Breeding Angelfish

By Jay Shaw
First published in Fishy Times, Campbell River Aquarium Society, Canada


Scientific Name: Pterophyllum scalare
Wild Distribution: Tributaries and basins. South America
Length: Up to 6 inches
Water Temperature: 74 to 83f

If you are an avid fish breeder, you know what the angelfish is all about. If not, boy are you missing out! I can't think of anything much more rewarding than a prized pair of breeding angelfish with their young. This fish teeters a hobbyist into a new realm of fish keeping.

Over the years, angelfish have taken many faces. Like the fancy guppy, they have jogged the genetic trail: silvers, marbles, gold marbles, leopards, blushers - the list goes on and on. For this reason it is difficult to give you a description.


Angelfish are from the cichlid family and can be very aggressive at times. Experience will tell you that there is a time and a place for them in the community tank. As with most large fish, angels develop a personality. There's no comparing one to the next. Males and females are distinguishable at sexual maturity.

Breeding Notes:
One thing that does seem consistent is the breeding method. I could go on for hours about breeding angelfish, but I could also tell you what you need to know on one page. There are many methods of raising angels but I am going to share my method:

I pick up to six juveniles, which I house together in a 33-gallon tank. I keep the bottom bare and use only sponge filters. I put in two pieces of 2 inch P.V.C. pipe, which I secure at a 30-degree angle. The pH is steady at 7 and the hardness is 2 degrees. The water temperature hovers around the 80f mark. I feed my angels bloodworms, frozen brine shrimp, a beef heart mixture, flakes and the occasional white worm.

As the angels grow (six to eight months) they will begin to choose their mates. You will see them buddy up and may pick a territory to defend. If you are almost certain that you have a pair, remove them to their own tank. I use 15-gallon tanks but should use 20's. Be sure that their breeding tank is fitted with an acceptable spawning site. At this point I increase my water temperature to 82 degrees and increase feeding.

Within five to eight days you should notice the belly on one of them to begin to swell. This will be your female. Within a few days the papilla should show on both the male and female (organ between the ventral and anal fin). The male's papilla is much smaller than the female's. Once egg laying begins you should avoid disturbing the tank. Take note of which fish was laying the eggs and watch for the male to fertilize them. Within two days you will know if your pair is fertile. The eggs may turn white. If you are sure of your pair, it may take a few attempts for a successful spawning.

I currently practice only natural incubation, meaning I leave the parent Angelfish to tend the eggs. The eggs may take three to four days to hatch depending on your water temperature. Once they are wiggling it will take an additional three to five days for them to reach the free-swimming stage. It is at this point you may begin feeding: newly hatched brine shrimp and micro worms work best. I allow the parents to stay with the fry for the first few days of feeding. I then remove the parents and begin the cycle again. I find my females become gravid every ten to twenty days.

Your new fry will begin to take on their angel shape around the two week mark. It is at this time that their growth rate explodes. You may begin to give them a variety of food. It is not uncommon to lose 20 % of your fry in the first few weeks. It is wise to work on a four spawn, month off program. Spawning activities can be draining on your angels; they need a vacation once in a while! This will help with your egg yields.

* Breeding Angelfish can be very demanding and you must be patient and willing to experiment with different techniques. Once you find something that works, stick to it. Nothing is ever set in stone with them. have had many surprises ranging from foster parents to spawning site selection, but that's all another story. There is unlimited information out there on angelfish. As you begin researching, you will find how diverse the breeding techniques can be.

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