Angelfish are one of the most popular choices of fish for a tropical aquarium setup. With their unusual, distinctive shape, a beautiful array of colorations to choose from, and quirky behaviors, Angelfish are a joy to behold as they glide elegantly around the aquarium.
However, Angelfish do have a reputation as being somewhat aggressive and are even accused of being bullies in a community tank. The species are natural predators, so any very small fish could be at risk of becoming lunch.
So, what fish make suitable tankmates for these mesmerizing creatures?
We’ll answer that question for you in this guide. But, first of all, let’s find out a little more about the enigmatic Angelfish.
What are Angelfish?
Angelfish are widespread throughout parts of tropical South America, including a wide tranche of the Amazon River system. Angels are found pretty much exclusively in slow-moving, quiet waters where the light is dim, and there is plenty of overhanging vegetation in which to hide.
Wild-caught Angels are rarely seen for sale, with most aquarium specimens having been raised commercially by breeders. Wild Angelfish are silver with inky-black vertical striping. But, thanks to selective breeding, captive-bred specimens display many colors, including orange and yellow, and you can also find long-finned varieties that are known as veiltails.
The majority of Angels that are sold commercially for the hobby are Pterophyllum scalare. You may also find Pterophyllum altum, and very occasionally Pterophyllum leopoldi, which are the most aggressive and smallest species.
Good Tankmates for Angelfish
In this guide, we take a look at a selection of species that do generally make safe tankmates that complement Angelfish. Our list isn’t exhaustive, but it does give you a good starting point when it comes to selecting suitable companions for your Angels.
Remember to watch any new additions to the community very carefully to see if any aggression is displayed by either party. If you do experience problems, you should be prepared to return the fish to the store or maybe have another aquarium cycled to which you can relocate your new arrivals.
First of all, you’ll need to do some research to check that the fish species that you’re considering adding to your tank like the same water conditions as Angelfish. You’ll also need to consider the newcomers’ dietary requirements. Competition for food can lead to aggressive behavior, which is a point that you must keep in mind when choosing new fish to add to your collection.
In this part of our guide, we give an overview of the tank conditions that best suit Angelfish. Provided that any other species of potential tankmate fish like these conditions too, they should do well.
Most hobbyists buy juvenile Angelfish that are only a couple of inches in diameter. However, these fish can grow up to at least double their juvenile size, reaching six to eight inches in some cases, so the best angelfish tank will be at least 55 gallons or more to comfortably accommodate your fish when they are fully grown.
Because Angels swim at the top of the water column and, given their body shape, a tall aquarium is the best choice.
Angels tend to inhabit the top part of the water column, cruising close to the surface. So, it makes good sense to choose species that prefer the lower levels of the aquarium so that there is no competition for space, and such conflict can be avoided.
Tank décor should mimic the Angels’ wild environment as closely as possible. So, you should include pieces of vertically-arranged driftwood to replicate downed trees and branches and plant your tank with large, broad-leafed species of aquatic plants. Floating live plants are also useful to provide shade and cover.
Choose a fine to medium grade substrate of smooth gravel or sand, as Angels sometimes like to forage for scraps of food along the bottom of the tank.
Diet and nutrition
Angelfish are generally surface or mid-water feeders. They are omnivorous, thriving on flakes, granules, and pellets, as well as enjoying live and frozen foods.
Rotate your fishes’ diet for variety and only feed the fish what they can eat in two to three minutes, one or two times daily.
Angelfish originate from South America and are members of the cichlid family of fishes.
They are tropical fish that need warm water in the temperature range of 780 to 840 Fahrenheit.
Water pH levels should ideally be between 6.8 and 7.8, with a hardness of between 30 and 80 dKH.
A good filtration system is essential, and you should carry out water changes of 10% each week or 25% every two weeks. That said, Angels prefer slow-moving water, so be sure not to have the current in the tank too powerful or you risk stressing the fish.
What species are NOT good tankmates for Angelfish?
Angels are generally peaceful fish, although they will make a meal out of any fish that is small enough to fit into their mouths. So, tiny fish of around one inch long, such as guppies and small varieties of tetras, should be avoided, as an adult Angel may see them as snacks.
All species of snails can be kept safely with Angelfish, and many make attractive additions to the community. However, shrimp is always viewed as a food item and will be eaten. Even the larger species of shrimp are not safe in the same tank as Angelfish.
Also, Angels can become the victims of larger, aggressive fish species, such as Oscars and certain big cichlids, so it’s best not to add these to your collection. Other fish species to avoid include tiger barbs and green tiger barbs, which are confirmed fin-nippers and will harass Angelfish.
Although male bettas are beautiful to look at, they do not get on well with Angels. Unfortunately, male bettas regard any fish that has trailing fins as a competitor and may become aggressive towards it. Also, Angelfish are fin-nippers and will undoubtedly harass and potentially injure a male betta.
