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Angelfish Tank Setup: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

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If you’re setting up an angelfish aquarium and are unsure where to start, you’ve landed on the right page.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through every detail. I’ll discuss tank size, water parameters, necessary equipment, suitable tank mates for angelfish, and beyond.

Let’s get started.

AspectAngelfish Tank Specification
Temperature78°F – 80°F (25.5°C – 26.5°C)
pH Level6.5 – 7.5
Ammonia Level0 ppm (part per million)
Nitrite Level0 ppm
Nitrate Level< 40 ppm (Ideally kept as low as possible, below 20 ppm is better)
Water HardnessSoft to moderately hard; GH: 3-10 dGH
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons (for a single fish)
Ideal Tank Size30 gallons or more (especially if keeping multiple)
Lighting Hours8-10 hours/day
Lighting IntensityModerate; angelfish appreciate dim to moderately lit environments
Filter Flow RateModerate; too strong can stress the fish, but a gentle current is ideal
Heater PowerDependent on tank size; generally, 3-5 watts/gallon is recommended
SubstrateFine to medium grained, such as sand or fine gravel
PlantsBroad-leaved and tall plants like Amazon Swords and Java Fern

Also Read: Angelfish Care Guide

Tank Size

For angelfish, a tank size of at least 30 gallons is recommended, but for optimal growth and well-being, a larger tank is ideal.

This size ensures the fish have sufficient room to swim, grow, and exhibit natural behaviors.

  • Ideal Size: A 55-gallon tank or larger is ideal for a pair or small group of angelfish. This gives them ample swimming space and reduces territorial disputes.
  • Minimum Requirement: For a single angelfish, a 30-gallon tank is the bare minimum. However, this size may not be adequate as they mature and grow.
  • Fish Size: Fully-grown angelfish can reach up to 6 inches in length. A cramped space can lead to stress and stunted growth.
  • Multiple Angelfish: If you plan to keep several angelfish together, adding 10 gallons per additional fish is a good rule of thumb.

Also Read: Angelfish Tank Size

Water Parameters

Angelfish thrive in specific water conditions that resemble their native Amazonian environment.

Properly maintaining these parameters is pivotal for their overall health and vibrancy.

  • Temperature: Keep the tank between 76°F and 82°F. Using a reliable aquarium heater and checking with a thermometer daily can ensure consistency.
  • pH Level: Angelfish need a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. Using pH test kits weekly and adjusting with conditioners can help maintain this balance.
  • Water Hardness: They prefer soft to moderately hard water, around 3 to 8 dGH. Utilize water test kits and consider using a water softener if needed.
  • Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrates: Ensure 0 ppm for ammonia and nitrite; nitrates below 20 ppm. Regular water changes and efficient filtration are key to achieve this.

Also Read: Angelfish Water Parameters

Essential Equipment for Angelfish

Selecting the appropriate equipment for your angelfish is essential when setting up their habitat. Here’s what you should keep in mind:

1. Filter

My recommendation: Fluval FX6 Aquarium Canister Filter (link to Amazon).

A good filter is indispensable for maintaining water clarity and removing harmful toxins.

It also ensures proper oxygenation and water movement, mimicking the angelfish’s natural habitat.

  • Mechanical Filtration: This removes large debris like uneaten food. Canister filters or hang-on-back filters are popular choices.
  • Biological Filtration: Beneficial bacteria break down ammonia and nitrites. Ensure your filter media, like ceramic rings, support this colony.
  • Flow Rate: Angelfish prefer slow-moving waters. Choose a filter with an adjustable flow or one that circulates the tank’s volume 3-4 times per hour.

Also Read: Do Angelfish Need A Filter?

2. Heater and Thermometer

My recommendation: Fluval E300 Advanced Electronic Heater (link to Amazon).

Angelfish are tropical fish, requiring a consistent and suitable water temperature. A heater and thermometer combo ensures that the temperature remains stable.

  • Wattage: A general guideline is 3-5 watts per gallon. For a 50-gallon tank, a 150-250 watt heater is ideal.
  • Placement: Position the heater near the filter output for even heat distribution. Avoid placing it near windows or air vents.
  • Monitoring: Using a reliable thermometer, check daily. Digital thermometers with external displays are user-friendly and precise.

