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Choosing a Saltwater Angelfish

Saltwater angelfish are among the most beautiful of all reef creatures. Their colors are deep and rich and often cleverly painted by Neptune into stripes and spots. These fish are found in all the world’s oceans, although the greatest diversity of this group is found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

Angelfish live in rocky areas and reefs where they feast on the abundant coral. And although these species can be rather territorial, preventing you from keeping more than one of a species in a tank, they are among the most popular aquarium fish. Despite their delicate appearance, once acclimated to your tank angelfish are incredibly hardy and can be a long-time resident of your aquarium. The trick is getting them acclimated.


Angelfish are picky about space. They need lots of it. And you should anticipate that some species grow quite large – up to 16 inches. Unless you keep a small species of angel, such as a pygmy angelfish, your tank should be no less than 75 gallons if you want to keep angels. A big tank will allow the other fish to give the angel the body space it wants, maintaining peace. Water quality must be up to par with that of a coral reef tank – good circulation, good oxygen levels, low nitrates, comfortable temperatures – but the biggest problem most aquarists have in keeping angels is providing the right nutrition. These fish normally eat coral – how can you replace that?


In fact, most angelfish will eat a wide variety of plant and animal material. Flake food will provide the vegetable matter (some will eat pelleted food or fresh vegetable matter, but it all depends on the species). You should provide some source of live food, at least on occasion, brine shrimp or small clams will do. Those angelfish that do eat shrimp and clams may also start snacking on any invertebrates you may have in the tank, so check your fish’s diet before you buy.


There are many varieties of angelfish, although some are better for your tank than others. Be sure to investigate the species you decide on. Some get to be enormous while others have very strict dietary needs. Here’s a brief list of some readily available angels: