Frequently Asked Questions About Angelfish

We get asked many questions about angelfish all the time.  So many, we couldn't possibly answer them all if we tried.  So, hopefully this section will give you some answers, along with our learning Center.  Sorry if your email question goes unanswered, but please realize that there simply aren't enough hours in the day to answer the hundreds that we get. 

All the Black angels I see, have stripes on them. What happened to the nice Black angelfish without stripes that I used to see?
Most regular Black angels will show stripes to at least a small degree. Sometimes the angel is just so dark, it's difficult to see them. The pigment on a Black is never completely pitch-black, though the pigment on a Marble is. The dark coloration on Blacks, have some lighter areas that will show up, especially under bright light. The following will explain the possibilities:

D/+, D/g, and D/D all show stripes. The gene that causes stripes on angels, is not an allele of Dark. We don't know where its location is, or much about it, but stripes are a normal part of the above black types. D/+ is a Black Lace angel and shows pronounced stripes. Hybrid Black(D/g) is identical to D/+, with the exception of being darker. Gold enhances single dose Dark. Double Dark Black (D/D) is a very dark angel, but the stripes are still there, just more difficult to see. However, under a bright light (or with a flashlight), they will be visible.

There are other Black angel types without stripes. The reason most don't have stripes is the presence of the Stripeless gene (S). They would include Black Ghost angels (D/+ - S/+), Hybrid Black Ghost angels (D/g - S/+) and Double Dark Black Ghost angels (D/D - S/+). The degree of darkness is not affected by the Stripeless gene, so each of these phenotypes is comparable to the other, even when they don't contain the Stripeless gene. The other Black angels without stripes would include the Blushing angel, Turquoise angel (D/+ - S/S), Hybrid Black Blushing angel (D/g - S/S) and Double Dark Black Blushing angel (D/D - S/S).

Another method of obtaining dark phenotypes without stripes is to grow them under bright, continuous light. This will prevent the stripes from expressing themselves, but may also lessen the overall darkness of the fish. The last way to get Black angels without stripes is to add other genes, like Smokey or Gold Marble. However, these will leave their own underlying patterns, though theses patterns will not be stripes.

As you can see, there are many different types of Black angels. Black angels normally contains underlying stripes unless other genes are present. When you add these other genes, you increase the number of phenotypes in the next generation. So, when people ask for true breeding black angels without stripes, the only option is Double Dark Black Blushing, which no one is producing commercially. It is probably the most difficult variety of angel to work with.

Are there Red Blushing angels?
The pigment that causes true red is not the same that causes the bright red eyes or the reddish orange crown on some angels. The latter is made up of carotenoid pigments. Diluted, they look yellow. When concentrated, they appear reddish. A true red pigment when diluted will look pink, probably something similar to the red blushing angel you might have heard about.

There are two factors that go into the expression of these pigments on any angel and they usually go hand in hand. The first is genetics. Without the genetic makeup, the angel cannot have the color. A Black angel will not turn red, unless we paint it. Then again, some colors will only be expressed when certain genes are present along with the correct environmental condition. Environmental effects can include many things, like pH, temperature, food, trace elements, tank set-up, population density, etc.

The other way you can get colored angels, is by using what would be considered a dye. This could be in the form of a water or food additive that is absorbed by the flesh or skin.

We've seen red spotting on wild angels that appears to be a true red pigment. It is also possible that the pigment on a red blushing angel is a true red, but we suspect its origin is that of a dye. At this time, we don't know anyone getting any red pigment on their F1's, therefore the color is most likely being induced artificially on those fish that have some color.

When will our angelfish start breeding?

Two main factors will determine the onset of breeding. These will include the care they've had while raising them, and the space you give them. With great care and adequate space, angelfish may be capable of breeding at 5 1/2 to 7 months of age. With poor care, it may take much longer or maybe never. Space is very important. No matter how capable angelfish are of spawning, an overcrowded tank will inhibit this. Give them a minimum of 7 gallons per angelfish if you want pairing to take place quickly. Ten gallons would be even better. Some strains will not mature as early, even under the best conditions. This will include Double Dark Black angelfish and most wild and wild crosses.

