One of the most popular of all the fishes is the Pterophyllum which is a small genus of freshwater fish derived from the Cichlidae family known to most aquarists as freshwater angelfish. All Pterophyllum species originate from the Amazon Basin, Orinoco Basin and various rivers in the Guiana Shield in tropical South America. There are three species of Pterophyllum namely Scalare, Altum and Leopoldi.

Type of Pterophyllum

Pterophyllum sub species

Their body are laterally compressed and elongated and triangular shaped. The flanks of the common angel fish are silvery with a brownish tinge with four black transverse bars. The first one runs in a curve from the nape across the eye to the insertion of the ventral fins, the second from the front part of the dorsal fin to the anus, the third which is the broadest runs from the tip of the dorsal fin to the tip of the anal fin and the fourth across the caudal peduncle.

They have the extended rays of the ventral fins which is bluish white and the rays of the dorsal fin are yellow-brown to blackish. Freshwater Angelfish are ambush predators and they like to prey on small fish and other macroinvertebrates.

Introduction of Freshwater AngelFish

The freshwater angel fish is a widely distributed aquarium fish which is a native of the Amazon. This fish is a prolific breeders and several varieties if this fish can be available in this country (Malaysia). These varieties differ greatly in color but all of them produce the same characteristic features and appearance with long dorsal, ventral and anal fins and disc shaped bodies.

In one variety, the head, body and the back is greenish grey and with four black bands on the body. The dorsal fin is greenish grey with iridescent blue spots, while the ventral fin is white with bluish tint. In another variety, there are only two black bands on the body.

The other bands are faintly visible or absent altogether. In the Black Angel, the head, body and fins are almost black with two or three faint bands on the body. In some other cases, the bands are completely absent, just like the Golden Angel, the head, body and back are golden brown, the flank is silvery yellow with an iridescent sheen. All the fins are also silvery yellow and there are rows of golden brown and blue iridescent spots on the dorsal fin. All varieties of freshwater angelfish interbreed freely.

Aquarium Setup

If you plan to keep freshwater angelfish, you need an aquarium in your house. How big you need for keeping this beautiful creature in your home? You need a 20 gallon size of aquarium for keeping the fish and it is better you choosing an aquarium with tall size because the fish tend to grow tall.

When you buy the fish at the pet store the fish are a practically small but the fish can grow up to 6 inches and the fish can live up to 10 years with proper care.  The fish prefer to live in a temperature of 75 – 78 Fahrenheit (23 – 26 °C) and they prefer soft acidic water with a pH of 6 – 7.5. Don’t forget to add live plant during the setup for the fish because they are native from Amazon River. Installing undergravel filtration system is the best for the fish because soft water current and the fish is a weak swimmer.

Don’t forget to clean the tank of the fish every 2 week by performing 20 -25% water change to keep the water clean. You can perform a large water change every 2 month to keep the water clean for preventing bacterial and parasites infection. Do not change the water too often because it might stress the fish.

Do not add small size of fish or fin-nipping species to be tank mates with them because they might become a prey for this angel fish. Remember, do not overcrowded the aquarium because the fish might exacerbate aggressive behavior of the fish.

Food for Them

They are omnivorous type but in the wild they fed on meat. You can fed them with cichlid flakes, pellets, frozen brineshrimp and waterfleas when you keep them in the aquarium. You don’t have to worry about feeding them because they can accept any kind of food such as bloodworms, white worms, and other small insects.

Breeding Tips for The fish

Freshwater Angelfish

Pterophyllum altum

Freshwater Angelfish choose their own mates for breeding so you can have a few matured fish in one tank and allow them to pick their own breeding partners. Once they have made their own choice, you can see the couple staying close together and you may also think of placing them in a separate tank for breeding. These fish breed well in soft acidic water with a pH of 6.5 – 6.9.

Their eggs are usually laid on broad green leaves such as water apple and mango. Place the leaves about 10cm horizontally below the surface of the water. You may also choose the Amazon Sword Plant as this leaf is broad and large and useful for collecting the eggs during the laying of their eggs.

Occasionally, you may see the eggs are being laid in the piece of clean flat stone, on the filter or even on the glass pane of the aquarium. Before the females laid their eggs, the couple or breeding pairs will clean the leaf with their mouths. The female then slowly swim over it and deposit the eggs each time in a row close together.

The male then follow to fertilize the eggs. After the laying of the eggs, the parents are to be removed leaving the eggs to be hatched in the tank. Start to prepare a gentle aeration with air stone connected to a small motor to provide and improve the survival of the angel fish fry.

The parents usually take turns to safeguard the eggs, however frequent disturbances may make the parents to become unhappy and then eat some or most of the eggs and the fry. Frequently some of the eggs laid are not fertilized. The unfertilized eggs will turn opaque in a few hours and soon result in the water to become polluted resulting in fungi.

This disease will spread very quickly and affect the eggs from being hatched and sometimes kill all of them. Therefore the unfertilized eggs should be sucked out of the tank once you noticed it before allowing the infection to set in. The parents should also be removed too otherwise they might get upset and induce them to swallow up the eggs and the fry.

The eggs are hatched within three days where the newly hatched fry will hang on the aquatic plants and live on the nutrients derived from the yolk sacs. After a few days, the fry will become free-swimming and they should be fed with brineshrimps or waterfleas. They will grow to a matured size in about five months. The fish are peaceful and hardy and they are resistance to most common disease and hence this angel fish are popular among our local as well as overseas hobbyists.


What do you think the best way to keep your fish healthy and happy? You can recommend or comment tips on keeping freshwater angelfish.


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