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Angelfish Fighting Guide – Identifying and stopping fights between groups and pairs

Freshwater Angelfish have a peaceful disposition for a cichlid, but you might wonder if they can be aggressive? Are there things that cause Angelfish fighting?

Can you, as a pet owner, eliminate aggressive behavior?

As Angelfish enthusiasts, we understand your concerns. What follows is a close look at Angelfish behavior, reasons fighting can begin, and what you can do to protect your Angelfish.

Several fish species, including Angefish, will fight from time to time. We know more today than previous generations of fish keepers, and that knowledge will help to keep your aquarium tranquil.

Freshwater Angelfish Are Cichlids After All

We have found that those new to fish keeping as a hobby are surprised to find that Angelfish can be aggressive. These fish can indeed have peaceful dispositions. That does not mean that there will not be times that these fish can become agitated.

Omnivores with predatory instincts

Angelfish are omnivores, meaning that they will eat both animals and plants. The shape of these fish gives us one clue about their potential behavior.

These cichlids have a laterally compressed body. That allows them to hide among plants and root systems in their natural habitat. Angelfish are native to South American waters (the Amazon Basin, Guiana Shield, and the Orinoco Basin).

Colors and stripe patterns help to keep the fish camouflaged. They are ambush predators. That instinct still exists within pets in the industry (hence the rule of housing Angelfish with tankmates that can not fit into their mouths or species with natural defenses).

Its a family tradition

Angelfish are members of the family Cichlidae, in the order Cichliformes. Your pets are further classified as part of the genus Pterophyllum, with three species recognized in the genus:

  • Pterophyllum altum
  • Pterophyllum leopoldi
  • Pterophyllum scalare

Pterophyllum scalare makes up most of the freshwater Angelfish in the industry, with Pterophyllum altum are far less common, and Pterophyllum leopoldi are rare. Most fish found in our hobby are captive bred, so you will not find wild-caught Pterophyllum scalare often.

Cichlids are known for their aggression, both as a ritualized behavior and during mating. Many cichlid species seek out confrontation as they secure territory in the fish tank or establish a hierarchy.

Angelfish are more peaceful than some (most typical) cichlid species. That does not mean your pets will not follow or nip at other tankmates, especially when the aquarium is overpopulated.

Angelfish will become more territorial as they try to pair off and breed. That is when you will most likely notice aggressive behavior.

Why Are My Angelfish Fighting?

 When your Angelfish are fighting, there are a few things that might be causing this behavior, including:

  • Territorial aggression
  • Protecting mates
  • Water chemistry
  • Aggressive tankmates
  • Dietary imbalance

Angelfish can be territorial and will become agitated if other fish enter their established boundaries. In a roomy aquarium, these encounters should happen infrequently. Lower populated fish tanks also prevent your Angelfish from displaying territorial aggression.

Another instance where your pet Angelfish might fight is during breeding periods when it feels that its partner is under threat. The males will abandon the females after mating, and females will go from one male to another. Heightened agitation and competition between fish can trigger offensive and defensive responses during this time.

Studies have found that Angelfish use chemicals in their urine and bile to communicate social status. Replacing water during routine aquarium maintenance can remove the chemicals your pets use to maintain social stability. Aggressive behavior will increase for a few minutes or hours, depending upon the amount of water you take out, as the fish add more bile and urine into the fish tank.

The chance of fights involving your Angelfish increases if they reside with aggressive tank mates. Pet stores label these Angelfish as semi-aggressive and place them with less aggressive species. That allows the Angelfish to become the dominant fish in the tank and not feel challenged.

You might not be surprised to find out diet can play an issue. A community tank where several fish compete for food during feeding windows can be a reason why your angelfish wants to fight. If your pets feel satiated, they will be less competitive with tank mates when it comes time for feeding.

How To Stop Angelfish From Fighting

You will be able to put measures in your tank to stop angeli fish fights. To do this you will first need to know the type of fighting behavior shown by your fish…

Things you might notice your Angelfish doing

  • Chasing other fish
  • Facing off
  • Charging
  • Nipping
  • Using tails to hit each other

A sure sign that your Angelfish are mad is when they begin to chase other fish in the tank. That includes leaving their established territory within the aquarium.

A face-off between two of your pets is another sign of Angelfish fighting. The combatants will posture, expanding their fins fully to appear larger while keeping eye contact with one another.

A rapid movement towards one another is another sign that your Angelfish is upset. Once near each other, the charging fish may begin displaying other signs of aggression.

Angelfish will nip at the fins or lips of tank mates in displays of aggression. Nipping is preceded by other signals and is a sign that the fight is nearing its zenith.

Your Angelfish will use their tails to hit one another (or other tank mates). You can be sure that they are angry if you see your pet using its tail as a club to hit another fish.

Things you can do to reduce Angelfish from fighting in your aquarium

Our advice, especially to beginners, is to let things play out. You will not be able to stop all instances of fighting, and the truth is, you do not want to. Occasional small battles are necessary for your Angelfish to establish their territory and create an aquarium hierarchy.