Also Read: Do Angelfish Need A Heater?

3. Canopy and Lights

My recommendation: Hygger Auto On Off LED Aquarium Light (link to Amazon).

A canopy reduces water evaporation and prevents fish from jumping out, while proper lighting supports plant growth and showcases the angelfish’s beauty.

  • LED Lights: These are energy-efficient and provide a full spectrum. Ensure they have a daytime and nighttime setting.
  • Duration: Angelfish need 8-12 hours of light daily. Consider using a timer to maintain a consistent light cycle.
  • Canopy Material: Opt for a tight-fitting, sturdy material. This minimizes evaporation and offers added safety against potential escapees.

Also Read: Do Angelfish Like Light?

4. Air Bubbler

My recommendation: Hygger Aquarium Air Stone (link to Amazon).

An air bubbler increases oxygen levels and enhances water circulation, ensuring a healthier environment for angelfish. It also adds an aesthetic appeal with its stream of rising bubbles.

  • Oxygenation: Bubblers help in supplementing oxygen, especially in densely stocked tanks or during warmer temperatures.
  • Tank Aesthetics: The stream of bubbles can be both soothing to watch and creates a dynamic visual effect in the aquarium.
  • Preventing Stagnation: It promotes water movement, ensuring there are no stagnant areas where harmful bacteria might flourish.

Also Read: Do Angelfish Need A Bubbler?

5. Air Pump

My Recommendation: Tetra Whisper Air Pump (link to Amazon).

To operate an air bubbler, an air pump is essential. It powers the bubbler and ensures consistent airflow, vital for the aquarium’s overall health.

  • Sizing: Choose a pump rated for your tank’s size. For larger tanks, consider pumps that support dual outlets.
  • Noise Level: Some pumps can be noisy. Opt for a quieter model or place it on a vibration-dampening mat for peace of mind.
  • Backup Feature: Some air pumps come with a battery backup, handy during power outages to keep the air flowing.

Also Read: Do Angelfish Need An Air Pump?

6. Aquarium Siphon and Mesh

My recommendation: Laifoo 7ft Aquarium Siphon (link to Amazon).

Regular maintenance is pivotal for a clean tank, and an aquarium siphon aids in removing detritus and doing water changes.

Meshes help in capturing debris and protecting fish during these procedures.

  • Water Changes: Use a siphon to replace 20-25% of the tank’s water weekly. This ensures the removal of harmful nitrates and replenishes essential minerals.
  • Gravel Cleaning: Siphons with gravel vacuums help clean substrate. This prevents the buildup of harmful ammonia and nitrites from decaying matter.
  • Safety with Mesh: When siphoning, use a mesh or guard to prevent small fish or fry from being accidentally sucked up. This ensures a safe environment during maintenance.

Aquarium Design And Foliage for Angelfish

The layout of your aquarium and the selection of plants play a vital role in establishing a flourishing habitat for your angelfish. Here’s what you should be aware of:

1. Plant Life

Angelfish thrive in an environment that mirrors the dense plant life of the Amazon. A carefully selected array of aquatic plants can boost their comfort and well-being.

  • Tall Plants: Opt for Amazon Swords which can grow up to 20 inches, ensuring the tall foliage angelfish prefer is present.
  • Broad Leaves: Incorporate Anubias Barteri, with leaves up to 5 inches wide, making them perfect egg-laying surfaces for breeding angelfish.
  • Floating Plants: Water Sprite is a favorite; ensure a covering of about 25% of the water surface for optimal shade and refuge.

Also Read: Aquarium Plants for Angelfish

2. Driftwood

My recommendation: Dr. Moss Malaysian Driftwood (link to Amazon).

Incorporating driftwood enhances aesthetics and benefits the angelfish’s natural preference for blackwater environments.

  • Natural Shelter: Use larger pieces, around 12-18 inches, to provide hiding spots reminiscent of their wild habitats.
  • Tannin Release: Choose Malaysian driftwood, known for a higher tannin content, to soften water and mildly reduce pH levels over time.
  • Types: Mopani wood, with its dark, rich tones, lasts long and offers a visually pleasing contrast to angelfish colors.

