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Angelfish Tank Requirements

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Angelfish belong to the family Cichlidae. They're sometimes called scalare, stemming from their scientific name, Pterophyllum scalare. Native to South America, they swim in gently flowing rivers and streams. Angelfish prefer areas having aquatic plants and algae to hide in. They're hardy fish, but can be affected by bacteria, parasites and viruses. A properly set-up tank reduces the risk of angelfish illnesses.

Tank Size

Adult angelfish can reach up to 4 inches in length and 8 inches in height. A tall tank is recommended; the aquarium size depends on the number and sizes of fish you plan to have, including fish other than scalare. Angelfish need a large tank because they're territorial and semi-aggressive. They also require plenty of free swimming space. A 30-gallon tank is adequate for two adult angelfish, along with a few other fish.

Water Quality

Slightly acidic, soft water is necessary for the angelfish tank. A pH level between 6.5 and 6.9 and a dH level between 0.6 and 1.2 are advised. Water temperature of 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit is comfortable for scalare. Changing 30 percent of the aquarium water biweekly is crucial for maintaining water quality. Overfeeding can result in poor water quality. Reduced water quality may cause angelfish to stop eating.


Angelfish aren't strong swimmers; fast moving water creates stress, uses up their energy and slows their growth. Undergravel filters and sponge filters allow gentle currents that angelfish can easily swim through. Some sponge filters are designed specifically for angelfish.


Angelfish are shy and feel safer in an environment that offers plenty of densely planted areas to hide in. Amazon sword plants are native to their natural environment. Java ferns, java moss and water sprites are also well-suited for angelfish. A tank containing more than one angelfish can be divided by placing tall plants in the center. Live plants are susceptible to water changes; plants not doing well may indicate a reduction of water quality.

Tank Companions

Choose fish for the community tank containing angelfish with care. Agressive fish and fin nippers will damage the scalare's long fins. Small fish, such as neon tetras, will be eaten by angelfish. Fast-moving fish may compete for food, often getting to it before the slow-swimming angels. They also can make angelfish nervous with their quick movements. Consider temperature, pH and dH requirements when choosing tank mates. Angelfish do well with other cichlids and gouramis.