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Are Angelfish Freshwater or Saltwater Species?

Are angelfish freshwater or saltwater species? Well, the answer is there are both freshwater and saltwater angelfish. Freshwater angelfish are native to the Amazon Basin in South America, while saltwater angelfish are found in tropical oceans worldwide.


Angelfish are a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts, and they come in two main types: freshwater and saltwater. Both types are known for their stunning beauty and unique shapes, which add a touch of elegance to any aquarium.

Freshwater angelfish (Pterophyllum fish from the family Cichlidae) are native to the Amazon River in South America. They are part of the cichlid family and are admired for their tall, triangular bodies and long, flowing fins. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, from silver and black stripes to vibrant shades of gold and marble.

Saltwater angelfish (Perciform fish from the family Pomacanthidae), on the other hand, are found in the warm waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Saltwater angelfish are among the most captivating and sought-after species in the world of saltwater aquarium fish. These angelfish are known for their bright, bold colors and intricate patterns. Some of the most famous saltwater angelfish include the regal angelfish, with its striking blue and yellow stripes, and the flame angelfish, which sports vibrant red and orange hues.

Here are some quick facts about angelfish:

  • Origin:
    • Freshwater: Amazon River, South America
    • Saltwater: Tropical oceans worldwide
  • Lifespan:
    • Freshwater: Up to 10 years
    • Saltwater: Up to 15 years
  • Size:
    • Freshwater: Up to 6 inches long and 8 inches tall
    • Saltwater: Varies by species, up to 12 inches or more
  • Diet:
    • Freshwater: Omnivorous – plants and small animals
    • Saltwater: Omnivorous – algae, small invertebrates
  • Tank Size:
    • Freshwater: Minimum 20 gallons for a small group
    • Saltwater: Minimum 55 gallons, more for larger species

Table: Comparison of Freshwater and Saltwater Angelfish

FeatureFreshwater AngelfishSaltwater Angelfish
OriginAmazon River, South AmericaTropical oceans worldwide
LifespanUp to 10 yearsUp to 15 years
SizeUp to 6 inches long, 8 inches tallVaries by species, up to 12 inches or more
DietOmnivorous – plants and small animalsOmnivorous – algae, small invertebrates
Tank SizeMinimum 20 gallonsMinimum 55 gallons

Angelfish, whether freshwater or saltwater, are a delightful addition to any aquarium. Their striking appearances and engaging behaviors make them a favorite among fishkeepers of all levels.

Types of Angelfish

Angelfish come in many different types, each with its own unique look and charm. Whether you are interested in freshwater or saltwater angelfish, there is a variety that will suit your aquarium.

Freshwater Angelfish:

  • Silver Angelfish: The classic type, with a silver body and black vertical stripes.
  • Koi Angelfish: Named for their bright, colorful patterns similar to Koi fish, they often have white, orange, and black colors.
  • Marble Angelfish: These have a marbled pattern of black, white, and sometimes gold, giving them a unique appearance.
  • Veil Angelfish: Known for their long, flowing fins, which can be found in many colors and patterns.
  • Gold Angelfish: Mostly gold in color, these angelfish have a shimmering, elegant look.
  • Black Angelfish: Almost entirely black, these angelfish provide a striking contrast in any tank.

Saltwater Angelfish:

  • Regal Angelfish: Bright blue and yellow stripes make this fish stand out. They are a favorite among saltwater enthusiasts.
  • Flame Angelfish: With vibrant red and orange colors, these fish look like they are on fire.
  • Emperor Angelfish: These angelfish go through a color transformation from blue and white rings as juveniles to bright yellow and blue stripes as adults.
  • Queen Angelfish: Known for their stunning blue and yellow colors and the “crown” on their heads.
  • Coral Beauty Angelfish: A smaller species with beautiful blue and orange coloration, ideal for smaller saltwater tanks.

Table: Comparison of Freshwater and Saltwater Angelfish Types

Freshwater AngelfishKey Features
SilverSilver body with black vertical stripes
KoiBright, colorful patterns similar to Koi fish
MarbleMarbled pattern of black, white, and sometimes gold
VeilLong, flowing fins; various colors and patterns
GoldMostly gold, shimmering appearance
BlackAlmost entirely black
Saltwater AngelfishKey Features
RegalBright blue and yellow stripes
FlameVibrant red and orange colors
EmperorColor transformation from juvenile to adult
QueenStunning blue and yellow colors, “crown” on head
Coral BeautyBeautiful blue and orange coloration

Angelfish, both freshwater and saltwater, offer a wide range of stunning options for your aquarium. Each type has its own unique appeal, ensuring that there is an angelfish perfect for every fish enthusiast’s tank.

