Are Angelfish Aggressive?

When choosing fish for an aquarium, it’s always important to consider the species’ aggression level. Aggressive aquarium fish can cause injuries and stress to other fish, making the community tank an unhappy place.

Keepers who are selecting attractive fish for their community aquarium may wonder, “Are freshwater angelfish aggressive?” Generally, freshwater angelfish are considered to be semi-aggressive fish. Fortunately, reducing an angelfish’s aggression is possible when a few crucial steps, outlined below, are taken.

Tips to Reduce Angelfish Aggression

Provide Adequate Space

Most angelfish aggression stems from territorial tendencies. Freshwater angelfish males will often pick a space as their own and will defend it from any fish that come too close. These semi-aggressive fish will bully both other aquarium fish as well as members of their species.

Reducing these territorial behaviors can be done by providing enough space in the aquarium for all the fish. Freshwater angelfish are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of about six. An aquarium that is 60 gallons or larger is an ideal size for a group of these fish.

In addition, angelfish prefer to swim at the top of the tank. A tank that has more vertical space is often best, as this gives them plenty of room to stretch their fins and swim close to the surface. 

Remember that, when adding additional fish to the aquarium, these fish will also need their own space. Therefore, you may require a larger tank.

Provide Hiding Places

Another reason many aquarists consider the angelfish’s temperament to be somewhat aggressive is due to the fact these fish will sometimes eat smaller fish. This eating is not based on actual aggression but more since freshwater angelfish will eat whatever they can find.

Generally, it’s best to house angelfish with other fish that are close in size. However, some smaller fish, such as guppies, can be kept with angelfish as long as good hiding places, such as large plants, java moss, or rock caves and crevices, are provided.

These hiding places also benefit the angelfish. Angelfish females, for example, can use hiding places to avoid the aggressive behavior of a disorderly male.

Reduce the Frequency of Water Changes

Like many semi-aggressive cichlids, freshwater angelfish form a hierarchy within their school. They do this by fighting, and usually, these fights are infrequent and brief. However, if you notice that your angelfish are fighting for dominance more frequently, it may be because you are performing water changes too often.

Angelfish excrete chemicals in their waste to advertise their social status to other angelfish. When water is replaced, the chemical levels go down, and the angelfish feel the need to re-establish dominance.

Aquarium keepers perform water changes to keep their tanks clean and avoid spikes in ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels. If angelfish aggression is high, though, slightly reducing the frequency of water changes can sometimes help.

Provide Plenty of Food

Angelfish aggression is also common when there are disputes over food. 

Most aquarium keepers recommend feeding freshwater angelfish between one and two times a day. Give only as much food as your fish can eat in two or three minutes to avoid waste accumulating in the aquarium.

If you notice that your angelfish are often squabbling during or after feeding time, however, you may want to increase how often or how much you feed. Not only will this reduce aggression between angelfish over food, but it may also save any smaller fish in the aquarium that angelfish might view as a snack.

Remove Breeding Pairs

During breeding, angelfish pairs often become incredibly territorial, and they also fiercely guard their eggs and young. This tendency to protect can raise the aggression and stress levels in the aquarium. For this reason, when you notice that angelfish have paired off and seem ready to breed, it’s often a good idea to move them to their own separate tank.

In addition to reducing the angelfish’s aggression and territorial behaviors, moving the fish to a separate aquarium may also help protect the eggs and fry from any opportunistic fish looking for a meal.

Choose Appropriate Tank Mates

A large part of an angelfish’s aggression can be attributed to inappropriate tank mates. Housing only compatible fish with angelfish can bring peace to the community tank and reduce the fish’s stress levels.

Keep angelfish with fish that are mostly peaceful. It’s often best to choose fish that can stand up to an angelfish’s gentle bullying, but you should avoid aggressive aquarium fish, as this will only increase territorial behaviors.

Although angelfish are semi-aggressive freshwater aquarium fish, they are also vulnerable to bullying. Many fish tend to nip fins, and the angelfish’s long fins are often too tempting to resist. This can cause injuries and stress the angelfish, which may result in increased territorial and aggressive behaviors.


Angelfish are beautiful additions to the community tank, and they can live long, healthy lives when cared for adequately. Part of this care means reducing angelfish aggression and making the aquarium a peaceful, stress-free place for all the fish in it. Providing enough space, selecting appropriate tank mates, changing the water only when necessary, and providing a nutritious, sufficient diet can help to alleviate most aggressive tendencies.

Do you have a question about angelfish aggression? Let us know by leaving a comment below.