Perhaps the most popular of the Cichlids the angel can be the showcase
of any aquarium. The different color varieties make it one of the most
varied species available. Often sold very young and small it must be
noted that they do grow large and need a fairly large fish tank to house
Listed tank sizes are the minimum
||up to 6" (15cm)
||5.0 to 7.5
||Soft to medium. dH range: 1-20
||73°F to 84°F (23-29°C)
Amazon and some of its tributaries, like the Tapajoz.
General Body Form
Disk-shaped. Dorsal and Anal fins Are elongated and sail-like, the Pectoral
fins are stretched into long filaments. The Caudal fin is fan shaped
and broad. The outermost fin rays are prolonged. In older fish the forehead
bulges. Including the fins the Angel may reach a length of six inches
and a height of ten inches.
The body is Silvery with a slight Brown tinge, the snout, back and forehead
are Brownish Yellow. Sides are marked with four Black transverse bars,
the first running in a curve from the nape through the eye to the start
of the Ventral fin, the second from the Dorsal to the anus, the third
is the most prominent runs from the Dorsal to the Anal fins and the
fourth crosses the start of the Caudal fin. A few fainter bars can sometimes
be seen in the upper half of the body. The Dorsal fin spines are Yellow-Brown,
the front of the Ventral fins Steel-Blue and the soft rayed parts of
the unpaired fins are Grayish-White.
The above paragraph was a description of the original wild caught
specimens and is seldom seen in its true colors anymore. Today Angels
come in all color varieties and more are added almost everyday. There
are Black, Gold, Ghost, Marble, Veiltail and many more available today.
All are the result of color and fin mutations through selective breeding.
This is the normal coloring of wild Angel. The body is white with
4 dark vertical bars running through it. The first passes through
the eye, the second usually is in front of the top and bottom fin,
the third is usually through the top and bottom fin and the fourth
is at the start of the tail fin. There may or may not be faint dark
bars running parallel between the darker ones. Some specimens have
black speckles over the top half of the body.
These are much like the Silvers, but they have more vertical stripes
which continue on right through the tail.
- Black Lace
Black Lace are the steppingstones to the solid black variety. The
main difference between Black Lace and Silvers is the intensity of
color especially on the fins where you will see a lace like effect.
In mating 2 Black Lace, you can expect to produce 25% Black, 50% Black
Lace and 25% Silver. The Black fry are especially fragile and a lot
of times don't survive to free swimming and if they do, should be
separated from their more vigorous littermates.
These fish are a solid, velvety black. In mating a Black to a Black
Lace you can expect 50% Black and 50% Black Lace and if you mate Black
to Black you can expect 100% Black.
- Half Black
Half Blacks are just that. Their bodies are white in the front and
the black cuts right through the top and bottom fins right through
Veiltail Angels have very elongated fins and come in all color varieties.
If a Veil Angel and a Silver are bred, you can expect 50% Veil and
50% Silver. Breed 2 Veils and you can expect 25% ordinary Angels,
50% Veil and 25% Long Tailed Veil which will have even longer fins
and tails than the Veil. Breeding 2 Long Tailed Veils will produce
100% Long Tailed Veils, but they are not as hearty nor are the spawns
as large. Some Veils have such long fins that they become bent or
at worst broken.
Instead of having the ordinary black bars, these fish have a broken
pattern of black and silver that is best described as Marble. In the
head and back region there may be undertones of golden while the fins
have rays of black and white. A breeding of a Marble with a Black
Lace will produce some fry which are Black Lace Marble, having characteristics
of both parents.
Goldens may range from a solid silvery white to a golden color with
no other markings. Over the head and back area is usually a mantle
Blushing Angels have a red cheek area and no pattern on a white body
and are reported to be the most delicate.
- Pearl Scale
Pearl Scale Angels have bumpy almost rough looking scales and come
in many color varieties.
