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Angelfish Care Guide: Tank Setup, Water Requirements & More

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I have been growing angelfish for over eight years. Frankly, these are among my favorite types of freshwater fish. During the time I raised them, I’ve learned what the essential things you should consider are. This angelfish care guide will ensure you’ll get healthy, long-living angelfish. So without further ado, let’s dive right into it.

Here is a summary table of the angelfish care guide which includes their basic requirements:

Category Rating
Angelfish PickingAvoid dirty tanks with floating dead fish
Ideal Tank SizeAt least 20 gallons (12 more for each additional angelfish)
Aquarium LocationAvoid high-traffic areas with a direct sunlight
Water Hardness0-6 (0-100 for the ppm)
pH Range6.5-7.1 (6.8 for breeding)
Water Temperature78-84 degrees F
Recommended HeaterCobalt Aquatics Neo-Therm Pro Heater
Recommended FilterWhisper In-Tank Filter
Plants3-4 living plants with broad leaves
DecorationsSmooth rocks at the bottom, avoid gravel or sharp decorations
Lightning8-10 hours a day of LED lights
Food TypeFreeze-dried foods, vegetables, flakes, pellets (brine shrimp for breeding purposes)
Possible DiseasesAngelfish virus, protozoans, parasites, and bacteria
Diseases TreatmentRaise the temperature to 95 degrees F, use broad-spectrum antibiotics
Possible Tank MatesLoaches, Tetras, Dwarf Gouramis, Mollies, Guppies, Platies
Tank Mates to AvoidOscars, Shrimp, Lobsters, Bettas, Neon Tetras, Harlequin Rasbora
LifespanUp to ten years in captivity
Male FeaturesSmall lump on the forehead, a pointed papilla
Female FeaturesEgg-laying, a broad papilla

While this table summarizes the basic angelfish requirements, there are a few more things you should take care of. For example, there is a specific way to set up the tank for your angelfish. As we move forward, I will get into these in greater detail.

Well, everyone wants to keep angelfish, and for a good reason. They have graceful, beautiful bodies and, for the most part, they are quite easy to care for. But if you are new to fish rearing, no one would blame you for approaching angelfish cautiously.

The following tips will help you maintain a semblance of control:

1. How to Choose the Right Angelfish

People think that the experience they will encounter when rearing angelfish will depend solely on the steps they take to prepare and maintain the aquarium. And while this is true, it is only one part of the equation.

The fish you buy also matter. The most massive tanks with the most pristine waters are not going to make a difference if you brought poor quality fish back from the store. They will turn your life into a nightmare. If you want to start on a positive footing, get the best possible fish for your aquarium.

‘Best,’ in this case, refers to healthy fish that do not have any apparent diseases or genetic anomalies. Pay close attention to the tanks in which they are kept at your local fish store. If the containers are dirty, the fish are probably sick.

If the other fish look sick, the ones chosen for you will probably manifest similar illnesses down the line. If you see dead fish in the tank, you should just avoid that fish store altogether. But if there are no apparent signs of trouble, look at the angels themselves.

Eliminate any candidates that have stunted bodies or bent fins. The same goes for fish with white fuzzy spots and angels that are too lethargic. You should also steer clear of fish with deformations of one form or another. 

Some people don’t have the knowledge or experience required to spot some of these issues. This is why I encourage beginners to visit trustworthy fish stores that other people have recommended. This will give the assurance that every angel they buy is healthy.

If you think you see something problematic, but you are not sure, don’t be afraid to question the person behind the counter. Let them explain to you why the signs you have observed are not quite as dangerous as you think. Only buy their angelfish if you’re satisfied with their explanation.

2. Angelfish Tank Setup

So you’ve done the first part correctly, which is choosing the ideal, healthy angelfish. However, that isn’t where your work is done. There are a few steps you should take to make sure your tank is ideal for populating angelfish.

Start by Washing The Aquarium

Washing starts before the fish arrive, not after. If you have an aquarium on hand, wash everything, not just the walls of the tank but the rocks and decorations. The same goes for the gravel. Everything must be thoroughly scrubbed to ensure that it doesn’t introduce any toxins to the water that might poison your fish.

If you have never reared fish before, you might not realize that it isn’t a good idea to use ordinary soap or detergents. You are going to poison your fish.[1] Just use a colander to run water over everything. Also, make sure that you keep stirring the gravel. This will encourage any debris hidden within to fall out. 

