55 Gallon Tank Angelfish Aggression…I need advice

  • #1
Hi! This is my first post here. I have read many threads about angelfish “aggression” but I wanted to ask about my specific situation. I love my two angelfish very much. They are my first angelfish and first cichlids.
I have 2 who coexisted as young fish and juveniles. Now that they are breeding age, the koi is almost always “bullying” the gold and black one. “She” keeps “him” in the corner of the tank. I watch them for hours and the gold one almost tries to sneak out of the corner when she isn’t looking, until she notices and chases him back.
The thing is, Sometimes they act as though they are a pair? I will catch them taking turns cleaning a leaf together.
The tank is heavily decorated and I test it often for ammonia and everything else.

I am wondering if my best bet is to add more angelfish their size, or do I need to seperate them? I’ll be honest, MY perfect case scenario would be to add more angels to the tank and they’d all coexist. I don’t want to rehome either fish as I’ve had them since babies and I’m quite attached. I also don’t want to make the situation worse. I have another planted 29 gallon that one could live in if I need to seperate them.

Thanks for reading and helping me out!


  • 1E8C6B53-1EFE-494A-B322-61067B11C0C2.jpeg
    195.1 KB · Views: 11
  • #2
Maybe add other fish like different species. Start a whole community. It's part of nature. Animals fight and bully each other. Chilids are related to piranhas so yes like all big predator fish they can act aggressive.
  • #3
Chilids are related to piranhas
?? Its Cichlids, and no they are not, well only in that they are both ostariophysi, not closely related at all.

About the angelfish, it is strange they actually both look like males, but that doesn't really fit with the behaviour seen. There was another thread earlier today, which explains a lot about angelfish behaviour and aggression. Maybe SparkyJones can shed some light on this particular situation.
  • #4
  • #5
Hi Punkbagel!

I believe these two look like males likely because they have altum genetics in them and are altum x scalares which is why the mouth is upturned and they have this "nose" to their mouth which makes a hump stand out more, I think the one with more black around the eyes is a male, and the one with less black is a female. hard to tell from the picture exactly. but because of the genetics, both will have some sort of nuchal hump. the male having the larger one. Iv'e seen some angels with bigger humps than that though! here's a pair on this forum What Are These Bumps On The Heads Of My Angelfish? | Angelfish Forum | 374353

from my experience with mature angels, even if alone in a tank, a pair is going to bicker, and flare and back one or the other down, they constantly test each other, usually it's the female doing it to the male and sometimes the male, if he's dominant will do it back equally even. it's basically just proving that they are tough and working together and sort of part of the bonding ritual to a pair.

As long as it's not torn fins and full speed ramming, which would indicate the female is refusing the male, it's fine, but you have to watch them for damages to fins or injuries to their sides or eyes,
it's relatively normal behavior for a pair to challenge and show they are tough and worthy without doing more than minimal physical damage to each other though, the isolating fish just isn't dominant, so it's not fighting back and allowing itself to be pushed away and not doing it back , it's submissive is all, the male might have matured before the female has and she's not quite ready to spawn and he's being pushy about it.

if this is a current picture, it doesn't look like they are doing much damage. which is good, but it's what they do, the "everybody gets along" ends at juveniles unless it's all males and everyone is dominant or all are subs, then it's mostly peaceful.

So how can we make things better for these two? Are you familiar with a breeding slate? there's plastic ones you can buy, but in essence it's a flat piece of slate rock and it's leaned on an angle in the tank, and females generally will use that to lay their eggs on vertically instead of on the glass or filter pipes or on plants. this gives you a controlled area for them to spawn, and they should also have hides on either side also, to get out of sight.

What I do, I put a slate and hide option on either side of the tank, the female/pair will pick one or the other as a spawning territory, and a submissive fish that needs to get away has the option to go to the opposite side that isn't claimed territory. it might change every couple weeks which slate is claimed, but it gives the most distance because if they choose a spot in the center of the tank, there is no safe space to retreat to, the whole tank is spawning territory.

Adding more angels can work, however if one of the new fish is a female, this problem can get double worse. But another female might make this one more dominant and less submissive Another female might take the attention of the male (you didn't say if these were bought at the same time from the same tank, but by appearance I'd guess they are brother and sister or from the same breeder and different spawns, they, I think, are closely related)

I'd say in general, monitor the fish for injuries and if they aren't doing damage, let them do their thing. if you suspect they are closely related, you might want to add another male and a female, and then try to pair them off with totally different genetics and maybe get a more productive spawn. At least if no injuries or severe fin damage let it ride out a little longer for a spawning, see exactly who the female is, and who the male is. males have a pen tip, females have a sort of crayon tip or round bump for breeding tubes but they have to get that far for the tubes to appear. Until they actually spawn, it's hard to say with a 100% certainty who's who, but if they were pure scalare and didn't have the deep nose dive, the one with black would have a larger hump, and the one with less black wouldn't be hardly pronounced at all. i'd give it more time as long as it doesn't get really bad between them.

Cleaning spots is spawning behavior, so it shouldn't be long before they are both ready.
it can move for place to place, the reason I like the slate is at least with me, it's consistent, I know where to look for spawns, and it's easily removed after they spawn to either get rid of the eggs, or try to hatch them myself. it's an easy place to monitor and take care of and follow their breeding behaviors and patterns, like you can see they have been cleaning it easily and know spawning is coming. they will clean for a couple days before laying eggs, they might clean one, then go to the other and clean that and then lay eggs there instead, not satisfied with the first spot. my male does most of the spawning site cleaning, both of mine are dominant fish, they take turns being aggressive and flaring and the other submits and backs off to the corner, and then the other way around back and fourth, they really only calm down once they have spawned and then the eggs are gone, and it's maybe a couple days before they start the process all over again with the back and forth site selection and cleaning more back and forth then laying eggs. but it's always very minor damage fin tips nipped or something, it's going really wrong when someone is getting shredded and crippled or loses and eye.

another thing, because of the site cleaning and eating eggs, I seriously don't see my pair eat more than a couple flakes a day tops for like 8 months now, but they don't lose weight either and only gotten bigger. When they get into regular spawning routine, most of their eating is going to be algae and biofilm from cleaning things to lay eggs on and eating spawns with too many bad eggs that won't be very productive to continue trying to hatch.

feel free to ask anything about anything if you aren't sure of have questions, or have something different you need an answer about. I tend to get long winded sometimes in answers when there's many answers available or the question could be answered a few ways.
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Thank you everyone for your answers!
I’ve been wondering their sexes and I appreciate the feedback there. Kinda always thought the gold one was a boy, it makes sense that he is just a more submissive male. Ultimately this thread exists because I’m questioning his quality of life. He’s been banished to the corner for about a month now. If this is breeding behavior, I haven’t seen any eggs yet. I do have Mystery snails though and I understand they will eat eggs. I’m willing to remove the snails and also add some breeding slates to see if that speeds things along?

they actually were bought at different times, and from different fish stores.

i have another angelfish pair in a 30g in my living room that have matured and for the last month have been spawning nonstop. the farthest they’ve gotten is 2 day old free swimming fry before either the fry were eaten or died for some other reason. These two were bought at the same store so I suspect they are siblings and they are a very peaceful pair. I don’t have any room to grow out angel fry so I’m letting them do their parenting thing. (And it’s fascinating to watch!) These are my first angelfish so I’m not sure if that’s just what people do when they have a pair?

I want to do what’s most ethical. Especially since it sounds like I have another pair on my hands
I did hear from an angelfish expert that apparently the ones that were taken away as eggs from their parents don’t have any parenting instinct, or something like that? So you’re saying maybe my pair is eating their eggs which would make sense why I’m not seeing any. I guess I’m just comparing to the (Striped/Normal) pair in my living room, who are great parents!


  • AE5C78C0-B305-4787-92E4-C4F67E3C6508.jpeg
    178.3 KB · Views: 4
  • 692206CE-C672-470F-B49F-A68D258CD595.jpeg
    157 KB · Views: 3
  • #7
My pairs usually ate the eggs for the first couple to a handful of attempts at spawning. It depends on how many stay translucent and how many turned white.

