A Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Freshwater Angelfish

Angelfish are incredibly graceful and elegant fish, with some breeds being wonderfully vibrant. These traits are typical of other fish in the Cichlid family as well, such as the strawberry African cichlid or the Apache peacock. Because of their vibrant colorings, angelfish are extremely popular, especially among those who don’t have much experience caring for fish. However, while this breed is hardy, they do require specific care, just like any other fish. If you’re interested in owning one, this article will be your beginner’s guide to keeping freshwater angelfish.

Tank Setup and Parameters

Being aware of a fish’s origin is the first step to making sure you craft the perfect environment for them, and the same applies to angelfish. Angelfish mostly originated in South America and inhabit a large portion of the Amazon River. Because of this, we know that angelfish prefer slow-moving, warm water. And because of the natural canopies and vegetation found in the Amazon, angelfish feel safest in dimly lit areas with overhanging vegetation that mimics that shady quiet of the rainforest. You may also want to provide them with plenty of sterile driftwood or other hiding options to mimic their natural environment as closely as possible.

Water Temperature, pH, and Hardness

While angelfish are generally considered a hardy species and can tolerate a range of conditions, they prefer warm water. When setting up your tank, make sure the water is anywhere between 77 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. While this may seem particularly warm, remember that this species thrives in the heat.

It should also be noted that the pH level most comfortable for angelfish is similar to, and should be no less than, what is typically found in the waters of the Amazon River—6.6 pH. When checking your pH levels, ideally once a week, your pH should be no higher than 7.8. You may notice that the pH is off you start to see slimy algae coating the plants, decor, or the tank itself.

In addition to setting up the appropriate temperature and pH level, you need to monitor the hardness of the water. For those who aren’t aware, hardness refers to the level of minerals in the water, specifically calcium and magnesium. These minerals are critical for helping fish build strong bones. Typically, this is measured in a unit called dKH, which stands for degrees of carbonate hardness. To measure these levels, you can use an alkalinity testing kit. For Angelfish, this measurement should read between three to eight degrees dKH.


Angelfish aren’t the largest fish in the world, but they do need a decent amount of space and require no less than 55 gallons. Because of the size of the tank, you should perform water changes no less than once every two weeks, depending on how much waste output your fish create. In doing so, you avoid having to do complete water changes, which can stress out angelfish and disturb their sensitive immune systems. If you’re changing your water once every two weeks, you don’t need to change more than 25 percent. Just don’t forget to condition and treat your water as well as monitor all the parameters previously mentioned.

Angelfish Diet Requirements

Angelfish are omnivores, meaning that they will eat meat and vegetation. However, they require both to meet their nutritional needs. Angelfish need a variety of vitamins to stay healthy, which is why the key to their diet is variety. Some of the vitamins angelfish need include B12, B3 through 1, BA, Biotin, and Pantothenic Acid.

As fry, angelfish need a high protein diet and won’t thrive well off solely vegetables. To meet their needs, finely ground crushed tablet food and hatched brine shrimp will do the job. As juveniles, they can be fed larger pellets, flakes, or brine shrimp. Once your angelfish have reached adulthood, you don’t have to worry about their food being as nutrient dense. The stages of life for an angelfish look different depending upon the breed. For some, it can take more than a year to fully develop, so keep a close eye on their development stages.

Additionally, their feeding habits in the wild look very different from their feeding habits in captivity. While these fish are not considered bottom dwellers, in the wild, they will pick out worms and small crustaceans to eat from the bottom of the river. In a tank, angelfish tend to eat toward the surface, making feeding easier. As for their feeding schedule, young angelfish should be fed around four times a day, and fully grown angelfish can work with a bi-daily feeding schedule, being fed once in the morning and once at night. The key is to keep their feeding schedule consistent and predictable.

Tank Mates and Overall Behavior

Although angelfish aren’t considered an aggressive species, they are cichlids, and this type of fish is generally known to be aggressive towards fish of the same species. In addition, angelfish tend to put whatever they can fit into their mouth. This means that they won’t hesitate to eat other smaller fish. Despite this, angelfish are generally considered very peaceful fish and aren’t known for being overly territorial to fish of different species. If you notice your angelfish being overly aggressive, this is likely because they aren’t getting enough food. Angelfish aren’t known to unnecessarily bully or bother their tank mates.

You can tell your angelfish are being aggressive if two males are “staring” at each other and twitching towards one another. However, if you see a female doing this to another male angelfish, this is their mating ritual as the female is trying to test the strength of the strongest male in the tank. In order to tell if your angelfish is male or female, note that female angelfish have angular bellies, whereas the males’ bellies and bodies are much rounder. Female angelfish also have smoother and more rounded ventral fins. A large bump on the front of the head is also indicative of a male Angelfish.

Because of their curious and sometimes feisty nature, you want to avoid putting small decor in the tank or swallowable pieces of gravel. You don’t want their tank mates to be swallowing size either, so make their tank mates generally placid and hard to eat. Large and aggressive fish will bully angelfish, so you want to ensure you choose the right tank mates. You don’t want the other fish to be too big to the point where your Angelfish can’t defend themselves.

Small to medium-sized catfish, kribensis, and bristlenose plecos make great tank mates for angelfish. Not only are these breeds easier to take care of, but they’re also a perfect size and temperament match for your Angelfish.

With this ultimate beginner’s guide to keeping freshwater angelfish, you’re better equipped to give your angelfish exactly what they need to thrive. You’ll know your angelfish is happy if they’re swimming normally in toward the middle of the tank, and their fins are flared out as opposed to flat or cramped. At Natural Environment Aquatix, you can buy live freshwater fish online, including a variety of angelfish.

A Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Freshwater Angelfish

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