  • Don’t do this just once. You will know that you’re done when the water remains clear as you run it through the gravel. Only then can you conclude that your gravel is sufficiently clean.

Inserting the Water

You can probably get away with adding water to your tank in any manner that suits you. But some people will encourage you to use a saucer. Place it on top of the gravel and then pour the water on the dish.

The idea is to add the water without displacing the gravel in the area where the water is hitting. Depending on the source, you might have to use AquaSafe (link to Amazon) to de-chlorinate the water. In case you didn’t know, chlorine isn’t good for fish.

Add one teaspoon of the substance for every ten gallons of water in the tank. However, do not fill the entire aquarium with water, not at this stage. Fill it up to the halfway point. You should only add the remaining water once the plants, decorations, and airline tubing are in place. 

Don’t fill the water all the way up to the top. Leave a gap between the top of the water and the cover. Add the water carefully. You don’t want to disturb the components of the tank, not just the gravel but the decorations and plants. 

Activating the Tank

Getting your tank running is a simple matter of plugging all the electrical components into a power source. That includes the air pump, filter, and heater. Your appliances will tell you the adjustments you must make to meet their power requirements. 

It is also important not to add the fish immediately. Your tank needs a moment to stabilize. This is especially true for the temperature. Give the heater a moment to raise the heat to the proper level. Check the filter to ensure that the water is flowing adequately through it. 

It might take your aquarium hours to stabilize, and that is a conservative estimate. Don’t be surprised if it takes your tank several days to achieve the balance required in its parameters to support your angelfish. Be patient. 

Transferring Your Angelfish

This goes without saying. Your fish must stay in water at all times. That’s even in the moments when you are moving them to your tank after its parameters have stabilized. In most cases, your fish store will give them to you in a plastic bag.

You can’t just pour the bag with its fish into the tank. The water in the plastic bag isn’t the same as the water in the tank. More importantly, the water in there might have contaminants that could ruin the balance you have created in your aquarium.

For this reason, you should first permit the bag to float in the tank water for a quarter of an hour. This will enable it to match the temperature of the tank water. Once this is done, transport the fish from the plastic bag to the tank water using a net. 

  • Do not pour the plastic bag water into the tank even though it sounds like a much more natural approach. It will undoubtedly do more harm than good. 

Allow Natural Transition

Don’t expect your fish to acclimate to their new environment immediately. Some angelfish will quickly fall into a routine. But others might struggle to grow accustomed to your tank. This is why you should watch them closely for the first few days. 

Ensure that they are active and energetic. If they seem slower and fatigued, if they keep hiding in corners, if their colors are pale, something has gone wrong. Don’t assume that the fish is at fault. More than likely, the temperature and pH are wrong.

You might also have contaminants in the water. The one advantage of keeping fish is that they will tell you through their bodies and behavior when things in the tank are not right. After that, it is a simple matter of carrying out a thorough investigation until you identify the source of the problem.

3. How Big of a Tank do Angelfish Need?

With tanks, bigger is always better. Get an aquarium that is at least twenty gallons in size. A larger tank is easier to maintain and balance. That is because it takes longer for the concentration of impurities to grow to a stage where they can harm your fish. 

Also, angelfish in a large tank are less likely to fight, despite their territorial personalities. That is because they have so much room to maneuver. Crowded aquariums will create stress, and enhance the known territorial behavior among your angels. 

In case you are looking for a new tank, I highly suggest that you read my aquarium kits buyer’s guide. I have mentioned there the 20-gallon tank I personally use, in which I was able to raise my angelfish (among other fish) with great success. Also, getting a premade kit will be much more cost-effective than assembling all the different parts on your own. 

You should also keep in mind that the amount of angelfish matters. The more angels you own, the larger the tank you’ll require. As I’ve explained in this article, the first angelfish requires 22 gallons. For each additional one you add, you will require 12 gallons more. I also mentioned there a calculator that will tell how big of a tank you’ll need, depending on the fish’s length. 

4. Where Should I Place the Angelfish Tank?

It isn’t enough to get your fish a large tank. You must also choose an appropriate location. Keep the aquarium away from direct sunlight because it will directly impact the temperature of the water, causing it to fluctuate wildly. 