Although it is safe to house small groups of up to six Angelfish together in the same tank, males can become aggressive when seeking to pair off and begin spawning. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to determine the gender of Angelfish, but here’s a guide to help you:
Determining Angelfish gender
In appearance, there are a few subtle differences between the sexes that you can look out for:
- Larger, rounder body than the female
- Enlarged lump on the forehead
- The breeding tube is thin and pointed like a pencil tip
- The body is fatter and more robust
- The ventral fin is forked
- No bump on the forehead
- Smaller bodied
- Smoother frontal finnage
- Angular belly line
- The breeding tube is blunt and wider than the male’s
Behaviorally, male Angelfish are very territorial and will often drive other males away, flaring and nipping their rivals. Females are generally more placid, although they will defend their young.
Best tankmates for Angelfish
Now, let’s take a look at 12 of the species of fish that are considered to be the most compatible mates for angelfish.
1. Corydoras Catfish
Corydoras Catfish are extremely easy to care for and make an excellent community fish for a tropical aquarium.
These peaceful fish do best in schools of five or more and spend their time living on the substrate or in the lower part of the water column. Corys are omnivorous, foraging around the bottom of the tank for scraps of uneaten food, helping to keep the habitat tidy and relieving pressure on the biological filtration system by cleaning up waste that would otherwise decompose and pollute the water.
There are many different species of Corydoras Catfish, all of which originate from South America. Corys grow to between two and four inches in length. These are very healthy, robust fish whose armor-plated skin makes them resistant to many of the common diseases that affect freshwater fish.
2. Dwarf Gourami
There are many species of Gourami that can be kept in peaceful community aquariums, and the Dwarf Gourami is one that makes an ideal tankmate for Angelfish.
Dwarf Gouramis come from Southeast Asia, although they do enjoy similar water conditions to Angelfish. Gouramis grow up to about 3.5 inches and are omnivorous. The males are more brightly colored than females, and a small school of the same sex can be kept safely. However, if you add a female to the mix, fighting can break out among the males, especially during the spawning season.
3. Boesemani Rainbowfish
Boesemani Rainbowfish make a bright and attractive choice of tankmates for your Angelfish.
These peaceful, omnivorous fish grow to around four inches in length and live mostly in the central water column area of the aquarium.
Boesemani Rainbows are a dull gray color as juveniles but quickly develop as they mature, developing a gorgeous iridescent blue shade to the front of their bodies and a vibrant yellow to their back half.
4. Praecox Rainbowfish
Praecox Rainbowfish are also known as Dwarf Rainbowfish. These peaceful community fish do best in small groups of up to six individuals, growing to a size of three inches or so.
Dwarf Rainbowfish have silver bodies with a beautiful iridescent sheen, while their tail and fins are a bright red color. Again, the juveniles’ coloration is not particularly impressive, although that changes as the fish mature. These fish make a delightful addition to a community tank, being stunning to look at, unassuming in nature, and very easy to care for.
5. Zebra Loach
The Zebra Loach is a peaceful, schooling fish that should get along fine with Angelfish.
These fish need the company of their own species if they are to thrive, so you will need to make sure that you buy a shoal of at least five individuals. Zebra Loaches grow to measure around four inches in length. These fish live on the bottom of the tank, sharing the same water parameters as Angelfish.
As well as a diet of flakes, pellets, live, and frozen food, these lively little fish graze on algae and help to keep your tank surfaces and decorations clean by picking off scraps of uneaten food and pieces of plant waste.
Platies are a universally popular aquarium staple, being easy to care for, hardy, and extremely attractive little fish. Platies are on the smaller side of the species of fish that we’ve looked at so far, but they do make good mates for Angelfish, growing to around two to three inches in size, which is too big for the Angels to make a meal of.
Also, Platies are livebearers and are super-easy to breed, usually doing what comes naturally with no intervention or assistance from you! If you want to keep the fry, you’ll need to transfer any heavily pregnant females to a breeding tank so that the fry don’t get eaten by other fish in the community.
These fish come in myriad patterns and colors, adding plenty of interest to keep the viewer entertained. When buying Platies, always buy two females to every one male. Males can be extremely persistent, and a lone female can quickly become stressed if she’s the sole recipient of harassment from her amorous male companions.
Mollies come from Central America and are similar to Platies in color variants and habits, although they do grow larger, reaching between three to six inches when fully mature.
These peaceful, active, omnivores are livebearers, and they will breed very readily in the aquarium. If you want to keep the fry, transfer the pregnant females to a separate breeding tank, and then remove them after they’ve given birth.
8. Bristlenose pleco
Bristlenose or Bushynose plecos are bottom-dwelling fish that grow to between four and six inches in length. Weird to look at, Bristlenose plecos have fleshy tentacles that grow from their faces, hence their common name.
