The Angelfish is a great fish to have in an aquarium for several reasons. For one, it is easy to maintain and to breed. It requires very little space, and the water conditions don’t have to be completely sterile. It is a hardy fish, so it can handle a few mistakes in the maintenance. 

The Angelfish is active, and it will swim around your aquarium all day. This is a great fish for a beginner, because it is not picky about what it eats. It can be fed flakes or frozen food. If you want to get more fancy, you can try feeding it brine shrimp, and it will eat right out of your hand.

There are more than 30 species of angelfish. Most of them are tropical fish that live in saltwater but a few live in freshwater. Angelfish are named for their round, flat, fluffy pout, which resembles a human angel’s face. They have prominent dorsal and pectoral fins and a long flowing tail. Their bodies are covered with tiny scales. 

The colors of angelfish vary widely, but they are often shades of blue, orange, pink, red, or yellow. Angelfish are generally active swimmers. They are social fish that swim in schools.

a beautiful freshwater angelfish swimming up to the surface

Angelfish Information

  • Average Length: 6 to 10 inches
  • Scale Colors: Silver, Gold, Black and Marbled
  • Attention Needs: Low
  • Good tolerance to Heat and Cold: No
  • Good Pet: Yes!
  • Good with Other Angelfish: Yes
  • Good with Other fish species: Yes
  • Suitable for First-Time fish Owners: Yes
  • Health Concerns: Fin Rot, Hexamita and Dropsy.
  • Average Life Span: 8 – 12 years
a freshwater angelfish swimming up from the bottom of the aquarium

Physical Appearance of Angelfish

Angelfish are a type of Cichlid, a large family of freshwater fish which includes thousands of different species. They are different from the Saltwater Angelfish. Angelfish get their name because of the wing-like shape that their fins have. It closely resembles the wings that angels are depicted to have.

Like other Cichlid species, Angelfish also have a long and narrow body. They have a unique arrow-shaped appearance, pointed at the snout and wider at the sides. Angelfish have elongated and triangular-shaped pectoral and dorsal fins. The dorsal fins can sometimes even measure more than their length. The unique shape of their fins allows them to hide among plants to protect themselves from predators in the wild. 

When it comes to colors, Angelfish are available in a variety of patterns and vivid colors. The common Angelfish coloring is silver bodied with large black bands. Younger Angelfish will have 7 bands but as they age some bands will merge together and the adults only have 4. Years of captive breeding have resulted in many vibrant varieties of Angelfish like silver, gold, black and marbled.

The most common Angelfish found in pet stores are Silver Angelfish that have three stripes on their body. They can have these stripes appear or disappear depending upon the time of day, lighting conditions or if they feel frightened. 

Zebra Angelfish is another popular type of Angelfish that looks similar to Silver Angelfish with the only difference being that they have 4 black bands. 

Golden Angelfish, Black Lace Angelfish and Marbled Angelfish are other popular varieties commonly found for sale. Black Lace Angelfish is actually a Silver Angelfish in which black genes are dominant with no contrast bands on their body. Marbled Angelfish have black spots and irregular bands on their body.

Some species of Angelfish like Zebra Angelfish can have red eyes which indicates sexual maturity and good health. 

Temperament of Angelfish

Compared to other Cichlids, Angelfish are relatively peaceful. They are mostly active during the day and will usually rest at night. 

Angelfish are known to get aggressive and territorial with other Angelfish in the tank. It is generally a form of breeding behavior in which a male will chase other males in their group to get the attention of a female. 

Angelfish will rarely attack or nip other species outside their school, with the exception being smaller fish species. A male Angelfish may only become aggressive with other fish to defend their eggs or newly hatched fries. 

Angelfish prefer not to swim with other fish or other Angelfish types. They will mostly swim around in a small school of their own type.

a freshwater angelfish swimming in front of a light
a close up of a white, yellow and black freshwater angelfish

Best Habitat for Angelfish

Their natural environment includes slow-moving waters, swamps and floodplains. With a good water filter you can try to replicate these conditions in the fish tank to make their aquarium close to their natural home. Have the water filter draw water from one end of the tank. The return should return water to the other end and it will simulate the conditions of a slow river.

Tank size

These fish can grow up to 6 inches, so a minimum tank size of 20 gallons is needed for a single or a pair of Angelfish. If you want to keep more, then a larger tank will be needed. The rule is to increase the tank size by 10 gallons for every additional Angelfish. 

One important thing about Angelfish is that they grow tall rather than long. So having a taller tank will be better. If you want to create a community fish tank or want to add live plants then a larger tank will be needed.


They prefer a slightly warm temperature between 75 to 82° F. 

Water Hardness and PH

Angelfish need slightly acidic water, so a pH scale of 6.8 to 7 is recommended. The water hardness should be between 3 to 8 dKH.


They need 8 to 12 hours of lighting every day. You can use any type of light that is commonly used for fish tanks. The water should be clear to allow the light to enter the lower regions of the tank. Avoid adding floating plants as they will block the light.


To replicate their swampy living conditions in the wild, you can add live plants inside the tank. Live plants like Java Fern can be added. These plants are tall and need low lighting. They are easy to care and will make a great addition to your fish tank. You can also add other live plants like Amazon Swords or Java Moss.  

Adding decorations like driftwood and rocks is also recommended. They will help to create hiding places for Angelfish.

