Angelfish Breeding Guide

Almost every tropical fish hobbyist tries to breed angelfish.

It is easy to understand why since angelfish are one of the most beautiful tropical fish, they are relatively easy to care for, and they even fetch a good price at local pet stores.

However, although caring for angelfish is relatively easy, breeding angelfish is quite hard, and many enthusiastic aquarists encounter continual frustration until they give up.

This is because many factors influence the mating process, and much of it is out of your hand.

Luckily, we have over 10 years of experience breeding angelfish, with 90% of the eggs laid into sellable juveniles.

So, if you’re looking for a definitive guide that will provide you with all the tips and tricks to come out with a successful angelfish breed, then you’re just in the right place.

Angelfish Water Requirements

Angelfish are native to the Amazon River basin. They can be found in soft, acidic water that is generally around 80°F throughout the year, with temperature fluctuations of as little as a few degrees Fahrenheit.

And for a successful breed, our best chance is to imitate their natural habitat to match these conditions in your aquarium.

1. Water Cycling

An essential aspect of fishkeeping, as well as one that is frequently underappreciated by inexperienced fishkeepers, is water quality. 

Angelfish are voracious eaters that produce a large amount of waste, which, in addition to the dead plant matter, pollutes your tank with all sources of ammonia and nitrate.

Also, freshwater angelfish produce nitrate through their gills when they breathe.

Nitrates are not toxic enough to cause immediate death to your fish. Nevertheless, they can stress your fish over time and reduce your fish lifespan.

On the other hand, ammonia is highly harmful to fish and may require frequent water changes.

Because of this, you should test your water at least once a week to ensure that pollutants levels are within the acceptable range. 

In most cases, 10-20% weekly water changes are required, with a maximum of 30% if you have a lot of fish or are dealing with high levels of waste.

Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality: The Nitrogen Cycle & Optimal Water  Chemistry
The Nitrogen Cycle by aqueon

2. pH Level

Most angel fish species are from South America, where the water’s pH levels range from 6 to 8.

However, when it comes to breeding angel fish, we noticed that the best pH range is normally between 6.8 – 7.6.

So, ensure that you’re sticking to the acceptable range for a higher success rate.

Angelfish Breeding Tank Setup

Before even considering breeding angel fish, you must have a suitable tank to house them. 

When it comes to setting up your tank for breeding, there are many factors you must consider to have a higher chance of successful breeding.

This section will go through the best tank setup for breeding angelfish.

1. Shape

The first thing you need to know about angelfish is that they tend to grow taller rather than longer.

For this reason, they prefer to be kept in big tall tanks where they have enough space to swim freely and find a suitable spot for spawning.

Additionally, the tank should have a cover over the top, so your angelfish will feel safe enough to breed. 

However, it will need to have plenty of ventilation. This is essential for successful breeding, so do not skimp on this item.

2. Size

Wild angelfish prefer large tanks because they form pairs when it’s time for breeding.

Each pair start to claim its own territory and attack any other fish that enter their colony.

If you have a small tank with many angelfish pairs, they will start aggressively attacking each other, which will stress them out, making them unable to find a suitable spawning spot.

For this reason, it’s crucial to provide each breeding pair with adequate space.

As a rule of thumb, A 20-gallon “high” aquarium is the smallest size suitable for a pair of angelfish, but the larger, the better since after a successful spawn, it takes the fry six months to become adults and crowd the tank.

So if you don’t have a large enough tank to house them, you will need to get a separate tank.

3. Decoration

Angelfish are known to spawn on any surface, which will cause a problem because if the fish spawn on a transparent surface, it will be hard to notice the eggs due to their light color.

Therefore, when it’s time for the pair to spawn, you should remove any undesirable surface you don’t want your fish to spawn on. One example of that is gravel.

As we mentioned before, angelfish eggs are lightly colored, so if your angelfish decides to spawn on gravel, you will have a hard time finding the eggs and providing them with proper care.

Another thing to keep in mind is that gravel can crash your eggs and prevent them from getting enough oxygen, which as a result, will lead to spoiled eggs.

For the highest chance of successful breeding, we recommend you use an angelfish breeding slate, as it’s safer and allows you to easily move the eggs to a separate tank if you need to.

To ensure your angelfish will spawn on the slate, remove any undesired spawning spots such as gravel, plants, or driftwood from the aquarium, and the fish will automatically spawn on the slate.

Pro Tip: The angelfish will generally return to use the spawning slate after having a few spawns on it, even if you replace the plants in the aquarium.

4. Lighting

Angelfish are sensitive to light, and having too much of it can stress them out, interrupting their breeding cycle.

In the wild, angelfish live in depths where they don’t get too much light.

And although they get around 12 hours of sunlight each day,

High-intensity light can stress them out, leading to interrupting their breeding cycle.

Therefore, you need to cover the aquarium sides with a “matte” dark color as this reduces reflection. Use a larger aquarium, turn off the light, or even use dither fish to distract them. Experimentation is the key here.

Lighting for a Saltwater Aquarium
Tank lighting by thesprucepets

5. Filters

Like any pet, angelfish can’t get along with high concentrations of nitrites and ammonia.

