoid dangerous fluctuations.
In any freshwater aquarium, the addition of live plants can be beneficial, especially for angelfish care. Plants are good indicators of water quality, they will die before fish do and they help keep water clear and free of algae while adding oxygen.
Choose a broadleaf plant such as Amazon Sword Plants, Java Moss, Water Sprite and Java Fern to promote spawning.
Feeding your Angelfish
Flake fish food is sufficient for an angelfish, and cichlid foods are also a good staple choice, but they should be fed a varied diet. Live foods such as adult brine shrimp, black worms, blood worms, mosquito larvae, chopped earthworms and guppy fry are favorite foods of angelfish. You can raise brine shrimp yourself, but it may be best to avoid other live foods because they often carry parasites and could cause disease.
Angelfish can also be fed frozen foods such as brine shrimp or blood worms. Or make homemade angelfish food from raw beef heart (finely ground) and unflavored gelatin. Freeze the food immediately and make sure there is no fat in the meat.
Adult angelfish should be fed once or twice a day and only as much as they can eat in five minutes. Angelfish will overeat but won't digest excessive food. Overfeeding contributes to dirty aquariums and problems like ammonia buildup. Use a fish feeder if you'd like, to avoid overfeeding.
The temperature and age of your angelfish also affects how much you should feed. If you keep the water above 77 degrees Fahrenheit, you may want to increase how much food you feed your angelfish to correspond with its higher metabolism. Growing angelfish need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day.
Keeping the Tank Clean
Changing the water
Changing the water regularly keeps the quality of your water high and your angelfish healthy. How often you should change the water will vary, but it is nearly impossible to do it too often, as long as you only do partial changes.
The more angelfish that are in the tank, the more often the water should be changed. Higher temperature, heavy feeding and higher pH also require more frequent water changes.
Make sure that the water being added is of the same hardness and pH as the existing water. Use water conditioning chemicals or cichlid buffers to prepare your tap water.
Younger angelfish require the water to be changed more often than fully-grown stock. Breeders should change 50% of the water each day, while regular show fish can be changed as little at 20% a week.
Overfeeding the fish leads to excess debris. Make sure to use a net to remove any uneaten food or floating matter to keep the tank clean.
You should also remove debris from the bottom of the tank with a siphon or gravel vacuum. Insert the siphon into the tank and suck lightly or pump the siphon until water begins flowing through. Run the siphon along the bottom of the tank, stirring up the rocks and gravel to remove embedded debris. Remove only as much water that is needed to remove the waste and then replace the water.
Algae can be removed with a magnetic scraper, an abrasive sponge or manual scraper. You can also buy an algae-eating fish like a Plecostomus to fight algae, but make sure it is a fish that is compatible with your angelfish. (Plecos will not eat enough algae to keep yours under control if you have a phosphate problem.) Avoid keeping your tank in direct sunlight or using non-aquarium lighting, both of which cause algae blooms.
Angelfish virus is highly infectious and potentially deadly. Symptoms include: clamped fins, listless behavior (nose pointed slightly upwards) and excess slime. There is no cure for angelfish virus and infected angelfish can stay infectious for up to 6 months. They should be quarantined or properly disposed of. Avoid this and other diseases with stress relief products and vitamin supplements
Flagellates, such as Hexamita, are common in overcrowded, overstressed angelfish. Symptoms include decreased appetite and chalky, white feces. To treat, use stress relief products and raise temperature of the water slightly.
Capillaria is a parasite that causes an angelfish to lose its appetite. They will usually mouth their food and spit it out if they are infected. Capillaria, as all parasites, requires a special medication for treatment.
Types of Angelfish
- Gold angelfish are a light shade of yellow and mature into a golden color
- Zebra angelfish have a black body and narrow white stripes.
- Silver angelfish have black vertical markings, and tawny heads.
- Kole angelfish are white with black markings. Young kole angelfish have red markings beneath the eyes that fades as they mature.
- Smoky angelfish are silver on the front half and dark gray or black on the back half.
- Pearly gold angelfish are a shimmering gold color, more brilliant than the gold angelfish.
- Black angelfish have completely black bodies.
- Blushing angelfish are a delicate white with gold markings on top.
- Black lace angelfish are black with wide, whit stripes.
- Blue blushing angelfish are a soft gray color and can change shades depending on their mood.
General Tips for Angelfish Care
- While treating an angelfish for sickness, it can help the process along by raising the temperature of the water slightly.
- It is recommended to keep angelfish alone, as they may contract diseases from other species of fish.
- Be careful not to distress angelfish just after they have spawned. Stress can cause angelfish to eat their young. To make sure this doesn't happen, use a refugium.
- Angelfish can have a lifespan of up to 10 to 12 years. Lowering the water temperature may lengthen lifespan, but weakens their immune system.
- Angelfish prefer a calm environment with little noise.
- It can be difficult to tell a male angelfish apart from a female angelfish. The best time to notice is during spawning. A male fish has a shorter, pointier breeding tube while a female has a blunter one.
- Filtering tap water can make it more suitable for adding to your aquarium.
- To prevent parents from eating fry, you can raise them separately by transferring the eggs into a refugium once they are spawned.