Fish Care

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Types of Tropical Fish

Freshwater Angelfish

Common Angelfish

Zebra Angel, Pterophyllum Scalare
Zebra Angelfish

The Common Angelfish is also known as the Scalare or Zebra Angelfish. They originally came from the Amazon Basin. Unlike the Altum, Common Freshwater Angelfish come in a wide variety of names, shapes and colors, such as Black, Gold, Zebra Striped and Marbled. The body is extremely thin and disk shaped. The anal and dorsal fins are very long and eyes are often red. Common angelfish prefer a tank of about 30 gallons. The tank should contain hiding places and hardy plants are best.

Common Angelfish - Aquarium Setup

Common Angelfish are peaceful and ignore other fish, but they can be quite territorial, especially when breeding. Angelfish prefer soft, slightly acidic water, but they will tolerate a wide range of hardness and pH. If you don't plan to breed them they should be fine with a pH as high as 8.5

Koi Angelfish, Pterophyllum Scalare
Koi Angelfish

Common Angelfish - Breeding

The best way to breed angels is to start with about 8 - 10 juveniles. Look for angelfish that form pairs, as you won't be able to identify any sexual differences. Freshwater Angelfish breed on a flat vertical surface such as rock, leaves or aquarium glass. Temperatures should be at the upper end of their range. Make sure the water is soft and slightly acidic to help ensure the fry survive. Hundreds of eggs hatch in a couple of days. When the fry have finished their yolk sac, feed them brine shrimp until they are large enough for flake food. Both parents will also care for the young, but they have been known to eat a few of them too.

Common Angelfish - Compatibility:

Common Angelfish are compatible with Black Skirt Tetras, Blind Cave Tetras, Chinese Algae Eaters, Congo Tetras, Corydoras Catfish, Diamond Tetras, Gouramis, Kuhli Loaches, Lemon Tetras, Mollies, Platies, Plecostomus, Rainbowfish, Serpae Tetras, Silver Dollars, Silver Tip Tetras, Swordtails

Guppies, Neon Tetras and White Clouds are eaten by Angelfish. They often hunt smaller fish at night.

50% of our readers think that Discus are compatible with Angelfish.

Common Angelfish - Profile

  • Scientific Name: Pterophyllum Scalare

  • Family: Cichlid

  • Temperature: 24 - 30 C; 75 - 86 F

  • pH: 6.0 - 8.0

  • Size: 9 cm; 3.5 inches

  • Life Span: 15 years

  • Breeding: Normal, Egglayer

Freshwater Angelfish - Comments

Comments by Gillian: I have an angelfish and she likes flakes, freeze dried bloodworms, frozen bloodworms, and frozen mysis shrimp. And she's a total glutton and seems to be always hungry!! Many angels are like this I think, so it can be easy to overfeed them.

Altum Angelfish

Altum Angelfish, Pterophyllum altum
Altum Angelfish

The Altum Angelfish originates from the waters of the Rio Orinoco in Venezuela. They are also known as the Deep Angel due to their height.  Altums are considered one of the most beautiful freshwater angelfish, but are more difficult to keep than the Common angelfish, pterophyllum scalare. Altum Angelfish are also difficult to find in pet stores, as they are usually wild caught. Unlike the Common Angelfish, the Altum has not been bred into a variety of colors and fin variations. The Altum has vertical black stripes and a silver/brown background. There is an indentation or notching at the eyes, giving a pointed appearance to the mouth. The banding helps them hide easily among long stemmed plants. The Altum is much larger than the common angelfish and can reach 15 inches tall.

Altum Angelfish - Aquarium Setup

The tank for Altum Angelfish must be large and deep due to their size. Large, long stemmed plants are recommended to enhance the Altums vertical appearance and to provide hiding places. The water should be very soft and peat filtration is recommended. Open swimming spaces should also be provided. Although Altums are peaceful, they can also be territorial. Some open swimming spaces should be provided. The substrate should be large, smooth gravel to ensure their mouths are not cut when gravel is picked up. Temperatures in the tank are best at the higher end of their range.

Altum Angelfish, Pterophyllum altum
Altum Angelfish

Altum Angelfish - Feeding

Altums are not a great community fish, but larger tetras may successfully be kept with them. As they are mainly obtained in the wild, live foods will be preferred. Altum Angelfish will eat live and frozen brine shrimp, granular fish food, and live and frozen blood worms.

Altum Angelfish - Black Spot Disease

Altums can develop black spot disease, which produces small black spots over their body. It can be treated with Black Spot Control from Aquatronics. Avoid using copper sulfate for any Altum disease.