  • This is why you shouldn’t place the tank next to a window, heating vent or an air vent. You are going to create instability in the temperature in the tank. 

If at all possible, you should also avoid places with a lot of human traffic.[2] The presence of people has been known to prevent spawning in angelfish because human traffic keeps distracting them. This is especially true for males. In other cases, excessive human traffic is a source of stress. Find a place where your fish can pursue their business peacefully. 

5. Angelfish Water Hardness and pH

Angelfish prefer slightly soft, acidic water. You should aim to a degree of water hardness between 0 to 6 (0 to 100 for the ppm). However, angels are hardy creatures. They may get accustomed to water, which is different from their ideal requirements. That could be the case when you buy new angels.

At the shop, pet owners typically don’t measure the precise hardness. Also, they usually keep more than one specie at the same tank. Those could share different hardness requirements. There is a good chance that the angelfish you bought have already got used to the living conditions at the store. Therefore, you should make any drastic changes.

Regarding pH, you should aim to 6.5-7.1, while 6.8 is optimal for breeding. If you are not sure how to accustom the water hardness and the pH, here is an article I wrote regarding whether angelfish prefer soft or hard water. I also listed a few techniques to manipulate those parameters. 

6. Do Angelfish Need a Heater?

Yes, angelfish do need a heater. You cannot rely on your environment to maintain the temperature in your tank. Angelfish prefer water whose temperature ranges between 78 and 84 degrees F. You need a heater to keep the temperature within that range.

Otherwise, it will fluctuate wildly in response to similar fluctuations in the ambient temperature. It is worth noting that angelfish are quite tolerant. They can survive in water whose temperature varies somewhat from the ideal. You can get away with figures in the mid-70s, especially for show tanks. 

If you are interested, here is my full review of the ideal aquarium heater. That was the only one that kept the water stable enough to raise angelfish (including their fry). The previous heaters I used kept fluctuating the water temperature. That got my angels nervous and shortened their lifespan. You may also check this article, in which I’ve explained how to choose a heater for angelfish.

Upper temperatures are preferable because they promote good health, faster growth in young fish, and more frequent breeding. That being said, angelfish live longer in lower temperatures. Their life spans are shorter in upper temperatures even though they have better immune system responses.

It is a question of your objective. If you don’t care about breeding, you will probably keep the water in the mid-70s. If you want to rear as many fish as possible, you might be tempted to raise the temperature to 80 degrees F, which is suitable for hatcheries.

  • But this is why you need a heater. It will give you accurate control over the temperature in your tank. It is also the reason why you should keep a thermometer on hand.

7. Do Angelfish Need a Filter or Air Pumps?

Every tank needs a filter. Your fish cannot survive without one, and that includes angelfish. However, you need to pay close attention to the strength. Angelfish live in slow-moving water in the wild. They expect similar conditions in the aquarium. 

Some filters create currents that are too strong. This exhausts the angelfish. It also stresses them out because of all the energy they expend swimming against the current. This is why your choice of a tank filter matters. 

Pick a device that is powerful enough to filter the water in the entire tank in the shortest period possible. However, it shouldn’t be too powerful. Otherwise, it might overwhelm your angels with the strength of the current. One that I found capable of maintaining that balance is the Whisper In-Tank filter (link to Amazon). 

If money is a problem for you, stick with sponge filters. They are relatively cheaper. If you want to show off your angelfish, use an under gravel filter. This is what you find with most show tanks. 

  • Just because you change the water regularly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a filter. The water changes, no matter how frequent, will lower the concentration of debris, waste, bacteria, and the like. But they cannot entirely eliminate the problem. You need a filter to ensure that your tank is optimally clean.

People rarely appreciate the work that an air pump does. Not only can you trust it to boost the levels of oxygen in your tank, but the right model will minimize turbulence, keeping the stream of air in the tank smooth and quiet. That is another option if you can’t tolerate aquarium filters. 

8. Do Angelfish Need Plants and Decorations?

Most angelfish tanks require some foliage. Angels need real plants with broad leaves. You can also add driftwood and ornaments of one sort or another.[3] The objective is to give your angels plenty of places to hide and spawn, not to mention improving the appearance of your tank.

