Can Angelfish Live Alone? (Bare & Community Tanks)

When I was just introduced to angelfish, I naturally asked myself whether or not they can live alone. I guess it was because I was used to growing betta fish, which prefer living in a bare tank. Although, I came to realize that this is not the case with angelfish.

Angelfish can live alone in a bare tank, although it is not recommended. The loneliness and boredom will negatively impact their health and general state. Instead, keep them in a minimum group of six so that they are able to build a social hierarchy, which resembles their natural habitat.

However, if you still wish to raise a single angelfish on its own, it is possible. Later on, I will show you precisely how to do so and what obstacles you should undoubtedly avoid. Still, keep in mind that the best option for your angelfish is to live in groups. 

Can Angelfish Live Alone? (Bare Tanks)

Later on, I’ll elaborate on the angelfish’s unique personality to understand its chances of living on its own. However, for now, let’s try to figure whether or not angelfish are at all capable of living without companions. Some people are going to scream a resounding ‘YES’ because angelfish sound like they are far too much trouble to keep with other fish.

And that answer is partially right. While angelfish can present a challenge, there are ways of ensuring that they live peacefully with other fish in a tank. Don’t assume that angels are always fighting and causing trouble. There are ways of controlling even the most aggressive of their kind.

That being said, it is definitely possible for a single angelfish to live alone in a tank, especially if it has clean, appropriately regulated water and foliage. Can a sole angelfish live alone? Yes. 

Should a single angelfish live alone? No. To successfully rear angelfish in a tank, you have to replicate the conditions the creatures typically encounter out in the wild. That doesn’t just mean maintaining the right temperature and pH.

You must also remember that angelfish are shoaling fish. They prefer to live in small groups. While an angelfish can live on its own in a tank, it won’t be happy. In fact, in most cases, its health will suffer. Angelfish are supposed to be kept in groups. They need a community of one sort or another to thrive.

Without the company, the loneliness and boredom will attract negative health consequences.[1] As far as angelfish experts are concerned, it would be cruel and unethical to keep an angelfish alone in an empty tank. You are going against nature, and your fish will be miserable.[2]

If you must keep a single angelfish on its own, you are more likely to succeed with a mature fish. Angelfish are territorial, but this behavior is most prominent in adult angels. This is why some of them can exist happily in a tank alone. They don’t mind keeping the entire tank to themselves. 

Young angels, on the other hand, are not as territorial, and they have a strong affinity for communities. You shouldn’t keep a single young angel alone in an empty tank. 

Can You Keep a Single Angelfish in a Community Tank?

Can you keep one angelfish in a community tank with other types of fish? Yes. However, it is preferable to keep one angelfish in an empty aquarium. Again, angelfish are territorial, so battles can still happen.

This is why you must select their tank mates carefully. If the other fish are smaller and docile, the angel might attempt to dominate them. Stick with fish that angels can’t eat or bully. But in most cases, one angel in a community tank can live quite happily.

On that matter, you may find useful another article I’ve written about raising angelfish among mollies. They are usually great companions. Also, I mentioned there what you should do if either of them gets aggressive. On the other hand, here I explained why angelfish aren’t likely to get along with Oscars. 

Problems only arise when you introduce another angelfish of a different gender. The two will mate, resulting in a spike in their aggression. They will proceed to terrorize your entire tank. You are better off adding two male angels to the aquarium because it eliminates the breeding threat.

Your best option would be to add even more angels. Angelfish that live in groups with other angelfish are unlikely to attack the other types of fish that share their tank. Once the pecking order in their tribe has been established, the entire group will live peacefully with their tank mates. 

Can Angelfish Live Alone as a Group?

When people realize that they can’t leave their angelfish alone, they are left with two choices. They can either add more angelfish to the tank or move their one angelfish to a community tank filled with other types of fish.

If you choose to add angelfish to the tank, there are some considerations for you to keep in mind. You can’t add too many angelfish because that could crowd the tank. But the numbers you add can’t be too small either.

If you add one more angelfish of a different gender, the creatures will mate. This is a given, and it is a perfectly acceptable situation. You can trust the angels to spawn and raise their young ones in a relatively peaceful environment, barring any unexpected occurrences. It is relatively commonplace for fish owners to move breeding angelfish pairs to separate tanks. 

However, if you add two or three fish such that you have a total of three or four fish, problems will arise. One or two angels will probably become the targets of intense bullying. Angelfish typically fight for the sake of either claiming a mate or establishing their dominance.

If one of the two or three fish introduced is female, you are likely to have conflict. If all the angels are the same gender, they will fight for dominance. If you had one fish living in the tank for a significant duration, it would claim territory. And once you introduce more angels, the pre-existing fish will fight to cement its control over its domain and to ensure that the newcomers fall in line.

