How to Breed Angelfish? – Beginner’s Guide to Breeding Freshwater Angelfish
Breeding angelfish is a rewarding experience that can have its challenges, especially if you’re not familiar with the species or if you’re a beginner aquarist.
Generally, angelfish are relatively easy to breed if you ensure that all necessary conditions are met, and you have a cooperative breeding pair.
In some cases, your angelfish pair may be fussy about everything and you may need to get everything just right for them to be willing to breed.
If it’s your first time breeding angelfish, you may encounter difficulties not only with the breeding process itself, but also with caring for angelfish babies.
In this comprehensive guide on how to breed angelfish, I will present you the particularities of breeding angelfish, preparing you ahead of time for the issues you may encounter.
Areas of importance in angelfish breeding include:
- Setting up a breeding tank;
- Ensuring water conditions optimal for breeding;
- Determining the gender of angelfish and finding a breeding pair;
- Feeding angelfish;
- Hatching the eggs;
- Caring for the fry.
I’ll get to each point at length, so you’ll be prepared and know what to do should you have any difficulties.
Although it may happen that an angelfish pair will breed in a community tank, it’s more advisable to set up a separate breeding tank (I recommend this breeding tank from Amazon).
A community tank is not an ideal setting for angelfish to breed, especially because eggs and fry are in danger of being eaten by other fish in the tank.
Setting up a separate breeding tank is the preferred breeding technique since it ensures the safety of the eggs and juveniles, plus it makes angelfish feel more relaxed.
Due to their tall bodies, angelfish prefer a tall tank that’s at least 20 gallons, but a bigger tank is usually even better.
Angels reach breeding maturity at around six to eight months of age. When they are preparing to spawn, you will notice them pairing up, defending their territory, and scaring away other fish.
It’s at this point that you should remove them from their original aquarium and place them into a separate breeding tank, where they can be more relaxed.
Besides the size of the tank, creating an environment in which angelfish can feel safe will go a long way in making them comfortable enough to breed.
Angelfish prefer slow moving water with lots of plants, cured driftwood and hiding places. Gravel is not recommended in a breeding tank; a bare bottom tank is standard in a breeding tank.
Still, you may want to paint the bottom of the tank on the outside. Choose a dark matte color to reduce reflection, this too will make the fish more comfortable.
With some angelfish, you really need to experiment until you find the perfect set-up for them. Things you can try:
- Painting or covering the sides of the tank;
- Covering the entire tank or cutting off lighting;
- Adding a dither fish to make them bolder;
- Offering a bigger tank to the fish.
Make sure to also place a spawning slate into the tank, otherwise angelfish will choose something else to lay their eggs on, something that may be inconvenient for you.
Even with a spawning slate, your angelfish pair may choose to lay the eggs on something else like the leaf of a plant, the filter system or the heater system.
A removable spawning slate makes it easier to remove the eggs in case you may have to hatch the angelfish eggs yourself.
Once you have a breeding tank set up, the second thing you must pay attention to is ensuring water conditions suitable for breeding.
There are two major things you must consider – water temperature and water cleanliness.
The temperature in the breeding tank should be between 72° and 82° F. Avoid extremes and try to maintain a stable temperature. You should use a heater to achieve a stable temperature.
I use this heater from Amazon.com, which comes in various sizes, suitable for any aquarium size.
Low temperatures usually mean infrequent spawns and angelfish may lose their appetite, which can affect the breeding condition of angelfish.
Higher temperatures can cause bacterial growth within the tank, reduce oxygen, and shorten the lifespan of the fish.
As for water cleanliness, remember that angelfish are highly sensitive to high levels of ammonia and nitrites.
To keep toxin levels in check, you must invest in a quality bio-filter and perform partial water changes.
I recommend using a sponge filter such as this one from Amazon. These filters are cost efficient, don’t stir the water as much as a canister or hang-on-back filter. Two large sponge filters can very well manage the bio-load of angelfish in a bigger tank.
These filters are also great because angelfish fry won’t get trapped into it, they’re easy to move around when siphoning the tank, plus they’re cleanable.
