Angelfish are among my favorite types of fish. They are both beautiful and hardy creatures, which makes them perfect for fish owners. However, more than once, they got me worried. That was when I noticed that they became somewhat fat and bloated. To solve that issue, I began researching all the possible reasons for the odd phenomenon.
Most commonly, angelfish become fat and bloated due to egg-carrying. That happens in female angelfish and is also accompanied by the gravid spot. However, angelfish may also become fat due to inappropriate feeding, dirty tanks, and diseases (such as Dropsy, Hexamita, and bacterial infections).
As we move forward, I will show you how to solve this problem and prevent it from recurring. I will also list a few tricks to help you distinguish a pregnant angelfish from a sick one so that you won’t start treating a perfectly healthy fish.
Why is my Angelfish Fat & Bloated?
Is your angelfish bloated? Should you even worry about it? Well, it depends on the symptoms. That is what bloating is. It is a symptom, not a disease, and it is just one of many. If your angelfish is bloated, you have to find the underlying cause to identify suitable treatment options.
That means paying close attention to your angelfish’s habits. Even though it cannot speak, the creature’s physical behavior will reveal its ailment’s exact nature. Some common causes of bloating include:
If your angelfish is bloated, the best-case scenario is that it is carrying eggs. Angelfish are not live-bearers. They lay eggs that a male fish eventually fertilizes. A female angelfish doesn’t require a male angelfish to generate and eventually lay eggs.
If you have both male and female angels in the aquarium, and the target angelfish is a female, the bloating is probably the result of eggs. Once the angel lays the eggs, it will regain its original shape and size. Follow your fish and see what happens over-time.
2. Feeding Issues
If you give your fish too much food, it will gradually swell. Overfeeding can also cause constipation. The same is true for angelfish that are fed the wrong diet. Some angelfish have a weak digestive system. That means that even with a proper diet, they could develop constipation.
If your angel is bloated because of overfeeding and constipation, and if you fail to resolve the situation, the angelfish could eventually die. Some people dismiss constipation and overfeeding as mild inconveniences, but they are dangerous to fish.
If eggs are the best-case scenario where bloating is concerned, then tumors are the worst-case scenario. A fish with tumors isn’t just fat. The creature’s body is typically uneven. Tumors sound frightening, but they are not always cancerous.
While they will still inconvenience your fish, in some cases, they are benign. However, they make your fish susceptible to threats. If your aquarium features aggressive tankmates, they could as quickly attack your sick angelfish.
4. Poor Care
African Cichlids are susceptible to bloating, resulting from poor care. But they are not the only ones. Every fish can become bloated if it is subjected to unsatisfactory conditions, including the hardiest fish. That typically includes a poor diet and a dirty tank.
If your angelfish tank is cloudy, littered with leftovers, waste, dead plants, and organisms, bloating shouldn’t surprise you. The dirt could easily damage the angelfish’s digestive system, causing constipation in the long haul.
If your angels are fatter than you remember, they might be sick. Some common illnesses that can cause bloating include:
Dropsy is every aquarist’s first consideration whenever their angelfish becomes bloated. Dropsy should seriously worry you. It causes the body to swell and the eyes to bulge. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to identify.
A fish with dropsy has protruding scales. They look like they want to pop off. The ailment occurs because the angelfish is absorbing more water than it is expelling. It tends to kill the fish that contract it, but there are some treatment options for you to try.
Bacteria & Viral Infections
Fish can bloat as a result of gram-negative bacteria. This internal infection can compromise your angelfish’s digestive system, weakening its immune system in the process. Some symptoms that accompany bacterial infections of this sort include bulging eyes, red gills, and protruding scales.
Bloating that comes from viral or protozoan infections tends to complicate matters because it is pretty challenging to diagnose. Infections of this kind (such as DGIV) are accompanied by symptoms like itching, red patches, and a curved spine.
This disease is also called ‘Hole in the head’. As the name suggests, the disease creates holes in the head of your fish. It can also cause bloating. Hexamita is another complicated disease. It isn’t easy to diagnose because, in many cases, it doesn’t manifest any additional signs besides bloating.
It would be best if you kept an eye out for parasites. They are generally introduced to tanks via new fish and can only be treated if caught in time. Parasites like hook-worms will cause your angel’s stomach to swell.
How to Treat Bloated Angelfish?
To identify the source of the bloating in your angels, you have to look at the additional symptoms it will eventually display, such as a loss of appetite, ulcers, and lethargy. Once you identify the cause, you can deploy some basic treatment options, which include:
1. Improve Your Tank’s Conditions
Your first way of action should be improving the conditions in your angelfish tank. That means keeping the temperature between 74 and 78 degrees F and the pH between 6.5 and 6.9. angelfish prefer slightly acidic water. You can make changes to the water using a pH regulator.
You should also install a heater. That will enable you to manipulate the temperature accurately. Don’t forget to invest in an appropriate filtration system that can keep the water sufficiently clean. If you didn’t know, angelfish prefer a low water flow.
That is why you should avoid high flow filtration systems. They will induce unnecessary stress. On that matter, I highly recommend the MarineLand Penguin Bio-Wheel Power Filter (link to Amazon). That filter does an outstanding job in biological filtration, removing ammonia and nitrites quite impressively.
If you feel unconfident in growing your angelfish, I highly recommend checking my ultimate angelfish care guide. In this article, I went step-by-step on how to take care of your angelfish. That is from choosing the right one to growing it healthily.