- Tank Size:
The minimum size tank for a breeding pair
of Angelfish is 15 gallons, but should be 25 gallons or larger if
you plan on leaving the fry with the parents. As you can imagine,
a fully grown pair of Angels with 200-300 fry to herd around would
be pretty cramped in anything smaller. Another plus to having a larger
tank is that there is a better feeling of security in a larger tank
and the parents aren't as apt to eat their eggs or young.
Angelfish can survive on flake food alone,
but they will thrive and be much more apt to breed on a greatly varied
diet. Live foods such as Adult Brine Shrimp, Black Worms, Mosquito
larvae, finely chopped earthworms and Guppy fry are accepted with
enthusiasm and should be included regularly. If live food is not available,
frozen packages of Blood Worms (Midge Fly larvae), Brine Shrimp and
others are available from your favorite pet supply store and are acceptable
substitutions for the live food. There are many dried foods available
that will suffice too. Raw beef heart, finely ground, mixed with unflavored
gelatin and frozen immediately in small one serving size pieces is
a good and economical addition to your Angelfish diet. Be absolutely
sure there is no fat in the meat.
- Live Plants:
Live plants should be included in all freshwater
tanks. Water quality is monitored by live plants as they will look
sickly before the fish die, they aid in keeping water clear, hinder
growth of algae and add Oxygen to the water. Broadleaf aquatic plants
are favorites of Angelfish for laying their eggs on. Amazon Sword
Plants (Echinodorus) are in a genus that embraces more than fifty
relatively hardy and adaptable species, most of which are native to
the flood plains of South America. They prefer water that is neutral
or slightly acid and not too hard making them perfect plants for your
Angelfish tank. Vesicularia dubyana (Java Moss), Ceratopteris (Water
Sprite) and Microsorium (Polypodium pteropus or Java Fern) are all
compatible live aquatic plants.
- Choosing Breeder Angelfish:
The best way of assuring yourself at least
one young pair is to choose 6 perfect specimens from a large tankful
of young angels. This method is less expensive than buying proven
breeders that may be near the end of their breeding careers anyway.
When preparing to buy 6 Angelfish, take your time to study the fish
and select only those with straight top and bottom fins and perfect
'feelers' without any bowing or bends in them. They should be strong,
robust and active. Angelfish that are active feeders mean they will
grow quickly, and have a high rate of egg production in the females.
Do not buy fish from a tank with either dead fish in it, with fungus
or parasite infestations. Resist the urge to 'come to the rescue of
the little ugly duckling' because it will only grow up to be a big
ugly duckling and will be totally unsuitable for breeding purposes.
Be extremely picky with your breeder selection and you will be rewarded
with beautiful fry. Once you have carefully selected your 6 potential
breeders, they can be set up in a 20 gallon tank minimum to grow up
in and to finally pair off. If they are fed well with a good selection
of live foods, they will grow quickly and reach breeder size rapidly.
One sure way to acquire a true breeding pair of Angelfish is to purchase
a proven pair from a breeder. When you purchase a pair this way there
is always the possibility that they are at the end of their breeding
- Spawning :
In mature fish, breeding can be stimulated
by a partial water change and a rise in temperature to between 80
and 82 degrees F. One sure sign that spawning is about to occur is
the appearance of the pair's genital papillae. These look like little
nipple-like projections and are called ovipositors (oh vi poz' uh
turs), a word that literally means "egg-placer(s)". The female's ovipositor
is larger and more blunt than the male's which is slender and more
pointed. These protuberances which appear at the vent are used respectively
for depositing eggs and fertilizing them. The obvious differences
in the genital papillae are the first completely reliable indication
of sex determination. The pair will select a spawning site and thoroughly
clean it about two or three days before actual spawning takes place.
