Breeding Angelfish

Breeding Angelfish

Sexing Angelfish and obtaining a suitable pair

It is usually very hard to distinguish a female Scalare form a male one, since the look very similar. Most Angelfish keepers are actually unsure of the sex of their fish until they notice which one is laying the eggs and which one that is fertilizing them. If you watch your Angelfish closely right before the spawning commence, you will however notice a small difference in the size of the papilla between the sexes. The papilla is a pink coloured organ formed between the anal fin and the ventral fin. Both sexes will display a papilla right before spawning, but the Angelfish with the largest papilla is usually the female one. Her papilla will also be blunter than the males, and when the female Angelfish becomes gravid she will display a large bulge in the region around her papilla. You can also notice a difference in behaviour; a male Angelfish is more territorial than a female. If one of your female Angelfish becomes gravid, all the male Angelfish in the aquarium will form a papilla. Those fishes that do not display a papilla in this situation are either females or unhealthy males.

Angelfish forms pair before breeding. They do however not pair up for life. The easiest way of obtaining a pair is to buy an already established pair from a breeder or a fish store. This is however quite expensive and forming your own pair is much cheaper. A recommended way of forming a pair is to buy 4-8 Scalare and place them in the same aquarium, where they can get to know each other and form their own pairs. Choose fish with good external features, that looks strong and that display a healthy appetite. Study the fins and gills extra carefully for signs of illness. It is advisable to buy from an established breeder if you want to produce high quality Angelfish. If you can’t find a Scalare breeder in your area, you can buy your fish online, but make sure to choose a reputable website to ensure high quality fish.

Getting Angelfish into spawning condition

Your Scalare will usually need to become at least 5 cm / 2 inches before they are mature enough to spawn for the first time. If kept on a suitable diet, this will happen when the Angelfish is between 8 and 12 months old. To induce spawning, you should keep your Angelfish in an aquarium that is large enough and not overcrowded. The aquarium should ideally be at least 40 cm / 16 inches high, since the Angelfish is a tall fish. An aquarium that is to shallow will stunt their growth. Angelfish can survive quite poor water qualities and unsuitable water temperatures, but it can make them stop eating and will inhibit breeding. Frequent water changes should therefore be performed and the water temperature kept between 80 and 85 degrees F (27 and 29 degrees C).

Suitable food is also necessary to get your Angelfish into spawning condition. The diet should be varied. Prepared foods especially made for Angelfish is a good base, but should be supplemented with meaty foods. Mosquito larvae, daphnia, beef heart, brine shrimp and larger brine shrimp cut up into suitable size are food types known to induce spawning in Angelfish. Even though your Angelfish must be given plenty of food, you must also avoid overfeeding them. Check the aquarium 5 minutes after the feeding and remove any food that has not yet been consumed. If you frequently find left over food in the aquarium after 5 minutes, you are feeding your Angelfish to much.

Spawning signs in Angelfish

Good angelfish for breeding
Choose good parents when breeding angelfish.
If an Angelfish suddenly displays a bulging belly and a more aggressive behaviour, it is probably a gravid female Angelfish. Two Angelfish grooming each other is also a typical breeding behaviour. Angelfish of both sexes will also flash fins, face off, lock their mouths and twist around. When a couple has been formed, they will choose a spawning site and start cleaning it together.

Angelfish egg laying and fertilization

The Angelfish eggs will be deposited on the spawning slate and placed in very neat and evenly spaced lines. If she doesn’t like the spawning slate, she will deposit the eggs somewhere else in the aquarium. The male Angelfish will fertilize the eggs by following close behind the female and touching all the eggs with his papilla. If you keep only female Angelfish, one of the females might actually resume a male behaviour and follow the egg-laying female and touch the eggs. Those eggs will naturally remain unfertilized and become white within a few days.

Angelfish egg and fry care

Several methods are used by Angelfish breeders to protect eggs and fry from hungry adult fish. Some remove all fish except the breeding pair from the aquarium, while other breeders choose to remove the breeding pair instead and place them in a special breeding aquarium. Some remove less dominant males until only the most dominant male is left with the females in the aquarium. This method also involves removing all non-gravid females from the aquarium.

All adult Angelfish pose a treat to the eggs, and many breeders will therefore place the eggs in their own tank as soon as the eggs have been fertilized. The easiest way is to put a special spawning slate in the aquarium before the spawning takes place. The parent fish will deposit the egg on the spawning slate, and the spawning slate can be easily moved afterwards. A clay pot, poly pipe or a piece of smooth surfaced tile will all work as spawning slates. The eggs will survive a brief moment out of the water when you lift them from one aquarium to the other, but try to make the move as fast as possible.