Ideal Tank Setup for Angelfish

Creating the perfect tank setup for your angelfish is essential to keep them healthy and happy. Whether you are caring for freshwater or saltwater angelfish, providing the right environment will help them thrive.

Freshwater Angelfish Tank Setup:

  • Tank Size: A minimum of 20 gallons is recommended, but larger tanks are better, especially for a small group.
  • Water Temperature: Keep the water between 75-82°F.
  • pH Level: Maintain a pH level between 6.8 and 7.8.
  • Filtration: Use a good quality filter to keep the water clean. Angelfish prefer gentle water flow.
  • Decorations: Provide plenty of aquarium plants, rocks, and driftwood for hiding spots. Angelfish enjoy a natural-looking environment.
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting is best, as it mimics their natural habitat and helps plants grow.

Saltwater Angelfish Tank Setup:

  • Tank Size: A minimum of 55 gallons is needed for most saltwater angelfish, with larger tanks being better for bigger species.
  • Water Temperature: Maintain the water temperature between 72-78°F.
  • Salinity: Keep the salinity between 1.020 and 1.025 specific gravity.
  • pH Level: Maintain a pH level between 8.1 and 8.4.
  • Filtration: Use a high-quality filter and protein skimmer to maintain water quality.
  • Live Rock: Include plenty of live rock for hiding places and to support beneficial bacteria.
  • Lighting: Use appropriate lighting for any coral and plants you may have in the tank. Some saltwater angelfish like bright, reef-friendly lights.

Table: Freshwater vs. Saltwater Angelfish Tank Setup

FeatureFreshwater AngelfishSaltwater Angelfish
Tank SizeMinimum 20 gallonsMinimum 55 gallons
Water Temp75-82°F72-78°F
pH Level6.8-7.88.1-8.4
SalinityNot applicable1.020-1.025 specific gravity
FiltrationGood quality filter, gentle water flowHigh-quality filter, protein skimmer
DecorationsPlants, rocks, driftwoodLive rock
LightingModerate lightingBright, reef-friendly lights

By setting up your tank properly, you ensure that your angelfish will live in a comfortable and natural environment. This helps them stay healthy, active, and display their best colors and behaviors.

Feeding Angelfish

Feeding your angelfish the right diet is crucial for their health and vibrant colors. Both freshwater and saltwater angelfish have specific dietary needs, so it’s important to understand what to feed them and how often.

Freshwater Angelfish Diet:

  • Pellets and Flakes: High-quality angelfish pellets and flakes should be the staple of their diet. Look for options rich in protein and essential nutrients.
  • Live Food: Freshwater angelfish enjoy live foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. These foods help keep them healthy and active.
  • Frozen Food: Frozen versions of live foods are also a great option. They are convenient and provide the same nutritional benefits.
  • Vegetables: Occasionally, you can supplement their diet with blanched vegetables like spinach or peas.

Saltwater Angelfish Diet:

  • Marine Pellets and Flakes: Choose high-quality marine-specific pellets and flakes that contain a balanced mix of proteins, fats, and vitamins.
  • Algae: Many saltwater angelfish graze on algae. Providing dried seaweed or nori sheets is a good way to ensure they get enough plant matter.
  • Frozen Food: Offer a variety of frozen foods like mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and krill. These foods are rich in nutrients and mimic their natural diet.
  • Live Food: While not always necessary, some saltwater angelfish benefit from live foods such as copepods and amphipods.

Feeding Schedule:

  • Freshwater Angelfish: Feed them 2-3 times a day with small amounts they can consume within 2-3 minutes.
  • Saltwater Angelfish: Feed 2-3 times a day, ensuring they eat everything within a few minutes to prevent overfeeding and water quality issues.

