Angelfish, belonging to the Pterophyllum genus, are captivating freshwater fish known for their elegant appearance and unique behaviors.

Angelfish originate from the Amazon River basin in South America and thrive in warm, soft water. Understanding their natural habitat will help recreate a suitable environment in captivity.

Also important is proper care, which includes meeting their specific needs regarding tank size, water conditions, diet and compatibility with other fish.

Below we will look at the basic information of all the above points.

Bullet Points

Understanding Angelfish

Angelfish, scientifically classified under the Pterophyllum genus, are characterized by their laterally compressed bodies and long dorsal and anal fins. This genus consists of three main species: P. altum, P. leopoldi, and P. scalare.

  • P. altum: Known for its majestic appearance and tall body, P. altum requires specific care due to its distinct characteristics.
  • P. leopoldi: Smaller in size, P. leopoldi, or the "Leopard angelfish," boasts unique spotted patterns, adding diversity to angelfish collections.
  • P. scalare: The most common species in aquariums, P. scalare, or the "Common angelfish," comes in various colors and patterns, making it a popular choice among hobbyists.

Different Types and Colors of Angelfish

Black lace angelfish

Angelfish exhibit a wide range of colors and patterns, including silver, black, marble, and albino variations. Understanding these varieties helps enthusiasts select and appreciate the diversity within the species.

Freshwater angelfish:

  • Silver angelfish: The classic angelfish, with a silver body and three vertical black bars.
  • Black lace angelfish: A striking black angelfish with delicate white lace-like markings on its fins.
  • Koi angelfish: A brightly colored angelfish with a marbled pattern of orange, yellow, white, and black.
  • Zebra angelfish: A black and white angelfish with horizontal stripes.
  • Marble angelfish: A black and white angelfish with an irregular marbled pattern.
  • Platinum angelfish: A silvery-white angelfish with a metallic sheen.
  • Ghost angelfish: A semi-transparent angelfish with a faint blue or pink color.
Platinum angelfish

Saltwater angelfish:

  • Flame angelfish: A bright orange angelfish with a blue face and yellow fins.
  • Blue tang: A bright blue angelfish with a yellow tail and black markings on its body.
  • Emperor angelfish: A large yellow angelfish with a blue mask and black fins.
  • Coral beauty angelfish: A small orange and purple angelfish with a blue outline on its fins.
  • French angelfish: A bright yellow angelfish with blue stripes and a black mask.

Physical Characteristics and Size

Angelfish have a laterally compressed body, meaning that they are flattened from side to side. This body shape makes them agile swimmers and allows them to easily navigate through coral reefs.


  • Dorsal fin: The dorsal fin of an angelfish is large and extends from the top of the body to the tail. It is often brightly colored and can be long and flowing or short and rounded, depending on the species.
  • Anal fin: The anal fin is located on the underside of the body, near the tail. It is similar in shape to the dorsal fin but is usually smaller.
  • Pectoral fins: The pectoral fins are located on the sides of the body, just behind the gills. They are used for steering and balance.
  • Pelvic fins: The pelvic fins are located on the underside of the body, near the front. They are small and often paired together.
  • Caudal fin (tail fin): The caudal fin of an angelfish is large and fan-shaped. It is used for swimming and propulsion. The shape and color of the tail fin can vary greatly depending on the species.

Angelfish sizes vary among species. P. altum, being the largest, can reach up to 12 inches (30 cm), while P. leopoldi stays smaller at around 6 inches (15 cm). Understanding their growth potential is essential for providing adequate tank space.

Right Aquarium Setup

Opt for a taller tank rather than a long and shallow one as angelfish have a tall body shape and prefer vertical swimming space.

Number of angelfish:

  • Single pair: A minimum of 20 gallons is recommended for a single pair of adult angelfish to provide enough swimming space and prevent territorial aggression.
  • Small school: For a small school of 4-6 angelfish, you'll need a larger tank, ideally 55 gallons or more, to give them ample horizontal and vertical space to avoid conflicts.
  • Larger groups: Keeping bigger groups (7+) becomes challenging and requires even larger tanks (e.g., 75 gallons or more) to manage territorial behavior and water quality effectively.

Substrate and Decorations


  • Fine gravel (2-3mm): A neutral choice that's easy to clean and won't harm angelfish. Avoid rough substrates that could damage their delicate barbels.
  • Sand: Offers a natural look and is perfect for burrowing fish like Corydoras catfish, but can be challenging to maintain with plants and may require a stronger filter. Opt for fine sand like aquarium sand or pool filter sand.
  • Aquasoil: This nutrient-rich substrate is ideal for planted tanks and promotes plant growth. Choose a brand suitable for angelfish as some aquasoils can alter water parameters.
  • Bare bottom: Some hobbyists prefer a bare bottom for easier cleaning and highlighting the fish's colors. However, it offers less hiding places and can affect bottom-dwelling fish.


  • Rocks and driftwood: Provide hiding places, swimming obstacles, and surfaces for algae growth (a natural food source for angelfish). Choose smooth rocks and driftwood to avoid injuring your fish.
  • Plants: Live plants create a natural environment, improve water quality, and offer additional hiding spots. Opt for hardy, fast-growing species like Amazon swords, Anubias, or Water Sprite. Remember that angelfish may nibble on some plants, so choose varieties they're less likely to harm.
  • Caves and ornaments: Artificial decorations can add visual interest and provide hiding spots, but choose smooth, non-toxic materials suitable for aquariums.

Water Requirements


  • Optimal: 78°F to 84°F (25.5°C to 28.9°C).
  • Range: 75°F to 86°F (23.9°C to 30°C).
  • Angelfish prefer warm water, mimicking their tropical origins.

Fluctuations outside the optimal range can stress them and weaken their immune system.

Water Type:

  • Freshwater: Angelfish are freshwater fish.
  • Clean and Well-Oxygenated: Regular water changes and a good filtration system are essential to maintain clean water and adequate oxygen levels.

Angelfish can be found in both freshwater and saltwater environments, but the term "angelfish" is often associated with freshwater angelfish. Freshwater angelfish (Pterophyllum) are popular aquarium fish and are commonly kept in freshwater aquariums.


  • Optimal: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Range: 6.0 to 8.0

Angelfish prefer slightly acidic to neutral water. Sudden changes in pH can be harmful, so monitor and adjust gradually if necessary.


  • Optimal: 5 to 12 dKH (Degrees of Carbonate Hardness)
  • Range: 3 to 8 dKH

Hardness refers to the mineral content in the water. Angelfish can adapt to a wide range, but softer water is generally preferred.

Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate:

  • Ammonia and Nitrite: 0 ppm (parts per million)
  • Nitrate: Less than 20 ppm

These are toxic waste products from fish and organic matter decomposition. Regular water changes and proper filtration are vital to keep these levels at safe concentrations.

Additional Tips:

  • Water flow: Angelfish prefer a gentle to moderate water flow. Avoid strong currents that can stress them.
  • Lighting: Provide moderate lighting with 10-12 hours of daylight per day.
  • Regular testing: Monitor water parameters regularly to ensure they remain within optimal ranges.


Zebra angelfish

Keeping angelfish requires a good understanding of their natural habitat, behavior and special care requirements. To recreate a suitable environment in captivity, factors such as tank size, water conditions, diet, and compatibility with other fish must be considered.

A suitable environment not only meets their specific needs, but also improves their overall health and vibrant colors. Regular monitoring, proper maintenance, and attention to detail in angelfish care will help your aquarium thrive.

See you in the next article!