I’ve been growing angelfish for more than eight years. During that time, I gained a lot of experience in the field. It derives mostly from countless failed attempts to achieve angelfish offsprings. However, eventually, I have developed a systematic method to breed angels successfully. That brought me into writing my ultimate angelfish breeding guide.
Here is a summarized table of the basic angelfish breeding requirements:
|Water Temperature||78-84 Degrees F|
|Breeding Tank Size||At least 20 Gallons|
|Tank Features||2-3 Plants, 2-4 decorations, 1-2 slates, no substrate|
|Devices||One stable heater, one water pump/filter|
|Feeding Frequency||Up to three times a day|
|Parent’s Food||Flakes, pellets, freeze-dried food and vegetables|
|Fry’s Food||Brine shrimp, micro-worms|
While this table summarizes the fundamental requirements, there is a lot more to take care of when it comes to reproducing angelfish. Follow the rest of the guide to get a step by step comprehension of what you should precisely do.
Angelfish Breeding Guide
1. Fundamentals in Angelfish Breeding And Reproduction
Everyone knows that angelfish are relatively easy to breed. They are also not difficult to keep, which is why you find them in so many aquariums these days. Angelfish are also graceful creatures with long fins and flat, elegant bodies. Hence, even those who find angelfish difficult to breed are more than happy to make an effort.
If you are entirely new to the world of angelfish breeding, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First, angelfish come from South America, which is a tropical region. Their environment is quiet, and the water is slow-moving. They are also accustomed to foliage and dim light. Angelfish also inhabit water with a temperature ranging from 78 to 84 degrees F.
The pH they require falls somewhere between 6.8 and 7.8, although 6.8 is optimal for breeding. On that matter, here is an article in which I’ve explained how to raise or lower the water pH. Also, angelfish prefer relatively soft water (3-8 dKH). That said, angels are hardy creatures that can survive in water that varies slightly from those ideal conditions.
While there are plenty of peaceful angels in the world, the species has a reputation for being aggressive. That is not just towards one another but other species as well. They are bold enough to eat anything they can fit in their mouths, including smaller fish.
Angelfish are omnivores fish that eat both plant and animal life. This is why people feed them everything from bloodworms to flakes and pellets.
It takes two angels of different genders for spawning to occur. The female is responsible for laying the eggs. Then, the male is likely to fertilize them. It then falls on the parents to protect the eggs and rear the fry until they mature into adult angels.
So, what does this mean for new fish owners who wish to grow their collection of angelfish? To successfully breed angelfish, you must:
- Provide a tank that replicates their natural habitat.
- Engineer the water conditions to ensure that the parameters are within the range required for your angels to thrive and breed.
- Find angelfish of different genders that can be encouraged to breed.
- Watch the parents as they raise their young ones or, better yet, take the eggs away and hatch them on your own, caring for the fry once they emerge.
Naturally, that sounds like a lot of work, mainly if you have never reared angelfish before. However, that is because you might be looking at all these steps as one massive task that must be performed. The key is to take things slowly, tackling the breeding process one stage at a time until you reach the end.
2. Preparing The Breeding Tank
The breeding tank should be your first consideration. Before you can worry about securing the right fish, you need to find and arrange the space that will house them. There are a few factors to keep in mind on that matter.
Some people are more than happy to add their breeding pair to a community tank. That makes sense if you have no other options. Plenty of angelfish have successfully spawned in community tanks. However, community tanks are fraught with danger.
Either the stress of conflict, overcrowding, and scarce resources will discourage the angels from spawning, or they might lose their eggs to predators. Angelfish parents have a reputation for eating their young ones in stressful situations.
To increase the chances of your angelfish spawning successfully, you are encouraged to set aside a special breeding tank. This will permit your breeding pair to spawn peacefully. Not only does it give you more control over the breeding process, but the eggs and fry eventually produced are more secure.
If you can afford a separate breeding tank, aim for a capacity of at least 20 gallons. Find containers that are taller than they are long. Angelfish have tall bodies, which is why they have a preference for tall tanks.
Also, keep in mind that angelfish need planted tanks. Add some foliage. Look for plants that have long and broad leaves that can act as breeding platforms for your angels. While live plants are preferable, their artificial counterparts are easier to care for because they don’t require quite as much attention.