How long will angelfish live?

They are a cold-blooded animal, so their metabolism is controlled by the temperature. High temperature equals high metabolism, and a high metabolism seems to "burn them out" quickly. Consequently, their life span will vary with the temperature they are kept at. Angelfish appear to have a maximum life span in the range of 10-12 years. To achieve this, you will probably have to keep them in the mid seventies. Keep in mind that low temperatures will increase life span, but will also decrease spawning frequency and leave their immune system less responsive.

How long will angelfish continue to breed?

A few factors will come into play here. First, the female is the key in a pair, and each female seems capable of laying a certain number of eggs in her lifetime. If they are laid frequently in large numbers when she is young, then she may run out of mature eggs and quit at a younger age than if she had delayed spawning. In other words, high temperatures will increase the rate eggs are laid and the female angelfish will become infertile at a younger age. Genetics is also an important factor. Some angelfish capable of spawning larger numbers of eggs have acquired this trait through selective breeding. Care is another important factor. Raising angelfish under substandard care will cause females to lose condition and not produce eggs, even when still capable. We've seen female angelfish that spawned until 7- 8 years old and we've also known angelfish to be completely spawned-out at two years of age. Long term, it's important to choose breeder angelfish based on their fecundity. To do this properly takes many breeding pairs to choose from and few aquarists will be able to do this. Fortunately, we have the tank space to do this for you.

How long will angelfish continue to breed?

A few factors will come into play here. First, the female is the key in a pair, and each female seems capable of laying a certain number of eggs in her lifetime. If they are laid frequently in large numbers when she is young, then she may run out of mature eggs and quit at a younger age than if she had delayed spawning. In other words, high temperatures will increase the rate eggs are laid and the female angelfish will become infertile at a younger age. Genetics is also an important factor. Some angelfish capable of spawning larger numbers of eggs have acquired this trait through selective breeding. Care is another important factor. Raising angelfish under substandard care will cause females to lose condition and not produce eggs, even when still capable. We've seen female angelfish that spawned until 7- 8 years old and we've also known angelfish to be completely spawned-out at two years of age. Long term, it's important to choose breeder angelfish based on their fecundity. To do this properly takes many breeding pairs to choose from and few aquarists will be able to do this. Fortunately, we have the tank space to do this for you.

At what Ph should i keep my aquariums?

Raising angelfish can be done in a variety of conditions. Although angelfish come from an environment where the water is very soft and acid, our domestic angelfish strains have adapted to a wide range of water types after having been bred in captivity for decades. Breeding angelfish in our tap water has created a fish that does very well and will even breed in a wide range of water conditions. There are very few tap water conditions that they will not be comfortable in. If you are trying to breed angelfish from the wild, they may breed more readily in softer acid water, but you will have to avoid fluctuations in pH and hardness that will most likely stress them. For many years, our angelfish hatchery has been at 8.5 pH and 250 ppm hardness and we have had more than just a little success, not only raising angelfish, but breeding them. Even breeding and raising angelfish from the wild hasn't been too difficult in these conditions. More important than water parameters, are your husbandry practices.

How many eggs will a female angelfish lay at one time?

This will be determined by genetics and care. There will be some angelfish in every spawn that will grow up to be poor breeders. You must be willing to not breed these fish if you want to avoid taking a step back in this area. The number of eggs per spawn, will also be affected by frequency of spawning. Female angelfish that tend to hold their eggs for longer time periods, will usually lay more eggs at a time. Conversely, an angelfish that lays every 5 days, will probably put down fewer at a time. Feeding, temperature, water changes, etc. will affect the number laid. It's obvious that the best care will produce the largest number. We've seen spawns that exceed 2000 eggs, though the average for a females regularly laying with good care, would be in the 400-500 range. There is no lower limit. Pay particular attention to raising angelfish properly and they will reward you with lots of eggs

What should I feed to get good angelfish growth and reproduction?