These fish are herbivores, happily grazing on any algae that they find growing on the substrate, tank surfaces, and decorations. Plecos also eat discarded fish food, working to keep your aquarium environment clean and tidy. Unfortunately, these fish will nibble on some species of aquatic plants if they’re hungry, so you must supplement their diet with algae wafers and blanched vegetables such as zucchini.
Plecos are generally shy and prefer to come out to feed after lights-out, so you may not see much of them during the daytime.
9. Rainbow Kribensis
Rainbow Kribensis are peaceful community fish that can get along well with Angelfish. These pretty African dwarf cichlids grow to around four inches in length and share a liking for softer water, making them compatible for life in the same setup as Angelfish.
The main drawback to keeping Kribs is that they will breed readily in captivity in the aquarium, and they can become very defensive of their fry. That said, Kribensis prefer to hang out in the bottom levels of the aquarium, where they establish a small territory. You’ll need to provide rocks, resin caves, or terracotta pots so that the Kribs can seek shelter when they want to.
10. Blue Ram Cichlids
Blue Ram Cichlids are a perfect choice if you want to inject a pop of color into your display aquarium.
These are quite small fish, growing to just two inches in length, although that’s still large enough to prevent them from being viewed as food by the Angelfish. However, you should be aware that the juvenile Rams that you’ll get from your pet store will most likely be regarded as fair game by large adult Angelfish.
Rams come from South America and enjoy the same water parameters as Angels. These eye-catching fish generally hang out in the mid and bottom range of the water column, so they won’t come into regular contact with your Angelfish. To keep Rams healthy and thriving, you’ll need to maintain pristine water quality and make sure that you are diligent in carrying out regular water changes.
Swordtails are colorful, lively fish that can be kept in the same tank conditions as Angelfish. Like Platies and Mollies, Swordtails are livebearers.
These fish do have a very peaceful temperament, but they won’t allow themselves to be bullied by more aggressive species, making them ideal for a tank that contains Angelfish. Swordtails come in many different colors and patterns, and the males of the species have an elongated anal fin, which is what gives the fish its common name.
This hardy, easy-to-care-for fish grows to a size of about four inches, making them a very good tankmate for Angelfish.
12. Keyhole Cichlids
Keyhole cichlids come from South America, the river basins in the Guianas, and the lower Orinoco Basin in Venezuela.
These attractive fish grow to around four inches in length, are peaceful, and make great tankmates for Angelfish. Keyhole cichlids have silvery colored bodies with golden-yellow shading from the top down. A dark stripe runs from the base of the fish’s dorsal fin, passing through the fish’s eye to the bottom of the gill cover. In the center of the body close to the tail is a small group of dark dots that resemble a keyhole, and it’s that marking that gives the fish its common name.
Keyhole cichlids are shy fish that are easy to look after, provided that water conditions are kept clean. These fish will eat a varied diet of flakes, pellets, frozen food, and blanched vegetable matter such as cucumber and zucchini.
Keyhole cichlids are happiest when kept in a community where they have lots of small shoaling fish to mingle with, plenty of lush planting, and ample places to hide.
Top tips for choosing Angelfish tankmates
Here are a few top tips to bear in mind when choosing tankmates for your Angelfish:
- It’s always best to introduce tankmates while the Angelfish are immature and small. Juvenile Angels are far less likely to be aggressive and territorial than adults. Also, Angelfish that grow up with other species are much more likely to get along with their companions and most likely won’t view them as food.
- Angelfish have long, trailing fins. For that reason, keep clear of adding any fish species that has a reputation as a fin-nipper. That includes barbs and some species of tetras. In general, tetras are best avoided anyway, as they tend to be quite small and may end up as a snack for your Angelfish.
- Do not include any fish species in a community tank that are known to be aggressive. As a general rule of thumb, do not add anything that is likely to be more confrontational than your Angelfish.
- Conversely, avoid adding any fish that are potentially small enough to be eaten. Angelfish generally test their limits by treating smaller fish as food. Also, as previously mentioned, shrimp are a definite no-no when it comes to choosing tankmates for Angels.
Angelfish are a beautiful addition to any display tank community. However, it’s important to choose the right tankmates if harmony is to be maintained.
Species that are large enough not to be regarded as food by the Angels may be a great choice, provided that they are not aggressive. Also, be sure to select species that live in different parts of the water column or that have different behavioral traits to the Angelfish so that the fish don’t come into direct competition for food and territory. Another important consideration is that all the inhabitants in your aquarium must be able to share the same freshwater parameters. That’s vital if all the fish are to remain healthy and thrive.
Angelfish are generally peaceful creatures, as long as you mix them with the right company and ensure that your aquarium is the correct size for the number of fish that you want to keep in it.