However, live plants will create a healthier, more balanced environment in your tank water. But if you don’t have the time to care for them, get the artificial variety. Otherwise, you risk accumulating dead plants that will eventually corrupt your water.
If at all possible, you should also add decorations. The objective is to provide your angelfish places where they can hide to secure their privacy. This will permit them to spawn in peace. If you have chosen to leave them in a community tank, decorations and plants will hide them from enemy fish.
While the bottom of a breeding tank is supposed to be bare, some people will encourage you to paint it with dark colors to control the reflection. This won’t necessarily improve the health of the angelfish, but it will definitely make them more comfortable.
Even though you have plants and decorations, you can also add a spawning slate. This is a surface where angelfish can lay their eggs. Spawning slates are perfect for people that want to raise the eggs themselves because you can just pull the slate out once the eggs are deposited.
3. Preparing The Water
Once you have your breeding tank, you must ensure that the water fits the parameters your fish need to survive and breed.
The first consideration should be the temperature. As was mentioned above, you need to keep it between 78 and 84 Degrees F, though slight variations are acceptable. Angelfish are tolerant creatures that will survive temperatures higher or lower than the ideal.
Naturally, you must keep a thermometer on hand to measure the temperature. You cannot merely guess that the temperature is within the appropriate range. Because the objective here is to keep your angels in optimal health so that they can spawn successfully, you cannot rely on the ambient temperature. You should manipulate the conditions in your tank.
Buy a heater that can provide you direct control over the temperature of the water. The power of the heater should match the size of the tank. The bigger the aquarium, the stronger the heater required. Some aquariums are so large that they need multiple heaters.
- The key is to ensure that the temperature is completely uniform throughout the tank.
You should also keep in mind that angelfish prefer soft, slightly acidic water. So you should alter the water to achieve the right pH. While you can get by with any pH ranging from 6 to 8, your best bet is 6.5 to 6.9, especially if your objective is to improve the chances of your angels breeding successfully.
As was mentioned above, angelfish are pretty hardy. They will tolerate slightly harder water that is either more or less acidic than the ideal. However, you should make every effort possible to maintain the ideal parameters of the water.
As with the temperature where you are encouraged to use a heater, it is possible to alter the pH using tools like a reverse osmosis filter. Chemicals are the cheaper solution, but they will also affect the acidity. The results are too unpredictable.
While the wrong temperature could complicate breeding, the wrong pH is a threat to the lives of your fish. If it doesn’t kill them, it will ruin their eggs and fry, not to mention preventing them from spawning altogether.
Do not forget to add a filter to the tank. The water should be cleaned, kept free of waste, uneaten food, and dangerous elements like nitrates and ammonia. You can maintain the water clean by performing regular water changes. However, the filter is still an essential component.
You need a filter that is powerful enough to cycle through all the water in the tank within the shortest amount of time. But it shouldn’t be so powerful that it risks trapping the fry and killing them. Keep an eye on the water flow.
The filter determines it. A powerful filter is going to produce a powerful current. However, angelfish are accustomed to slow-moving water in the wild. Find a filter that can mimic these conditions. Ensure that the flow isn’t too overpowering.
Otherwise, it is going to make spawning difficult, if not impossible. First of all, it is going to tire your fish out. Secondly, if your eggs are too close to the filter, the current will prevent fertilization from occurring by washing away the sperm the male angel deposits on the eggs.
4. Getting The Angelfish
Once you have a breeding tank in place and the water has been engineered to produce the appropriate parameters, you can start looking for a breeding pair. But this is a far more difficult task than some people realize.
First of all, to successfully breed angelfish, you cannot merely buy the first two fish you find in a store. Angelfish are not all the same. Some come from lousy stock, and they might fail to breed. Others have bad genes, and they are likely to produce the sort of offspring you are better off destroying than raising.
- Take great care when choosing angelfish to breed.
The source matters. The conditions in some stores are so adverse that all the angels they sell are either deformed, diseased, or overwhelmed with stress. Other stores are so far away that the angels spend far too long in shipping. Such fish are also bound to struggle with anxiety.
There is no proper formula for selecting a supplier. Ultimately, it isn’t that difficult for bad suppliers to camouflage the poor health of their fish. You cannot always rely on your eyes to separate the bad angelfish from the good ones. You need to identify a fish store you can trust.