When the cleanliness of the spawning site finally meets the approval
of the parent fish, the female will make a few test runs. She will
pull her ventral fins or feelers close to the lower sides of her abdomen
and her anal fin will be situated so that her entire lower line is
relatively straight. Her ovipositor will then be able to make full
contact with the slate, leaf or whatever was chosen for a spawning
site. The male will then make a few practice runs too before the actual
spawning takes place. When spawning actually takes place, the female
will pass over the site and eggs are deposited which adhere to the
surface. The male then moves in and scoots along over the string of
eggs just laid and fertilizes them, his fins taking the same position
as the female's so he can press closely to insure a higher fertilization
rate. The male and female Angelfish will take turns making passes
over the spawning site until several hundred or more eggs have been
laid, depending on the size and condition of the female prior to spawning.
The parents will hover closely over the spawn and fan continuously
with their pectoral fins to create a circulation of water over and
around the eggs. Some unfertilized eggs will turn white in a matter
of hours and will be removed by the parents.
- Fry Diet:
Angelfish fry have been successfully raised
on a diet of newly hatched Brine shrimp (napulii) for the first 4
weeks of their lives and fed two to four times daily. After that,
they were gradually introduced to a mixture of finely powdered Angelfish
flakes and powdered dried blood worms with an occasional (twice a
week) feeding of baby brine shrimp. When their bodies are about the
size of a quarter, they may be fed Guppy fry. An easy way to provide
this very nutritious food is to keep pregnant guppies in the same
tank as the young Angels and the rest is up to nature. Of course feedings
of other varied foods are needed to round out the diet. The author
conducted an experiment and got 6 quarter sized Angelfish from a large
tank of like sized Angels and put them in a 10 gallon tank with a
sponge filter and Water Sprite. They were free fed guppy fry and twice
a day received any combination of Angelfish flakes, frozen bloodworms,
frozen brine shrimp and dried dworms for 4 weeks. At the end of the
experiment, the 6 who received a varied diet twice a day were almost
the size of a half dollar while the size of the other Angelfish barely
had any noticeable growth at all. You can see that the correct diet
for your Angels is essential to potential and current breeder fish.
- Leaving Fry with Parents:
If the parents are to be left with the eggs,
it is best to provide as much peace and quiet for them as possible.
You may want to set up their tank in your bedroom or a spare room
where they will not be unnecessarily disturbed. Other than that, they
should be treated as you normally do. Some aquarists cover the tank
with paper or black plastic and use peep holes to observe the fish.
This can cause more disturbance than without the cover because there
is no warning for the fish when the lid is going to be opened for
feeding or for any other reason. The best system for filtering a fry
tank is a seeded corner sponge filter. Start your new Rotifer (roe'
tu fur) bacteria colony by putting the new sponge filter with aeration
into an established tank. This should be done long before you have
to use it so that all you have to do is pop it into the fry tank when
the time comes. The sponge will begin to discolor when you have the
start of your colony. The circulation of water is gentle, the fry
won't be sucked into the sponge and even baby brine shrimp are safe
with a sponge filter. Clean the sponge in a bucket of siphoned off
aquarium water to protect the Rotifers from dying, wring it out a
couple of times and it's ready to go back to work even in a completely
bare aquarium. Undergravel filters also work biologically, but are
not as convenient to use in this instance. A scrupulously clean aquarium
is essential for proper growth and health of your Angel fish fry,
but with an undergravel filter, this is almost impossible to do. The
water can look crystal clear while the space under the filter can
be filthy with uneaten food and fish waste. This in turn causes ammonia
build-up which is dangerous or even fatal to fish. It is obviously
very difficult if not impossible to keep a fry tank with an undergravel
filter in it perfectly clean.
- Hatching Eggs Away from Parents:
Hatching Eggs Away from Parents Should you
decide to remove the eggs after spawning to raise away from the parents,
a bare 15-20 gallon tank with sponge filter and a piece of slate leaned
up against a side wall would be the angelfish will use the piece of
slate to lay their eggs on making it easy for you to remove the entire
spawn. A restaurant sized pickle or mayonnaise jar submerged into
the tank and the slate with the spawn gently transferred into it is
the best way to handle the delicate eggs which should be facing upward.