If you notice that one or more of your Angelfish are combative towards tank mates all of the time, there are a few things that you should consider doing:

  • Provide room
  • Control population
  • Maintain water conditions
  • Curb water changes
  • Keep everyone full
  • Remove breeding fish
  • Remove aggressive tank mates

Angelfish are cichlids, meaning they are territorial. Give your pets plenty of space to establish a home.

Do not overpopulate your fish tank. Everyone, especially beginners, wants to house lots of fish. Limiting the population provides plenty of room and avoids unintentional stress.

Keep the water parameters within acceptable ranges for your Angelfish. That keeps them comfortable, lowering stress levels, and reduces potential fights.

As we mentioned earlier, you might do water changes less often to maintain chemicals in the water column that Angelfish use for social behaviors. When you change the water, consider going no more than 1/4 of the tank’s volume for a faster replenishment of chemicals.

If your Angelfish are hungry, they will be more likely to fight. That is especially true at feeding time when they feel that they must compete with tank mates for food. If your fish feel full, they will be less aggressive.

When your pets pair off to breed, consider removing them from the community tank. That eliminates potential fights with other fish and reduces the stress felt by the breeding pair.

If all else fails, you might have to remove the problematic fish. That might include your favorite Angelfish. Your pets have individual traits, and some fish are more agitated than others.

Breeding Pair Of Angelfish Fighting: Are My Angelfish Fighting Or Mating?

Angelfish are known to have somewhat violent mating behaviors, so it is easy to understand why you might not be able to tell the difference.

What are some breeding behaviors that might appear like Angelfish fighting?

  • Following each other
  • Lip-lock/kissing
  • Females become gravid
  • Cleaning a spot

Your Angelfish are usually displaying aggressive traits towards other tank mates if they chase them around the tank. If your pet is following another Angelfish at a more leisurely pace, it could be a sign of mating instead of hostility.

Lip-locking looks violent, and it can be. It is often seen between mating pairs and can indicate they are preparing to breed.

Female Angelfish will swell as they fill with eggs. They have a large sex organ, and you can see the eggs if you observe your pets often enough.

A pair of Angelfish will locate a spot within the fish tank to lay eggs. Once a flat area is selected, the mating pair will begin to clean the area.

Other displays are usually more aggression than courtship

Chasing, bashing, nipping, facing-off, and other agitating displays are likely your Angelfish pair fighting. If you can identify the males and females among your Angelfish, it will be easier to determine what is going on between them. Breeding pairs might appear to be fighting but are actually in the middle of courtship or mating.

Freshwater Angelfish FAQs

Are all Angelfish native to freshwater?

No. There are marine Angelfish available for hobbyists that keep saltwater tanks. These fish have a similar body shape, so beginners need to keep that in mind as they look online or shop at a store.

Are freshwater Angelfish aggressive?

They can be. Many pet stores classify Angelfish as semi-aggressive. You will want to take precautions when housing them together or with other species.

Can you keep more than one Angelfish in your aquarium?

Yes. Keeping groups is beneficial for this social species. You may also end up with mating pairs in your fish-keeping journey, but give them plenty of room.

Will an Angelfish bite you?

Yes. Freshwater Angelfish will bite a human if they are threatened or feel that their nest is in danger. Angelfish will not actively seek out a person to bite their hand, however.

Are my Angelfish kissing or fighting?

Lip-locks are usually a sign of courtship and mating between a male and female that have paired up. The “kissing” that you see is usually between a male and female fish. Nipping is often the sign of two fish fighting.

Do Angelfish mate for life?

No. Males will leave the female once breeding is complete. Females will seek out other males within the aquarium.

Will freshwater Angelfish fight to the death?

No. Fights with tank mates will usually end before death, or severe injuries, occur. That does not mean that it can not happen, especially if the combatants do not have a place to retreat.

Do juvenile fish fight one another?

No. The fighting displays develop with age. Your pet Angelfish will not begin to fight until it has fully matured.

How do you stop Angelfish bullying?

  • Provide room for your fish, including decor to use as a shelter for hiding
  • Do not overpopulate the aquarium
  • Provide proper water conditions to relieve stress
  • Keep water changes to a minimum for a healthy tank
  • Offer plenty of food to keep your Angelfish full
  • Remove mating pairs from the community tank
  • Remove aggressive tank mates or freshwater Angelfish

You Can Nip Angelfish Fighting In The Fin

These fish are one of the most popular species in the aquarium industry. Their unique body shape makes them stand out in the tropical fish hobby. Various color and stripe patterns have been established through breeding, offering you plenty of options for your tank.

These fish are cichlids and can be aggressive. Fighting among males is possible, and they can also act offensively towards other species. You can take steps, like those listed above, to reduce or eliminate problems.

Do you have any questions or comments about keeping these fun pets? Please leave them below so that we can answer them or continue the conversation.