Tank conditions

For the substrate, you should use something soft like sand or mud. Like all Cichlids, Angelfish also like to dig so these will be an excellent choice. Avoid using gravel or any other hard substrate as it can cut their fins and scales. 

In their natural environment, they are used to slow water currents. Keep the water clean and aerated by using a filter and air pumps.

Tank Maintenance 

Try to maintain stable water temperatures by measuring water conditions like temperature, alkalinity, and toxic compounds in the tank regularly. Clean the filters and air pumps every other week as it will ensure they work efficiently. A 10 percent water change should be carried out every week.

Perform a deep cleaning every month. It will help to remove debris from your tank and also control the growth of algae. If you have live plants, trim them and remove the dead ones to keep the water clean.

Best Tank Mates for Angelfish

Freshwater Angelfish are generally peaceful which makes them a great choice for a community tank. When housing them with other species, a larger tank is recommended as it will give them the space they need. A small tank can result in Angelfish displaying territorial behavior against other fish.

Best tank mates for them are:

  • Tetras
  • Rasboras
  • Dwarf Gouramis
  • Rainbow Barbs
  • Cory Catfish and some other medium-sized Catfish
  • Corydoras
  • Discus
  • Dwarf Cichlid
  • Bolivian Ram
two freshwater angelfish swimming together
a freshwater angelfish swimming with an interesting design behind it

Avoid housing them with fin-nipping fish like aggressive Barbs. Cichlids like aggressive Oscars and Convicts also will not do well. 

Freshwater Angelfish also tend to display territorial behavior towards other Angelfish species. Avoid keeping different species of Angelfish together as they will become aggressive with each other.

Health Issues

Angelfish are susceptible to bacterial and parasitic infections. Clean water is the easiest way to maintain your Angelfish’s health. 

Commonly found diseases in Angelfish are listed below: 


Hexamita is a disease caused by the ingestion of a parasite. The parasite infects the gallbladder and intestines of Angelfish. Symptoms of the disease include:

  • Sluggishness
  • Weight loss
  • Discoloration
  • Paleness

An infected fish should be quarantined immediately to prevent the spread of infection. Consult your vet if you find any of the above symptoms in your Angelfish. Common treatments include increasing tank temperature and medication. The best way to prevent your fish from having the disease is to keep the tank water clean.


Dropsy is a bacterial infection that affects the kidney of Angelfish. It leads to fluid build-up inside their body. Common signs include scales sticking out, bloated appearance, bulging eyes and rapid gill breathing. Consult a vet if you suspect an infection to prevent the spread of the disease.

Affected fish should be isolated in a separate tank of 5 gallons and administered with antibacterial medication. Your vet may suggest adding some Epsom salt to draw out the excess fluid from their body. It is important to note that a little goes a long way. About 1/8th of a teaspoon per 5 gallons of water in your quarantine tank is all you will need.

Fin and Tail Rot

Fin and tail rot is a common freshwater disease that is named after what happens to the fish that have it. Fish infected with fin and tail rot will have fins or tails that appear frayed, or parts of them missing. The disease may also cause white milky areas on the body, especially on the tail or fins.

Symptoms of Fin and Tail Rot

  • Fins or tail appear to have frayed or abnormal edges
  • The fin or tail edges have turned white
  • A part of the fin or tail is missing

Like Ich disease, fin rot is also a result of poor water conditions and high stress levels. Fin and tail rot can be caused by fungi or bacterial infection. Identifying the cause of the disease, bacteria or fungi, is important to treat them because both are treated differently. Infected fish should be quarantined and treated in a separate tank. 

a freshwater angelfish swimming up

The easiest way to prevent your fish from catching this is to keep their water as clean and healthy as possible. After that the next biggest causes are stress, or attack from other fish. Try not to keep fish that can attack other fish, and give your smaller fish plenty of places to hide with plants or decorations.

Antibiotics will be needed to treat any fish that have this disease.

fish food

Feeding Angelfish 

Freshwater Angelfish found in the wild are omnivorous. They eat a variety of insects, crustaceans, larvae, rotifers and other smaller fish. Algae is also on the menu in the wild but that is only a small portion of their diet.

In captivity, they should be fed a meat-based diet as it is a rich source of protein. Live prey like bloodworms, brine shrimp, insects and crustaceans can be fed to them. You can also feed them commercial cichlid flakes or pellets. 

They will not eat living plants and algae in your tank but you can feed them plant-based food like algae flakes and wafers. It will give them a balanced diet and make sure they receive all the nutrients that they need. 

Angelfish have a large appetite and should be fed two times a day. If you have mated pairs then they should be fed more, up to 4 times a day. 

Since they feed on a variety of food it is recommended to rotate the diet and feed them with different types of food. 

Only feed them what they can eat in 2 to 3 minutes.

Related Questions:

How to know if my Angelfish is male or female?

Both male and female Angelfish look the same. The only way to identify their sex is when they are getting ready to lay their eggs. Angelfish have an organ called papilla which is located midway between their ventral and anal fins. 

When a female is ready to lay her eggs, her papilla will become enlarged and have a blunt tip. A male who senses this and is interested in breeding will also develop an enlarged papilla with a slightly pointed tip. Looking at the tip of the papilla will help to know their sex but this is also not a fool proof method. Angelfish who are not breeding may not develop an enlarged papilla, making it difficult for you to identify their sex.

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