Talk to other fish owners. Get recommendations from experts. You don’t have to overthink your purchases if you know that your chosen fish store will endeavor to sell you the best merchandise the market has to offer.
You cannot always determine the health of the angelfish before you buy them. That is especially true for the young ones. However, some signs can help you identify the worst of the bunch. For instance, some fish just look sickly.
If an angel doesn’t look healthy, you are better off avoiding it. That is regardless of the explanation offered by the fish store. If the angel is healthy, but it lives in a tank with sickly or dead fish, it probably has a disease or two that you don’t want to bring back to your aquarium.
If the fish is mostly dormant and immobile, you should stay away. Healthy angels are active. Also, pay attention to the fins. They should be straight. Bent or deformed fins are a sign of trouble. Sometimes, bent fins are the result of a violent altercation that happened before you arrived. But sometimes bent and deformed fins are a sign of genetic disorders. Don’t take any chances.
Look for white spots, fuzz, deformed gills, discolored eyes, and any other anomalies. Prioritize fish with rounded bodies (that are taller than they are long), a smooth head profile, and straight fins. Also, prioritize angels with a healthy appetite. That typically correlates with their general well-being.
- Unless you trust the fish store and they have provided a convincing answer to all your questions, avoid any fish whose health and quality you do not entirely trust.
5. Pairing Your Angels
Once you have a reliable source of angelfish, you can introduce the breeding pair you have chosen to the breeding tank. But even at this stage, things are not quite as straightforward as some people would prefer.
There are two ways to get a breeding pair. Some people will just buy two fish of different genders from the store. This is the most direct approach. If you trust the fish store, you can task them with finding you the best possible male and female angel for breeding purposes.
However, just because you have a healthy male and female angels on your hands doesn’t necessarily mean that the two will breed. They might not do so even after inserting them in a sizable tank, boasting all the appropriate conditions. Some angels simply refuse to spawn.
It is much easier to take the second approach. This involves rearing multiple angels of mixed genders and then letting them naturally pair off. Once you observe a breeding pair, you can transport them to a separate breeding tank. The second approach typically produces the best results.
Here I would suggest keeping an eye out for aggressive fish. This can make spawning all but possible, even in a tank filled with nothing but angelfish. When two angels pair off, aggression in one angel can also complicate breeding, especially where parenting is concerned.
- Aggressive parents are more likely to eat their young; keep that in mind while you wait for your angels to pair off.
If you have taken the second approach and none of your angels are aggressive, and yet no pairs have formed, consider the gender. You need a male and female angel to breed these fish. This is why the first approach works. If you ask a fish store to sell you a breeding pair, you can trust them to find you a male and female angel.
However, if you let the angels in your tank pair off naturally, you might stock angelfish of only one gender. Unfortunately, differentiating between male and female angels is very difficult for people because they are similar in appearance. A female is easier to identify because it is the one that produces the eggs.
But you won’t see this until the female angel matures six or seven months later. If you have no way of identifying the fish that keeps laying all the eggs in your tank, look for the breeding tube. It is wide and blunt in female angels and thin and pointy in their male counterparts.
- If you are not sure how to distinguish between a male and female angelfish, check out this quick video by MasterAquatics.
But again, this feature only becomes pronounced when the fish mature. You can spend months raising angelfish without realizing that they are all one gender.
How Can You Tell That a Male And Female Angelfish Have Paired?
You can tell that an angelfish pair is going to spawn by watching their behavior. First of all, you will probably see them lock lips at some point. The locking of lips can be a sign of conflict. But if it happens between a male and female angel, it is most likely spawning behavior.
Moreover, a breeding pair will be seen cleaning the site where the eggs will be laid. They will also become quite aggressive during this process. Their territorial nature will become more pronounced, pushing them to lash out at their tank mates in an effort to keep their offspring safe.
This can become a problem in a community aquarium because your angels might start antagonizing the other fish. However, it isn’t an issue if the fish have a separate breeding tank.
6. Feeding Your Breeding Pair
Angelfish are voracious eaters that cannot survive without proper feeding. Fortunately, the species is not that picky. They will eat any plant or animal-based food items you add to their tank. But you should never overfeed them.
Try to limit the frequency to three meals a day at the most. Also, feed them for 30 seconds at a time and only give them food in quantities they can finish within that duration.
