Choosing an Angelfish: Tips for Selection and Tank Setup

Angel fish Choosing an Angelfish

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Choosing an Angelfish: Tips for Selection and Tank Setup


Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) are among the most elegant and popular freshwater fish species in the home aquarium hobby. With their graceful appearance and striking colors, angelfish make a fantastic addition to any aquarium. However, to enjoy the full beauty and longevity of these fish, it’s crucial to select healthy specimens and provide them with an appropriate tank environment. In this article, we will guide you on how to choose a healthy angelfish and set up their tank for success.

What to Look for When Choosing an Angelfish

When choosing an angelfish for your aquarium, it’s essential to consider various factors to ensure that you bring home a healthy and vibrant fish. Here are the key aspects to keep in mind:

  1. Physical Appearance: Examine the physical appearance of the angelfish closely. Look for vibrant colors and well-defined patterns. Avoid fish with faded or discolored scales, as this could indicate health issues.
  2. Body Shape: Healthy angelfish should have a triangular body shape. A streamlined and symmetrical body is a sign of a well-nourished fish. Avoid angelfish that appear thin or bloated.
  3. Fins and Tail: Inspect the fins and tail for any signs of damage, tears, or deformities. Damaged fins may indicate aggression or poor tank conditions.
  4. Eyes: The eyes of the angelfish should be clear and free of cloudiness. Cloudy or protruding eyes could be a sign of infection or poor water quality.
  5. Behavior: Observe the fish’s behavior in the tank. Healthy angelfish should be active, curious, and swim freely. Avoid angelfish that hide or appear lethargic.
  6. Size: Consider the size of the angelfish. While it’s common for angelfish to be sold when they are still small, make sure they are proportional in size and not stunted.
  7. Breathing: Pay attention to the fish’s breathing. Rapid or labored breathing may be a sign of respiratory issues or poor water quality.
  8. Compatibility: If you plan to keep multiple angelfish, ensure that you choose individuals that are compatible in terms of size and temperament. Aggressive or territorial angelfish can disrupt the harmony in your tank.
  9. Quarantine: If possible, quarantine new angelfish in a separate tank for a few weeks before introducing them to your main aquarium. This can help prevent the introduction of diseases and parasites to your established fish.
  10. Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask the seller or breeder about the fish’s history, diet, and any specific care requirements. Reputable sellers should be willing to provide this information.

Setting up the Perfect Angelfish Aquarium

After selecting healthy angelfish, the next step is to create an ideal environment for them. Here are the essential factors to consider when setting up an angelfish tank:

Tank Size

Angelfish are known for their graceful long fins and can grow to be quite large. It’s recommended to keep them in a tank that is at least 20 gallons in size. A larger tank is even better, as it provides more swimming space and helps maintain stable water conditions.

Water Parameters

  1. Temperature: Angelfish thrive in tropical temperatures between 75-82°F (24-28°C). Use a reliable heater to maintain a consistent temperature.
  2. pH Level: Aim for a slightly acidic to neutral pH range between 6.5 and 7.5. Regular water testing is crucial to ensure the pH remains stable.
  3. Water Hardness: Angelfish prefer soft to moderately hard water with a dGH (degree of general hardness) between 3 and 8.

Filtration and Water Quality

Invest in a high-quality filtration system to keep the water clean and clear. Angelfish are sensitive to ammonia and nitrites, so maintaining good water quality is essential. Regular water changes (around 20-30% every 1-2 weeks) can help keep these parameters in check.

Tank Decor

  1. Substrate: Use fine-grained sand or small gravel as the substrate. Angelfish like to sift through the substrate, and fine particles won’t damage their delicate fins.
  2. Plants: Include live plants in the aquarium to mimic their natural habitat. Species like Amazon swords, Java ferns, and anubias are excellent choices. These plants provide hiding spots and improve water quality.
  3. Hiding Places: Create hiding spots with the use of driftwood, caves, or PVC pipes. Angelfish appreciate places where they can retreat when they feel threatened.


Angelfish do not have specific lighting requirements, but moderate lighting is sufficient to support plant growth and showcase their colors. Ensure there are shaded areas for the fish to rest.

Angelfish Tank Mates

Angelfish can be kept with various other fish species, but it’s essential to choose compatible tank mates to maintain harmony in your aquarium. Avoid species that are too aggressive or fin-nipping. Some suitable tank mates for angelfish include:

  • Tetras
  • Corydoras catfish
  • Gouramis
  • Discus fish
  • Plecos
  • Rasboras

Feeding Angelfish

Angelfish are omnivores and have a varied diet. Provide them with a balanced diet that includes:

  • High-quality flakes or pellets
  • Live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia
  • Fresh vegetables like blanched spinach and zucchini

Feed your angelfish 2-3 times a day, but only as much as they can consume in a couple of minutes to avoid overfeeding.