If you’re using two sponge filters, alternate between cleaning them to keep the water clear.
Simply take out the sponge filter and gently rinse it in aquarium water or dechlorinated tap water.
Avoid using regular tap water because chlorine will destroy the colony of healthy bacteria that has accumulated on the filter.
Don’t rely on sponge filters to remove particulates from the aquarium since they technically don’t remove them. They only trap them all in one place.
Water changes are another important aspect of keeping the tank clean and removing toxins along with organics.
When breeding angelfish, frequent and large water changes are the key to successful breeding.
Perform 40% water changes preferably every day or every other day, or weekly at the very least.
Getting Your Angelfish Pair
Once you have everything set up in the aquarium, you can get a breeding pair.
There are various ways to go about this, remembering that determining the gender of angelfish can be extremely difficult:
- Buying a proven breeding pair or a known male and female angelfish that you can pair;
- Raising a dozen or so juvenile angelfish and letting them choose their own pair.
The first method can be costlier, and you must be careful in choosing a pair that produce healthy offspring.
If you’re lucky, the proven breeding pair will produce healthy fry and you will even manage to make a profit on the resulting fry.
If you decide to buy a known male and female that you can breed, you may encounter difficulties in getting them to breed.
If this happens to you, there are a few things you can try that I will discuss further down in this article (see Why Won’t My Angelfish Breed?).
If you raise juveniles to adulthood, you can allow them to choose their own mates, and have better breeding success rates.
When buying from a breeder, there a few things to consider like buying show quality angelfish that represent the species well, selecting pairs that aren’t aggressive and don’t have any fecundity problems.
Physical traits to look for in show quality angelfish:
- Rounded bodies that are slightly taller than longer (long bodied angelfish are considered inferior);
- Smooth head profile, no humps;
- Straight fins without kinks or twists;
- Dorsal, anal or caudal fins should have no curves;
- Larger angelfish are usually more desirable, however, size should be age appropriate.
Behavioral traits to look for in angelfish:
- Very aggressive angelfish are not desirable, and you should be breeding only angelfish that don’t display aggression towards their mate;
- Angelfish should have good parenting skills.
Fecundity traits that are desirable in angelfish:
- Angelfish should breed easily and produce large spawns;
- Eggs should be large and should produce juveniles that are easy to raise.
Most of these traits cannot be judged on juveniles, therefore, if you’re buying juveniles with the idea of raising them and then breeding them, you should source them from a reputable breeder.
These aspects, however, can be judged on a proven breeding pair, so you should look out for these traits when pairing your angelfish, and you should manage to improve the quality of your angelfish stock.
Angelfish pairs may have difficulties breeding either because of a genetic factor, or simply because of lack of proper care.
Determining the Gender of Angelfish
One of the biggest challenges in breeding these fish is determining their gender, since there aren’t any striking differences between the two.
You will find all sorts of tips and tricks on the internet about determining the gender of angelfish, but the most reliable method is examining their breeding tubes.
Because angelfish reach breeding maturity at about 6 or 7 months of age, there’s no way you can examine the breeding tubes of juvenile fish.
Once the breeding tubes are lowered, you can observe that the breeding tube of the female angelfish is wide and blunt, while the breeding tube of the male angelfish is thin and pointy.
This is one reliable method of sexing angelfish, the other method is letting angelfish pick their own mate, which can happen if you raise angelfish juveniles yourself.
If an angelfish pair is preparing for spawning, you’ll see them sticking together and scaring away other fish in preparation of the spawning site, which they will carefully clean together before the female lays her eggs.
Telling the gender of angelfish based on physical traits other than their breeding tubes is not a reliable method, and often results in misidentification.
Misidentification of gender can be an explanation to why a certain angelfish pair won’t breed, even if all other breeding conditions are met.
Angelfish have a strong and healthy appetite and will accept many food types on account of being an omnivorous species.
If your angelfish don’t eat right, know that something is off with them, because a healthy angelfish will never refuse a meal.
Low temperatures in the tank will cut their appetite, but several angelfish diseases will also result in a loss of appetite.
Like all omnivorous fish species, angelfish thrive on a varied diet that includes meaty foods and plan matter as well.