As a result, installing a powerful filter in your tank is critical to eliminate these dangerous pollutants and keep your zebra angelfish healthy.

We prefer Large Square Sponge Filters with weighted slate bottoms for angel fish breeding, as it minimizes the possibility of angelfish fry getting caught under them.

6. Tank Heaters

Water temperature is extremely important for successful breeding.

From our experience, we discovered that the best breeding temperature is about 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Celsius). Therefore it’s important to equip your aquarium with a powerful heater to maintain this temperature.

You should place the heater underneath one end of the tank to maintain a stable temperature. The other end should be left open, so heat will dissipate as needed.

Obviously, the larger the tank, the more powerful the heater required.

Aquarium SizeHeater Size To Raise Temp By Up to 10 DegreesHeater Size To Raise Temp By More Than 10 Degrees
525W50W
1050W100W
20100W150W
29150W200W
40200W300W
55300W400W
75400W600W
Different heaters size

Getting Your Angelfish Pair

As soon as your aquarium is set up, you can buy your breeding pair. To do so, there are two ways, each with a couple of variations:

1. Buying a Proven Breeding Angelfish From a Reputable Breeder

You have to be cautious if you decide to go with this approach. Ensure to inquire about the age of the fish and whether or not they’re proven to raise a good fry.

In the case of this approach, expect to spend more money. Also, expect to be paid back quickly if you sell the juveniles. It may even leave you with a nice profit if you’re lucky.

However, the disadvantage of this approach is that if the fish don’t produce good or enough fry, you won’t have an alternative pair to choose from, as in the case of raising adults from a dozen juveniles. 

What Traits to Look for When Obtaining Your Breeding Pair?

When buying from a breeder, there are a few important characteristics that will increase the chance of producing good fry, such as:

  1. Rounded bodies are somewhat taller than longer (long-bodied angels are considered undesirable).
  2. A smooth head profile, with no humps.
  3. No curves should exist in the dorsal, anal, or caudal fins.
  4. Fins are straight and lack kinks or twists.
  5. Larger angelfish are generally more appealing. However, the right size must be age-appropriate. Ensure that the fish is at least two inches long or more as it signifies maturity.
  6. You should only breed angelfish that don’t show aggressive behavior against their mate.
  7. Angelfish should be easy to breed and produce large batches of fry.
  8. Their eggs should be large.

2. Buy a Dozen Juvenile Angelfish and Let Them Choose Their Own Pair

If you have more time than money, then it’s better just to buy a dozen or so juvenile angelfish and let them choose their own pair once they’re raised to the breeding size.

This approach will require a lower initial investment in stock. However, it will provide you with greater freedom when matching up the traits you’re willing to preserve from the various angelfish pairs available.

Juvenile Angelfish
Juvenile Angelfish

How to Determine Angelfish Gender?

How to Tell the Difference Between Male and Female While Breeding?

Breeding is the best time to know whether your angelfish is male or female.

During spawning, if you look closely at their characteristics and body features, you’ll notice the differences between your angelfish breeding tubes.

Since female angelfish lay eggs, they have a much bigger breeding tube. On the other hand, the male will have a very small breeding tube you can barely see.

How to Tell the Difference by Appearance?

When it comes to appearance, the difference between them is rather tricky, so it takes some experience before being able to sex your angelfish properly.

However, there are a few external clues that you can look for, so let’s take a look at them.

Male Angelfish Physical CharacteristicsFemale Angelfish Physical Characteristics
The male Angelfish has a bigger, rounder body than the female.Female angelfish do not have the nuchal hump or forehead bump that males have.
The forehead of an adult male angelfish is often scalloped or bumpy.The female Angelfish has a more pointed facial profile than the male.
The area in front of the male Angelfish’s eyes is rounder and more prominent than that of the female.The females are generally smaller than males.
The male’s breeding tube, like a pencil tip, is sharp and slender.The female has smoother, rounder ventral fins.
The ventral fins of male angelfish are forked.The Angelfish’s belly line is more angular in the female than in the male.
The growth rate of male angels is generally greater than that of female angels.The female’s ovipositor, or breeding tube (blunt and wide), is long.
The male fish’s coitus aperture is a lot narrower than the female’s.The female’s cloaca is considerably wider than the male’s, which is much narrower.
The female develops a swollen belly full of eggs during the breeding season.
The male lacks this characteristic because it is solely the female who produces eggs.
How to sex angelfish

How to Tell the Difference by Behavior?

Male and female Angelfish have several variations in behavior, as well as physical features.

That is why it’s so essential to understand how males and females interact with other species and with one another if you want to maintain a community tank.

The most apparent behavioral distinction between the two genders is that males are far more territorial than females, especially during spawning seasons.

That aggression can be directed at other male Angelfish or different species of males.

Female Angelfish, on the other hand, become territorial only when defending their young.

Preparing the Angelfish for Breeding

You must have a mature male and female angelfish to even begin thinking about breeding, so this is something you should start planning for months in advance.

