Angelfish are a fascinating species complex spanning over 90 fish species. Angelfish come in 3 freshwater variants called Chidlidae Pterophyllum. There are over 86 saltwater species in the wilder side of the family- the Pomacanthidae. The most common freshwater angelfish is called the Pterophyllum Scalare.
Known for their brilliant reflective scales, Angelfish are common aquarium pets. They get their name from their fins, which many compare to angelic wings. With their heads pointed down, an Angelfish silhouette can be easily mistaken for a drawing of an angel.
Don’t mistake these pesky fish as saints, though; Angelfish are ruthless predators, known to eat other guppies and even their own young.
Featured image credit: Bob Mars CC 2.0
Angelfish are characteristically flat-bodied, with a round base and pointed triangular fins. Their scales flash hues of yellow, blue, black, white, and green.
Angelfish born in the wild often feature prominent stripes around their scales. These stripes help camouflage the fish within foliage on the seafloor.
Angelfish also have “featherlike” side fins, filled dark eyes, and a small mouth. They grow longer than most fellow fish, with fully grown angelfish spanning between 5 and 10 inches long.
Angelfish prefer to feed upon macroinvertebrates, like worms and shrimp.
After generations of inbreeding, many Angelfish no longer have paternal instincts. This results in the parent becoming unable to tell their child apart from prey, before then eating the child.
Angelfish can eat flakes and pellets, making them cheap to raise in an aquarium.
These fish have ordinary eating habits, eating 1-2 times per day. Young angelfish should eat closer to 3-4 times daily.
Credit: Paul Hermans, Queen Angelfish 14-05-2009, 15-24-48, CC BY_SA 3.0
Angelfish live in the Caribbean and parts of South America. They prefer to live among ocean foliage, like roots and various ocean ferns. By hiding within the foliage, Angelfish have a better chance of ambushing their prey. The seafloor also provides cover from predators who are too large to navigate coral reefs.
Angelfish prefer quiet, tranquil water. They prefer water temperatures of 25-28 degrees Celsius (78-84 degrees Fahrenheit), a salinity/salt level of 1.024, and a pH level of 6.8-7.8.
Angelfish can reproduce soon after they are born. They reach the age of sexual maturity in just 6 to 12 months. After reaching this point, female angelfish can lay a line of hundreds of eggs every 7 to 10 days.
During this time, the male angelfish follows closely behind the female, fertilizing the eggs one by one. It’s a fascinating process to witness, as the male uses a distinct mating dance to entice the female into releasing her eggs.
After about 60 hours in a warm climate, the eggs will hatch into tiny fries. These fries are very small and delicate, unable to eat most foods after birth. To survive, the hatchlings consume the yolk from their own egg sacs.
In a few days’ time, the fries will mature into free-swimming guppies, ready to start exploring their surroundings and looking for food. They’ll eat small crustaceans, like brine shrimp and Daphnia, until they are big enough to consume other foods.
Angelfish enjoy a safe and peaceful existence unencumbered by any protected status. They’re not endangered, even though their home territory lies in the shrinking Amazon Basin.
And don’t worry; they won’t be caught on your plate – angelfish aren’t a popular cuisine. Only Gray Angelfish are commonly eaten, and even they remain safe and sound from overfishing. Other sea creatures still see angelfish as a tasty treat, like larger fish, reptiles, and birds. Some larger Angelfish hunters include sharks, catfish, bass, and barracuda. Even dolphins and turtles are known to hunt for angelfish occasionally.
Credit: Andreas März, Flame Angelfish (Centropyge Loricula), CC_BY 2.0
- Domestic angelfish are usually more colorful than wild angelfish. Breeders have spawned orange and black angelfish with rings and stripes, among other features.
- Angelfish are naturally monogamous. They’re known to reject their peers, reproduce with a single partner fish and care for their partner. Angelfish parents also protect their spawn together. Both the mother and father fan air over the brooding eggs.
- It takes between 6 and 7 months for an Angelfish to develop into either a male or female.
- Male angelfish have a distinct forehead bump, which their female counterparts lack.
- Female angelfish also have a smoother pectoral fin than the males.
How do Angelfish sleep?
Angelfish don’t technically sleep, but at night, they become extremely still and almost unconscious.
Why do Angelfish fight?
Angelfish are territorial creatures. If two Angelfish are fighting, it’s likely that one is trespassing upon the other’s territory or that the two are competing for a mate.
Are Angelfish poisonous?
Only one Angelfish species, the Queen Angelfish, are poisonous to eat.
Why is my angelfish upside down?
If your angelfish is swimming upside down, then it likely has a bladder problem like Swim Bladder Disease. A change in diet usually remedies the disease within days.
Why is my Angelfish not eating?
Angelfish are very sensitive to their environment. After minor territorial changes like adding or removing a decoration, your Angelfish might lose its appetite for hours or days.