are angelfish aggressive?

Are Angelfish Aggressive?

One of the best things about owning a community tank is having a wonderful array of different fish, covering different shapes, sizes and colours, as well as getting to see their personalities take shape as they get used to their new home.

There is a downside to having a community tank though. Sometimes trouble brews between different species, or within a species.

There is, however, a way to eliminate this, which is to do your research before adding a new type of fish to your tank. This way, you will spend less time stressing over the stress levels of your fish kids, and more time enjoying how they all get along peacefully together.

In this article, I’m going to discuss if angelfish are aggressive, what can cause any aggression, how to recognise it, and how to reduce it.

Are Angelfish Aggressive?

Angelfish are capable of showing aggression to other angelfish if they feel threatened, or are establishing a pecking order amongst themselves. They are not often aggressive to other species.

a pair of yellow angelfish
A pair of relaxed looking angelfish.

Reasons Why Angelfish can get Aggressive.

Establishing a pecking order.

This is completely normal behaviour with angelfish if you have more than one male. The group needs to establish who is the boss and who isn’t. This is usually decided by very low level aggression (known as sparring). It can get a bit more aggressive if some of the males refuse to back down though.

Not enough space.

Angelfish need space to swim, as well as a tall tank so they have plenty of space both above and below them.

Use a stocking calculator, like AQADVISOR.COM to help you work it out. They take the shape of your tank into consideration, as well as the size.

Not enough food.

A hungry fish can be a very aggressive fish. Not feeding your fish enough is as bad as overfeeding them. Getting the amount right for your tank can take a few goes to get correct, but it is very important.

They are in spawning condition.

When male angelfish are in spawning condition, they will have a go at anyone if they annoy them. The male’s temperature increases when they are ready to spawn, and we all get a bit irritated when we’re too hot, don’t we? The male will also want to protect his lady from any other male angelfish in the tank.

They are protecting their fry.

Angelfish are protective parents, unlike some others I could mention, who prefer to eat them instead.

The female will always lay the eggs on something vertical where possible, for example, the filter tube, or a standing up leaf on a plant. This means both the male and female can protect the eggs better than if they were on a horizontal surface. The female can lay anywhere up to 600 fry when spawning, and it takes approx 5 days for them to turn into teeny tiny swimmers.

If any other fish come near these eggs during those 5 days, they are asking for trouble.

angelfish and their eggs
A pair of angelfish protecting their eggs.

How do Angelfish Show Aggression?

There are other reasons why angelfish look like they are showing signs of aggression, when in fact, it is not as bad as it looks.

Sparring.

Sparring amongst angelfish is completely normal when they are in a group with more than one male angelfish. This is how they sort out their pecking order. The 2 sparring fish will face each other and their heads will twitch then they back off, swim around a little bit and then do it again. They will repeat this until they get bored (or distracted).

I really like this video from Dan’s Fish, discussing aggression in angelfish.

Mating.

When angelfish are mating, it looks very similar to when they are being aggressive to each other.

It is very hard to tell the difference between a male and female angelfish. It is only really possible to tell the difference once they have paired up and have started spawning. They are not like nearly every other species of fish where the males are more vividly coloured, or are a different shape or size to one another.

You could make an educated guess on which of your angelfish are males by watching their behaviour, as the males tend to be the aggressive ones, but it is still only a guess at best.

The way to tell the difference is that the females have a tiny little sticky out bit by their breeding tubes.

female angelfish
A female angelfish.

Don’t forget, angelfish are part of the cichlid family, so they do have that narky gene within them.

Here are a few things for you to look out for, to help you decide if your angelfish are actually being aggressive, which could threaten the health or well-being of your other fish.

Signs of aggression to look out for.

  • Their fins spread, or stand up rigid, rather than flowing in a relaxed manner.
  • Enhanced colouring.
  • Darker eyes.
  • Twitching head.
  • Skittish behaviour.

How to Reduce Aggression in Angelfish.

Correct male to female ratio.

