Angelfish is a very awkward swimmer - is this normal?


I've had an angelfish in my 60 gallon planted tank for a year. Over the past couple months, it's started to swim a bit more erratically than I remember in the past. Not sure if it's normal. I've always heard that angelfish aren't great or particularly graceful swimmers.

Sometimes he'll just sort of bob around a bit and seem to struggle to stay straight in the water. He seems to lose his balance. It just looks a bit off, it's awkward to watch. Not 24/7, but noticeable if you spend a while watching. Sometimes his weird maneuvers seem intentional; he's constantly twisting and turning, to pick at algae and bits of food that he finds. But in some cases it just looks almost like he's struggling to swim properly. Here and there he'll even sorta seem to spazz out for a second and go sideways before snapping out of it. I don't recall really noticing it as much before. I've started noticing it more recently, but maybe I'm just being too paranoid.

My ammonia and nitrites are 0, nitrates about 40 ppm (which I usually try to keep <20 ppm), temp and pH are fine. The tank did have a mini-cycle a couple months ago that lasted a few days, but I did a lot of water changed to keep the ammonia very low, used a lot of Prime, and my pH is below 7.0, which should have reduced the ammonia's toxicity.

I did recently re-position my canister filter outlet to point down into the tank rather than up toward the surface, and I'm thinking the increased flow could be related, but I notice him do this when not in range of the flow as well. He also seems more stressed lately due to my firemouth being a bully to him lately (working on rehousing the firemouth soon), and his appetite has also seemed to decrease a bit. He's been hiding a little more it seems like. So stress could be related. Other than that, I've seen bad flotation problems caused by swim bladder problems or infections, but in my experience, those have usually been much worse and less subtle than this. Does it seem like that could be the issue? Or is it pretty normal for angelfish to just be very awkward swimmers sometimes?


I'm struggling a bit with what this looks like but it doesn't sound like a physical ailment. I know my angel likes the water calm and can become "off center" with a powerful flow. And I have firemouths with other cichlids and they can really be hit or miss with aggression and I imagine your angel is experiencing stress from its presence. Combine those two things and your angel is probably experiencing a bit of duress.
And you are indeed on the high end with nitrates. When in doubt, check water parameters and water changes (said ad nauseum, I know).
I have had success with my current angel and others with rams, blood parrots, rainbow cichlids and keyholes, so the firemouth just may not be a good combination. Good luck.
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Thanks for your response. I guess a good way to describe it would be, just acting a bit dazed, maybe a little disoriented, like he's a little tipsy if that makes sense. Been a bit more isolated and less active. Could be related to the nitrates. Just seems a bit off, but everyone else is acting perfectly normal. I do think the firemouth has been stressing him out. The angelfish is the biggest fish in this tank and no one else ever bothered him till the firemouth has started getting bigger. He looks to be a male, whereas the other cichlids (including the angelfish) appear to be females and are very docile and keep to themselves. I'm gonna try to set up another tank for the firemouth and see if anything changes.
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