If you do not wish to keep all your fry, you can let the eggs stay in the aquarium with the adult fish. If you provide your fry with suitable hiding places, such as heavily planted areas, at least a few of them will reach adulthood. Be aware of strong filtration, since small fry can be sucked into filter systems.

If your Angelfish pair has never spawned before, it is usually a good idea to let them spawn once or twice in their normal aquarium “on their own” without your meddling. If you move them to a breeding aquarium during their first spawning they might be confused and stop the spawning process. It is normal for the parents to eat the eggs from their first spawning, and if this happens the female will usually deposit eggs again after just a few weeks.

Angelfish development

Black angelfish for breeding
Angelfish breeding have result in many types of angelfish
Such as this Black marbled catfish. Copyright
Newly deposited Scalare eggs are transparent or semi-transparent, with a pale yellow colouration. If the eggs are not fertilized, they will start turning white after approximately 24 hours. If they have not been eaten by other inhabitants of the aquarium, unfertilized Scalare eggs will be attacked by fungus and start looking very fuzzy after roughly 48 hours. 48 hours after being deposited, fertilized eggs on the other hand will begin showing wiggling fry tails. On day three, tadpole shapes with large yolk sacks will be visible. The tadpoles will still be attached to the breeding slate. If the parent Angelfish are still in the same aquarium as the egg, the parents will now start to move the small fry around. On the fourth day you will be able to see tiny eyes on the fry and on the fifth day the yolks will start shrinking. Very soon the first fry will be free swimming. During day seven the fry will usually start getting hungry since their energy from the yolk have been consumed.

Suitable tank for Angelfish fry

If you decide to raise the Angelfish eggs and fry in a special aquarium, a 5-10 gallon (19-38 litres) tank will be suitable, but even a tank no larger than 2 gallons will usually work. You do not need to cover the egg and fry aquarium. If you allow the parent Scalare to accompany their offspring in the aquarium, the parents will keep the eggs clean and protect them from mould. If the eggs are kept without the parents, you must use fungicide to prevent fungus attacks. Make sure that the water temperature in the raising tank is the same as in the parent's old aquarium. An air stone in the raising aquarium will make it easier to maintain high oxygen levels. Keep the water quality good by frequently removing any dead fry and left over food. Regular water changes are also a must. Typically, a lot of the Scalare fry will die. You might have to remove dead fry from the aquarium three times a day or more. During the first three weeks, water changes can be necessary as often as once a day.

Feeding Angelfish fry

You can start feeding your Angelfish fry around 7 days after the eggs were deposited. Angelfish fry can survive 12 hours without food, but should ideally be fed four or five times a day. Newly hatched Brine Shrimp (Artemia nauplii) are a good first food for Angelfish fry. If the fry is too small to consume the Brine Shrimp, you can buy the fry special fry food from a pet shop or fish store. The survival rate for Angelfish fry is usually very much lover when the fry is fed dead food instead of live food (such as live Brine Shrimp). When the fry are a few weeks old it is time to make them grow accustomed to flake foods. Turn the flake food into a powder or press it through a fine screen before feeding it to the fry.

Angelfish guarding and caring behaviours

redhead ghost angelfish for breeding
Redhead ghost angelfish is another result of selective angelfish breeding.
As mentioned above, it is quite common for Angelfish to eat their eggs or fry, especially during the first few spawnings. This is why most Angelfish breeders place the eggs in a special aquarium without any adult fish. It is however very fascinating to watch an Angelfish pair taking care of their own offspring. You can for instance remove some of the eggs, and let some stay with the parents. If you leave the eggs to hatch with the parents, the parents will spawn again after 2 or 3 weeks and the already hatched fry will use the eggs as food. When the fry is 5 or 6 weeks old you will see them eat from the skin and fins of their parents. This behaviour can make the parents very weak and even cause them to die.

Some Scalare individuals are more aggressive than others, and will not be able to raise their own offspring. They will always eat their offspring or at least chaise them away. Such individuals can usually be singled out as early as during the courtship period, since they are extremely aggressive and sometimes even injure a fish they wish to breed with. For instance, it is not that rare for Angelfish to suffer from severely injured mouths after the courtship period.

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