On that matter, I highly recommend that you read an article I’ve written on how often angelfish should be fed (and how much). I mentioned there the rule of thumb above, but also discussed the best types of food for angelfish. Those substances are likely to keep your angels healthy and eager to reproduce.
If your fish are not eating, their health has probably deteriorated. At this point, you should look for signs of disease. Also, measure the temperature; low temperatures can reduce their appetite. Generally, ensure that their diet is diverse, consisting of meat and plant matter.
Flakes and pellets will do. The same goes for frozen and freeze-dried food options, not to mention vegetables. You can either buy the food from a store or make it yourself from home. It is a question of your experience and the resources at your disposal.
Live food is the most nutritious, but it can carry parasites that could introduce diseases to your tank. Talk to an expert if you don’t know what to feed your angelfish. Poor feeding can drastically impact their ability to spawn. You should neither overfeed nor underfeed them.
- As long as you only give your breeding pair quantities they can consume in a minute or less; things should be fine.
7. Caring For The Eggs
If you have a viable breeding pair in the right tank and you feed them regularly, they will eventually spawn. The female angels will lay eggs on a slate, after which the males will fertilize them. At this point, you have two options at your disposal.
First, you can hatch the eggs on your own. In fact, that is how the majority of the domestic angelfish are raised. If they were laid on your spawning slate, you could just transfer it to a separate tank, one with a temperature of roughly 80 degrees F. The eggs are more sensitive than their parents. You need to keep their water pristine.
- Besides changing it, you should also add methylene blue and other antifungal agents. However, don’t forget to aerate them. Add an air stone whose bubbles can bring oxygen to the eggs.
Aeration is typically unnecessary because the parent angels spend a lot of time performing a similar function by fanning the eggs with their fins. If you take them out of the equation, you must complete this task on their behalf. Fortunately, it only takes eggs three days or so to hatch.
People prefer to hatch the eggs on their own because angelfish have a reputation for eating their offspring, especially if they are stressed. But if your angelfish are peaceful and they have shown no signs of aggression, you can trust them to care for their eggs. That is your second option.
The parents will clean the eggs, removing fungus, picking them up whenever they fall and keeping tank mates that want to eat them away. At this point, their aggressive and territorial behavior will work in your favor because it will drive them to protect the eggs.
- Of the two options, it is much safer to let angelfish parents raise their young ones.
8. Raising The Angelfish Fry
Once the eggs hatch, it takes the angelfish’ fry three to five days to become free swimmers, escaping the spawning location. At this point, you can take active steps to care for them. This involves the following:
- Move them to a rearing tank (2.5-10 gallons). The size of the container will depend on the number of free swimmers you have.
- You shouldn’t make the aquarium too big. It might actually frighten and intimidate them, not to mention making it much harder for them to access the food you provide.
- In most cases, there is no need to exceed ten gallons. Use aged aquarium water and a sponge filter.
- When the eggs first hatch, the fry can survive on their yolk sac, which they will eat. By the time they become free swimmers, the yolk sac is mostly gone by which point you must take steps to feed them.
The fry are tiny; give them brine shrimp, micro-worms, and the like. Live foods are more nutritional, and at that age, your young angels need as many nutritious foods as possible. You may also give them cultured foods, like wheat, yeast, hay, etc.
As time goes on, you can start slowly introducing regular food to their diet. It will take roughly six weeks for them to make a complete transition to a regular diet. By this point, you should have moved them to the grow-out tank.
This migration should happen one week after they become free swimmers. The grow-out tank is much larger, and it will allow the fry to live as they grow in size appropriately. You don’t want them to feel overcrowded.
This could affect their growth. If you feel like the young angels are vulnerable to sickness, be sure to change the water regularly. You should also pay close attention to their diet; the more nutritious the meals, the lower the chances of the young angels falling prey to diseases.
The breeding of angelfish can be a long and arduous process, especially if you are only starting to experiment with the species. These are just a few of the factors and considerations that might haunt and confuse some of you:
- Can female angels lay eggs in the absence of a male angel?
Female angelfish don’t need a male to lay eggs. However, if there is no male, the eggs laid by the female will go bad because they haven’t been fertilized. Unfertilized eggs are easy to spot because they are covered in white fungus.
Sometimes the female will eat these dead eggs. In other cases, you are encouraged to remove them before they ruin the water.
