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Can Angelfish And Barbs Live Together? (Mistakes To Avoid)

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Angelfish and Barbs are popular choices for freshwater aquariums. But is it truly problem-free to house them together?

Considerations for cohabitation include tank size, water conditions, and diet.

Back when I first started with these fish, I was completely in the dark about these matters. That’s the reason I’m sharing this piece – so you can benefit from what I’ve learned.

Let’s dive into it.

Can I Keep Angelfish and Barbs Together in the Same Tank?

No, Angelfish and Barbs are not ideal tank mates. Their differing temperaments and environmental needs pose significant challenges.

  • Temperament Mismatch: Angelfish are serene and could be harassed by the nippiness of Barbs, which may lead to stress-related health issues in Angelfish.
  • Dietary Habits: Barbs are less picky and could outcompete Angelfish for food, potentially leaving Angelfish underfed and weakening their immune systems.
  • Water Parameters: Angelfish thrive in slightly acidic to neutral pH levels, while Barbs can prefer more varied conditions, complicating water maintenance.
  • Space Requirements: Angelfish require tall tanks to accommodate their vertical body shape, and the fast-swimming Barbs need horizontal space to roam, making tank setup difficult.

Also Read: Angelfish Tank Mates

Angelfish vs. Barbs: Behavior

The first factor worth considering is the Angelfish’s and Barbs’ natural behavior. Here is what you should know:

1. Angelfish: Natural Behavior

Angelfish are known for their calm and somewhat regal demeanor, often gliding slowly through the water. They can be territorial during breeding times but are generally peaceful.

  • Territorial Nature: Angelfish establish territories and can become aggressive if other fish intrude, especially during spawning, needing about 20 gallons of water per fish to coexist peacefully.
  • Slow Swimmers: The elegant, slow swimming style of Angelfish makes them vulnerable to nippier fish; they flourish in a tranquil environment without overly active tank mates.
  • Vertical Space: Angelfish prefer tanks with plenty of vertical space to accommodate their tall, thin bodies, making them less likely to interact with bottom-dwelling species.

2. Barbs: Natural Behavior

Barbs, on the other hand, are quite active and can exhibit fin-nipping behavior, which can be stressful for slower-moving fish like Angelfish.

  • Active Swimmers: Barbs are energetic and require ample swimming room; they’re known to travel in schools and are best kept in groups of at least five to minimize aggression.
  • Fin-Nippers: The propensity of Barbs to nip at the fins of slower fish can lead to stress and injury in Angelfish, disrupting the tank’s harmony.
  • Adaptable Dwellers: Barbs are adaptable and can thrive in various water conditions, but their active nature often disturbs the slow-moving Angelfish, which prefer stable, quiet environments.

Ideal Parameters for Angelfish and Barbs

This table compares the optimal water parameters for keeping Angelfish and Barbs, alongside a column for tanks housing both fish types.

ParametersAngelfishBarbsBoth Types
Temperature76 to 86°F (24 to 30°C)74 to 80°F (23 to 27°C)75 to 82°F (24 to 28°C)
pH Level6.5 to 7.06.0 to 8.06.5 to 7.5
Water Hardness3 to 8 dGH4 to 10 dGH4 to 8 dGH

1. Angelfish: Ideal Parameters

Angelfish flourish in a very specific range of water conditions that mimic their Amazonian habitat.

They require warm, slightly acidic water and are sensitive to changes in water parameters.

  • Temperature Range: Angelfish prefer a tropical temperature between 76 to 86°F (24 to 30°C), which allows their metabolism to function optimally for growth and digestion.
  • pH Level: The ideal pH level for Angelfish is slightly acidic to neutral, ranging from 6.5 to 7.0, which helps in mimicking their natural riverine conditions.
  • Water Hardness: Angelfish thrive in softer water, with a general hardness (GH) between 3 to 8 dGH, ensuring their skin and gills function properly.

2. Barbs: Ideal Parameters

Barbs, being more adaptable, can tolerate a wider range of water parameters, which makes them hardy inhabitants for various community tanks.