Common Angelfish Health Issues

Angelfish are generally hardy, but they can still be susceptible to certain health problems. Here are some common issues to be aware of:

  1. Ich (White Spot Disease): This is a common parasitic infection that manifests as white spots on the fish’s body. It can be treated with commercial medications and increased temperature.
  2. Fin Rot: Poor water quality can lead to fin rot. Maintain pristine water conditions and consider using antibiotics if the condition worsens.
  3. Dropsy: Swollen abdomen and raised scales are signs of dropsy, a bacterial infection. Isolate the affected fish and treat with antibiotics.
  4. Hole in the Head Disease: This is a condition that causes pitting and erosion in the fish’s head. It is often related to poor water quality and nutrition. Address the root causes for prevention.

7 Species of angelfish that are good for first time aquarium owners

Freshwater angelfish come in various beautiful varieties, each with its unique colors and patterns. Here are some popular angelfish variants and a brief description of each, along with reasons why they would make a good choice for your aquarium:

1 Pterophyllum scalare (Wild Type Angelfish):

  • Description: The wild type angelfish is the natural form of the species and exhibits a silver body with vertical black stripes. They have long, flowing fins, adding to their elegant appearance.
  • Why They Are a Good Choice: Wild type angelfish are a classic choice, appreciated for their simplicity and the contrast they provide to more colorful tank mates. They are hardy and adapt well to various water conditions, making them suitable for beginners.

2. Black Angelfish:

  • Description: As the name suggests, black angelfish are characterized by their predominantly black coloration, often with white or silver accents. They have a striking and dramatic appearance.
  • Why They Are a Good Choice: Black angelfish add a touch of sophistication to your tank. Their color contrast stands out, especially when paired with brightly colored tank mates. They are hardy and easy to care for, making them suitable for aquarists of all experience levels.

3. Marble Angelfish:

  • Description: Marble angelfish have a captivating marbled pattern with shades of black, white, and silver. Their unique coloration resembles marble, hence the name.
  • Why They Are a Good Choice: Marble angelfish are popular for their intricate and attractive patterns. They add visual interest to your tank and work well with various other angelfish variants, creating a visually stunning display.
  1. Koi Angelfish:
  • Description: Koi angelfish resemble koi carp with their vibrant orange, red, and black patterns. They are often referred to as “painted” angelfish due to their bold colors.
  • Why They Are a Good Choice: Koi angelfish are prized for their vivid and eye-catching coloration. They make a stunning focal point in any aquarium and add a pop of color to your aquatic landscape.
  1. Platinum Angelfish:
  • Description: Platinum angelfish are almost entirely silver or white, with minimal coloration. Their simplicity and elegance are their defining features.
  • Why They Are a Good Choice: Platinum angelfish offer a minimalist and sophisticated aesthetic in your tank. Their neutral coloration provides a lovely backdrop for other, more colorful fish to shine.
  1. Pearlscale Angelfish:
  • Description: Pearlscale angelfish have distinctive, rounded scales that resemble pearls, giving them a unique texture and appearance.
  • Why They Are a Good Choice: Pearlscale angelfish add a tactile and visual dimension to your tank. Their distinctive appearance makes them stand out and adds a touch of intrigue to your aquatic setup.
  1. Veil Angelfish:
  • Description: Veil angelfish have long, flowing fins that trail behind them. They can be found in various colors and patterns, making them visually striking.
  • Why They Are a Good Choice: Veil angelfish are sought after for their graceful and dramatic finnage. Their long, flowing fins create a mesmerizing display as they swim, making them a captivating addition to your aquarium.

Selecting the right angelfish variant for your tank largely depends on your personal preferences and the overall aesthetic you want to achieve. Regardless of the variant you choose, angelfish are known for their peaceful nature and compatibility with a wide range of other fish species, making them a versatile and appealing choice for freshwater aquarium enthusiasts.


Choosing a healthy angelfish and setting up their tank correctly are essential steps to ensure the well-being and longevity of these elegant fish. By paying close attention to the fish’s physical condition, behavior, and tank conditions, you can create a thriving aquarium that showcases the beauty of your angelfish. Remember that maintaining water quality, providing appropriate tank mates, and a well-rounded diet are key factors in keeping your angelfish happy and healthy. Happy angelfish keeping!

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Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson

Aquarium Enthusiast

I love sharing my knowledge about all things aquarium related. I have been keeping aquariums for over 20 years and cannot imagine a life without an aquarium. 

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