However, sometimes well-fertilized eggs do not survive. There are countless reasons for that, and that is why I dedicated an entire article to the issue. Make sure that you read what I wrote on how to keep angelfish eggs alive. I’ve listed there six essential tips that are extremely easy to implement.
- Why do the eggs turn white?
As was mentioned above, when a female lays eggs in the absence of a male, the eggs will eventually develop a white fungus because they are not fertilized. However, this can also happen in the presence of a male.
A male angel can either fail or refuse to fertilize the eggs laid by the female. This will cause them to turn white. Nevertheless, there are a few steps you can take to prevent this. Here is an article I wrote on why do angelfish eggs turn white. I also mentioned there what to do to avoid this, including male encouragement.
- How many eggs can an angelfish produce during its life?
There is no limit. Angelfish can produce anywhere between 100 and 1000 eggs during each spawning session. And they can do this from the moment they mature regardless of whether or not they have a male partner.
The frequency with which they lay their eggs will depend on the conditions in the tank. Ideally, angelfish breed every twelve to eighteen days. However, that also depends on the female’s age, as I elaborated in this article.
- Are flakes and pellets sufficient food for your angelfish?
Flakes and pellets are perfectly nutritious. You can trust them to satisfy the needs of your angels. But when they are still fry, you should give them live food.
- Does a breeding tank need a substrate?
A substrate will trap food particles and waste that will eventually corrupt the water. A breeding tank should be bare at the bottom.
- When does breeding start?
Angelfish are mature enough to breed at roughly five months, though the conditions in the tank and genetic factors could extend that period.
- How can you tell that an angelfish egg is fertile?
Viable angelfish eggs are a translucent amber hue. You will see the parents cleaning them. They will ignore or eat the infertile ones.
Achieving The Ideal Tank For Angelfish Reproduction
As mentioned earlier, a proper tank is crucial for angelfish to breed. It has to feature a few requirements to make your angels comfortable. More importantly, it should resemble the natural habitat they are originated from.
To achieve all that, I highly recommend that you read my aquarium kits buyer’s guide. I mentioned there the 20-gallons one I’ve been using for years with great success. That is also the tank I was using for a while when I was breeding my angelfish. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Most tanks do not come with a sufficient amount of foliage. As I mentioned earlier, your angelfish need to have available hiding spots. That is particularly true when you position the aquarium in an area people walk at. Calm angels reproduce more quickly. When you get a new tank, make sure to buy some vegetation upfront.
Also, I suggest that you get yourself a slate. Angelfish are more likely to lay eggs on it instead of leaves. Moreover, it will be more comfortable for you if you decide to move the fertilized eggs to a different tank, raising the offsprings on your own. Personally, I have been using Aqua KT Discus Fish Breeding Cone (link to Amazon).
Lastly, you should keep in mind the water temperature. As mentioned earlier, angelfish require 78 to 84 Degrees F to spawn. However, it is also crucial that the water doesn’t fluctuate much in temperature. That could prevent your angels from breeding, even though the average temperature falls within the right range.
To prevent that, please take a look at my aquarium heater recommendation. You will find that my detailed review, followed by a temperature graph I created. This will help you comprehend how stable that heater actually is. I do not doubt that this particular device will save you a lot of money down the road, attempting to achieve the ideal one.
Can Different Kinds of Angelfish Breed?
Yes, different kinds of angelfish can breed, especially when you provide them with the ideal water conditions. That includes the right temperature, pH, water hardness, and a generally stress-free atmosphere.
When you first buy your angelfish for breeding purposes, you are likely to get those of different types. In this case, the two might appear different in colors and shapes. That is entirely okay.
In fact, I have previously discussed that phenomenon in a different article, where I answered whether or not can different types of angelfish breed. I also listed there a few tips to make crossbreeding more likely. These will probably make your life much easier down the line.
Breeding angelfish mostly consists of eight steps. Among those are choosing the ideal tank and pairing angels. Also, you should keep an eye on the water parameters and the environment. You should make an effort to resemble the natural habitat that your angels are accustomed to in your tank.
Keep in mind that even after all this effort, your angels might still not breed. Sometimes things are merely up to them, and there is nothing you can do about it. However, following these steps will increase the likelihood of reproduction. Just keep on going and never give up.