While it makes sense to use gravel at the bottom, you should know that your fish enjoy foraging for food at the bottom of the tank. But if you have gravel, it will hide the food or keep it out of reach from the angels.

You are better off covering the bottom with smooth rocks. Hidden leftover food is bad for your tank because it will eventually rot, ruining the balance of the water.

Where ordinary decorations are concerned, avoid items with dangerous edges that are either too sharp or too rough. This applies, not just to the ornaments, but the driftwood. Pointed and rough edges will harm your angels.

If you don’t know how to determine whether or not an edge is too sharp or rough, run a nylon thread across its surface. If it snaps, then you have a problem. 

9. Do Angelfish Like Light?

Quite a few debates are surrounding the impact of lighting on angelfish. Well, the day length for angelfish should be 8 to 10 hours.[4] For that, I recommend using LED lights. Incandescent lights are going to change the temperature of the water.[5] They will create dangerous fluctuations. 

LED lights do not have this problem. It is worth noting that fish are not the only things in the tank that are affected by lightning. You also have the plants to consider. The amount of light that various species require will vary.

You need to research this issue to ensure that you only get plants that can thrive in the light produced by the LED devices you wish to purchase. Some plants might require brighter light than might be safe for your fish.

It is also vital to secure programmable lights that can mimic the day/night cycle. This matters in situations where the tank is in a windowless room. Try to match the hours of light the fish get to the hours of the daytime outside. 

You can also base the type of light you buy on what you want to achieve visually. That is to say; you can make adjustments to the lighting to improve the appearance of your angels, taking advantage of their rich colors.

10. What do Angelfish Eat & How Often?

Angelfish are omnivores that can eat both animals and plants. They prefer live food such as brine and Mysis shrimp. They also eat frozen, freeze-dried foods, flakes, and pellets. You don’t have to buy shrimp to feed your angels every single time. They breed very quickly. 

  • As such, you can set a separate tank aside to rear small shrimp. It won’t take you long to produce your own supply of shrimp that the angels can snack on whenever the need arises. 

Angelfish should be fed roughly two times a day. Keep in mind not to give them more food than they can eat in three minutes. There is no standard duration for feeding your angels. Some people will tell you only to offer your angels food they can eat in thirty seconds.

Others will raise that figure to one minute. You need to experiment with your angels until you find a duration that works for you. The objective is to identify the right quantity of food to give your fish. If you give them too much food, they will fall sick. If you underfeed them, their health will also suffer.

You must give your angelfish the right amount of food. I recommend starting with thirty seconds. If they eat all the food provided within that period, move to a minute. If some food is still leftover once the time elapses, you can presume that you have given them too much. It is a simple matter of trying different amounts until you find a quantity that works. 

This also applies to the food items you feed them. Watch them and see how they react to certain foods. Some angelfish have different food preferences and requirements. Take note of their habits during meal times to determine what they want.

Another essential factor is breeding. If you intend to reproduce your angelfish, perhaps you should use a different kind of food. That also accounts for the angelfish fry itself. If you are interested, take a look at my step by step angelfish breeding guide. I mentioned there all the essential details, including the desired meals and their frequency. 

11. Culling Angelfish

Culling is a relatively common aspect of angelfish rearing. People keep angelfish because they are attractive creatures. As such, if you notice that some of your younger angels have physical anomalies and defects, you are better of eliminating them before they mature. 

You don’t want those anomalous fish to breed with other angels to produce even more fry with similar defects. If you run a strict breeding program, you must be prepared to do quite a bit of culling. 

This isn’t limited to younger angelfish with defects. You should also target young angelfish whose parents have flaws. More than likely, the young angels carry low-quality genes that will produce problematic fish in the future.

  • You should eliminate broken lines altogether to ensure that troublesome genes do not burden your future fry. 

Also, every time you buy new angels, you should quarantine them before introducing them to your tank.[6] This is to reduce the risk of bringing unknown diseases to the tank. It doesn’t take much to bring another aquarium’s parasites and bacteria to your own.

One drop of water can ruin your entire tank. This is why you should create a separate tank for new fish. The same goes for plants and any other creatures that you want to add to the tank. Keep them separate for a few weeks. 

If they still look healthy after all that time, you can test for some diseases with hidden symptoms. You should only introduce the fish to your tank if everything checks out. This sounds like a lot of hard work, but it is worth it to safeguard your tank from diseases that could destroy all your fish.

