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Pterophyllum scalare - (Schultze, 1823)

Pair formation is common in the aquarium. Female at rear. Soulkeeper/GNU.


The stately and ever-graceful Angelfish is an icon of the aquarium hobby, even recognized by non-aquarists.

Angelfishes are available in many forms and fin types, as they are quite genetically malleable. They are generally sold quite young, as small as a dime, and this can lead to trouble as a pair of mature angelfish can eventually dominate the aquarium and efficiently pick off all the small tetras and other prey they can catch and swallow.

They do best in their own species tank or in large community aquariums where they have room to establish their own territory and plenty of structure in the form of tall plants and driftwood.

Myriad types, varieties, and strains (phenotypes) of the common angelfish are now being bred in captivity: black, marbled, golden, albino, panda, green flame, and many more. See: Angelfish Types.

See We're No Angels for further keeping advice.

Family: Cichlidae

Other common name(s):

  • Silver Angelfish
  • Scalare
  • Freshwater Angelfish
  • Common Angelfish

Native range:

Habitat: Angelfish prefer a high tank that is well planted around the sides and back. Sagittaria, Vallisneria, Amazon Swordplants, and driftwood are classic in the angelfish aquarium.

Maximum length: 15 cm (6 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 110 L (29 gal)

Water: Freshwater 22 °C (72 °F) - 26 °C (79 °F)

General swimming level: All levels.


Carnivore. P. scalare is a voracious feeder that will accept a wide variety of frozen and prepared foods. Live meaty foods (Brine Shrimp, Bloodworms, White Worms and the like will be eaten greedily and can be used to condition breeders.

Aquarium Compatibility

Angelfish live in peaceful schools when young, but pair off at about 9 months of age, after which the pairs typically become quite territorial and aggressive. From this point on they should only be kept with fishes that will not interfere with their spawning activities. A single specimen, however, is quite versatile in community settings.


Angelfish deposit the eggs on a vertical surface in the aquarium, such as a plant leaf or the glass walls. Both the male and female tend the eggs and guard the fry for a time.


Selective breeding has produced many color forms and varieties with dramatic finnage.

SEE: Angelfish Types

Wild angelfish species include the common Pterophyllum scalare, P. altum (Altum Angelfish), P. leopoldi, (Leopold's Angelfish) all with same general body shape. See Pterophyllum.

Reference: 101 Best Tropical Fishes
Image credit: JJ
Text credit: KW