Angelfish Care GuideThis guide will teach you everything you need to know about keeping angels and what should be kept with them. But 1st a little background. There are 3 types of angels: Scalare, Leopoldi, and Altum. I will be covering Scalare today, as it is the most common and what all the colorful angelfish are. They are native to South America, in the Amazon Basin along with a few other river basins, and are found in large schools, when they are young, and alone, when they are older but still enjoy the company of others. Blackwater rivers have lots of leaf and wood strewn, tannins, shade on the sides of the rivers, and lots of tetra fish that they eat. Their full scientific name is Pterophyllum scalare. I personally have 3 years of experience with them, and these years are where I've grown the most in the hobby and I've had 1, 2, 3, and 4 angels in my 55g at different times. Though the one was just when one was separated for a while.
General CarepH: 5.5-8.4 (Naturally found in 5.5, I've kept mine in ph of 8.4, but can probably go higher).
Min. Group: In my opinion the minimum you can get is 4, unless you have a mated pair. (Expanded upon later)
Setup: The only requirement really is visual blocks, so they can escape from each other and establish territories.
Sexing: It is generally unsexable unless you see their breeding tubes (Appear when wanting to breed) the males have a pointier tube, and females have a blunter one, but this is still not a surefire way to tell them apart.
Min Tank size: 50 gallons, extended upon below.
Lifespan: Most people say 10-12 years, I've not been in the hobby long enough for them to live their full lifespans, so I can't say for sure.
Tankmates: Community fish, not nippy, and above 3 in. long or a tall body. (Expanded upon later)
Size: 6 inches long, and 8-10 inches tall.
Feeding: They are omnivores, they’ll eat pretty much anything you feed them, but it can’t be too big. Cichlid Gold minis were too big for mine (Though I’m sure baby ones they would eat). But, as with all fish, feed a variety, obviously live foods preferred, but not necessary.
Temperament: Semi-aggressive, mostly to each other and to fish that can fit in their mouth. Won’t kill to eat usually, opportunistic. As juveniles they will be friendly towards each other and won't be aggressive to each other.
Plants: As with all fish plants are great, and it helps give the angels more privacy, so they can get away from each other. In my experience they will uproot, not strongly rooted plants, but this may have just been from curiosity.
Filter Flow: Doesn't matter, can be in high flow as they come from rivers, but not necessary. But if you have it extremely high, it might get in the way and be less optimal for them.
Care Difficulty: Moderate, but solely because of their aggression. But if you have at least a 50 gallon with a group of 4 they will be hardy, easy to care for, and live long.
Price: $8-14 dollars usually for the more common ones. But Phillipino Blues, manacapuru angels, bulgarian greens and other rarer ones will cost more.
Varieties: Angelfish come in most colors. They all (All scalare colorations) can interbreed, though they might not turn out the prettiest as stripes are codominant. Here is a very useful site on angelfish genetics, and what colors and patterns are shown when crossbred: Angelfish Genetics
Tank SizeThis is a highly debated topic. My personal opinion is the smallest tank they should be kept in is a 50 gallon tank. It needs to have at least about 18-19 inches of height. As angelfish get very tall (Up to 10 inches), and with just the 16 inches of a 40 gallon, they have about 3 inches above and below them, which really isn't that much room for them. Another reason is as they are very social fish they need others. If you are okay with that much height for them, they still need buddies. A single angel would be quite lonely. With 2 angels, one would be dominant and kill the other, unless they are a mated pair. If they are a mated pair then if you think they can do well with only 3 in. above and below then a 40 gallon would work at the smallest. But if you don't want a pair then, how about having 3. That also doesn't work, because one will become dominant again, it kills one, and then the other. Though, I currently have a group of 3 working in my 55g, it's kind of like a betta, the fish's temperament will vary from fish to fish, but most of the time 2 and 3 won't work, and 4 is safe. With 4 the aggression is diluted enough that no one has torn fins constantly and no one dies. And for 4 fish, they need their own territories, so a 40 just wouldn't give them enough space, and you would run the risk again of them killing each other. Though people (And very experienced people) have done it in as little as 20-29 gallons, so they can live in that size (and these people are breeding them in these tanks), they will not live to their fullest potential. They do much better in 50 gallons, and many of those people have been upgrading to taller and larger tanks. But the wholesaler breeders' main concern is production so they are keeping them still in smaller tanks for breeding.
Tank MatesMost fish are compatible with angles, the only exceptions are nippy fish, small fish, and coldwater fish. The fish that are hardest to find compatible ones for are schooling fish. They have to be at least 3 inches OR have a taller body (An example would be a rosy tetra). Now there is a possible exception to this, which I will discuss later, and I will eventually know for sure after testing in a few months to a year. But for now here is a list of all the different schooling fish that are compatible, though not every single one, all separated by color. It includes tetras labeled as "Nippy," because most "Nippy" tetras are known to be nippy, just because they were kept in schools under 6. This list contains mainly Characins, while there are many Cyprinids that can, I don't know the types as well, but I’ll put a few.
|Red Phantom tetra||Lemon tetra||Silver Hatchet||Buenos Aires tetra|
|Rosy tetra||Head/tail light tetra||Common Hatchet||Columbian tetra|
|Serpae tetra||Pretty tetra||Marble hatchet||Congo tetra|
|Bleeding heart tetra||Gold barb||Black phantom||Pristella tetra|
|Ember tetra||Diamond tetra||Brilliant rasbora|
|Flame tetra||Emperor tetra||Pentazoa barb|
|Clown rasbora||Scissortail rasbora|
So here is my theory, that if you start out small tetras that can fit in their mouths, like, say neon tetras, and have them since the beginning when they can't, they won't eat them even when they can. I have had multiple people who have successfully pulled this off. I am going to be attempting this soon, but for now I will not be the one to advise you, I would ask around to see if others have been able to do it successfully. This is why, if in a stocking list, I won't say you shouldn't have smaller tetras, because they probably have seen some of this and made their choice. Just a heads up that it's possible.
ConclusionIn conclusion, angelfish are beautiful fish found in the amazon. They can thrive in a very wide range of parameters. They should be kept in at least a 50 gallon. And shouldn't be kept with very nippy fish, small fish, or coldwater fish. For information on breeding, here are 2 articles written by other members on how to breed them. By somyavalecha. By Fishboy101.
Note: This is just my personal experience/opinions about caring for angelfish, thank you. Feel free to add any information, or if you disagree with any of these topics give your opinion, so it can be discussed and hopefully help more people if my information isn't completely accurate, as I definitely don't know all there is to know about these beautiful, complicated fish.