How to Care for Angelfish Eggs & Fry?
Breeding freshwater aquarium fish is a rewarding experience, but it can have its challenges, especially if your fish are a little bit pickier when it comes to choosing mates.
Since angelfish are one of the most popular freshwater fish species, many aquarists will try to breed them with more or less success.
Caring for and breeding angelfish comes down to knowing the steps and the precautions you must take to ensure that angelfish eggs are protected, and angelfish fry are well-fed.
In this angelfish eggs and fry care guide, I will introduce you to the basics of angelfish breeding, the most important aspects of caring for angelfish eggs and angelfish babies, so you can end up with a healthy school of fish.
Angelfish Breeding Basics
Angelfish are beautiful additions to freshwater home aquariums and they’re even suitable for community tanks. I would even recommend them for beginners.
They have tall bodies with large flowy fins and they come in a variety of colors such as black, white, silvery, red, orange, and other variations resulting from selective breeding.
They’re relatively easy to care for and – with a few precautions – they aren’t difficult to breed either, but if you’re seriously considering breeding them, you’ll need to invest in a breeding tank.
Because a single spawning can result in hundreds of eggs, knowing how to take care of angelfish eggs can result in a higher number of fry that you can raise to adulthood.
Breeding Tank & Breeding Pair
When setting up the breeding tank, temperature and water conditions are far more important than creating an elaborate tank. Of course, you’ll also need a proven angelfish pair.
Determining the gender of angelfish can be a bit of a head scratcher, since the differences are not immediately visible to an inexperienced breeder.
There are some behavioral signs that can tell you if you have a pair of angelfish or not, these signs include:
- Fin twitching (which may be mistaken for territorial behavior too) when two potential partners seize each other up;
- Locking mouths and shaking each other;
- Cleaning the spawning site.
However, at reproductive age a more reliable conclusion can be drawn by examining the breeding tube of these fish, which is thin and pointy in case of the male angelfish, and wide and blunt in female angelfish.
Angelfish are one of those fish that prefer selecting their own mates and sometimes may even refuse to breed with randomly selected mates.
Even so, breeding can be encouraged between a pair by setting up a separate breeding tank and optimizing water conditions and feeding.
You’ll also need a piece of slate positioned into the tank at a 30° angle, which can serve as the spawning site, where the female angelfish will lay her eggs and the male angelfish will fertilize them.
In the absence of a slate, angelfish may lay their eggs in places you don’t want them to such as the heater or filter intake, on the broad leaves of certain plants, etc.
Just because you have a proven breeding angelfish pair, don’t expect spawning to happen immediately.
The pair may require a period of adjustment or you may need to encourage breeding by raising the temperature in the tank, provide good water conditions and a healthy diet.
After the mating happens and the eggs are laid and fertilized, the next step is to care for the angelfish eggs.
This involves getting enough oxygen reach the eggs through aeration, cleaning the water, removing fungus from the eggs, or removing rotten or unfertilized eggs.
Angelfish are extremely good taking care of all these aspects, so there’s not much you should do other than maintain good water conditions and feeding them a balanced diet.
How to Care for Angelfish Eggs
When it comes to caring for angelfish eggs, you usually have two options:
- Let the parents care for the eggs themselves or
- Artificially hatch the eggs yourself.
1. Leaving the eggs with the adults
If you’re going with this option, be advised that it may take the angelfish couple a few spawns before they can raise angelfish babies without eating them.
Angelfish eating their own eggs or fry is a risk you should be aware of if you decide not to remove the eggs after spawning.
It seems that stress of any kind can determine angelfish to eat their eggs and fry, leaving you with nothing to care for and forcing you to wait for the next spawning.
This behavior can be curbed, however, if you ensure good water conditions, good feeding and a proper aquarium set-up.
Therefore, continue feeding the angelfish at frequent intervals with high quality foods even during the hatching and rearing period.
Some angelfish are so consumed by guarding the eggs, that they won’t eat well. On the other hand, also make sure not to overfeed them either.
Sometimes, even little things as sudden movements or increased traffic around the tank is enough to make angelfish nervous enough to eat their eggs and fry.
To prevent this, you should consider moving the tank to a calm and peaceful location, and even shading the sides of the tank, so they won’t be bothered by movement outside.
Still, there are good reasons why you should take your chances with this method, namely that angelfish are otherwise dedicated parents that take care of the eggs and juveniles until they can fend for themselves alone.
The angelfish pair will aerate the eggs and keep them clean by removing dirty or rotten eggs. To achieve the same level of care in artificial hatching, breeders must resort to using fungicides.
If spawning took place spontaneously in a community tank, you’d better remove fish that may raid the eggs, especially if you notice signs of aggression from angelfish towards other fish or even their own mates.