2. Ensure High Water Quality
I encourage you to perform a 50 percent water change, at least weekly. That is encouraged in most bloating situations. A water change will eliminate any foreign bodies that could make your angel’s physical health worse.
A water change will also strengthen your angel’s immune system by eliminating toxins like ammonia. It would be best if you also considered using a de-chlorinator (fish dislike chlorine) and aquarium salt. Some people doubt the efficacy of aquarium salt, but it has been in use for many years.
3. Eliminate Stress
Stress is bad for fish, especially bloated fish that are struggling to fight off infections. If you want to aid your angelfish in its recovery, eliminate sources of stress. You can do this by dimming the lights, removing aggressive fish, and maintaining optimal conditions in the tank.
If you have a community tank and your fish is still stressed, place it in a separate tank. You may also use an aquarium divider, which separates the sections of your tank vertically or horizontally. Either way, make sure that your bloated angelfish isn’t exposed to attacks.
4. Take Care of the Eggs
If your angelfish is bloated because it is carrying eggs, you can simplify the egg-laying process by providing a suitable location for the fish to lay eggs. Try adding a ceramic pot or a piece of plastic to the tank. That will encourage your angelfish to lay eggs (if that is the case), resolving the bloating all at once.
There are situations where a fish refuses to lay its eggs because the environment is unsuitable. An egg-bound angelfish is a source of concern because the condition will eventually make it sick. You don’t have much in the way of definitively effective solutions to a problem like this.
Some people have had success with Epsom salt (1 teaspoon for every 10 gallons). Experienced aquarists will also encourage you to starve the angelfish. In some cases, this causes the creature to absorb the eggs back into its body.
If you suspect that your angelfish is egg-bound, consult a vet. That is a complex issue that can be approached from various angles depending on the cause. For instance, for some angelfish, improving water quality can make all the difference.
Here is an article I’ve written on how to keep your angelfish eggs from turning white. I included all the steps you should take to ensure that the eggs remain healthy, preventing them from developing fungus and eventually dying. I highly suggest reading it if you wish to reproduce your angelfish in ease.
5. Feed Your Angelfish Properly
If your angelfish is fat because you overfed it, the only solution is to cut back on its meals. If the angelfish is constipated, you can feed it peeled peas, but only after starving it for a minimum of three days. The peas act as a laxative. If your fish doesn’t like peas, any foods rich in fiber will do, such as baby brine shrimp.
In your efforts to eliminate constipation, you shouldn’t overfeed your angelfish with peas or any other fiber-rich foods you have on hand. Then, only feed your angelfish twice a day and merely give them the amount they can consume within two to five minutes.
You are encouraged to maintain a varied diet that includes black worms, guppy fry, and chopped earthworms, to mention but a few. The healthier the diet, the easier it will become to avoid constipation altogether.
6. Disease Treatment
To resolve bloating caused by a disease, you must treat the disease. Naturally, the solutions used will vary depending on the disease. For instance, the best way to fight gram-negative bacteria is to use Doxycycline.
A salt dip can cure protozoan infections. Keep the angelfish in the salt bath for thirty minutes before moving it back to its original tank. Where dropsy is concerned, you have to act quickly. If the disease is allowed to progress to a point where it has bloated the fish, there is no effective means of treating it because the kidneys have suffered too much damage.
Some treatment options that you can try for dropsy include antibiotics, high-quality food, and aquarium salt (1 teaspoon of salt per gallon of water in the hospital tank). Because of the danger dropsy poses, you should quarantine the fish before treating it. That is true for fish with viral and bacterial infections as well. Some experts encourage aquarists to euthanize any fish that contract dropsy.
How to Distinguish Between Sick and Pregnant Angelfish?
If you have some experience with angelfish, you know that it isn’t that hard to identify pregnant angelfish. Once you know what to look for in pregnant angels, you will know how to differentiate them from sick angels:
- First of all, because angelfish lay eggs, once they are pregnant, their bellies bulge. Over 20 to 40 days, a pregnant angel’s belly will become swollen and round.
- That alone doesn’t mean that the fish is pregnant. It would help if you also looked for a patch of color (black or red) below the abdomen. That is called the gravid spot. It grows brighter or darker when the creature is pregnant.
- If you are still not sure whether or not your angel is pregnant, look for nesting. Angelfish that are looking to breed will spend a lot of time cleaning their breeding ground.
- It should be noted that only female angelfish lay eggs. If your angels are male and they are bloated, don’t blame it on pregnancy. They are probably sick. Male angels have a pointed papilla rather than the flattened version found in female angelfish.
If you still feel unsure regarding that topic, I highly recommend checking an article that I wrote on how to tell that your angelfish is pregnant. I’ve attached a pretty useful Youtube video and a couple of pictures to make sure that you get a better visual understanding.
If the requirements above apply to your angelfish, there is a high chance that it is pregnant and not sick. That means that you don’t have to worry about its bloated appearance. However, if your angelfish also presents worrying symptoms as mentioned above, take the listed steps to make sure that it gets cured.
Most female angelfish become fat and bloated at some point due to egg-carrying. Unlike live-bearing fish, angelfish first deposit their eggs. Then, the male angelfish will swim by, fertilizing them in dedication.
However, if your angelfish also appears lethargic (or if the problem occurs in male angelfish), you should fix it. Your first step should be cleaning the tank, ensuring that debris and leftovers are kept away. These could easily constipate your fish.
If you suspect that the condition happened due to a disease, your best option would be consulting an expert. Seek a veterinarian nearby and get a professional’s opinion. If you prefer taking things into your own hands, you may try antibiotics like Doxycycline or aquarium salt.