In the case of buying a proven breeding angelfish pair, you shouldn’t expect them to lay eggs right away, as the trip to their new habitat might have disrupted their breeding cycle.

Therefore, They could go through a few weeks of adaptation before getting accustomed to their new surroundings.

If you decided to buy juveniles, on the other hand, it will take them six to seven months till they’re mature enough to form breeding pairs.

However, some strains such as double-dose black angelfish or those with a lot of wild blood in them may take longer.

For juveniles, we recommend keeping them in the same large aquarium. A dozen should have at least a 70-gallon tank, and if possible, an even bigger one.

As you get your pair in the breeding tank, it’s important to feed them premium foods to increase their fertility and breeding drive.

You can help your angelfish reach sexual maturity by feeding them plenty of nutritious foods such as bloodworms, newly hatched brine shrimp, krill, and chunks of meaty foods like a beef heart. 

Your angelfish will begin to look plump with all the food they are ingesting, especially if you supplement their diet with nutritious micropellets designed for koi and goldfish, enhancing their ability to breed.

How to Know If My Angelfish Are Ready to Breed?

When angelfish are ready to breed, you’ll notice some physiological changes, including a downward-pointing triangle shape to their body, and the males tend to be larger than females.

If you notice a pair of your angelfish remaining together and driving off the rest for two or three days, they’re probably getting ready to spawn.

Unlike buying a proven breeding pair, If you went for the juvenile approach, you should have multiple pairs to choose from.

Choose a pair that is at least 2 inches long, has strong fins, and has good coloration with no broken spines or split fins, then remove the pair to a separate spawning aquarium.

You may get a spawn immediately, or it might take several weeks of continuous feeding and care.

Angelfish Spawn Process

1. Choosing the Spawning Spot

When a pair of mating angelfish are getting ready to breed, you’ll notice that both the female and male will excessively clean a particular area.

This means they choose their spawning spot, and the female will lay her eggs within 24 hours.

2. Mating Dance

The female will stay close to the substrate and slowly undulate her fins while she lays a line of eggs behind her as she swims back and forth.

During the process, the male will dart in to fertilize them, so it is important to have a container or bucket ready to catch the eggs for later hatching.

When the angelfish male is done fertilizing the eggs, the color of the eggs will be anything between translucent amber and brown.

After that, they will fan their fins to aerate them. Therefore, you must provide adequate aeration in an artificial hatching situation.

You will need an air stone for your breeding tank, or you can use a powerhead with an airstone attached to provide the eggs with enough oxygen through the air bubbles, not to mention oxygen is essential to the survival of the fry. 

3. Removing the Eggs

Once your wild fish have mated successfully, If you wait too long, the eggs might be eaten or infected by fungus, and in some cases, the eggs are vulnerable to being eaten by the adults.

Gently scoop up the female after she has laid her eggs, be careful not to harm the fry with too much turbulence.

If you are worried about your angelfish becoming scared when they notice their female is gone, stick a divider in the angelfish tank so they cannot see what is happening on the other side.

Once you have collected all of the eggs in your container or bucket, gently move the female back to the breeding tank.

Fish eggs
Fish eggs

4. Round Two!

After you bring back your female, the male will come over and follow her until he thinks she is ready to lay more eggs.

We recommended moving the pair back to the main tank as the male may force the female to mate again and again!

How to Stimulate Angelfish Spawn?

If nothing happens after moving the pair to the breeding tank for 2-3 weeks, you should try these tips to stimulate angelfish spawn:

  1. Raise the temperature a few degrees.
  2. Do 75% or more water changes with slightly cooler water.
  3. Add RO or De-ionized water.
  4. Try a larger aquarium or a new location.
  5. Pair them with different angelfish or putting them back in a large aquarium with other fish allows them to pair off once more.

Checking on Your Fry

When you move the fry, you must feed them the right food. Fish food such as frozen brine shrimp is ideal, but you can also feed them infusoria if they are too small to eat larger foods. If you need help feeding your angelfish fry, read our article on What Do Angelfish Fry Eat.

You can add a few water plants such as java moss and spawning mops for them to hide in, but be sure they cannot get tangled up in the roots.

Also, you should increase the tank’s temperature to around 80-82 F (27-28 C).

Why My Angelfish are Aggressive After Breeding?

When the angelfish pair is moved back to the large aquarium, you should keep your eyes on them for a day because they might show aggressive behavior towards their tank mates or even each other.

Fighting will usually take place as they reclaim their territories. However, you should be fine if the aquarium is large and has many secluded places.

Here is a youtube guide showing you how to breed angelfish.

Last Words

Breeding angels is usually not a problem if you meet their water requirements and dietary needs. 

Suppose the angelfish breeders have good luck in finding a suitable angel for them and forming pairs. In that case, I’m confident that this guide will help with most challenges one may encounter when trying to breed these fish species successfully!

All it takes is patience, making sure your tank is all set up, individuals are well-fed (not Starving ones), and experimenting by doing different things from time to time since every couple isn’t alike – even though they seem similar at first glance.

If you have any questions or we did not mention something you would like to learn more about, please leave us a comment below.