I would always recommend having your male to female ratio as 1 male to every 1 female. It is the males that are most likely to show any aggression and that is usually towards other male angelfish. However, if there are more males than females, they will start to harass the females when they are spawning, which will then lead to the females getting very stressed.

Having all females is a good idea if you have no interest in breeding. The females are pretty easy-going.

It is also worth noting that juvenile males don’t tend to show any aggression. It tends to show more when they have reached maturity.

Correct tank size.

This is essential no matter what types of fish you have. One of the main reasons why fish get stressed is because they don’t have enough space. This can result in fish hiding away, or fighting with their own type, or other breeds, because they feel trapped.

Always make sure you don’t overstock your tank. When calculating how many fish can fit into your tank, you have to calculate using their adult size, not the size they currently are. Always try and understock slightly to be on the safe side.

As well as considering the size of your tank, you also need to think about the shape of it as well. This is essential when it comes to fish like Angelfish, who can grow to approx 8 inches from top to bottom. Angelfish need a tall tank to accommodate their shape.

Have hiding places.

Having some ornaments and plants in your tank is always a good idea. You don’t have to have real plants either, the imitation ones do their job in providing shelter or hiding places for fish for when they need to just have a moment to themselves.

Fish can feel exposed when in a stressful situation so it is good to have somewhere for them to retreat to. Having a hiding place or a bit of shelter makes the fish feel a lot safer.

Just always make sure that you don’t fill your tank up with things so much that your fish have no room to swim and have fun, as that can be just as stressful as having nowhere to hide.

Keep the correct number of Angelfish.

There is a slight rule of thumb here amongst people who keep Angelfish, and that is to either have one, two or six of them in your tank. Having just the one is self explanatory, in that it’s very easy for them to establish a pecking order with just them!

Keeping two angelfish is great if they are already paired up, so you have one male and one female.

After that, it is then best jumping up to six, as that way, any aggression or issues over pecking order is spread out between them. It is less likely that one fish will be picked out of a larger group and bullied than within a smaller group.

group of angelfish
Somebody didn’t get the memo about numbers..

Feed them the correct amount.

When you are new to fishkeeping, you are always told that you should never overfeed your fish. It is just as important that you don’t underfeed them as well, as that can also have a damaging effect in your tank.

Hungry fish can be aggressive fish as they may have to race to get to the food first if you aren’t feeding them enough.

It really is a case of trial and error at first when it comes to feeding your fish the correct amount.

A rule of thumb is that all the food you feed your fish should be eaten within 3 minutes. If your fish finish eating everything well within that time, you are not feeding them enough. If, after three minutes, there is still a lot of food floating around the tank, you are feeding them too much, so remember to adjust what you give them the next time you feed them.

Get your timing right.

It is best to add your angelfish to the tank at the same time, and preferably when they are juvenile.

If you were to add angelfish to a tank that already has some in it. This would cause a problem. The fish in the tank will already have sorted out their pecking order and will be more than a bit miffed at new angelfish being added.

Best Tank Mates for Angelfish.

Never put any really small fish in with your angelfish. Fish such as Neon Tetras shouldn’t be in there. The angelfish won’t show any aggression to them as they will be too busy eating them!

You also don’t want any fin nippers in there as Angelfish have a lot of fins that can be nipped at very easily. Tiger Barbs, Serpae Tetras and Kissing Gouramis are a few that spring to mind.

Angelfish are known to be fin nippers as well (ironic, I know), but this is mostly when they are squabbling with other angelfish.

A popular choice of tankmate for angelfish seems to be corydoras. They tend to just hang out in their own little group, mooching around the bottom of the tank for bits of food, and are mostly very peaceful. Some of the smaller gouramis or larger tetras are also fine as tankmates.

angelfish pair
Loving or hating?

Conclusion.

Angelfish can make a great addition to a community tank, provided you don’t overstock your tank by adding too many fish in.

Male angelfish do show aggression to other angelfish, but this can be greatly reduced by using common sense and making your fish as comfortable and stress free as possible.

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