  • Temperature Flexibility: Barbs are comfortable in temperatures from 74 to 80°F (23 to 27°C), giving aquarists a broader range to work within a community aquarium setting.
  • pH Adaptability: With a tolerance for pH levels from 6.0 to 8.0, Barbs can adjust to different water conditions, making them easier to care for than Angelfish.
  • Variable Water Hardness: Barbs can handle a water hardness range of 4 to 10 dGH, allowing them to coexist with many other species without the need for precise water conditioning.

Angelfish vs. Barbs: Tank Setup

This table lays out the specific requirements for setting up a tank for Angelfish, Barbs, and a combination of both, providing a clear comparison.

Tank SetupAngelfishBarbsBoth Types
Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate0 ppm / 0 ppm / <10 ppm0 ppm / 0 ppm / <20 ppm0 ppm / 0 ppm / <15 ppm
Tank SizeMinimum 20 gallonsMinimum 30 gallonsMinimum 55 gallons
FoliageDense, tall plantsOpen areas, some plantsCombination of plants
DecorationsVertical structuresRounded decorationsVariety of structures
FilterGentle filterStrong filterAdjustable filter
Heater76 to 86°F74 to 80°F75 to 82°F
SubstrateFine, dark-coloredGravelMixed substrates
PumpMinimal currentStrong currentModerate current

1. Angelfish: Tank Setup

Angelfish require a carefully maintained tank to thrive, with attention to water quality and tank structure to support their health and stress levels.

  • Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate: Angelfish need near-zero ammonia and nitrite levels with nitrates kept below 10 ppm to avoid stress and health issues.
  • Tank Size: A single Angelfish requires at least a 20-gallon tank, but for a group, aim for 55 gallons or more to provide ample swimming space.
  • Foliage: Dense foliage, with plants like Amazon swords and java fern, provides hiding spots for Angelfish and simulates their natural environment.
  • Decorations: Angelfish tanks benefit from vertical decorations like tall rocks or driftwood pieces, offering surfaces for laying eggs.
  • Filter: A canister or hanging filter that provides gentle water movement is ideal for Angelfish, ensuring cleanliness without creating strong currents.
  • Heater: A reliable heater is essential to maintain the 76 to 86°F temperature range necessary for Angelfish comfort and health.
  • Substrate: A fine, dark-colored substrate can make Angelfish colors pop while being soft enough for their delicate ventral fins.
  • Pump: Air or water pumps should be set to create minimal disturbance as Angelfish do not appreciate strong water flow.
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting is preferred for Angelfish, replicating a subdued tropical canopy, which can also support live plant growth.

Also Read: Can Angelfish And Red Tail Sharks Live Together?

2. Barbs: Tank Setup

Barbs are less demanding regarding tank setup but still require a balanced environment to express their active behavior.

  • Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate: Barbs are hardier but still need stable water quality with ammonia and nitrite at zero and nitrates below 20 ppm.
  • Tank Size: A group of Barbs should have a minimum of a 30-gallon tank to allow for their active swimming and schooling behavior.
  • Foliage: Barbs enjoy tanks with open swimming areas as well as plants like hornwort or water wisteria for cover and exploration.
  • Decorations: They are less concerned with vertical space, so a variety of caves and rounded decorations for hiding and playing is beneficial.
  • Filter: Stronger filters are suitable for Barbs to keep up with their waste production and to oxygenate the water adequately.
  • Heater: A stable heater that keeps the tank between 74 to 80°F will suit a Barb’s needs, slightly cooler than the Angelfish preference.
  • Substrate: Gravel substrate works well for Barbs, providing a natural look and aiding in beneficial bacteria colonization.
  • Pump: Barbs can enjoy a more vigorous water flow, so a stronger pump can be used to mimic riverine conditions.
  • Lighting: Brighter lighting is acceptable for Barb tanks, encouraging active behavior and keeping the tank environment vibrant.

The Dietary Requirements of Angelfish and Barbs

The dietary needs of Angelfish and Barbs are outlined in this table, with a focus on the types of food, quantity, and feeding schedule for each fish type and for tanks containing both.