Make sure to include quality flake foods, freeze-dried foods, frozen foods, cultured foods, and vegetables.
While commercial angelfish foods can be great, I often choose to make homemade angelfish foods, especially beef heart paste, which is an extremely nutritious alternative to commercial options.
If you have the time, I really recommend preparing paste foods, which will help your angelfish grow strong and healthy.
Live foods like brine shrimp and micro worms are a desirable food option that can help growth and reproduction, however, live foods can be problematic, so be very careful where you buy them from.
Live foods can carry parasites and diseases that will make your angelfish sick, so either prepare your own cultures at home, or go for freeze-dried brine shrimp or bloodworms to avoid any problems.
Even though the freeze-drying process makes live foods less nutritious, it also ensures that parasites or bacteria are killed off, and the food is completely safe for angelfish.
If you’re feeding angelfish with frozen foods, add a little aquarium water and let the frozen food thaw out.
Because freeze-dried foods expand in the belly of your angelfish, soak them in aquarium water before feeding to prevent constipation and indigestion issues.
Feed your angelfish twice a day with an amount they can eat in under a minute and remove any uneaten food to avoid fouling of the water.
If you’re introducing your fish to a new food, get them hungry to work up their appetite and at first add only a few bites of food to the tank to see if they take to it.
When breeding angelfish, you must keep a balance between keeping the fish well fed and avoiding overfeeding them.
Overfeeding angelfish is problematic beyond the usual disturbance of water chemistry that occurs because of decaying food and higher waste production.
Since they have narrow bodies, angelfish are prone to indigestion and constipation if they’re overfed.
Hatching Angelfish Eggs
Angelfish will spawn on almost anything in the tank. The key is to offer them something they would prefer over other surfaces in the tank.
A spawning slate is a handy option, especially if you’re considering hatching angelfish eggs on your own.
Artificially hatching the eggs is one way to get angelfish juveniles, another way is letting the angelfish parents hatch the eggs themselves.
I prefer the latter method because my angelfish are extremely good parents. They carefully clean the eggs, ventilate them, and remove non-viable eggs.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky, and some angelfish pairs aren’t good parents from the get-go. They may need a few spawning cycles until their parenting skill develop.
Angelfish may spawn on large leaves in the tank, the heater, or other decoration in the tank. While you can remove these items, it’s best to provide a spawning slate, which is easier to remove.
Angelfish that become too stressed out because of various stress factors (other fish in the tank, poor water conditions, noise or movement around the tank) will eat their own eggs.
This is a stress response that can be found in many species in the animal kingdom, not only angelfish.
Artificially Hatching the Eggs
The hatching recipient should have aged aquarium water that has the same parameters as the water in the breeding tank. Temperature should be around 80 F.
Water should be treated with antifungal agents like Acriflavin or methylene blue, which will inhibit the growth of fungi on the eggs.
Besides clean water that has been treated with antifungal substances, aeration is another important aspect of artificially hatching angelfish.
When leaving the eggs with the parents, they will aerate the eggs by fanning their fins. In an artificial hatching scenario, you must ensure proper aeration yourself.
To provide optimal aeration for the angelfish eggs, place an air stone in the hatching recipient, so that air bubbles can deliver enough oxygen to the eggs.
If tank conditions are optimal, angelfish eggs will hatch in two or three days after spawning.
Letting Angelfish Hatch the Eggs
I prefer my angelfish pair to tend to the eggs and raise the angelfish fry themselves. Because my angelfish are outstanding parents, I don’t have to worry about them not giving them proper care.
Letting angelfish hatch the eggs in a breeding tank is not as problematic as letting them hatch the eggs in a community tank, which comes with the following challenges:
- Angelfish eating their own eggs and fry because of stressful tank conditions;
- Other fish raiding the eggs or eating the fry because they mistake them for food;
- Angelfish becoming too territorial and aggressive.
You can minimize these risks by re-homing fish that might bother angelfish eggs and fry. Adding enough foliage and hiding places for the fish and fry can also help.
As a rule, I don’t recommend allowing angelfish to breed in a community tank, especially if you want to take breeding seriously.