The only way to prevent this behavior is to take the pre-existing fish out of the tank. Rearrange the terrain in the aquarium and then reintroduce all your fish to it. This will create a level playing field. But even then, the smaller angels are bound to become targets for bullying. 

For the best results, aim for six angels in a tank. This will allow them to live in a harmonious community. Five should be the minimum, so long as the tank is big enough. This allows the aggression to diffuse among the fish. 

Where possible, avoid odd numbers. It helps your situation if you ensure that every male has a potential female partner. If you can establish an angelfish community of significant size in the tank, your angels will live happily and peacefully.

If you are interested, here is an article I previously wrote about the benefits angelfish enjoy when living in shoals. I also mentioned there the downsides in keeping multiple angelfish and how to avoid them. 

I also dedicated a separate article to figure out how big of a tank do you need for angelfish. I described a useful rule of thumb I’ve been using for years with great success.

Pros Tip

You are supposed to change the water in your tank regularly regardless of whether you have only angelfish or angelfish living with other types of fish. However, some of you might be surprised to learn that the aggressive tendencies of angelfish can manifest as a result of the frequency with which you change their water.

Angelfish use conflict as a means of establishing rank in their groups. The dominant fish will bully its weaker counterparts into submission. And this is perfectly fine. Once the hierarchy has been established, peace will return to the aquarium.

That being said, some experts have suggested that frequent water changes can unravel the hierarchy in a tank.[3] This is because the authority among angelfish is communicated via chemical signals in the waste they excrete, specifically the urine and bile.

This is what reminds the angels who they should look to for leadership. If you change the water too frequently, you will dilute these chemical signals, ruining the balance of power. This, in turn, will compel your angels to fight one another to re-establish the hierarchy.

So if your angels keep introducing violence to your tank regardless of the numbers you have added or taken out, the routine water changes might be responsible. 

What to Consider When Raising Angelfish on Their Own

Angelfish are complicated creatures. Like all fish, they have individual personalities that will determine how they react to certain situations. As such, some fish will thrive in isolation, all on their own. Others might crumble. 

Some angles will survive by themselves in a community tank filled with various other species. Others will struggle. As a fish owner, if you are trying to determine whether you should keep your angelfish together or alone, the following factors and consideration could help you make your decision:

The Angelfish’s Personality

While angelfish have distinct personalities, some traits manifest in most of their kind, and you can use them to predict the attitudes and reactions you will see in your own fish once you introduce them to your tank. 

Angelfish are territorial, and this can make them aggressive.[4] Their aggression is most pronounced when they have a mate or eggs to protect. This is why some fish owners prefer to separate angelfish pairs when they start mating. They don’t want the fish to terrorize their entire tank, which can happen. 

Food can create complications as well because angelfish are gluttons that will keep eating so long as you keep feeding them. They will also attack other fish over food if their tank is small, and they believe that they have to fight to protect the limited resources in their environment.

There are plenty of angelfish that are calm and docile. But these are the exception rather than the rule. The source of aggression in angelfish isn’t always obvious. This is what makes some of them genuinely unpredictable.

Possible Tank Mates

As was mentioned above, angelfish can be gluttonous. This is what makes them so dangerous to smaller fish. They will eat anything that can fit in their mouths. So if you have smaller creatures in the same tank as your angels, don’t be too surprised if they start disappearing.

Your angelfish’s tank mates should be chosen carefully. Most people encourage the purchase of species like gouramis, tetras, Danios, and Catfish, to mention but a few.[5] You need fish that are too large for angelfish to eat. 

However, you also require peaceful species that are unlikely to attack or antagonize your angels. It might help your situation if you can secure bottom dwellers that can stay out of your angel’s way.

Conclusions

Raising a single angelfish in a bare tank is possible, although it is not recommended. Living alone will prevent your angel from receiving the benefits it enjoys in nature. Mostly, a group of angelfish prevents boredom and diseases. A group of six angelfish is likely to live longer in a healthier manner.

If you wish to grow a single angelfish in a community tank, it is possible. However, you should stick to relatively docile companions. For that matter, I would recommend mollies, catfish, and tetras.

References

  1. https://geekyaquarist.com/can-angelfish-live-alone/
  2. https://books.google.co.ug/books?id=S6EKBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA47&lpg=PA47&dq=angelfish+hierarchy&source=bl&ots=vyvNng7mS8&sig=ACfU3U2CnDhRlCB9-nKg98jAwu3lbiNa2Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiXrIfl64znAhUlQkEAHRvNCvY4ChDoATAIegQIChAB#v=onepage&q&f=false
  3. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/01/angelfish-your-aquarium-getting-angry-try-changing-their-water-less-often
  4. https://animals.mom.me/angelfish-characteristics-4614.html
  5. http://aboutangelfish.com/what-fish-can-you-put-with-angelfish-in-a-community-tank/
  6. Featured Image: Flickr
  7. Second Angelfish Image: Flickr

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