Table: Freshwater vs. Saltwater Angelfish Diet

Food TypeFreshwater AngelfishSaltwater Angelfish
Pellets and FlakesHigh-quality angelfish pellets and flakesMarine-specific pellets and flakes
Live FoodBrine shrimp, bloodworms, daphniaCopepods, amphipods
Frozen FoodBrine shrimp, bloodworms, daphniaMysis shrimp, brine shrimp, krill
VegetablesBlanched spinach, peasDried seaweed, nori sheets
Feeding Schedule2-3 times a day, small amounts2-3 times a day, small amounts

Proper feeding ensures that your angelfish stay healthy and display their beautiful colors. A balanced diet with a mix of high-quality commercial foods and occasional treats of live or frozen foods will keep them thriving in your aquarium.

Common Health Issues and Treatments

Angelfish, like all aquarium fish, can face various health issues. Recognizing the signs early and knowing how to treat them can help keep your angelfish healthy and happy.

Common Health Issues:

  • Ich (White Spot Disease):
    • Symptoms: Small white spots on the body and fins, scratching against objects.
    • Treatment: Raise the tank temperature gradually to 86°F and use an ich treatment from a pet store. Maintain good water quality.
  • Fin Rot:
    • Symptoms: Frayed or disintegrating fins, redness at the base of fins.
    • Treatment: Improve water quality and use an antibacterial treatment. Ensure your angelfish are not stressed or injured.
  • Swim Bladder Disease:
    • Symptoms: Difficulty swimming, floating to the top or sinking to the bottom of the tank.
    • Treatment: Feed them peas (after removing the skin) and ensure a varied diet. Maintain good water conditions.
  • Fungal Infections:
    • Symptoms: Cotton-like growths on the body or fins.
    • Treatment: Use antifungal medications available at pet stores and keep the tank clean.
  • Gill Flukes:
    • Symptoms: Rapid breathing, scratching against objects, inflamed gills.
    • Treatment: Use antiparasitic treatments and improve water quality.

Table: Common Health Issues and Treatments

Health IssueSymptomsTreatment
Ich (White Spot Disease)White spots, scratching against objectsRaise temperature, use ich treatment
Fin RotFrayed fins, redness at base of finsImprove water quality, antibacterial treatment
Swim Bladder DiseaseDifficulty swimming, floating or sinkingFeed peas, ensure varied diet
Fungal InfectionsCotton-like growthsUse antifungal medications, keep tank clean
Gill FlukesRapid breathing, inflamed gillsUse antiparasitic treatments, improve water quality

Prevention Tips:

  • Maintain Good Water Quality: Regular water changes and proper filtration are essential.
  • Quarantine New Fish: Always quarantine new fish before adding them to your main tank to prevent disease spread.
  • Balanced Diet: Feed your angelfish a varied and nutritious diet to boost their immune system.
  • Avoid Overcrowding: Ensure your tank is not overcrowded to reduce stress and the risk of disease.

By keeping a close eye on your angelfish and maintaining a clean and stable tank environment, you can prevent many common health issues and ensure your fish live long, healthy lives.

Breeding Angelfish

Breeding angelfish can be a rewarding experience, but it requires the right conditions and some patience. Both freshwater and saltwater angelfish have specific needs when it comes to breeding, so it’s important to understand these to successfully raise baby angelfish.

Freshwater Angelfish Breeding:

  • Pairing: Angelfish form monogamous pairs. It’s best to start with a group of young angelfish and let them pair off naturally.
  • Breeding Tank: Set up a separate breeding tank with at least 20 gallons of water. Include flat surfaces like slate or broad leaves where they can lay their eggs.
  • Water Conditions: Keep the temperature around 80°F and maintain a pH of 6.5-7.0. Clean water is crucial, so regular water changes are necessary.
  • Spawning: When ready, the female will lay eggs on the chosen surface, and the male will fertilize them. Both parents will guard the eggs.
  • Egg Care: The eggs will hatch in about 2-3 days. After hatching, the fry will stay attached to the spawning site for another 3-5 days before becoming free-swimming.

Saltwater Angelfish Breeding:

  • Pairing: Like freshwater angelfish, saltwater varieties also form pairs. However, breeding them in captivity can be more challenging.
  • Breeding Tank: A large tank, usually over 100 gallons, is recommended for breeding saltwater angelfish. Provide plenty of hiding spots and live rock.
  • Water Conditions: Maintain a stable temperature between 74-78°F, specific gravity of 1.020-1.025, and a pH of 8.1-8.4.
  • Spawning: Saltwater angelfish often spawn in the evening. The female releases eggs into the water column, and the male fertilizes them.
  • Egg Care: Collecting the eggs can be difficult as they float. The larvae need special care and feeding with live plankton and microscopic foods.

