Possibly the most recognized freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby, angelfish belong to the family Cichlidae. Admired for their graceful swimming behavior, angelfish make stunning additions to large community aquariums. Wild caught angelfish are rare in the aquarium hobby, with most fish for sale being captive raised. Wild angelfish are silver with black vertical stripes, however, through selective breeding, many color patterns as well as long-finned varieties, known as “veiltails” have been developed over the years. Most angelfish sold in the hobby are Pterophyllum scalare, however, P. altum is occasionally available. A third species, P. leopoldi, the smallest and most aggressive species of angelfish, is almost never seen.
Angelfish are native to a large area of tropical South America, including much of the Amazon River system. In their natural habitat, they are found almost exclusively in quiet, slow moving water. In the wild they prefer dimly lit areas, under overhanging vegetation or among trees that have fallen into the river.
While angelfish are generally peaceful fish, they are cichlids and can be aggressive toward one another, especially when attempting to pair off and spawn. Also, they will not hesitate to eat smaller fish. This does not mean they are aggressive, as many aquarists believe; like most fish, they are opportunistic and will eat anything that fits into their mouth. Suitable aquarium mates include larger tetras and rasboras, gouramis, peaceful barbs, rainbowfish, corydoras and other medium-sized catfish. Angelfish can also be kept with discus in larger aquariums, if the temperature is maintained above 82° F.