3. Substrate

My recommendation: AquaNatural Midnight Pearl Gravel Substrate (link to Amazon).

The right substrate not only sets the visual tone of your aquarium but also plays a pivotal role in plant health and angelfish comfort.

  • Fine Grains: Consider using a 2-inch layer of soft sand; it’s gentle on angelfish fins and allows them to sift naturally.
  • Nutrient-Rich: Eco-Complete, with its packed minerals, is great for plants; a 3-inch depth should suffice for robust plant growth.
  • Natural Look: Opt for dark-colored substrates; they contrast well with angelfish colors and give a more authentic Amazonian feel.

Also Read: What Is The Best Substrate For Angelfish?

4. Hiding Spots

Angelfish, though often seen as bold and majestic, appreciate places where they can retreat and feel secure. Offering these spots is crucial for their well-being and reduces stress.

  • Caves & Overhangs: Use coconut shells or specially designed ceramic caves, ensuring an entrance size of at least 4 inches for adult angelfish to fit comfortably. I personally like this FEDOUR Aquarium Stone Cave (link to Amazon).
  • Plant Densities: Position dense plant clusters, like Java Fern, in corners to provide natural hideaways.
  • Decorative Ornaments: Choose non-sharp ornaments, ensuring a minimum size of 5 inches for it to act as an effective refuge for the fish.

Also Read: Do Angelfish Need Hiding Spots?

5. Space

Angelfish, with their tall, triangular shape, require ample swimming space. Providing adequate space prevents stress and promotes healthier, more vibrant fish.

  • Vertical Space: Opt for taller tanks; a height of at least 24 inches is recommended since angelfish grow vertically.
  • Open Areas: Ensure about 60% of the tank is open swimming space, allowing angelfish to glide gracefully without obstruction.
  • Tank Size: For a pair of adult angelfish, a minimum of 30 gallons is recommended, with an additional 10 gallons for every added angelfish.

6. Lighting

Adequate lighting not only showcases the beauty of your angelfish but also supports plant growth, essential for a balanced environment.

  • LED Options: Choose LED lights that offer a full spectrum, ensuring about 0.5 watts per liter for optimal brightness without stressing the fish.
  • Duration: Maintain a consistent 10-12 hour lighting cycle; timers can be invaluable in ensuring regularity.
  • Diffusion: Floating plants or light diffusers can help disperse intense light, preventing potential stress to the angelfish.

7. Elements Placement

Strategic positioning of aquarium elements can create a harmonious environment for angelfish, encouraging natural behaviors and reducing territorial disputes.

  • Central Features: Place larger plants and driftwood centrally, allowing angelfish to swim around them and establish territories.
  • Periphery Planting: Situate taller plants towards the back and sides, creating depth and guiding fish to the center.
  • Equipment Position: Install heaters and filters in corners or behind dense foliage to camouflage them, ensuring the focus remains on the angelfish’s beauty.

Setting Up And Maintaining Your Angelfish Aquarium

Setting up a fresh angelfish tank is a straightforward process. Here are the steps you should follow:

1. Preparing the Water

Before introducing your angelfish, it’s imperative to ensure the water conditions are optimal. 

Angelfish are sensitive to abrupt changes, and pre-conditioned water helps in avoiding shocks that can stress or harm them.

  • Water Conditioner: Always use a good water conditioner to neutralize chlorine and chloramines commonly found in tap water. I use the Tetra AquaSafe (link to Amazon) quite a lot.
  • Temperature: Maintain a stable water temperature between 76-82°F (24-28°C) which is ideal for angelfish comfort and health.
  • pH Level: Aim for a slightly acidic to neutral pH range, ideally between 6.5-7.5, to mimic their natural Amazonian habitat.
  • Aeration: Ensure good oxygenation using air pumps and bubblers; oxygen-rich water promotes angelfish vitality and health.

2. Managing Nitrogen and Helpful Bacteria

For a thriving angelfish tank, understanding the nitrogen cycle and fostering beneficial bacteria is crucial.