Despite this, spawning may happen even in a community tank. When it happens, you must decide between removing the eggs and placing them in a hatching container or leaving the eggs with the parents.
Leaving the Fry in a Community Tank
If you’re faced with caring for angelfish babies by accident – e.g. an angelfish couple spawned in a community tank – you may be unwilling to or unprepared to raise angelfish fry yourself.
Leaving the fry in the tank is dangerous. It’s not uncommon for most – if not all – of the fry to fall prey to hungry fish in the tank.
However, there a few things you can try that might help save a few juveniles that can reach adulthood.
As a protective measure, you should plant tall plants ahead of time (as soon as you see the eggs in the tank) to provide plenty of hiding spaces to your fry.
Hortworts, Camboda, and anacharis are all good options and so are tall rocks and decorations with tiny hiding spaces where fry can enter but adult fish cannot.
Some aquarists will place a mesh netting in the tank that allows fry to swim past the net and keep adult fish away from them.
While protecting the physical integrity of the fry in a community tank is extremely problematic, another difficulty in raising the fry in a community tank is proper feeding.
Keeping adult fish well fed can distract them from swimming fry and adding large and baby brine shrimp to the tank several times a day will help feed the fry as well.
The Stages of Angelfish Eggs
From the moment of spawning, angelfish eggs go through several stages before they hatch.
In the first 60 hours after spawning and fertilization, the eggs develop larvae inside them. These larvae can be observed under a microscope as can their heartbeat and blood flow. The larvae are curled around the egg yolk.
After hatching, angelfish remain attached to the spawning site for a couple of days. In this stage, they’re known as wigglers.
Organs are still developing in this stage and wigglers feed on their yolk sac until they consume it and become free swimmers that can feed on angelfish fry foods.
In about three to five days after hatching, angelfish detach from the spawning site and swim freely.
At this point, they may still feed on their yolk sac and on infusoria that’s naturally available in the aquarium. However, these won’t keep them well fed, and you must provide size appropriate foods.
Freshly hatched brine shrimp, micro-worms, and other cultured live foods are the best option from a nutritional standpoint and in terms of food size.
After a few weeks of feeding angelfish fry with small live foods, you can slowly transition to regular fry foods and then normal angelfish foods.
How to Prevent Angelfish from Eating the Eggs?
As I mentioned, allowing angelfish to breed in a community tank carries the risk of them eating their eggs.
Unfortunately, this scenario is not limited to community tanks alone. It may very well happen that angelfish will eat their eggs in their own breeding tank if they become too stressed out.
Factors that contribute to this behavior include:
- Unfavorable water conditions;
- Inexperienced or first-time angelfish parents;
- Too much motion or noise around the tank.
Placing the tank in a quiet and undisturbed location is important to make your angelfish couple feel more relaxed.
It may take a new angelfish couple a few spawns before they can become exemplary parents that will care for their angelfish.
If it’s their first spawn, they may eat the eggs. Don’t worry though, in a couple of weeks the breeding cycle will start anew and will once again see eggs in the tank.
It may take as many as four spans until angels start behaving like the devoted and caring parents they’re known for.
Keep the tank and the water clean and ensure optimal breeding temperature, so that your fish can feel more at ease.
Keeping your angelfish well fed can also curb this behavior, making them less likely to feed on their own eggs.
Caring for Angelfish Babies
Once angelfish fry grows out of their wiggler stage and become free swimmers, you may transfer them to a rearing tank, where you can provide them a size-appropriate diet.
Angelfish fry are very tiny and they’re unable to eat regular fry food, therefore, you must feed them small live foods to meet their nutritional requirements while they’re still growing.
Rearing Tank Set-Up
The rearing tank should be anywhere between 2.5 gallons to 10 gallons, depending on the number of juveniles.
A tank that is too large will make them feel frightened and they may even have trouble getting to enough food to keep them well fed.
A tank up to 10 gallons is perfect as a rearing tank as it provides them with a feeling of security and they won’t have trouble getting to their food.
The tank should contain 100% aged aquarium water and you should add a sponge filter to keep the water clear.