Altum Angelfish - Breeding

Breeding Altums will be difficult. Pairs can be determined by observing behaviour of larger groups. Soft water will be essential. Parents will guard their young, but other fish should not be present in the breeding tank.

Altum Angelfish - Compatibility:

Altum Angelfish are compatible with Other Angelfish, Corydoras, Gouramis, Plecos, large Tetras

Guppies and Neon Tetras are eaten by Angelfish.

50% of our readers indicate that Discus are compatible with Angelfish.

Altum Angelfish - Profile

  • Scientific Name: Pterophyllum altum

  • Family: Cichlid

  • Temperature: 25 - 30 C; 77 - 86 F

  • pH: 5.0 - 6.2

  • Size: 18 cm; 7 inches

  • Life Span: 15 years

  • Breeding: Difficult, Egglayer

Breeding Angelfish - by Tim Gautrey

Angelfish are quite easy to breed, once you can find a pair. It is near impossible to sex angels, so you have to buy about six young angels and let them pair off themselves. Put the six into a 55 gallon tank and you will soon see when a pair is forming by the aggression towards the others. Once two angels pair, they stay together for life, and will not re-pair if one of them dies. They become mature at around 9 months old.

Breeding Angelfish - Breeding Tank

Once a pair has been formed, move them to a tank of their own. This needs to be 20 Gallons minimum and at least 18" high. Once paired they do not work well in community tanks, because they become very territorial and are real bullies to even the smallest of fish! Feed the angels well on both flake and live foods for a couple of weeks and you will soon see the female start to swell with eggs. At the same time the egg tube will start to show. This is the easiest way to sex angels. If it is a female the tube will be quite large and round, males tubes are much smaller and conicle.

Prepare the tank with a slate or ceramic tile for them to lay the eggs on, but they may well choose their own spot anyway. As they get closer to laying you will see them cleaning their chosen site with their teeth, rasping any algae or debris from it. It is well worthwhile to treat the water with a little Metheline Blue at this time, to help prevent fungal growth on the eggs.

Breeding Angelfish - Egg Laying

When angelfish begin egg laying, the female will lay rows of eggs in straight verticle lines, the male following her, fertilising them. Egg laying can take a couple of hours and by the end of the process there will be anything up to 500 eggs.

Once laying is complete, they will take it in turns to fan the eggs. The eggs are light sensitive for the first few hours, so it may be as well to turn off the lights for a while.

Breeding Angelfish - Fry Yolk Sacs

After about 30 hours, you will be able to see movement amongst the eggs, as they start to hatch. Any in-fertile eggs will turn white and the parents will remove them from the clutch. The next few days, the parents will attend to the eggs, catching ones that fall and re-sticking them. I leave the lights on all the time during this stage. As the fry grow, the parents become busier and busier trying to keep them in place. At this stage, the fry are consuming their yolk sacs, so there is no need to feed them. The parents can be fed as normal, and they will take it in turns to feed, making sure that the eggs are attended at all times. Angels are very attentive parents!

Breeding Angelfish - Separating Fry from Parents

At about 6 days, the fry become free-swimming, although the parents don't agree and will continually try to catch them and put them back! This is a good time to remove the parents, or the fry, whichever is the easiest, since this is when the parents will start to eat them! Out of a batch of 400, it is not unusual for only 10-20 to actually grow to adult size, mainly through the parents being over protective.

There are two ways to remove the fry successfully at this stage. I use a small air tube and siphon them off the slate, leaving about 25% for the parents to tend. The other way is to remove the slate from the tank and place it into the growing tank as it is. This method secures all the fry, but stresses the parents, which is why I use the siphon method. If you are not bothered about numbers, you can just leave nature to it's own devices and see how many come through.

Breeding Angelfish - Feeding Fry

At day 7, you should start feeding them with freshly hatched baby brine shrimp. There are various ways of breeding brine shrimp, some of the common ways are dealt with in the articles section of this website. BBS will be the staple diet for the fry for the next few weeks, so you need a regular supply. At abour 6 weeks, you can start to introduce flake and other small foods to them. I tend to go for crushed flake food and BBS combination, gradually reducing the BBS over the next two weeks. Other foods can be micro-worms, blood worms, daphnia and prepared beef heart.

At 9 weeks, the angels will have grown to around 20mm and most pet shops will take them at this size. If you raise them for longer, the value goes up, so it may be worth keeping them for longer, if you have the space. Remember that as they get bigger they need more room and this can be a governing factor on how long you keep them.