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June 6, 2014

Good day, friends. Unfortunately, we’ve had some issues with bringing in new fish –not with the fish themselves but the timing; our new batch arrived late last night after closing. They’ll have to go through their prerequisite resting period before we make them available – this has provided me with the chance to write about some more common fish! While I’m sure a good portion of you are enjoying the attention to the common, for those that prefer more unusual fish, we’ll return to them soon enough.

Almost everyone in the freshwater aquarium hobby knows of Pterophyllum scalare, the Angelfish.  Angelfish are probably the most common cichlid in the home aquarium and most easily recognizable, despite the vast difference in their body shape from most other members of the Cichlidae family.  Despite the fish being very difficult to sex – basically impossible outside of spawning -- breeding is frequently achieved in home aquaria. A piece of slate or driftwood kept at a high angle between 55° and 80° will provide a suitable surface upon which the female will lay her eggs and little needs to be done to encourage a pair, though conditioning the fish by feeding them profusely with live or frozen food will help them along.

P. scalareis available in a wide range of selectively bred color morphs such as black, marble, koi, silver, and blue neon as well as fin morphology such as the long-finned veil varieties.  After doing some quick research, one can discover that the genetics relating to the various phenotypes of domestic angels were fairly thoroughly researched in the early 1980s to mid-1990s by a Dr. Joanne Norton.  Most, if not all, color morphs can be attributed to 13 identified unique gene pairings.  Each gene pairing has three possible combinations - essentially "on/on", "on/off", and "off/off", much like a double light switch.  13 pairings equate to 313possible combinations of genes, or over 1.5 million combinations.  Thanks to dominance of certain genes over others, such as dark coloration over albinism, we don't have 1.5 million varieties of Angelfish to keep track of.


76°F - 86°F

pH values:



0-15 dH

Maximum size:

6” long and 8” high, excluding finnage

Care level:

Easy and undemanding.


Omnivorous; tank-raised fish are unfussy.

Aggression level:

Peaceful but may squabble amongst own species or eat small fish. Avoid guppies and other long finned   tankmates.

Aquarium size:

30 gallon tall for breeding pairs, 55 gallon or larger for   communities or groups.

Of course, the wild type coloration of the Silver Angelfish is a long-standing staple in the home aquarium, especially for those looking to set up a natural-looking biotope without bringing in potentially expensive wild fish. Bold black vertical bars run across the fish’s eye and gill plate, from the front edge of the dorsal fin to the front of the anal fin, and from the middle of the dorsal fin to the middle of the anal fin. Fainter grey barring occurs between each of these stripes as well as on the caudal peduncle. This all overlays a shimmering silver body dusted from above with warm brown coloration.


In contrast to the wild Silver Angelfish, Marble Angels come in a variety of colors with broken, irregular or mottled black vertical lines. This can range from large amounts of black over silver or white in the case of the classic Marble, to a small amount over a white and golden tinted body as in the Gold Marble Angel. The markings vary broadly between individual fish, with some featuring a marbling so intense that none of the natural pattern is visible, to a subtler variation where the natural stripes are simply broken or slightly askew.



In contrast, the Half Black Angel features a creamy silver front and a black tail region, the color break occurring just behind the first rays of their dorsal and anal fins. The black and silver proportions can vary greatly between individual fish and some specimens show remnants of the wild form’s vertical black bars as well.


Those with irregular divisions between dark and light regions, often featuring deep silver and dark chocolate coloration and dark heads, are the Smokey Angelfish. These fish are lovely in their unique irregularities and markings.


Lastly, we have the Blushing Angel. A Blushing Angelfish is any whose gill plates are transparent, showing the pink of their gill tissues beneath. The Blush is most visible in pale-colored fish, however, they can come in many different varieties – Gold marble, Platinum and Smokey are common in the Blushing Angels, while dark colors such as Black and intense Marble are unusual.

With such a variety of color morphs available, there’s an angelfish for every taste, ranging from the pure wild-caught fish to the colorful Blue Neon Angels. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these longstanding staples of the aquarium hobby and we’ll see you here next week!