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(Pterophyllum scalare)

Angelfish, Pterophyllum Scalare

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Freshwater Angelfish (Pterophyllum Scalare) belong to one of the largest families of vertebrates on the planet. The family Cichlidae encompasses over 1,300 identified species in 220 assorted genera. Previously undiscovered species are found and identified annually.  It is highly possible that there could be as many as 3,000 individual species that fall within the scientific classification of this family.  The members of this fanily are  more commonly referred as cichlids. Cichlids include oscars, discus and tilapias in addition to angelfish.  Many sources will tell you that angelfish are indigenous to the Amazon River. While this is true, this species is also native to the Orinoco River and Essequibo River systems. Populations of this fish can be found within the borders of Guyana, Venezuela, and Columbia as well as in Brazil.
Cichlids have become increasingly popular with freshwater aquarium owners since they started being exported by the aquarium industry after the conclusion of WWII. Angelfish are inarguably among the most popular and easily recognizable freshwater fish in the world. Their distinctive triangular profile makes them one of the most exotic looking freshwater species on the market. The selective breeding of these creatures has increased the variety of angelfish on the open market. They come in a variety of colors, from solid black, gold, white, and silver to striped, marbled and Koi. Their availability keeps their price extremely reasonable. They are a hardy species that can tolerate a multitude of environmental conditions. Freshwater angels are among the simplest species to maintain. Their ease of care has undoubtedly added to their global popularity.

Angelfish commonly grow to six inches in diameter. Keep this in mind when deciding whether to purchase one as an addition to your fish tank. They can be kept in an aquarium as small as 10 gallons. But 20 gallons and up is preferable.

Angelfish are outstanding community dwellers. They are not timid creatures, but they are not bullies either. These fish have a docile disposition. However, just like any other species, they will perceive smaller fish as a source of nutrition. It is inadvisable to mix them with fish small enough for them to feast on. Keep this in mind when choosing their potential tank mates. Nor do you want to mix them with fish that have a tendency to nip at the fins of other fish. Species such as barbs and tetras will instinctively nibble on fish of the long finned variety, even if the fish is larger than them. You never want to house a betta or an angelfish with a species that has a reputation as a fin nipper. The social and dietary habits of practically any freshwater species is readily available on the internet. Any knowledgeable fish shop can also provide you with information on what species work well together in a community environment.

Angelfish are omnivores. They can survive just fine on your common variety tropical fish flakes. They will also eat brine shrimp, tubifex worms, bloodworms, plant matter, and of course their smaller tank-mates.

As natives of South America, angelfish are considered a tropical species. These fish are accustomed to warmer water. A temperature range between 72-86 degrees °F is ideal. Angelfish are a relatively long lived species.  Under premium conditions you can expect your angel to live in excess of 10 years of age.

Breeding Angelfish

It is difficult to distinguish between male and female angelfish until they are about to mate. A few days before mating angelfishes’ reproductive organs will emerge from their bodies near the proximity of their anal region. The Females have what is called an ovipositor which basically amounts to an egg layer. Males will have a narrow tube through which semen is excreted to fertilize the eggs.

Angelfish engage in an interesting courting ritual as a precursor to mating. They will lock their mouths together and spin around wildly. This dizzying foreplay is a good indication that the spawning cycle is about to commence.

Once the formalities are out of the way, it is time to prepare a proper hatchery. The Angelfish will clean a flat surface on which the eggs will be deposited. After a surface is suitably prepared, the eggs are laid and fertilized.

Unlike many fish pieces of the Amazon River, Angelfish are unlikely to eat their un-hatched eggs. In fact, angel fish are known to stand guard over their eggs through the 3-4 day gestation period. Once hatched, both male and female angelfish will herd their young from plant to plant for the next four or five days.

Once the parental cycle has expired, the young fry may appear as a means of nutrition to their parents. It is advisable to remove them from the breeding tank.

Newly hatched fry can be fed liquid fry food or rotifers. A readily available and economic alternative is powdered eggs. Do not over feed them. You will make a mess of your breeding tank. After about a week the fry can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp.

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