These bacteria play a vital role in breaking down harmful waste products and maintaining water quality.

  • Cycling: Before introducing angelfish, cycle the tank for 4-6 weeks to establish beneficial bacteria colonies.
  • Beneficial Bacteria: Consider adding bottled bacteria, like API QUICK START (link to Amazon), to jump-start the nitrogen cycle in new tanks.
  • Testing: Regularly use test kits to monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels, ensuring they remain at safe levels (ammonia and nitrite at 0 ppm and nitrate below 20 ppm).
  • Water Changes: Conduct weekly 20-25% water changes to help control nitrate accumulation and replenish essential minerals.

3. Feeding and Keeping Clean

Proper nutrition and a clean environment are paramount for the well-being of angelfish. 

While they are not particularly messy fish, regular maintenance ensures their health and vibrant colors.

  • Varied Diet: Provide a mix of high-quality flakes, pellets, and occasional live or frozen foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp. My recommendation: Hikari Cichlid Excel Pellets (link to Amazon).
  • Feeding Frequency: Feed angelfish 1-2 times a day, offering only what they can consume in 2-3 minutes to prevent overfeeding.
  • Siphoning: Use an aquarium siphon bi-weekly to remove detritus and uneaten food, preventing harmful ammonia buildup.
  • Filter Maintenance: Clean or replace filter media monthly, ensuring the removal of contaminants while preserving established beneficial bacteria.

Best Tank Tankmates for Angelfish

Angelfish are generally peaceful but can be territorial, especially during breeding.

When considering tankmates, it’s essential to choose species that won’t nip at their long fins and can coexist harmoniously with these majestic fish.

  • Corydoras Catfish: These are bottom dwellers, peaceful in nature, and won’t disturb angelfish. A group of 5 or more helps them feel secure.
  • Dwarf Cichlids: Species like the Bolivian Ram are calm and won’t clash with angelfish. Keep in pairs for best compatibility.
  • Tetras: Larger tetras, like Black Skirt or Lemon Tetras, are ideal. Avoid fin nippers like Serpae Tetras.
  • Loaches: Kuhli or Yo-Yo Loaches are excellent choices, offering a dynamic yet non-aggressive presence at the tank’s bottom.
  • Rasboras: Harlequin or Scissortail Rasboras are peaceful schoolers, best kept in groups of 6 or more for a harmonious tank.
  • Bristlenose Plecos: They’re calm algae eaters that stick to surfaces and won’t compete with or disturb angelfish.
  • Livebearers: Platies or Swordtails can be good matches; however, avoid overly active ones like Guppies, which might stress angelfish.
Harlequin Rasbora

On the other hand, I would avoid large and aggressive species like:

  • Tiger Barb
  • Red-Tailed Shark
  • Oscar Cichlid
  • Jack Dempsey Cichlid
  • Green Severum
  • Convict Cichlid
  • African Cichlids
  • Silver Dollar Fish
  • Clown Loach
  • Electric Blue Acara

How to Set Up Angelfish Breeding Tank

Setting up a breeding tank for angelfish requires attention to detail, ensuring both the parents and the fry have the best chance at success.

A conducive environment that mimics natural conditions will encourage spawning and improve the survival rate of the young ones.

  • Tank Size: Opt for a tank of at least 20 gallons to ensure sufficient space for breeding pairs and the resulting fry.
  • Water Parameters: Maintain slightly acidic pH levels (6.5-6.9) and a temperature around 80°F (27°C) to stimulate breeding.
  • Substrate: A bare-bottom tank is easier to clean, helping to prevent mold and harmful bacteria from affecting the fry.
  • Breeding Slate: Introduce vertical slates or broad-leaved plants; angelfish prefer these surfaces to lay their eggs on. I previously had huge success with this AQUA Angelfish Breeding Cone (link to Amazon).
  • Filtered Flow: Use a sponge filter for gentle water flow and biological filtration without the risk of fry being sucked in.
  • Cover & Lights: A hood or canopy keeps the environment stable, and a dimly lit tank encourages spawning; 10 hours of light per day is sufficient.


Here are some common questions that fish owners usually ask when setting up their new angelfish tank:

Do Angelfish Like Heavily Planted Tanks?

