Walk around any pet store and ask what the top eight most popular aquarium fish are and I am confident that goldfish and angelfish will be mentioned. Let’s focus on the underrated yet majestic angelfishes.

There are two kinds of angelfish: freshwater and marine. When looking for angelfish, specify the freshwater type.

Freshwater Angelfish

Angelfishes are a very popular tropical fish because of their unique shape and fascinating personalities. They adapt better in tall tanks rather than short tanks because of their body shape and have a wide variety of color mutations. During my younger years, only silver and marble types are commonly available.

Caring for angelfish has an intermediate level of difficulty. The aquarium should be warm, ideally around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Centigrade).As members of the cichlid family, they are generally peaceful.  They reach sexual maturity at around eight months of age. They have a lifespan longer than 10 years.

Three types of angelfish are Pterophyllum Altum, Leopoldi, and Scalare (the most popular).

Discus. Severum. Angelfish?

These three types of cichlids are those which I find similar in so many ways. They all have similarly thin, round bodies.

The Discus is the brightest in color and also the most expensive. They require more in terms of food and water. Severums are hardy fish but lack color variety. The banded green and yellow are readily available. They are also the most aggressive among the three. Lastly, Angelfish come in a wide range of colors and patterns. They are priced reasonably.


Angels form a pair and are quite loyal to each other. Freshwater types are ready to mate at 8 to 12 months. When the fish couple is ready for spawning, they choose a place in the tank and start to clean it. They lay their eggs on vertical surfaces, such as flat leaves, sheets of glass, PVC pipes, stone cones, and slates, to name a few.

The female angelfish lays her eggs; then, the male fertilizes them. A 15-gallon tank is ideal for a pair. A bare bottom with a sponge filter makes a good setup.

Just like all cichlids, they take care of their young. For a higher survival rate, I suggest removing the eggs and transferring to a separate tank, placing aeration, and adding a few drops of methylene blue solution for fungus prevention. In several days, the eggs hatch and the babies adhere to the surface of the tank and breeding media. They consume the yellow yolk, so no feeding is required. Later, you can feed them egg yolks, commercially available baby fish food, or baby brine shrimps.

The juveniles should be fed three to four times a day, with portions that they can consume in ten minutes (or less if the water is easily polluted).

Are they angels in the tank?

They can be territorial, more so when in pairs. They can eat small fish, such as neon tetras. On the other hand, some fishes, such as tiger barbs, can nip the tail of an angelfish.

When it comes to community tanks, the larger, the better. The more angelfish there are in a community tank, the more they can focus on their own species. Besides, an all-angelfish tank is a sight to behold. They look good with driftwood and plants.

While they say angelfish and goldfish don’t mix, I have had no problems having them together.

12 Pterophyllum Scalare Varieties

  • SILVER ANGELFISH – silver body with two stripes on the body and one along the eyes
  • GOLDEN – Gold body with black eyes
  • ZEBRA OR BANDED – silver body with four to six vertical stripes
  • SILVER LACE – silver angel with lace patterns
  • HALFBACK – silver with a black rear portion
  • SMOKEY – combination of black and silver, but with a gray appearance
  • BLUSHING – the term comes from the clear gill plates found in juveniles, with pinkish gills underneath
  • KOI ANGELFISH – gold with black marbling; no stripes if with orange coloration.
  • LEOPARD – with spots over most of their bodies, which eventually grow closer together during adulthood.
  • GHOST – no stripes; mostly, silver fish have a stripe through the eye and tail
  • MARBLE – black pattern with gold marble (a more popular type)
  • ALBINO – recessive trait; eyes are either red or yellow.

This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s February 2019 issue.