Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalar) are one of the most popular freshwater tropical fish among aquatic hobbyists. They are known for the beauty and elegance of their long flowing fins, brilliant colors and the multiple patterns found among the many varieties. Angelfish are one of the fish that can be successfully and profitably bred.
Breeding begins with an adult pair; buying adult angelfish can be quite costly. Many breeders begin by purchasing, a group of juveniles in strains and colors that please them. Angelfish have no color preference, and will breed with any other angelfish. The results may be stunning, and then again, maybe not so much. Purchasing a group of four to eight juveniles with the same colorings and markings will most likely result in at least one adult pair that will produce desirable offspring. The common Silver angelfish, whose stripes lighten and darken with their moods, may be better parents than other strains of angelfish.
It is best to buy juveniles from established breeders or reputable hatcheries. If they are purchased from a pet store, it would be wise to ask about the guarantee policy. Most pet store angels are imported from Asia, and are not the best breeding stock. Perfect fins and gills, and aggressive, hungry fish are signs of healthy angels. Never buy from a tank with sick fish, and if possible, select fish from more than one tank. Breeding brothers and sisters usually isn’t a problem, and will most often yield nearly identical offspring. However, out-crossing is recommended after three generations, or if the strain appears to be weakening. New juveniles should be quarantined. Rapid changes in temperature and chemistry can be stressful for angelfish. Introducing water from the new tank at one-third volume per hour is recommended.
As the angelfish grow they will begin to choose their mates and defend their territory. As soon as it seems there is a pair, they should be removed to a separate, 20 to 29 gallon tank at least 16 inches high. The tank needs to be fitted with an acceptable spawning site and have a water temperature of 78° to 82° F. Warmer water induces spawning, and is necessary for the proper development and hatching of the eggs. Many breeders use a spawning slate; however, clay pots, poly pipe and specialty breeding cones are also acceptable. Really all that is needed is an upright surface. Softer water and a neutral or lower pH are necessary, particularly if the angelfish will be parenting their own offspring.
Sexing adult angelfish is often impossible until they begin to spawn. Within five to eight days of moving the pair to their own tank, the belly of one of the angels should begin to swell, and the papilla should begin to show on both of the fish. The male will have a smaller, pointy tube that is visible when fertilizing the eggs. The female has a thicker tube in which the eggs pass through. Once the female has begun laying eggs, avoid disturbing the tank.
If the eggs will be pulled and hatched in a separate tank it is important to be sure the male has finished fertilizing. If the fish have begun attending to the eggs it is safe to remove them. They should be placed in a tank with soft water and temperature of 72-85 degrees. Adding five drops of 3% hydrogen peroxide per quart of water at the same time every day will help to control fungus growth, and should be continued only until the fry are free swimming.
Within two days it will be apparent if the pair is fertile and has had a successful spawning. Eggs that are newly spawned will be clear or translucent. By the next day some infertile eggs may begin to turn white. On the second day wiggling tails will emerge from the clear eggs, while more unfertilized eggs may turn white and begin to get fuzzy. Tadpole shapes with large yolk sacks will begin to form on day three, and the fry will remain attached to the slate. By the seventh day all of the newly hatched fry will be free swimming and feeding should begin.
The fry should be kept in a tank with a sponge filter. Newly hatched brine shrimp should be fed sparingly, every twelve hours. It is important not to over feed the fry. Once they are full, their bellies should look like a bright orange pinhead. Any remaining brine shrimp should then be strained from the tank.
After about two weeks, the fry will begin to take on the appearance of angelfish. They should be moved to larger tanks as they continue to grow. Within ten to twelve weeks, they will have reached saleable size. Consistent feeding and water changes will promote rapid growth.