After a week or so in the rearing tank, you can move them to larger tanks where they can grow comfortably without being crowded.
It’s important to offer them enough space as they mature to avoid developmental problems like chopped dorsal fins and thin, stunted bodies.
Frequent water changes and a diet that promotes healthy growth and development are crucial at this stage.
What to Feed Angelfish Babies?
Angelfish babies thrive on live cultured foods that will provide them the nutritional boost to develop and grow into healthy adults.
Freshly hatched brine shrimp and micro-worms are the gold standard in feeding angelfish fry, and you can even grow your own cultures at home.
As the angelfish babies develop, you can slowly introduce them to crushed flake foods and make the full transition to regular foods at around 6 weeks of age.
Why Won’t My Angelfish Breed?
Just because you have a known female and male angelfish pair, it doesn’t mean they’ll breed right away.
It may take a while for them to breed, you may need to make certain adjustments and tweak tank conditions until you manage to get things just right for them to breed.
All this means you’ll need to experiment and have patience with your fish until you can get that first spawn to happen.
Even if you get a proven angelfish pair, the simple transfer to the breeding tank can throw them off their breeding cycle and they may require a few weeks of adjustment.
To get your fish in spawning condition, you must ensure clean water and a healthy and varied diet. Underfed angelfish are much less likely to breed. Angelfish in a poor condition look thin, lack vigor and eat very little.
By offering them a steady supply of high-quality foods and variety, you can strengthen them and make them more likely to breed.
Even with good feeding and optimal water conditions, some couples will still refuse to breed. You can give them a little nudge in the right direction by trying out some of the following things:
- Offer them more hiding spaces and security by adding more plants to the tank;
- Place them in a new location or in a larger tank;
- Perform larger water changes;
- Raise the temperature in the tank by a few degrees;
- Try a heavier feeding regimen for a few days with quality freeze-dried or frozen foods;
- Place a dither fish into the tank;
- Add reverse osmosis water or deionized water to the tank.
When everything else fails, you should try pairing them with a different angelfish or add them to an angelfish tank and allow them to choose themselves another mate.
Other times, the issue of an uncooperative angelfish pair can be explained by a misidentified gender.
Because it can be difficult to tell the difference between a female and male angelfish, you should factor in misidentified gender as a possible cause if your angelfish can’t be determined to breed no matter what you try.
Of course, genetic factors can also contribute to fecundity problems and angelfish that have difficulties breeding, don’t produce quality eggs, produce very little eggs, or produce fry with problems should not be bred.
Whatever the case, don’t get discouraged and be open to trying different things, since not all angelfish are alike, and you might be able to figure out what they like.
Once you get it right, stick to the same set-up that managed to get your angelfish to breed.
Frequently Asked Questions About Breeding Angelfish
If you still have any unanswered questions about breeding angelfish, read the following FAQ about even more angelfish breeding facts.
Is it necessary to keep eggs together with angelfish?
While it is recommended to let the angelfish parents tend to the eggs themselves, this is not absolutely necessary.
You may want to remove the eggs to hatch them artificially, or, if they’re in a community tank, to protect them from other fish.
Why do single female angelfish lay eggs when there is no male around?
Even if there is no male available, some females will still sometimes lay eggs. Because there is no male to fertilize the eggs, these aren’t viable and will often develop a white fungus on them.
Since these eggs are not viable and if the female or other fish won’t eat them, you should remove them from the aquarium, so they won’t cause problems in the tank.
The female may even be aggressive and display territorial behavior, which will subside a couple of days after spawning.
Angelfish eggs turned white the day after spawning. Why?
In a normal breeding scenario, the female will lay the eggs, the male will fertilize them, then they will take turns fanning and cleaning the eggs.
However, if eggs remain unfertilized or parents don’t do their job of tending to the eggs, the eggs will develop an opaque white fungus and lose their viability.
For how long will angelfish continue to breed?
The frequency and number of eggs laid by a female angelfish depends on genetic factors and the level of care offered to them.
Female angelfish are capable of laying a limited number of eggs in their lifetimes. Higher temperatures in the tank are correlated with an increase of the rate at which eggs are laid.