A varied diet of high quality foods should be your goal. A couple of the highest quality flakes you can get would be a good daily staple. Breeding fish need a higher fat content then most flakes provide. Angels Plus fish flakes have the fat content your breeding angelfish need. The addition of Freeze-dried foods, like plankton, bloodworms, mysis, tubifex or brine shrimp are good supplements. Paste food scan be superior foods if you have the time to make them. Live foods are not necessary, but they will go a long way to providing superior angelfish growth and reproduction. We do not recommend live freshwater animals, unless they are cultured. The chance of introducing harmful parasites or bacteria is too great in our opinion. We specifically do not recommend live blackworms for many reasons. You will be hard pressed to avoid diseases if you feed them. Newly hatched artemia (baby brine shrimp), should be fed as a first food and continuously until the angelfish fry are 4-6 weeks old. Check out our hints for hatching brine shrimp eggs. Raising angelfish on newly hatched brine shrimp is a must for the first 3-4 weeks of their life, if quality is really important to you. Trust us, there are no artemia substitutes that works as well - none! We have experimented with everything and nothing comes close to working as well as the real thing.

What type of filtration should I give my new angelfish?

Angelfish are not streamlined enough to do well in tanks with a lot of current. We recommend sponge filters, undergravel filters, or bubble-up box filters. If you have a large tank and want to add a secondary undersized power filter, canister filter or fluidized bed filter, it will be okay as long as it is considered too small for that tank size.

What size tank can your sponge filter handle?

Filters are designed to handle bio-load, not a particular tank size. Although companies tend to rate their filters to tank size, this is incorrect. Filters are capable of containing a certain number of nitrifying bacteria that will consume a particular volume of ammonia and nitrites. A certain sized bio-load in a small tank will require the approximately the same filtration as the same bio-load in a large tank. However, since the tank walls and other items also contain nitrifying bacteria, the same bio-load in a smaller tank will require a slightly larger filter size then the large tank. To rate filters, try to compare volume of sponge used and the density of the sponge. Our opinion is that bio-filtration is typically not a limiting factor in most tanks. It is more important to get a filter with a good design. The best filters are ones that get the sponge close to the bottom of the tank, which will improve water movement to the filter and gas exchange at the surface. You also need a filter that small angelfish will not get trapped under. Our sponge filters handle this combination of factors better than any other, in our opinion.

Should the tank be bare or is gravel recommended?

Gravel is normal for show tanks, however it is not considered the best thing for breeding situations. Any tank with angelfish fry in it should have a bare bottom. Otherwise, the small food that fry need, will fall into the gravel where it can't be eaten and it will decompose, causing problems in the tank. It is best if bare bottom tanks are painted a dark color on the outside bottom of the tanks. Angelfish will feel much more secure and develop better color in a dark bottomed tank.

How many angelfish can I keep in a tank?

We have found that the primary factors that will determine allowable density for raising angelfish are pH, feeding frequency, feeding amount, type of food, water change frequency, water change quantity, temperature and angelfish type. As you can imagine with such a list, the variation that affects what you can get away with, is tremendous. The other greatly varying factor is the expectation of quality. Some will happily accept angelfish that others would cull in a heart beat. Potential angelfish breeding or show stock should be given the maximum amount of room. For angelfish used for these purposes, we'd recommend starting by giving any that are over dime-sized, at least 3 gallons per angelfish. If over quarter-size, give them at least 5 gallons per angelfish and over silver dollar-sized, try to give them 7 gallons per angelfish. Once they are mature and starting to breed, it is best if you can give them 10 gallons each.

Can I keep angelfish with discus?

This is a very controversial subject. Many people who are ardent supporters on one side of this subject have very limited experience mixing these two fish. We have kept thousands of them together, backing our beliefs with a lot of experience. In general, angelfish and discus will do fine together if you pay attention to details. They seldom have any interaction with each other. It is other things that can cause problems. Neither must have parasites before being put together. It helps if the discus are the first introduced to the tank with the angelfish being added later. Temperatures should ideally be kept in the lower to mid 80's. Large tanks are best, with a minimum of 10 gallons per adult fish.

What other fish can I keep with angelfish?

