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Angelfish Eating Their Own Eggs & Fry

In the aquatic world, angelfish are recognized as dedicated and devoted parents that will carefully clean and guard their eggs until they hatch.

After the eggs hatch, the angelfish pair continues to fend for their fry and protect them until they’re able to swim and feed independently.

While this is all true, angelfish also have a tendency to eat their own eggs and fry, which seems like a paradox knowing that usually angelfish go to great lengths to protect their offspring.

Many breeders complain about this behavior in angelfish, and usually an external factor is to blame for the “filial cannibalism” practiced at times by angelfish parents.

In this article, I’m going to discuss some of the most common reasons why angelfish eat their own eggs and fry, and what you can do to prevent them from doing this.

Why Do Angelfish Eat Their Own Eggs?

Angelfish aren’t the only species to eat their own eggs and fry, in fact, many other fish species practice filial cannibalism.

The reason why fish do this isn’t always clear, although some studies have hypothesized that this behavior can be attributed to a “spill-over response” (i.e. an overreaction to an external stimuli) that fish cannot control.

Other possible causes could be that fish want to get rid of damaged eggs or better supply remaining eggs with oxygen. Sometimes, fish eat their own eggs to compensate for their own lack of food and energy.

While angelfish do remove some eggs during the process of cleaning and caring for them, some angelfish may eat all eggs as a response to certain stress factors.

If spawning took place in a community tank, angelfish may become too defensive in guarding the eggs from other fish that may try to raid the eggs.

Stress conditions that can elicit the same response from angelfish parents can occur even if angelfish spawned in their own separate tank, away from the threat of other fish.

Here are some potential reasons why angelfish eat their eggs before they get a chance to hatch:

  • Too much movement around the tank (e.g. you or members of the family walking by);
  • Opening the tank lid to feed them;
  • Lights getting switched off;
  • Too much noise around the tank;
  • First-time spawning for angelfish.

As you can see, some angelfish pairs can be quite sensitive when it comes to sudden disturbances around the tank.

Luckily there are few things you can try to prevent them from eating the eggs.

How to Prevent Angelfish from Eating Their Own Eggs?

As a rule, you shouldn’t let angelfish breed in community tanks, because it’s very likely that they’ll eat their eggs in an overzealous attempt to defend the eggs from other fish.

Or that other fish will eat the eggs if the angelfish are distracted or not able to protect the eggs.

If angelfish are paired in their own breeding tank, here’s what you can do to prevent them from eating their eggs:

  • Place the tank in a quiet location away from traffic in your house;
  • The breeding tank shouldn’t be an elaborate tank; therefore, you can remove decorations and gravel;
  • You should paint the bottom of the tank from the outside to reduce any reflection and help angelfish feel more at ease;
  • Block the side of the aquarium that’s facing the room, so that they can’t see into the room;
  • Leave lights on (dim them at most).

Sometimes, angelfish may still eat their eggs even after you make all these accommodations. In this case, removing the eggs as soon as they hatch and hatching them artificially is the best way to prevent them from being eaten.

The same way angelfish eat their eggs, they may also eat their own fry. Next, I’ll discuss the reason why this happens and what you can do to prevent this from happening.

Why Do Angelfish Eat Their Own Fry?

Angelfish eating their own babies is not as common as eating their eggs. Angelfish won’t usually eat their fry once they start free swimming. Although I’ve heard it happen, I haven’t personally experienced it as my angelfish never ate their own fry.

If the eggs hatched in a community tank, it’s more likely that other fish will eat the fry and not the parents themselves.

Still, angelfish may need a few spawning cycles until they figure out how to be parents. As I mentioned, stressful conditions can cause parents to eat the eggs or they might even eat the fry, however, this is less frequent as their parenting skills start to kick in.

How to Prevent Angelfish from Eating Their Own Fry?

Although angelfish have the best chances of survival if left together with their parents, if your angelfish tend to eat their babies, you should remove them from the tank and care for the fry yourself.

Feeding the fry a diet of newly hatched brine shrimp and micro-worms works best until a couple of weeks in when you can slowly add crushed flake foods and then slowly switch them to regular fish food.

If your angelfish eggs were hatched in a community tank and you’ve suddenly got fry swimming around in the tank, it’s best to remove the fry so other fish won’t eat it.

If you don’t want to care for the fry yourself, you can leave them in the tank if you add a lot of foliage, where the fry can hide, or put a mesh netting to the bottom of the tank to prevent other fish from swimming where the fry swim.

Conclusion

Although angelfish are generally regarded as exemplary parents in the aquatic world, they can and will eat their own eggs and fry if they’re young parents or if certain conditions aren’t met.

Stressful conditions like being kept in a community aquarium or in a tank exposed to movement and noise can all be conducive to a spill-over response from angelfish that results in eggs or fry being eaten.

As I discussed in this article, there are ways to prevent this from happening and sometimes your angelfish pair may need to go through several spawns to ditch this behavior.

The key is to have patience and experiment with the preventive methods I suggested, which will help you maximize your chances of breeding angelfish.

Updated: December 7, 2018

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