Proper care and water conditions are also crucial in keeping the female angelfish in good spawning condition.
How many eggs do female angelfish lay at one time?
This too is something determined by genetics and care. A female angelfish that lays her eggs more frequently will produce less eggs per spawn than a female that will hold onto her eggs for longer periods.
Water quality, temperature, feeding are all factors that contribute to the number of eggs that are produced by a single spawn. With proper care, the female angelfish will lay, on average, around 400-500 eggs per spawn.
What to feed angelfish to promote good reproduction?
Aim for a varied diet of high-quality foods. Choose the highest quality flake foods you can find and supplement their diet with freeze-dried foods (bloodworms, brine shrimp, tubifex, etc.) and home-made beef heart paste food.
Live food also offers superior growth and reproduction but be careful as they can carry parasites and bacteria that are harmful for your fish.
Why is a bare bottom tank recommended in breeding situations?
Bare bottom tanks are preferred over tanks with a gravel substrate when it comes to breeding angelfish.
Because small food particles can fall into the gravel, where fish can’t reach it, there’s an increased risk of fouling the tank as the uneaten food decomposes.
Why does my angelfish have a swollen belly?
A swollen belly in a female angelfish can be a sign that she is preparing to spawn. It can also be a sign of other things too, especially diseases.
Constipation, indigestion, angelfish dropsy, impaired kidney function or an injured kidney can all cause a swollen belly.
When do angelfish start breeding?
Reaching breeding maturity depends on the strain of angelfish you have, the care you’ve provided them, and the space they have in the aquarium.
If all conditions are met, the onset of breeding can occur as soon as five and a half months of age. Some strains, however, will mature much later.
Avoid keeping angelfish in an overcrowded tank as this will inhibit breeding. Aim for at least 7 gallons per angelfish.
Why won’t the male angelfish fertilize the eggs?
The male angelfish not fertilizing the eggs is a common problem with young angelfish that are at their first spawning. Therefore, this too can be chalked up to inexperience.
As I already mentioned, angelfish won’t be excellent parents right away, and it may take a few spawns until they figure things out.
Why is my male angelfish attacking the female?
After spawning angelfish become very territorial and can show signs of aggression even towards their own mates.
Sometimes the male will attack the female, but it could just as easily be the other way around. If they continue to be aggressive with each other, it’s best if you separate them for a week or so, then put them back together.
Male angelfish is eating the eggs right after female angelfish is laying them down. What to do?
Angelfish eating their own eggs is usually a stress response or is caused by the inexperience of the angelfish pair.
If the angelfish pair is in a community tank, other fish raiding the eggs may stress them out, so they resort to eating the eggs.
If they do this in their own breeding tank, stress may be one explanation, however, the inexperience of the mating pair is just as reasonable of an explanation.
How many days does it takes for angelfish eggs to hatch?
If conditions are suitable, angelfish eggs can hatch as soon as 2-3 days after spawning. During this time, the angelfish pair will aerate the eggs, clean them and remove rotten or non-viable eggs.
How do I know which eggs are fertile and which aren’t?
Good angelfish parents will prevent fungal growth on the eggs and sometimes they will even remove infertile eggs.
Eggs that have been fertilized by the male angelfish have a translucent amber color, the ones which haven’t been fertilized turn to an opaque white color.
Angelfish keep laying eggs on the filter. What should I do?
Angelfish prefer near vertical structures as a spawning site, so place a spawning slate into the aquarium or add plants with large vertical leaves like that of the Amazon sword. A PVC pipe could also work too.
Try to obstruct the filter or move it, so that your angelfish will forget about it.
Most of the times you won’t have any issues with breeding angels, especially if you meet their water requirements and dietary needs.
On the off chance that you won’t be the lucky owner of a cooperative pair, I am confident that the information in this angelfish breeding guide will help you overcome most of the hurdles you may come across when attempting to breed this species.
The key is to be patient, make sure their water is in the required parameters, that your fish are well-fed, and experiment with different things since not all angelfish couples are the same.
- Featured Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kubina/338466958/
- Angelfish Eggs: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7718908@N04/3694779709/