An airstone should be placed in the jar in such a way that the somewhat
vigorous stream of air bubbles does not hit the eggs directly. The
jar should be floated in the tank so the temperature remains constant
and that water changes can come from the parent's tank. Successful
breeders have used this 'formula' for the water in which to raise
the fry: Dechlorinated tap water measuring about 75-100 ppm hardness
or about 5 DH and a pH of about 7.4 and kept at 80-02 degrees F. A
one gallon pickle jar was used and tilted, filled 3/4 full and 3 drops
of 10% Methylene Blue was added. The aeration was vigorous and each
day after hatching, one-half the water was replaced with aged tap
water of the same temperature. Aeration was slowed after the fry were
free swimming. Hatching should occur in about 36 to 48 hours depending
on the temperature. If you should see some eggs fall off the slate,
you may elect to either pick them up with an eyedropper or turkey
baster and squirt them back on the slate or leave them to hatch where
they are. There will be a period after hatching and before free swimming
when the fry will stick together. At this time increase the aeration
so ALL the fry will have access to sufficient oxygen. Do not put food
in the jar until they fry are free swimming. This will only serve
to foul the water and they won't eat while they still have a yolk
sack to live on. After about 3-5 days when they are free swimming,
you may introduce newly hatched brine shrimp into the jar for the
fry to eat.
Angelfish are apparantly not as apt to contract the common diseases
that other tropical fish are. However, I will list some common ailments
for your reference.
- Ichthyophthirius or Ich
Otherwise known as "white spot disease" because of the appearance
of the encysted adult parasite on infected fish, Ich is caused by
the protozoan parasite Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Angelfish are
less susceptible than many other tropicals, but occasionally contract
this disease. Ich goes through three definite stages: First, the adult
parasite lives in the skin of the host fish, feeding on the tissue
and body fluids of the fish and appears as a white spot; second, the
mature parasite leaves the host and falls to the bottom where it divides;
third, as many as 2000 free-swimming youngsters all seek a host fish
that they can attach to. This is the stage where most treatments are
affective. Higher temperatures will cause the cycle to complete faster
so it is suggested that you raise the temperature to around 80 degrees
F. as part of the treatment. This gives the free-swimming parasites
less time to find a host before they die. Your favorite pet supply
store will have Ich medication on hand.
- Exophthalmia or Pop-Eye
This is one of the more often encountered diseases of angelfish although
not common. Pop-eye is a symptom, not a disease and it can have a
number of causes. Some are incurable, some can be cured. Some of the
causes of this condition are: Not making partial water changes often
enough resulting in a build-up of dissolved waste products, infection
by a parasitic fungus called Ichthyosporidium. Other symptoms of this
disease, also known as Ichthyophonus, are usually present when it
is the cause of Pop-eye. The symptoms are body sores, bloody spots,staggering,
black spots,tumors that have erupted, emaciation or scale protrusion,
loss of fins. Usually this is introduced with other fish and is considered
incurable. Some success has been reported using 1% phenoxetol at about
50cc per gallon of water. Bacterial infections can also cause Pop-eye
and may be treated with 50 mg. per gallon of Tetracycline or Terramycin
added every other day or mixing with the food 200 mg. antibiotic to
4 oz. of food and feeding this for 10 days. Another cause of Pop-eye
is otherwise known as "worm cataract disease". The eyes bulge and
the cornea becomes cloudy because of the invasion of types of flatworms.
These must live through a stage in which snails are the intermediary
host and if they don't find a fish within a short period, will die.
Once a fish is infected, there is no effective cure. This parasite
is introduced with snails, so wild snails should be avoided. Aquarium
snails pose no problem as they are not exposed to water birds who
serve as another intermediary host and from which the snails become
- Hunger Strike
Loss of appetite and eventual refusal to eat should not be a problem
in a well maintained tank. As long as regular partial water changes
are made and the general guidelines for cleanliness are followed,
this should never happen to you. In case you notice your angelfish
going "off their feed", bribe them with live brine shrimp, live guppy
fry or any other clean live food. In no time they will be eating again.