We recommend that angelfish be kept by themselves for a few reasons. First, other fish commonly harbor pathogens that are not an obvious problem with to the other fish, but are very harmful to angelfish. Most people will not quarantine properly or know how to identify or eliminate these pathogens. Second, angelfish are cichlids and are typically fairly aggressive when they pair off. Smaller fish in the tank could be in danger. Lastly, some angelfish will not pair up as readily in a community situation (especially if it's crowded), and most of us wouldn't want that. The exception to this is keeping a bristlenose ansistrus or some corydoras with them if you are certain they don't carry pathogens. If you must have that community tank, then add some tetras that are too large to be eaten and possibly some of the more peaceful South Americans such as, discus, festivums or urarus. Remember to use a good quarantine procedure, or expect to lose your angelfish to disease.

What temperature should I keep my tanks at?

Raising angelfish can occur at a very wide range of temperature. The temperature you decide to keep them at, will vary with your goals. They can do quite well from about 72° to 95° F. At low temperatures, angelfish will live longer, tend not to breed as frequently, show less aggression and on the negative side, will have a less effective immune system. Higher temperatures will reverse the above to a large degree. You have to decide what is most important to you. Most people with show tanks, keep angelfish in the mid to upper 70's. Breeders tend to be raising angelfish in the lower 80's.

How often should I feed my angelfish?

This will be largely related to temperature and age.. If angelfish are kept warm, they will need more frequent feedings to keep up with the resulting higher metabolism. Juvenile angelfish over 4 weeks of age, kept at approximately 78°-80°, will do quite well with 3 feedings a day. Keep them at 82°-85° and you should probably increase this to at least 4 feedings a day. Full grown adults will need less than fish that are still growing, and producing female angelfish will need more food if you desire frequent spawning. If you are someone who cannot feed more than twice a day, we would recommend keeping and raising angelfish at a temperature no warmer than 77° F.

How often should I change their water?

This is one area where you can do too few, but you can't do too many. Many factors go into this. More angelfish per gallon require more frequent changes, as do higher temperatures, heavy feedings, high pH and large angelfish. You can change the water as frequently as every day or even after every feeding, but we would recommend no fewer than once a week in any circumstance. The more you change water, the easier keeping and raising angelfish becomes.

How much water should I change at one time?

No hard rules here either. If the water going in, has the same basic parameters of pH and hardness as the water being removed, you wouldn't be able to change too much. Tests have shown that changing 10% of the water everyday is less effective than changing 50% once every 5 days, in maintaining water quality. Many breeders of angelfish will change 50% of the water or more each day on tanks where they are raising angelfish, whereas a well planted, under-stocked show tank may do okay on only 20% a week.

How can I tell the male angelfish from the female angelfish?

There are some subtle differences that an experienced angelfish breeder can use to help identify mature males and females. In our experience, these differences do not exist on immature angelfish, all of the time. The only sure way to distinguish mature males from mature females is to examine the breeding tubes during spawning. The female's breeding tube is wider and more blunt than the male's. In some lines the mature male angelfish may show some other small differences. For instance, some may have a hump on the crown and some may be larger than the females. However, this may not hold true from line to line or even within a line. There are many who say the angle of the anal fin in relation to the belly of the angelfish, will identify the sex. We have not found this to be consistent, but it does appear to have some validity in some lines. The female angelfish will generally have a near 100°-110° angle formed by the forward edge of the belly and the anal fin. The male angelfish will have a greater angle in the range of 120°-150° degrees. Most often it requires a lot of experience to detect the subtle differences seen in some lines.

What size are the angels when you ship them?

Size can vary greatly depending on the stage they are at when your shipping date comes. They generally range from dime sized bodies to quarter size. If you ordered several varieties, they are likely to be all at different stages of growth. If that is not acceptable, let us know. If you simply want to know how big they are, ask us when they are about to go out. Most don't consider size a big deal. Angels that are dime sized, will be nickel sized in two weeks. Fish that are nickel sized will be quarter sized in 3 weeks, and so on. Small angels ship easier with fewer loses. Shipping charges are also less with smaller fish. Unlike wholesale fish, we price our angels according to quality and rarity. We only increase the price when the size is substantially larger.