Table: Breeding Freshwater vs. Saltwater Angelfish

FeatureFreshwater AngelfishSaltwater Angelfish
PairingMonogamous pairsMonogamous pairs
Breeding TankMinimum 20 gallonsMinimum 100 gallons
Water TempAround 80°F74-78°F
pH Level6.5-7.08.1-8.4
SpawningLays eggs on flat surfacesReleases eggs into water column
Egg CareEggs hatch in 2-3 days, fry attach for 3-5 daysEggs float, larvae need special care and feeding

Breeding angelfish requires dedication and attention to detail. By providing the right environment and conditions, you can enjoy the fascinating process of raising baby angelfish and watching them grow into beautiful adults.

Angelfish Tankmates

Choosing the right tankmates for your angelfish is important to ensure a peaceful and harmonious aquarium environment. Both freshwater and saltwater angelfish can coexist with other fish, but it’s crucial to select compatible species to prevent aggression and stress.

Freshwater Angelfish Tankmates:

  • Compatible Tankmates:
    • Tetras: Species like neon tetras and cardinal tetras are peaceful and small enough not to threaten angelfish.
    • Gouramis: Dwarf gouramis and pearl gouramis are generally peaceful and can coexist well with angelfish.
    • Corydoras Catfish: Cory Catfish are non-aggressive and help keep the tank clean.
    • Platies: These are friendly and come in a variety of colors that complement angelfish.
    • Swordtails: Active but peaceful, they add lively movement to the tank.
  • Tankmates to Avoid:
    • Fin Nippers: Fish like tiger barbs and some species of tetras that may nip at the angelfish’s long fins.
    • Aggressive Fish: Avoid cichlids or large, aggressive species that might stress or harm angelfish.

Saltwater Angelfish Tankmates:

  • Compatible Tankmates:
    • Clownfish: Clownfish are great companions for saltwater angelfish.
    • Gobies: Small and bottom-dwelling, gobies are non-aggressive and safe to house with angelfish.
    • Blennies: Peaceful and interesting to watch, blennies can coexist well with angelfish.
    • Wrasses: Choose peaceful wrasse species that won’t outcompete angelfish for food.
    • Tang Fish: Often peaceful and add a splash of color, making them good tankmates.
  • Tankmates to Avoid:
    • Large Predatory Fish: Avoid species like lionfish or triggers that can be aggressive and predatory.
    • Aggressive Species: Steer clear of overly territorial fish that might bully angelfish.

Table: Compatible Tankmates for Angelfish

Tank TypeCompatible TankmatesTankmates to Avoid
FreshwaterTetras, Gouramis, Corydoras Catfish, Platies, SwordtailsFin nippers (e.g., tiger barbs), aggressive cichlids
SaltwaterClownfish, Gobies, Blennies, Peaceful Wrasses, Tang FishLarge predatory fish (e.g., lionfish), aggressive species

When selecting tankmates, always observe the behavior of your angelfish and their companions to ensure they are getting along. Providing plenty of hiding spots and maintaining good water quality will also help create a stress-free environment for all your fish. By carefully choosing compatible tankmates, you can enjoy a peaceful and vibrant aquarium filled with diverse and happy fish.

Tips for Keeping Angelfish Healthy and Happy

Keeping your angelfish healthy and happy requires a bit of effort, but it’s well worth it to see them thrive in your aquarium. Here are some tips to ensure your angelfish live a long, healthy, and active life.

