Are Angelfish Freshwater Or Saltwater? (Surprising Answer)

Are angelfish freshwater or saltwater this is the question I had first when I see this beautiful fish for the first time because I wanted to keep it in my freshwater aquarium.

There are two types of angelfish. There are Saltwater or Marine angelfish that belong to the Pomacentridae family. And there are freshwater angelfish which belong to the Cichlidae family. The behavior and size differ slightly in these two types of angelfish.

Are Angelfish Freshwater Or Saltwater? (Surprising Answer) image

Freshwater angelfish

freshwater angelfish

Image source under CC BY-SA 1.0

Freshwater angelfish belong to the Pterophyllum genus. 

This name is derived from the Greek language.

Pteron means fin and phylon mean leaf.

All the fish included in this genus have a leaf-like body and fin.

This species is originated from the Amazon Basin, Orinoco Basin and various rivers in tropical South America.

Angelfish are one of the most popular fish in the aquarium hobby.

It is popular because of its unique shape and behavior.

Also, they are very hardy and easy to care for. So even if you are a beginner, you can easily keep it.

Basically, there are three types of angelfish found in the aquarium hobby.

Pterophyllum altum, Pterophyllum Leopoldo and Pterophyllum scalare.

Out of these three, the phylum Leopold is very rare and the Pterophyllum scalare is commonly found in most of the aquarium shops.

Angelfish can get up to 6 to 7 inches long and 8 to 12 inches tall if you provide it with ideal conditions or the environment in your aquarium.

In its natural habitat angelfish is an ambush predator and it feeds mostly on small invertebrates such as various types of insects, snails, and worms, etc.

In your aquarium, you can feed it various types of food.

For example, live food like blood worms and shrimp as well as dried brine shrimp and even vegetables once in a week.

You should keep angelfish in a warm aquarium, and its ideal water temperature is around 80-degree Fahrenheit.

Its pH tolerance range is between 6-7.5 and the hardness tolerance range is between 5 to 13 DH.

When it comes to tank size for freshwater, as angelfish can get very big, a good rule of thumb to follow is a 29-gallon tank for two angelfish.

In this sized tank, you can keep two angelfish along with some other small species of freshwater fish.

A 29 gallon tank will also allow you to add some plants in the aquarium. There are a lot of benefits of keeping plants in the aquarium like:

Doing water change once a week is sufficient for a 29-gallon tank.

You can keep more than two Angelfish in less than 29-gallon tank but then you will have to do water changes more frequently.

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group of freshwater angelfish

Image source under CC BY-SA 2.0

Angelfish form monogamy pairs.

Monogamy basically means that this fish will have only one partner in its lifetime.

And it chooses its own partner.

Also, it is very difficult to identify male and female angelfish until they get ready for breeding.

So, if you are planning to breed it then you should get a group of at least 7-8 angelfish.

Keep them in a separate tank and then identify the breeding pair.

Then remove all the other fish from the tank or put only the breeding pair in a separate tank.

If you provide them with the ideal conditions, they will reach maturity in about 6 to 12 months.

Though Angelfish belong to the cichlids family they are relatively peaceful in general.

But they get aggressive during the breeding period.

Once the pair is ready for breeding they choose a place for laying eggs.

Usually, they choose a vertical surface for laying eggs, that could be a leaf of a plant, any pipe in your aquarium or even the surface of the glass.

The female deposits eggs on the surface and then the male fertilizes it.

Depending on the health of the female it may deposit from 100 to up to 1200 eggs.

Angelfish are generally good parents and they take care of the eggs until they hatch and the fry start free-swimming.

After leaving the eggs, in a few days, the eggs hatch but the fry still remains attached to the surface.

In this time it feeds on their yolk sacs.

Then after about one week, the fry gets detached from the surface and it starts free swimming.

At this point, you can feed it specialized food.

Or you can feed it the food that is relatively small in size and can fit into the mouth of the fry.

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Tankmates for freshwater angelfish

Angelfish are generally peaceful and you can easily keep it in a community tank.

But it can only get aggressive during the breeding period.

You can select any other peaceful fish for it as tank mates.

But there are a couple of things you should keep in mind while selecting tank mates.

  • Angelfish have long fins so you should avoid keeping fin nippers like tiger barbs with angelfish
  • Angelfish usually don’t pray on their tank mates. But you should avoid keeping fish that are smaller than the size of the mouth of your angelfish.

Some good examples of freshwater angelfish tankmates include:

  • Placos
  • Dwarf Red Gourami
  • Platy fish
  • Catfish

For detailed information about these tankmates, please go to this blog post and jump to the “Some good examples of Angelfish tankmates” section.

Compatible angelfish tank mates infographic

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Saltwater / Marine Angelfish

saltwater angelfish

Saltwater angelfish or Marine angelfish belong to the Pomacentridae family.