Other fish lurking around the eggs can be a stressor that can also cause angelfish to eat the eggs before they get a chance to hatch or eat the resulting fry.
You can avoid all this simply by breeding angelfish separately or removing the eggs once spawning is over.
With patience and offering them the right conditions, most angelfish will cooperate and rise to the challenge of parenting.
If they don’t – which can also happen – there should be nothing keeping you from hatching the eggs artificially.
2. Artificially hatching the eggs
Hatching the angelfish artificially implies removing them from the tank and placing them in a separate recipient where you can monitor them and care for them until they hatch.
Depending on where the eggs were deposited, removing them can be a hassle, especially because angelfish may decide to forgo the piece of slate you’ve provided them and lay the eggs elsewhere.
The eggs may be deposited on a large leaf, in which case you can simply remove the leaf and place it in the new recipient. Make sure to put a weight on the leaf, so it stays in place.
If the eggs were deposited on the heater, unplug the heater and put it in the hatching recipient. In this case, you’ll need a new heater to keep the temperature stable in the parent tank.
There are various methods to hatch the eggs in a separate recipient, but aeration and clean water are crucial in every method. Providing the same temperature as in the parent tank is also important.
Whether you’re hatching the eggs yourself or you leave them with the parents, make sure you add a sponge filter instead of a hang-on-back filter that provides too much suction and can suck the babies into the filter.
The Hatching Method I Use
Next, I will describe the hatching method that has worked best for me so far:
Take a one-gallon recipient and clean it thoroughly without using any soap. Fill the recipient three quarters up with clean water. Ideally, you should do this 24 h in advance of the expected spawning.
Next, you’ll need to add some fungicide to the water. I use Methylene Blue, which is a natural dye that has antifungal properties. Add a few drops until water turns a shade of medium blue.
I also add 2 drops of Acriflavin per gallon, or just Acriflavin on its own in 4-5 drops per gallon dosage.
An airline with a heavy stream of bubbles placed on the bottom is also needed (make sure it’s rigid). Temperature should be around 80 F.
You can now remove the slate with the eggs from the aquarium and place it in the recipient, so that the eggs are facing the bottom of the recipient. Place the air-stone so that bubbles rise near the eggs.
If all is well, the eggs usually hatch in about 60 hours. Unlike the fry of livebearers that are usually ready to swim after they’re spawned, an angelfish baby remains in a wiggler stage for around 5 days after hatching.
During this time, you should refrain from feeding them. You should start feeding only after they’re able to swim independently, and even then, wait for about 12 hours before giving them food.
This is how things should unfold in an ideal setting. During the 60 hours of waiting time, however, you may notice that the water is cloudier than usual, or a lot of eggs are dead.
If this happens, daily water changes or a larger water change can be helpful in salvaging the remaining eggs.
Also, make sure that water temperature in the hatching recipient is in the 78°-82° F range.
How to Care for Angelfish Fry
Once the angelfish babies are swimming independently, they’ll soon start to forage for food.
If they’re left in a community tank, the angelfish parents will have a hard time protecting them from other fish that may inadvertently mistake them for food.
Removing them from the aquarium increases their chances of survival.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to remove them, provide enough foliage for them to hide and add a mesh netting to the bottom of the tank to allow angelfish babies to swim where adult fish can’t reach them.
If you’ve artificially hatched the eggs, placing them in a rearing tank is the next step. The tank should be between 2.5 and 10 gallons.
In a week or so, you can transfer them to a grow-out-aquarium, which should be sized according to the size and number of the fish.
In the new tank, ensure plenty of space and clean water by performing regular water changes. Besides this, make sure they’re also well-fed.
Feeding Angelfish Fry
It’s not difficult to feed angelfish fry, but they do require a special diet. Commercially available fry food is not going to cut it, and you need to feed them newly hatched brine shrimp or micro worms.
And when I say newly hatched, I mean even brine shrimp that are 12 hours old aren’t suitable since it won’t fit the mouth of an angelfish baby.
The first feeding angelfish babies should get is after they’ve been transferred to the rearing tank and even then, you should let them acclimate an hour or two before feeding.
Newly hatched brine shrimp is the staple food for angelfish fry. If you want to raise juveniles fast, small and frequent feedings are key.
The key is to have them eating small portions often, but without overfeeding them, which could end up fouling the water.
After 3-4 weeks, you can add crushed fish flake food to their diet first in small quantities, then gradually increase the amount. At the 4-6 week mark, you can completely switch them to flake foods, freeze-dried, or pellets.
Breeding angelfish has its challenges – finding mates that accept each other, preventing parents from eating the eggs or their baby angelfish, raising the fry, etc. – but the tips in this guide can help you maximize your success rate.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right on your first try, it may take a few tries and some experimenting until you can figure out what works for your angelfish pair.