  • Maintain Water Quality:
    • Regularly test the water for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and pH levels.
    • Perform regular water changes (at least 25% weekly) to keep the water clean and toxin-free.
    • Use a high-quality filter suitable for your tank size.
  • Provide a Suitable Diet:
    • Offer a variety of foods including high-quality flakes, pellets, live, and frozen foods.
    • Feed them small amounts 2-3 times a day, making sure they eat everything within a few minutes.
    • Occasionally supplement with blanched vegetables like spinach or peas for freshwater angelfish, and dried seaweed or algae for saltwater angelfish.
  • Create a Comfortable Environment:
    • Ensure your tank is the right size (minimum 20 gallons for freshwater, 55 gallons for saltwater).
    • Include plenty of hiding spots using plants, rocks, and decorations for freshwater angelfish, and live rock for saltwater angelfish.
    • Maintain appropriate water temperature (75-82°F for freshwater, 72-78°F for saltwater).
  • Prevent Stress:
    • Avoid sudden changes in water parameters, as angelfish are sensitive to fluctuations.
    • Do not overcrowd the tank; ensure each fish has enough space.
    • Keep the tank in a quiet area with moderate lighting to reduce stress.
  • Monitor Health Regularly:
    • Watch for signs of illness such as spots, frayed fins, or unusual behavior.
    • Quarantine new fish before adding them to your main tank to prevent disease spread.
    • Treat any health issues promptly with appropriate medications.

By following these tips, you can create a healthy and happy environment for your angelfish. They will reward you with their beauty and engaging behaviors, making your aquarium a delightful focal point in your home.


Angelfish are a wonderful addition to any aquarium, bringing beauty, elegance, and a touch of the exotic to your home. Whether you choose freshwater or saltwater angelfish, understanding their needs and providing the right care is essential for their well-being.

Remember, maintaining good water quality, offering a varied diet, creating a comfortable environment, preventing stress, and monitoring their health are key factors in keeping your angelfish healthy and happy. With proper care, angelfish can live long, vibrant lives and become a delightful part of your aquatic family.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long do angelfish live?

Angelfish can live up to 10 years in captivity with proper care. Ensuring a clean tank environment, a balanced diet, and stable water conditions can help maximize their lifespan.

How big do angelfish get?

Freshwater angelfish can grow up to 6 inches in length and 8 inches in height, including their fins. Saltwater angelfish sizes vary by species, with some growing up to 12 inches or more.

Are angelfish aggressive?

Angelfish can exhibit territorial behavior, especially during breeding. However, they are generally peaceful with compatible tankmates. Aggression can increase if the tank is overcrowded or if they are housed with incompatible species.

What do angelfish eat?

Angelfish are omnivores. Freshwater angelfish thrive on a diet of high-quality flakes, pellets, live and frozen foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms. Saltwater angelfish enjoy marine-specific pellets, flakes, and a variety of live and frozen foods such as mysis shrimp and krill. They also graze on algae.

Are angelfish cichlids?

Yes, freshwater angelfish are part of the cichlid family. This family also includes other popular aquarium fish like discus and oscars.

Can angelfish live with goldfish?

It is not recommended to keep angelfish with goldfish. Angelfish prefer warmer water temperatures (75-82°F) compared to goldfish (65-75°F). Additionally, most types of goldfish produce a lot of waste, which can affect water quality and stress angelfish.

How long does it take for angelfish eggs to hatch?

Angelfish eggs typically hatch within 2-3 days. After hatching, the fry remain attached to the spawning site for another 3-5 days before becoming free-swimming.

What fish can live with angelfish?

Compatible tankmates for freshwater angelfish include tetras, gouramis, corydoras catfish, platies, and swordtails. For saltwater angelfish, good companions include clownfish, gobies, blennies, peaceful wrasses, and tang fish. Avoid fin nippers and aggressive species.

How many angelfish should be kept together?

It is best to keep angelfish in groups of at least 4-6 individuals to reduce territorial aggression. Ensure your tank is large enough to accommodate them comfortably, with at least 20 gallons for freshwater angelfish and 55 gallons for saltwater angelfish.

What do angelfish eggs look like?

Angelfish eggs are small, round, and translucent. They are usually laid in clusters on flat surfaces like leaves or rocks. Freshwater angelfish eggs are often white or light tan, while saltwater angelfish eggs are usually clear.

How often do angelfish lay eggs?

Angelfish can lay eggs every 7-14 days under optimal conditions. Factors like water quality, temperature, and diet can influence their breeding frequency.

Do angelfish eat shrimp?

Freshwater angelfish may eat small shrimp, such as baby or dwarf shrimp. Saltwater angelfish can also eat shrimp, especially small or juvenile ones. If you plan to keep shrimp with angelfish, ensure the shrimp are large enough to avoid being eaten.

How fast do angelfish grow?

Angelfish grow relatively quickly during their first year, reaching about 2-3 inches in length within 6 months. Full growth is typically achieved within 12-18 months, depending on diet and tank conditions.