How to Tell if Your Angelfish is Pregnant? (Within 5 Minutes)

One of my favorite things about fishkeeping is watching my angelfish spawn. However, there were times when I was sure my female angelfish was pregnant, and to my surprise, she had died in the following weeks. How can you tell that your angelfish is indeed pregnant? Can you differentiate pregnancy from sickness? As time passed, I began to research that topic a little deeper. 

You may tell that your angelfish is pregnant by observing the female’s abdomen. You will notice a bulge at the ventral part that will gradually grow as the pregnancy proceeds. Also, the gravid spot will become more noticeable, resembling a black patch in the posterior part of the lower abdomen.

Nevertheless, there are a few cases that resemble pregnancy, although your angelfish is actually sick. As we move forward in this article, I will present these to you, and show you what to do to avoid unfortunate occasions.

How to Tell if Your Angelfish is Pregnant?

Angelfish differ from live-bearing species like mollies, guppies, and the like. For live-bearing fish to give birth, they must first mate with a male. And once that happens, they eventually push live fish out of their bodies.[1]Opens in a new tab.

Live-bearing fish are less complicated because it is easier to differentiate the genders. Male fish are usually brighter, or their colors are more elaborate. They also have a long, narrow anal fin near the tail. Moreover, females are less colorful, and their fins are triangular or fanlike.

Once the female angelfish is impregnated, the back of their abdomen will bulge. But this happens gradually over twenty to forty days. When all is said and done, the stomach will take a large, round shape. 

If you take a closer look, you will also see the gravid spot, a patch of red (or black) that grows more pronounced over time.[2]Opens in a new tab. The gravid spot doesn’t necessarily appear as a result of pregnancy. As experts have previously demonstrated, it may play a role in attracting male fish to reproduce.[3]Opens in a new tab. The gravid spot is typically presented in some species, only growing darker or brighter as a result of the pregnancy. 

Keep in mind that angelfish are not live-bearers. A live-bearer’s eggs are fertilized from within its body. They also hatch inside its body, with the creature eventually giving birth to a live fish. Egg layers like angelfish lay the eggs first before they are fertilized. 

Unlike live-bearers, it is a little more challenging to differentiate between male and female angelfish. This differentiation matters because you must first determine whether or not you have a male or female angel.

As I will discuss later on, spawning happens every two weeks for angelfish. Before concluding that your female angel has carried its eggs for too long, first ensure that you have a female angelfish. 

Other Causes For Swollen Angelfish

Now, some fish owners are going to argue that gender is an irrelevant consideration because male angels don’t lay eggs. As such, they are unlikely to manifest the bulge that is seen among female angels when they are carrying eggs.

And that is true. However, angelfish can bulge for reasons that have nothing to do with eggs. If your male angel starts swelling around the abdomen, you could erroneously conclude that you have a female angel on your hands. You are better off eliminating this opportunity for confusion by first making sure that you have a female angelfish in your tank.

While angelfish are very easy to breed, a male and female angelfish are not obligated to pair off, even if they are the only fish in the tank. They could just as quickly reject one another. To determine whether or not your female angel is carrying eggs, you need first to figure out whether or not your male and female angels have paired off to form a breeding couple.

Look for signs of nesting. Angels that are about to spawn will meticulously clean their breeding area. This can also happen when the female is alone, and there is no male angel in the tank. As it prepares to lay its eggs, the angel will grow aggressive.

Speaking of bulges, if you look at an angelfish with eggs at an angle from the top, you will see a small bump around the stomach region. The female angel typically takes on a convex shape when she is full of eggs.

Did you know that angelfish can become constipated? As was mentioned above, just because a fish is bulging around the stomach doesn’t mean it is carrying eggs. An angelfish will swell if its intestines back up. Because the creature is so narrow, this condition will produce a noticeable bulge. 

Constipation in fish probably sounds funny to some people, but it is a severe condition that will kill your angel if it isn’t treated. One way to differentiate between a bulge related to constipation and one caused by the presence of eggs is to look at the fish’s eating habits. Constipated fish don’t eat as much.

In fact, at some point, they will stop eating altogether. You can help them by soaking their food (especially the flakes) in castor oil. You can also mash some peeled peas before feeding them to the angels. This will clear their system.

However, the best way to avoid this issue is by prevention. For that, I have written an entire article on how often angelfish should be fed. I also mentioned there what portions sizes are ideal, and what kind of food is best for angels. Here is another useful article I’ve written on how to stop angelfish from eating plants, which may be another reason for constipation. 

As bad as constipation sounds, it is one of the best-case scenarios. If your angel’s belly is swollen, but it isn’t carrying eggs, the creature might have dropsy.[4]Opens in a new tab. This is a far more severe illness. The bulging occurs because water is being expelled from the fish slower than it is being absorbed. 

