Freshwater Angelfish Care Guide

Have you fallen in love with the beautiful colors and unique shape of the freshwater angelfish?

These fish are often prized for their attractive appearance and endearing and fascinating personalities. In addition, these striking fish are relatively easy to care for, making them a good choice for a variety of aquarium keepers.

However, before purchasing any fish, it’s important to understand the fish’s basic needs. People may also wonder, “What size tank do I need?” “How big do angelfish get?” and “How long do angelfish live?” To answer these questions, we’ve assembled a cichlid angelfish breed care guide to help potential owners decide if the angel fish is the right aquarium addition for them.

Quick Facts Table

Size:Between two to seven inches, depending on species
Lifespan:Eight to 15 years
Ease of CareIntermediate
Native to:South America, mainly near the Amazon River and Orinoco Basin
Minimum Tank Size:30 gallons
Water Type:Freshwater, with a pH between 6.8 and 7.8
Temperature:78 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit
Compatibility:Medium to large peaceful fish such as bristlenose plecos, dwarf gouramis, and larger tetra varieties


Pterophyllum scalare

Pterophyllum scalare are the most commonly kept angel fish variety and grow to about six inches in length.

Pterophyllum altum

The largest and rarest angel fish variety, the Pterophyllum altum can grow to seven inches long and a foot tall. These fish are also the most difficult species to keep, but their beautiful brown striping and large size make the challenge worth it for many keepers.

Pterophyllum leopoldi

Pterophyllum leopoldi are the smallest freshwater angelfish species and are often difficult to obtain. These somewhat more aggressive fish have slightly shorter fins than the more common Pterophyllum scalare.


Freshwater angelfish aren’t actually angel fish at all. True angelfish are brightly colored saltwater fish, whereas the freshwater angelfish features subtler colors but longer, flashier fins. These angelfish are actually a cichlid variety, native to the Amazon River and the Orinoco Basin in South America.

Freshwater angelfish are popular in the home aquarium thanks to their ease of care and their unique, arrow-shaped build. Many people also enjoy observing their strong, energetic personalities. In addition, these fish live for a long time, so offering correct angelfish care can mean that keepers can enjoy these fish in their aquariums for years.

Appearance of the Angelfish

These fish generally grow to about six inches in length. The leopoldi variety is slightly smaller, while the altum species grows a bit larger. The fish are also generally taller than they are long, thanks to their long, narrow fins.

These fish have a disk-shaped body, but their fins, particularly their dorsal and pectoral fins, extend at sharp angles, giving the species an arrow shape. The tail fin is full and also adds to the fish’s triangular shape.

Typically, these fish are a silver or gray color with black or gray banding. However, because they can be bred in captivity, many different color varieties, such as koi, which is black and orange, black marbled, golden, and blue, have emerged. In addition, longtail varieties are also available.

Angelfish Lifespan

Angelfish generally live for between eight to 10 years.

However, when excellent angelfish care is offered and water parameters are kept stable, these fish can live for up to fifteen years.

Angelfish Care

These fish are not generally difficult to care for, but they are quite sensitive to changes in the water quality. This means that it’s important to maintain a stable temperature and pH and to ensure that the nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia levels remain steady.

Habitat Requirements and Tank Size

Young angelfish can be housed in an aquarium as small as 30 gallons, but as they grow, these fish will need more space. A 55-gallon aquarium is ideal, and even larger aquariums are not a bad idea. In addition, because of the shape of their fins, these fish tend to prefer tanks that have more vertical space, so taller aquariums are a good choice.

Angelfish enjoy searching for food at the bottom of the tank, so the substrate should be fine or medium-fine. Driftwood and broad-leafed plants can be added to help mimic the fishes’ natural habitat. Providing hiding places, such as large plants or caves, can also help to make the fish feel more comfortable.

Angelfish Tankmates

Angelfish are not overly aggressive, but they can become quite territorial, especially when they’re getting ready to breed. For this reason, it’s important to choose angelfish tank mates carefully.

Avoid aggressive fish and instead select fish that are peaceful. Tank mates should also be around the same size as the angelfish so that they can stand up to the angels if they do start defending their territory.

Fish such as dwarf gouramis, bristlenose plecos, Corydoras catfish, and large tetra varieties are a good option for tank mates. Bala sharks and discus can also co-habitat well with angelfish. Angelfish are schooling fish, so it’s important to house them in a group of about six.

Angelfish prefer a water temperature between 78 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Adding a heater to the aquarium can help to keep the temperature at a constant even during colder weather.

In order to keep the ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels in the aquarium down, it’s important to perform frequent partial water changes. A good filter can also help to keep the water clean. In addition, it’s best to remove any waste, including uneaten food, as soon as possible.


Angelfish are omnivorous, meaning they eat both meaty and vegetable-based foods. Almost any angelfish care sheet will recommend feeding a variety of foods, and this is important because it helps to ensure that the fish is receiving the correct range of vitamins and nutrients.

Vegetable-based flakes or pellets are a good option for angelfish food. Meaty foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp can also be offered. Most keepers recommend feeding these fish once or twice a day. They should only be offered what food they can consume in two or three minutes.

These fish are often prone to obesity, so it’s important to monitor the size of your fish. If it seems that the fish are becoming overweight, reduce the feeding to once a day or lower the amount of meaty foods that are offered.

How Much Does an Angelfish Cost?

Because they are often bred and raised in captivity, most angelfish, particularly Pterophyllum scalare, aren’t overly expensive. Usually, these fish cost around $10. Those who are looking for a rare coloring, Pterophyllum altum, or Pterophyllum leopoldi, can expect to pay between $20 and $40.

How To Choose the Perfect Angelfish

When purchasing any fish, it’s important to select fish that are healthy and are good representations of the species. This is particularly crucial if you’re considering breeding the fish.

When buying angelfish, choose fish that are energetic and active. The fish should also have shiny scales and rich colors. Avoid fish that are pale or have white spots, which can be a sign of disease. It’s also best to look for fish that have straight fins.


Angelfish often breed quite easily in the home aquarium. These fish should generally be kept in a school of about six, and male and female fish will naturally pair off from that school. Once they have paired, the female will clear a flat surface, such as a rock, and deposit several rows of eggs, which the male will then fertilize.

In the wild, these fish care for their eggs and the young fry, but some captive-bred fish have lost this instinct. In order to ensure the survival of the fry, many aquarium keepers remove the eggs to a separate aquarium and rear the fry themselves. The young fish can be fed small brine shrimp until they are about six weeks old.

Final Thoughts

If you’re searching for a beautiful, flashy freshwater fish that isn’t too difficult to care for, the angelfish might be a good option for you.

These fish are exciting to watch and are often excellent additions to community aquariums, as long as they are provided with enough space. In addition, these fish are inexpensive, breed readily, and are available in a number of colorations. Best of all, when the correct diet is offered and the water parameters are carefully monitored, these fish can live for more than 10 years, making them excellent companions.

Have you kept freshwater angelfish? Comment below and let us know if you have any tips or questions about these beautiful fish.