Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare)


Angelfish belong to the cichlid family and can be divided into three species: altum angelfish (Pterophyllum altum), teardrop angelfish (Pterophyllum leopoldi) and angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare), as described here.

Although Pterophyllum scalare can reach a length of up to 15 cm and height of approx. 25 cm, making them far larger than other aquarium fish, they are still among the most popular fish in the fishkeeping sector. This is largely due to their extraordinary appearance. They look like they have been flattened from the side and have a rather pointed mouth. Their unusual body shape and different-length fin rays on the dorsal and anal fins therefore make them look somewhat triangular.

Angelfish are native to South America, where they can mainly be found in calm, slow-flowing water bodies and rain forest rivers in Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Guyana. If kept correctly, they can live for up to 15 years. It is hard to distinguish between males and females. Pterophyllum scalare are naturally silvery in colour with four characteristic black stripes down their body, although cultivated varieties in other colours are now also available.

Aquarium and water

To create an appropriate habitat, Pterophyllum scalare should be kept in large and, above all, tall aquariums. We recommend tropical temperatures of 24°C to 30°C. The aquarium water should ideally be slightly acidic to alkaline (pH value: approx. 6.0 – 7.5) and medium-hard (GH value: approx. 5 – 19°dH), although angelfish are extremely adaptable and can therefore also be kept in softer or harder water.

Angelfish Pterophyllum scalare; Shutterstock ID 383415619; Kostenstelle / Nummer: 54410; Projekt (Nummer): 54410 Buecker, Sarah

Keeping conditions

Pterophyllum scalare should be kept in extremely large aquariums as a group (loose shoal). During the spawning season, they form pairs that create a territory and defend it against all other aquarium dwellers. In the case of slightly smaller aquariums, the fish can also be optimally kept as a single pair. Despite creating territories, Pterophyllum scalare are peaceful fish that are well-suited to large community tanks. They mix particularly well with larger fish like larger tetras or catfish. Small fish like neon tetras are not recommended as they may be eaten by adult angelfish. Angelfish tend to favour the middle region of the aquarium.

Planting and decoration

This species prefers aquariums with dense edge vegetation. When choosing plants, Vallisneria species are especially recommended. Angelfish also particularly like aquariums with roots, as they offer them safe havens where they can hide. Due to their size, the fish also need plenty of free space to swim around though.


As omnivores, angelfish can be optimally fed with premium dry food products such as TetraMin or Tetra Menu. The food should not be too small for the fish. To add welcome variety, you can also give angelfish natural foods such as Tetra FreshDelica Bloodworms. It is also advisable to provide a little plant-based food now and again.