Parenting instinct doesn't really exist. They learn on the job what to do and some of it is just instinct I suppose, the very basics, but its a learned behavior and process with a lot of fails before they get the hang of it, and some fish just aren't good parents and never figure it out. my angels always just got a little further along and a little further along each time and as they learned and made mistakes they'd lose too many egg or fry and decide to eat them rather than spend the time trying to raise them for a low survival count, so they can spawn again sooner and try another time.
They need enough fry for a decent amount to make it to 3 months, not just a handful. If they see it's just a couple dozen many times they will abort the attempt to try again in 15 days.

They spawn too early and the male doesn't fertilize good enough, he hasn't gotten the hang of following behind and misses the eggs or keeps going over ones hes already done, and they eat them to try again when too many turn white.
They don't pay attention enough to fanning and most eggs turn white and they eat them to try again.
They don't pick out the white ones and fungus takes over the majority before hatching, and they eat them all.
They miss the white ones and eat good ones instead and realize there's not enough left and fungus is taking over them and eat them.
Or then hatch and get wrigglers but the waters not quite right and only a dozen or two make it to freeswimming, so they eat those to try again. Each attempt they learn more and usually keep getting further and further along.

If they are left with the eggs and fry they will not spawn again with a previous spawn around. They will focus on defending the spawn they have and won't spawn again until they are grown enough.
And as the fry get bigger and pester the parents constantly the parents will get tired of it and can also attack and eat the fry. Again, they can't escape from the fry in an aquarium and at some point somethings got to give, they won't take the fry grazing on their slime coat or fins for very long as they grow and get more nippy.

Without a dedicated spot and a big tank they can lay eggs in some odd places and they go totally unseen, it's why I like the slate method, they 99% of the time use it and you know exactly where to look and can watch how the eggs are doing and how they care for them. You can also just reach in and pull the eggs on the slate to a jar with an airstone if you see it's not working out with the parents, clear out the white eggs carefully to keep it fungus free and rear them yourself for better survival rates.
If not interested in raising fry, no need to pull the slate, just let nature do its thing but realistically, in an aquarium, survival to juvenile is really low, and survival to maturity is almost non existent with a hands off approach and not removing the fry from the parents at some point, but you might get lucky.

As far as your isolated fish and quality of life and you not being so interested in breeding,
I'd suggest the best course of action would be splitting the two fish up, moving the isolated one to its own tank or into a tank with non-angels, non-threatening fish.
I've had luck doing this with an isolated fish that is withdrawn and hiding, doing this usually will make them feel safe and comfortable and return to normal and then confident after a few days. Then I've fed it pretty heavy, 3-4x a day small meals to put on mass and size, and in about a month try reintroducing him again to the other angels, bigger, stronger and more confident.

It's worked for me. I have 3 tanks running, my tank with all my angels, a tank for my pair, and a10g temporary holding tank for injury recovery or alone time to de-stress. In all cases when a fish goes into the 10g, water quality is high, i do 3-6 gal water changes daily and I'm feeding 4x a day and usually about a month gets a fish out of its shell with no fear of being pushed off food or getting chased and bigger/stronger and healed and ready to return and compete again with the other angels instead of injured or shut down and getting pushed around for being the weakest.

Best of luck to you. I don't think the best way to go about this is to add more angels, not at this point. I think most likely one has matured and the other is close to mature but hasn't gotten there quite yet and the mature fish is keeping the potential mate in its possession until it matures here shortly.
You'd see something like this happen with groups of angels. Its like they sense a mate is maturing soon from hormones in the water and the dominant fish will defend their prospect from the rest and keep it where they want it until it finally gets to maturity.
I think your situation is a time thing and one fish is just maturing ahead of the other. Adding fish to this would just make things worse at this point especially more mature fish. Separation I think, so the not quite mature fish can feel safe and secure and eat without worry for a month then reintroduce them to each other again can work out.

Similar Aquarium Threads

  • Locked
  • Locked


Top Bottom