Dropsy can be caused by bacterial infections and high concentrations of nitrates in the water. To help your angel, you should perform more frequent water changes, not to mention adding tetracycline antibiotics.

If dropsy isn’t to blame and neither is the presence of eggs, the angelfish probably has hookworms, fungus, and various parasites. Don’t assume that your angelfish has carried its eggs for too long when it might have one of the diseases above or something worse. 

How Long do Angelfish Carry Their Eggs?

Angelfish are not that hard to breed. If you add two angels of different genders to the tank and you make an effort to maintain the appropriate water conditions (including the pH, temperature, and the concentration of Ammonia, Nitrates, and Nitrites), they will spawn.

You don’t have to do much to force them to spawn. But what happens when you have a female fish in the tank, and it isn’t laying eggs? How long can an angelfish carry its eggs? Can an angel hold its eggs for too long? These are the questions that fish owners frequently ask.

To better understand the answers, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

First of all, angelfish typically carry matured eggs for two weeks, as I previously discussed here (I also mentioned there what to do if they fail to breed in time). However, that is a rough estimation. Some angelfish will exceed that duration. Others will lay eggs much earlier. It all depends on the angelfish and the conditions in the tank.

Also, an angelfish can lay anywhere between a hundred and a thousand eggs in a single session. Again, the number will depend on the type of fish and the conditions in the tank. If you leave the eggs with their angelfish parents, they will take longer to spawn.

You don’t have to worry about the female angel laying more eggs until its current batch of eggs has hatched. An angelfish pair will spawn more quickly, if not immediately, if you take its eggs away. At that point, nothing is stopping them from laying and fertilizing more eggs. 

There is no standard number of eggs that angelfish must lay every single time for a fish owner to conclude that the spawning was successful and healthy. Various factors will affect the number of eggs you get with each laying.

This same rationale applies to the time it takes an angelfish to spawn. There is no standard period for which female angelfish must hold their eggs before laying them. Ultimately, it is up to them to decide whether or not they will proceed with the laying.

A female angel can lay eggs in the absence of a male angelfish, and it can do so regularly, following the typical two-week schedule. But it can also choose not to lay its eggs. There is no way to expedite or slow this process down. Your only work is to give them the most conducive environment possible. Once they are ready, they will lay their eggs. 

What Causes Female Angelfish to Carry Eggs For Too Long?

However, what if an angelfish fails to lay its eggs? This can happen. The reasons for such behavior will vary. Angels have small brains. But some people have speculated that female angels can tell when their tank has no male angelfish. And because they suspect that their eggs will simply die after going unfertilized, they will refuse to lay additional eggs.

It has also been suggested that the presence of inappropriate conditions such as the wrong temperature and pH can dissuade angels from laying their eggs. If you suspect that is your case, here is an article I’ve written on how to keep angelfish eggs alive

But what happens to the fish as a result? Is this holding of eggs dangerous for its health? As far as most people can tell, if an angelfish doesn’t lay the eggs it is carrying, it will merely reabsorb them back into its body. There is no reason to believe that the female angel will suffer any harm in the process.

In most cases, there is no need to obsess over the rate at which your angel lays its eggs or even how long it takes before it puts the eggs. That being said, it helps to keep an eye on such issues. While angelfish should be permitted to lay eggs following a schedule they choose, sometimes, female angels carry their eggs for too long because of physical or mental complications.

Because such complications could degenerate into dangerous health consequences, you have to catch them early on, initiating solutions that could save your angels from a horrible fate. 

But how can you tell that your angelfish have carried their eggs for longer than the average duration? To answer that question, you must learn to read the signs which prove that angelfish are having eggs in the first place, as I discussed in the first section of this article.

Conclusions

It could be quite tricky to tell whether or not your angelfish is pregnant. Most of the time, all you will see is a swollen belly and a gravid spot that goes darker and darker. And for the most part, that may indicate your female is indeed pregnant. Typically, she will carry the eggs for two weeks and eventually deposit them on a flat surface.

However, diseases like dropsy and constipation might also lead to bulged angels. To avoid these, you should maintain ideal water conditions. That will also ensure your eggs will eventually hatch once laid. The most basic steps would be keeping the water under 78-86 Degrees F and the pH between 6.5-6.9.

I hope my article had answered your question on how to tell that your angelfish is pregnant. Do not give up if your female had failed to spawn in her first attempt. Sometimes nature speaks up, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

References

  1. https://www.wikihow.com/Tell-if-Your-Fish-Is-Having-Babies
  2. https://small-pets.lovetoknow.com/fish/10-facts-about-angelfish
  3. https://undergradsciencejournals.okstate.edu/index.php/jibi/article/view/331
  4. https://www.cuteness.com/article/swollen-bellies-angel-fish

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