12. Angelfish Diseases and Treatment

Some angelfish illnesses are worse than others. This is why you are encouraged to be especially vigilant when adding new fish to the tank. Angelfish virus is one of the worst diseases your angels could contract. Not only do they start showing symptoms within three days, but even after they survive the condition, they become carriers for the next six or so months. 

  • This is why you should simply eliminate any angel that might have an angelfish virus. 

Protozoans such as flagellates are a persistent problem because they are linked to the stress levels of the fish. The higher the stress, the bigger the problem. The best way to resolve this issue is to raise and keep the temperature at 95 degrees F for about a weak. You should also use metronidazole.

If you think that your fish have parasites like gill flukes, you need to first confirm their presence before taking any extreme countermeasures. Take samples of their skin and feces and place them under a microscope. In the meantime, you can control and possibly even resolve the issue by also raising the temperature to 95 degrees F.

If your angels fail to respond to this heat treatment, you might have some pathogens in the mix. Because you have no way of ultimately safeguarding your fish from diseases, you need to ensure that you have all the necessary treatment options on hand.

That includes disease dips for wounds and broad-spectrum antibiotics for numerous diseases. There are also metronidazole, fenbendazole, and other internal parasite eliminators.

  • Don’t rely on heat treatments for everything. Bacteria and viruses will actually multiply faster in tanks with higher temperatures. Consult an expert if you don’t know how to treat the diseases you see in your angels. 

Don’t be so quick to take the advice of other fish owners even if success stories accompany their ideas. That is because the conditions they encountered in their angels might vary from the illnesses plaguing your tank. 

13. Angelfish Tank Mates

You must find your angelfish compatible tank, mates. The creatures have aggressive tendencies that might drive them to attack the other fish in their tank. For that reason, you need to select the right companions. Some good options include loaches, tetras, and gouramis. 

Look for fish that are too large for angelfish to fit in their mouths. They should have peaceful personalities. On that matter, I recommend that you take a look at an article I’ve written regarding the best and worst angelfish tank mates. I listed there 30 species you may raise along with angels, and five that you should undoubtedly avoid. 

14. Angelfish Lifespan and Age

As a beginner, you need to prioritize younger fish. They are easier to care for and much friendlier. As such, you are less likely to encounter bursts of violence and aggression in the tank. The size will tell you everything you need to know about the age.

A young fish is roughly the size of a quarter.[7] Fish that are raised in the company of their tank mates are less likely to bully them when they mature. Older angels do not have such tolerance. 

Regarding their lifespan, angelfish live up to ten years in captivity. They live longer in the wild, although that isn’t our case. Here is an article where I discussed the angelfish’s lifespan and offered a few tips to ensure they live that long. I highly recommend that you read it, especially if you are new to fishkeeping. 

15. Angelfish Gender: Male vs. Female

If you are thinking about breeding angelfish, you should know that you need both male and female angels. However, it is difficult to differentiate between the two. Some people struggle to breed angelfish because they have no idea that they only have one gender in their aquarium.

However, the issue of gender is not only important to people that want to breed angelfish. Angelfish are naturally aggressive creatures. This aspect of their personality has been well-documented. They are most aggressive when they are spawning.

They have been known to fight one another for mating partners. This is why it is essential to identify the genders of the angels in your tank. The easiest way to avoid such conflict is to limit the angelfish in the tank to one gender.

Angelfish can still show aggression in the absence of spawning activity. But they won’t be as territorial as they usually get when they form a couple with another angel.

While differentiating between the genders is challenging, you can identify the females by their ability to lay eggs. Once the female has deposited the eggs, the male will come along. He will pass over them, fertilizing them in the process. 

The males also have a small lump near their nose. If you know what a papilla is, you will notice that the one on a male angel is pointed. A female’s papilla is broad and round, and it is found near the anal fin.


Angelfish are quite hardy, and therefore will probably survive in your tank even if you lack experience. That was also the case when I raised my first angel. Nevertheless, prolonging their life and ensuring their proper health is a different story. That requires more attention.

I’ve written the guide above to ensure your angelfish remain healthy and perhaps even reproduce. If you are a beginner, follow these steps with caution. Over time, you will gain more experience and may feel comfortable raising your fish on your own.