This family contains about 86 species and each species has a different size, behavior, and adaptability.

This fish is found on a shallow reef in the Indian, tropical Atlantic and western Pacific oceans.

Marine angelfish are very popular among aquarists because of their bright colors and unique shape.

This fish really stands out in the aquarium.

This fish is similar to butterflyfish but there is one difference that differentiates them.

Marine angelfish has a strong preoperational spine near its Gill covers.

In fact, this is the body part that explains its family name that is Pomacentridae. The meaning of poma in Greek is cover and akantha means thorn.

As mentioned earlier, this family contains 86 species and each species have different sizes.

The largest species of this family is Pomacanthus arcuatus and it can grow up to 24 inches. 

And the smallest species is Centropuge that can grow a maximum of 5.9 inches.

All the other species are about 7.9 to 11.8 inches in length.

The smallest species are more popular among aquarists than the larger species.

Larger species are usually used as fish food.

However, Ciguatera poisoning has been reported due to eating Marine engine fish angelfish.

Recommended Saltwater Angelfish Species

1. Queen angelfish

queen angelfish

Image source under CC BY-SA 4.0

This is one of the most beautiful angelfish.

This fish is also relatively easy to keep so if you are a beginner you can keep it.

This fish can grow up to 18 inches long so it requires a bigger tank of up to 180 gallons.

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Some other good angelfish species you can I looked into are

2. Emperor angelfish 

Emperor angelfish

Image source under CC BY-SA 4.0

3. Yellowtail angelfish 

Yellowtail angelfish

Photo : Matthieu Sontag, Licence CC-BY-SA.

4. French angelfish

French angelfish

Image source under CC BY-SA 2.5

Angelfish Species To Avoid

Most of the angelfish are adaptive to the cavity.

But there are certain species that don’t do well in the cavity.

These kinds of angelfish species include:

  • Bandit angelfish
  • Barred angelfish
  • Regal angelfish
  • Oriole angelfish

The issue with these angelfish is that these angelfish are not adaptive to eat in the cavity so they will not eat the food and slowly starve to death.


Saltwater angelfish are known to be very aggressive so you have to be very careful while deciding tankmates for them.

Ideally, you should keep other angelfish of the same species as the tankmates for your angelfish.

If you keep different species of angelfish, they may attack each other.

But if you want to keep different species of angelfish successfully, then what you can do, first introduce small-sized angelfish into the tank and then slowly introduced other small size angelfish of different species into the tank.

So that they will have sufficient time to get used to other fish and to form their territory in the tank.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should use a large tank for your angelfish.

This will also help to reduce aggression among them.

Besides, you can easily keep other species of fish with your angelfish.

Some examples of good tank mates include Wrasses, Gobies, Blennies, and Clownfish.

Angelfish Care

If you want to keep saltwater angelfish successfully in your aquarium then you should have a well-cycled fish tank prepared for them.

Ideally, you should start a fish tank at least three months before introducing the first angelfish into the tank so that the tank is fully cycled.

Besides cycling the tank, angelfish usually prefer a reef tank environment.

Also, you should use an ideal sized tank for your it.

Now, what is the ideal size really depends on the species of the angelfish.

For example, if you are going to keep small species of angelfish like Pygmy Angel that can grow a maximum of 6 inches then you can easily keep it in a 50 gallon tank.

But if you want to keep bigger species like Queen angelfish then you will have to keep them in a larger tank of about 180 gallons.

Once you selected the species, you should then do good research about them and find the ideal parameters like pH salinity, temperature, etc that particularly suits the species of angelfish.


The number one reason that many aquarists fail to keep saltwater angelfish successful in the aquarium is the feeding.

Angelfish require a varied diet to thrive in the aquarium.

So you should provide different varieties of food to your angelfish.

You can provide it live food like brine shrimp.

You can also provide it frozen food like krill and shrimps.

Besides, you should also include vegetables in the diet of your angelfish.

You can feed vegetables like lettuce a couple of times a week.


So basically there are two types of angelfish, the freshwater angelfish, and the saltwater angelfish or marine angelfish.

The behavior and the size are slightly different in both types of angelfish and there are many similarities as well.

I hope you found this article helpful.

If you do please share it.

Also, let me know if you have any doubts or questions in the comment section below

Happy fishkeeping!

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Prathmesh Gawai
He is the main author and editor at And he loves to share helpful information on aquarium and/or fishkeeping hobby. Prathmesh has over five years of aquarium and/or fishkeeping experience. Currently, he has a Betta fish tank. He has written hundreds of articles on various aquarium fish species and on fish tank maintenance over the last five years. Connect with him on YouTube here. Learn more about him here.

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