My angels were very stressed from shipment and are not eating. What should I do?

Occasionally, a shipment is mistreated by the carrier or delayed an unusually long time. This can leave the fish stressed to the point where they are not active and not eating. First, make sure they are comfortable. They should be in a quarantine tank with an active sponge filter. Lights should be low level or off and temperatures should be gradually raised to 95° F. You can hold it there for 10 days to 2 weeks. The tank should have a dark colored, bare bottom, to make siphoning uneaten food easy. The fish should not be fed for the first 24 hours after shipping and longer if they are not acting somewhat normal. The best first-foods would be very small amounts of dry foods. Large quantities can greatly stress newly shipped fish. If you can't get them eating this, then live foods in very small amounts can be tried. They will almost always come around and do well with proper care.

Can we visit your operation to get our angels?

You may pick up fish by appointment, but you will not be able to pick them out. We will generally have your fish ready for you when you arrive, but there is never any obligation to purchase them if you don't like them. We are under strict quarantine for bio-security reasons. We have a tremendous amount of time and money into becoming a totally disease-free hatchery and cannot risk the introduction of a possible pathogen.

How old were the angels you sent me (x)months ago?

Angels Plus does not track the fish we send our customers. If you want to know this, you should ask before we ship. Our average dime sized angel will be six weeks old, nickel sized approximately 8 weeks and quarter sized around 11 weeks.

I was just checking out Angels Plus and they had gelatin that they said was for making paste food. What is paste food?

Paste foods are certainly not necessary, but many people find it beneficial to put in the extra effort making them. The paste foods usually consist of mixtures of proteins/fats (liver, beef heart, shrimp, fish) mixed with various vegetables and carbohydrates. Everything is usually put through a grinder or minced in a food processor. The resulting mush is held together with gelatin. They can be a bit of a pain to prepare, but unquestionably have the potential to be one of the better foods you can give your fish. The food quality can be the absolute best for a non-live food. It is not cooked, dried or preserved. They are made with fresh foods and the resulting mixture is then frozen, which makes for better retention of vitamins and minerals. Back when we made a lot of beef heart mixtures, we would go to the butcher the morning they killed the cows, to get the beef hearts. No commercial food in the world can match this kind of freshness. One of the big reasons paste foods are used, is because it's easy to add things you want your fish to eat, but normally can't get in a commercial food. This includes items like certain vitamins, or medications that need to be taken internally, or particular ingredients that are not typically found in manufactured foods. They are very popular with breeders who demand the best for their fish and are willing to put in the extra time to make their own foods.

My angelfish will not eat. What should I do?

First, it's very important to determine why it isn't eating. Stress can come from many sources that might cause them to stop feeding. Are there any symptoms other than not eating? If the fish swims normally, looks normal and acts normal, then it's not likely a bacterial infection or an external parasite. It could have an internal parasite such as a nematode, flagellate or other parasite. It could also be recovering from the stress of transportation or frequent tank changes.

Unless you have a microscope and the knowledge to identify the possible parasites, then the best course of action is a heat treatment. Caution: do not use heat if the fish is bloated, fins are clamped, has a thick slime coat, has ragged fins or red streaks in the body/fins.

Raise the temperature over a period of 24 hrs to 95-96° F. Hold it there for 7-10 days. Make sure aeration is good. When feeding, offer only one bite to each fish. It's very important to not offer more, even if they eat the bite. If they don't eat it within 2 minutes, remove the uneaten food. If you do not, then expect to fail. Food left in water of this temperature will spoil very quickly and will likely turn the fish off to that particular food forever. If the fish does eat the bite, then repeat this procedure every few hours for the next 2 days. After that, slightly increase the amount of food offered each day until it is eating normally. Slowly lower the temperature over the next 24 hours.

My angelfish is sick. What's wrong with it?