Dietary RequirementsAngelfishBarbsBoth Types
Food TypesVaried: flakes, live foodVaried: flakes, pelletsCombination diet
QuantitySmall amounts twice a daySmall amounts 1-2 times a dayControlled amounts, separate areas
Feeding ScheduleRegular times dailyFlexible times dailyConsistent times daily

1. Angelfish: Ideal Dietary Requirements

Angelfish are omnivorous with a preference for high-protein foods and require a varied diet to maintain their health and vibrant colors. They need to be fed in moderation to avoid overeating and water quality issues.

  • Food Types: Angelfish diet should include a mix of flake foods, live or frozen foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms, and vegetable matter to ensure a balanced intake.
  • Quantity: Adult Angelfish should be fed an amount they can consume in about 30 seconds, twice a day, to prevent overfeeding and minimize waste.
  • Feeding Schedule: Consistent feeding times in the morning and evening help maintain Angelfish health and reduce stress, contributing to their well-being.

2. Barbs: Ideal Dietary Requirements

Barbs, being hardy and less fussy eaters, thrive on a varied diet but can adapt to a range of commercial fish foods available in the market.

  • Food Types: Barbs enjoy a varied diet as well, including flakes, pellets, and the occasional live or frozen treat, which provides them with the necessary nutrients.
  • Quantity: They should be fed small amounts that they can finish within a minute, once or twice a day, to keep them active and healthy.
  • Feeding Schedule: Barbs are not as sensitive as Angelfish, but a regular feeding schedule helps prevent overeating and maintains a routine in the tank’s ecosystem.

Tips for Keeping Angelfish with Barbs

While not typically recommended, if you’re set on keeping Angelfish with Barbs, it’s important to take proactive steps to minimize potential issues.

Careful tank management and observation are key to maintaining harmony in the aquarium.

  • Spacious Tank: Ensure a large tank, ideally over 55 gallons, to provide ample space for Angelfish and Barbs to coexist and establish their own territories.
  • Separate Feeding Zones: Create separate feeding areas to prevent competition, allowing Angelfish to feed at the top and Barbs at the bottom or in the middle.
  • Plentiful Hiding Spots: Install plenty of plants and decorations to offer hiding spots for Angelfish, reducing stress from the more active Barbs.
  • Monitor Aggression: Keep a close eye on Barbs for nipping behavior and be prepared to separate them if they become too aggressive toward the Angelfish.
  • Diverse Diet: Provide a varied diet to cater to both species’ needs; high-protein for Angelfish and a mix of flake and live foods for Barbs.
  • Stable Water Conditions: Maintain water parameters within a range that’s acceptable for both, with a pH close to neutral and temperatures around 78°F.
  • Gradual Introduction: Introduce Angelfish to the Barbs’ tank gradually, using a divider if necessary, to allow time for acclimatization and reduce stress.

Should I Opt for Angelfish or Barbs

Choosing between Angelfish and Barbs depends on your aquarium setup and the type of interaction you want with your fish.

Angelfish are best for a serene, visually striking tank, while Barbs are suitable for a more dynamic environment.

  • Community Behavior: Angelfish are semi-aggressive and can be kept with other peaceful fish; they are best for aquarists who prefer a less bustling tank environment.
  • Tank Size Considerations: A tall tank of at least 20 gallons is necessary for Angelfish due to their vertical body shape, while Barbs are more flexible with space.
  • Visual Appeal: Angelfish offer an elegant presence with their long fins and variety of colors, making them the focal point of any aquarium they inhabit.
  • Activity Level: Barbs are highly active and can bring energy to an aquarium, which is perfect if you enjoy observing lively fish interactions.
  • Care Requirements: Angelfish require more specific care and water conditions, whereas Barbs are hardier and can be a good choice for beginners.

Also Read: Can Angelfish And Flowerhorns Live Together?


For quick readers, here’s a short summary:

  • Angelfish and Barbs are not ideal tank mates due to differences in temperament, dietary needs, and environmental preferences.
  • Angelfish require a tranquil environment with specific water parameters and are prone to stress when housed with nippy Barbs.
  • Barbs are more adaptable and hardy, needing less precise conditions, but their active and sometimes aggressive nature can disturb Angelfish.
  • A shared tank would demand careful management, with a large space and separate feeding zones to accommodate both species’ needs.
  • Ultimately, the choice between Angelfish and Barbs depends on the desired aquarium dynamics, with Angelfish suiting calm settings and Barbs thriving in more active ones.