Yes, angelfish do appreciate well-planted tanks, as plants provide a natural environment similar to their wild habitats.

However, it’s essential to strike a balance to ensure they have enough open swimming space.

  • Natural Cover: Plants like Amazon Swords or Java Fern offer angelfish places to hide, reducing stress and enhancing their well-being.
  • Breeding Behavior: Broad-leaved plants can serve as natural breeding sites, where angelfish lay their eggs.
  • Tank Aesthetics: Besides benefiting the angelfish, plants absorb nitrates and enhance the overall visual appeal of the aquarium.

Do Angelfish Need Flow?

Yes, angelfish do require water flow in their tanks, but it should be moderate and not too intense.

A gentle current replicates their natural habitat and helps in maintaining water quality.

  • Oxygen Circulation: A steady but gentle flow ensures even distribution of oxygen, vital for angelfish health.
  • Waste Management: Moderate water movement helps in suspending debris, making it easier for filters to trap and remove.
  • Natural Habitat Mimicry: Angelfish come from Amazonian waters where they experience soft currents; replicating this with a gentle flow feels natural to them.

Do Angelfish Grow According to Tank Size?

No, the myth that fish, including angelfish, grow only according to their tank size is not entirely accurate.

While tank size can influence health and behavior, it doesn’t directly limit their growth in the way many believe.

  • Stunted Growth: Inadequate tank sizes can lead to poor health and stunted growth, but the fish’s genetic makeup determines its maximum size.
  • Health Issues: Small tanks may lead to a build-up of toxins faster, impacting the angelfish’s health and potentially affecting growth.
  • Behavioral Impact: Overcrowding or small environments can stress angelfish, leading to more territorial behavior and less optimal growth conditions.

Also Read: How To Feed Angelfish

What Is the Minimum Number of Angelfish in a Tank?

Technically, you can have just one angelfish in a tank, but if you’re considering more, they often do better in pairs or small groups.

However, it’s essential to ensure ample space for each fish to minimize territorial disputes.

  • Pairing Up: Angelfish are often sold in pairs; they can form bonds and even breed in home aquariums.
  • Territorial Nature: In small numbers, without enough space, angelfish might become aggressive towards each other.
  • Tank Size: For a pair or small group, a tank of at least 30 gallons is recommended, providing ample room for each fish.
  • Social Dynamics: Observing multiple angelfish can be rewarding, as it allows aquarists to appreciate their social interactions and graceful movements together.

Are Angelfish Easy to Keep?

Angelfish, while captivating, can present challenges, especially for novice aquarists.

They’re not the most difficult fish to care for, but they do have specific requirements that need to be met for them to thrive.

  • Water Parameters: Angelfish prefer slightly soft and acidic water; maintaining pH levels between 6.5 and 7.5 is ideal for their well-being.
  • Dietary Needs: These fish require a varied diet; offering a mix of high-quality flakes, live foods, and occasional veggies ensures optimal health.
  • Sensitive Nature: Angelfish can be sensitive to abrupt changes in their environment, making consistent water conditions paramount.
  • Space Requirements: While they start small, angelfish grow and need ample space; a tank of at least 20 gallons for a single fish is essential.


For quick readers, here’s a short summary:

  • Angelfish tanks should have water parameters of 78°F – 80°F temperature, pH of 6.5 – 7.5, ammonia and nitrite levels at 0 ppm, and nitrate below 20 ppm for optimal health.
  • A minimum of 30 gallons is needed for a single angelfish, but a 55-gallon tank is ideal for a pair or small group, with an addition of 10 gallons for each additional fish.
  • Essential equipment includes a reliable filter, heater with thermometer, canopy with LED lights, an air bubbler powered by an air pump, and an aquarium siphon for maintenance.
  • Aquarium design should mimic the Amazonian habitat with tall plants, driftwood, dark-colored substrates, hiding spots, adequate swimming space, and strategic equipment placement.
  • Setting up an angelfish tank involves preparing the water with proper conditioning, managing nitrogen and fostering beneficial bacteria through cycling, and maintaining cleanliness with regular feeding and siphoning.