Diagnosis of angel fish diseases can be tricky even with the fish in front of us. It's almost impossible without physical examination, but here are a couple of guidelines to help you narrow down the disease. Angel fish that do not eat, are not bloated, have no red blood streaks in their fins or body, are not clamped or slimed,  usually have internal parasites. Heat the tank to 95°-96° F. for a week to 10 days. This will stimulate their immune system and get them eating, but probably will not eliminate the parasite. Treatment should be geared towards the particular parasite. If you don't know what it is, then Disco Med is an effective medication that will work on many internal parasites. Once they are eating, the best way to eliminate the parasite is with a medicated foods. The best approach is to feed one geared towards internal nematodes (worms), and then another that is designed to eliminate flagellates. A metronidazole laced food, designed for flagellates, is best used during the heat treatment. Rotting fins are either the result of introducing a virulent pathogen or from overfeeding. The answer to overfeeding is obvious. The treatment for the virulent pathogen can be difficult. Usually, only extensive trial and error with different medications will solve this, if at all. Laboratory testing is often necessary with tough cases of fin rot. If you want to take a shot at curing this, then choose a broad spectrum antibiotic. If you suspect fungus, then use something with Malachite Green in it.

Angel fish that have red streaks around the mouth or base of the dorsal usually have a systemic (internal) bacterial infection. Do not use a heat treatment for any suspected bacterial diseases. Treatment for an internal bacterial problem is very difficult, unless you are knowledgeable about giving an intra muscular injection of the proper anti-biotic. If the angel fish is still eating, your best bet is to try a flake food that has an anti-biotic added to it. Angel fish that are very bloated, likely have a type of internal bacterial infection that has affected the kidneys. Angel fish exhibiting this symptom are usually too far gone to be saved. If you catch this type of angel fish disease early when the fish is still eating, then a medicated food with an antibiotic in it may work.

External parasites, fungus and bacteria are generally easier to cure, but can be just as difficult for the average hobbyist to identify. Preventing the introduction of an angel fish disease is 10 times easier than trying to cure one. We highly recommend using a sound quarantine procedure on all new arrivals, including plants or anything from another tank that held fish, and a good book on fish diseases.

Last night at feeding time one of my angel fish was floating around in the current. This morning it is still laying on its side. What is wrong with it?

The symptoms you described are classic for a swim bladder infection. When the bacteria is actively multiplying, the angel fish bloats, typically "floating" as you described it. At some point the swim bladder is destroyed by the bacteria and the fish can no longer maintain an upright position and become "bellysliders", unable to stay in mid water without great effort. This angel fish disease almost always results in a fish that has permanent swimming difficulty. Prevention is the key with this problem. It's usually the result of overfeeding or feeding food that has started to spoil.

My angel fish have developed a large, bubble-like growth on their lips. They are having difficulty eating. What is this?

What you're seeing is probably a lip fibroma. There is a study that suggests this is caused by a virus, that only activates when the angelfish is under stress. There is some evidence that it usually affects female angelfish, or at least that they are more susceptible. There is no cure, just as the cure for most viruses have not been found. I would not try to use such an angelfish as a breeder, because no one knows if there is a genetic factor influencing the angel fish's susceptibility to this virus. Euthanasia is generally recommended to prevent a slow death by starvation. However, some have reported being able to carefully pull the growth off and not have it re-grow.

Some of my small angel fish are developing a bloated abdomen. They usually die not too long after this. What is causing it?

Most likely, the kidneys have failed and the fish is absorbing water without being able to eliminate it. Therefore, they bloat. Obviously, failing organs are not a good sign and the angel fish will usually die no matter what you do. Occasionally, some recover, but may have a damaged swimbladder and become "bellysliders" or they may become severely stunted. Prevention is the key to avoiding this condition. The organs are probably being destroyed by a bacterial infection. These infections are usually the result of feeding too much or feeding food that is starting to go bad. Artemia that is not newly hatched (within a few hours) is a prime source of such bacteria. This problem is similar to what causes the floating angelfish in the previous question.


Can I call with questions?

If you have a question about fish you have purchased from us or fish you are considering from us, by all means call (preferably send an email). For general questions on fish, please resist. We simply do not have the time to answer them. Thanks for understanding.