What to Know About Owning a Pet Angelfish

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on November 29, 2022
5 min read

Fish are popular pet choices for many households around the world. They make the perfect pets for people with limited space, renters who live in buildings that don't allow dogs or cats, and for those who are allergic to furry critters. They’re also good pets for people who don’t have the time to care for a higher-maintenance pet, as well as for first-time animal owners, older individuals, and children. Not only are fish ideal for simple lifestyles, but they also brighten up any room with color and a source of entertainment. Plus, owning aquatic animals has been linked to mental health benefits, such as reduced stress levels.

If you walk into your local pet store, you’ll be met with a large selection of fish and other aquatic life; from goldfish to betta fish to shrimp and snails. If you’re looking to bring home your first fish friend or introduce a new fish to an already-established aquarium, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. One option you can consider introducing into your aquatic family is the angelfish. 

But what is an angelfish? What do they look like, and how do they behave? What are their specific care requirements? The name angelfish has no biblical connotations behind it. Instead, the fish’s name is derived from its shape — when its head is facing upwards and its body is turned to the side, the fish's shape resembles the head, wings, and dress of an angel. 

There’s a lot to know and understand about this aquatic beauty, such as how many types of angelfish there are. There are two main categories of angelfish: marine angelfish and freshwater angelfish. Marine angelfish have around 85 species, while freshwater angelfish have three. 

Freshwater angelfish species include the common angelfish, teardrop angelfish, and deep angelfish. Marine angelfish species include the queen angelfish, king angelfish, emperor angelfish, and flame angelfish. However, there are many other species out there, too, and variations that have been selectively bred in captivity. 

Besides being popular pets, angelfish are often featured throughout the media because of their beauty.

Let's go over the two most important types of angelfish characteristics: Their physical characteristics and behavioral characteristics. 

Angelfish Physical Characteristics

Angelfish come in various colors and patterns. They have elongated backs and ventral and anal fins. When turned sideways, they often resemble an angel. Their shape allows them to easily swim and twirl underwater. Their fins fan and expand outwards as they swim, making them appear larger than they actually are. This makes them seem intimidating to predators and gives them a chance to flee if confronted with a threat. 

While all angelfish species are similar in certain ways, each has its own unique physical presentation. For example, the queen angelfish is one of the most noteworthy reef fish. They have the angel-like body that most angelfish have, and closely resemble the blue angelfish, with the main difference being the presence of a circular "crown" in the middle of their forehead. This crown gives the queen angelfish its name. 

Visually, the queen angelfish is made up of bright colors, typically yellow and blue. The yellow makes up its body, while the blue highlights its dorsal and anal fins. They may also have purple and orange highlights and cerulean blue stripes. Their vibrant colors help them blend in with the reef they live in, helping them avoid predators. As juveniles, queen angelfish are mostly bright yellow with dark brown or black areas, but they become more vibrant as they mature. In terms of size, queen angelfish can reach 18 inches long, and they normally weigh about 3.5 pounds. 

While the queen angelfish sports a predominantly yellow and blue appearance, the flame angelfish has a coloration of bright orange and red with vertical black and blue blotches on its side. Another angelfish, the emperor angelfish, is adorned with yellow and blue stripes, and sports black areas around its eyes.

Angelfish Behavioral Characteristics 

Angelfish are known to be territorial and aggressive when their living conditions are too cramped. They also tend to become aggressive when mating. Otherwise, they’re peaceful fish to keep around.

When bringing home a new pet, you must make sure to set up a proper habitat for them, and be prepared with the food that animal needs for a proper diet. Pet fish are no exception.

Angelfish Habitat  

Angelfish can reach six inches tall. Because they become territorial in cramped conditions, they need a spacious enclosure. An angelfish aquarium should be at least 20 gallons. It should contain plants and decorations for shelter.

An angelfish aquarium should have plenty of activities for them so that they don’t get bored. You may also want to change the aquarium around from time to time to keep things interesting. Feel free to rearrange their decorations and plants occasionally.

They may not get along with certain fish species who like to nip at the fins of other fish. Keep that in mind when choosing what type of fish to house in the same aquarium as your angelfish.

Angelfish Diet 

An angelfish’s diet is omnivorous. They eat plants, meat, and even algae. In captivity, they can be fed various foods, including: 

  • Flakes: The flakes and pellets you feed your angelfish should be high-quality and suitable for tropical fish. Make sure to select a food that has a high protein content. Cichlids and plant-based spirulina flakes are both popular choices.
  • Live food: Angelfish love hunting and eating live food in the wild, so you can also incorporate live food into your pet’s diet. It can be difficult to find a good supply of live food for angelfish, which would include brine shrimp, mealworms, bloodworms, and black worms. Make sure to only purchase live food from a reputable seller. 
  • Vegetables: Cucumbers and zucchinis are popular vegetable choices amongst both angelfish and angelfish owners. However, not all angelfish may enjoy these vegetables, so be sure to experiment with different kinds. Vegetables need to be peeled and sliced in very small pieces so that they’re easily digestible.
  • Frozen food: Frozen foods are easy to find and easy to maintain. They’re a convenient option for fish owners who don’t want the hassle of tracking down live food sources. Popular frozen food options include plankton and beef hearts. You can also look for frozen versions of the live food they eat, such as brine shrimp.
  • Freeze-dried foods: Freeze-dried foods are popular because they rarely have harmful parasites or bacteria in them. It’s also a great way to diversify a fish’s diet. Freeze-dried foods need to be defrosted before feeding them to your fish.

Young angelfish have a quicker metabolism since they are still growing, so they require more frequent feedings than adult angelfish. Juveniles should be fed 3-4 times a day, while adults only need to be fed around 2-3 times a day. Feed them only as much as they can eat within 2 minutes.

Angelfish are relatively hardy, meaning they are easy to maintain. 

Common health issues affecting aquarium fish include fin rot, anchor worm and other parasites, hole in head disease, ich, and constipation.

With proper care, the lifespan of an angelfish is around 8-10 years.