Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Pterophyllum scalare


Angelfish, Pterophyllum scalareAngelfish, Pterophyllum scalare
Photos by Andy Rapson


Pterophyllum: Greek, pteron, = fin, sail + Greek, phyllon = leaf; apparently in reference to the tall wide and triangular dorsal fin.

General Notes:

Angelfish are generally peaceful but they are cichlids and when breeding they will not tolerate intruders on their territory. Also it is worth remembering that generally big fish will eat little fish and this can apply to angelfish and small community tetras. Some Angels are fine with small fish while others will actively hunt them and there is no way to tell which is which. Angel fish aren't the fastest or the most agile of fish and this coupled with their long fins could make them a target for bullying from faster fin nipping fish like barbs. Angelfish prefer to be kept at the warmer end of the tropical fish range, they can be kept in groups or as a compatible pair. Once paired Angelfish will spawn on a regular basis, some make very good parents and some will eat their own eggs, in my experience wild or F1, F2 fish make better parents than do some of the fancy aquarium colour morphs.


Angelfish present no problems when it comes to feeding, they will accept all suitably sized fish food and are bold competitive feeders. Their diet should be varied and include some live or frozen food such as blood worms.


Adult angelfish cannot be sexed reliably except when ready to spawn, the females genital papilla is broad and blunt unlike the males which narrow.


Breeding Angelfish is very easy once you have a compatible pair. The pair will begin by defending a territory and then cleaning a spawning site. Once the eggs are laid the pair will continue to clean and guard them. It takes about a week from spawning before the fry are free swimming and looking for food. The fry are large enough to accept newly hatched brine shrimps and micro worms and after a week or so very fine powdered flake food. The fry grow rapidly and should reach two inches top to bottom after eight to ten weeks.

Wild status

The wild status of this species has not been evaluated. The majority of angelfish offered for sale are commercially bred but wild caught fish are frequently available too.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 8
dGH: 5- 13
Temperature: 24 - 30°C (76 - 86°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 15cm (6in)
Min tank size: 225 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Middle

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Angelfish, Pterophyllum scalare

Origin: South America: Amazon River basin, in Peru, Colombia, and Brazil, along the Ucayali, Solimões and Amazon rivers; rivers of Amapá (Brazil), Rio Oyapock in French Guiana; Essequibo River in Guyana.

Habitat: Inhabit swamps or flooded grounds where the aquatic and riverine vegetation are dense and the water is either clear or silty. Its color is deeper in clear water


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Pterophyllum
Species: P. scalare (Schultze, 1823)

Common name:

Synonyms: Zeus scalaris, Platax scalaris, Plataxoides dumerilii, Pterophyllum dumerilii, Pterophyllum eimekei.