By Priyanka Kaushal*

Mesmerizing, Fascinating, Enthralling… and what not! Angelfish are true ‘Angels in Disguise’. Their soft flowing lines and graceful movements bestow them with a unique aquatic angelic quality. Angelfish are some of the most spectacular-looking fish that you can keep in a marine aquarium. But surprisingly, we also have a Freshwater Angelfish! It is a beautiful fish from South America. Though not a true Angelfish, they get their name due to the wing-like shape of their fins; however, in reality they are a type of Cichlid. Their exquisitely long fins trail behind them gracefully as they swim, creating a magnificent display! This species is gorgeous and have long been an excellent choice for many home aquarists.

Angelfish come in a variety of colours and shapes. Despite the numerous types, there are only three species: the common (Pterophyllum scalare), the altum (Pterophyllum altum), and the Leopold’s (Pterophyllum leopoldi). Most common amongst these is Pterophyllum scalare.

When you organize your aquarium, you spend a long time thinking about the varieties of fish you want to have. If you are considering getting an Angelfish, following are some of the most popular Angelfish varieties kept as pets:

Blushing Angelfish

The name comes from the two red gills that make this fish look like it is blushing. Lack of pigmentation on the gill cover (operculum) allows red colour of the gills to show through. The gill colour can vary from pale orange to bright red, depending on the parentage. This variety is sometimes simply referred as ‘blushing angels’. They typically have no dusky markings at all and no hint of stripes. The body is usually golden, but in some fish you will also notice a silver shade. In general, the golden colour appears after they reach maturity.

Zebra Angelfish

This interesting variation has four to six stripes across the body, akin to those of a zebra, over a delicate, blue colouring underneath. Zebras are a little smaller than some of the other types. They are also a little faster and more active swimmers. Zebra Angelfish may develop red eyes when fully mature and in good health. They have no special requirements, but it is recommended to not keep them in the same aquarium with large fish that can harm them.

Gold Angelfish

Golds feature a split pattern of silver and gold; even though the young fish don’t have a very clear golden colour, but by their first year of life in the right condition, they will develop golden hues.

Strange as it sounds, Gold Angelfish first popped up from a school of black lace fry. In the late 1960s, an Angelfish breeder in Milwaukee was surprised to find an oddly coloured fry in a single spawning of black lace angels. The colour was a buried recessive trait that happened to turn up in the batch.

Golden angels are now relatively common and are cross-bred with other varieties to create unusually-coloured specimens. They have long, trailing fins, so consider their tank mates carefully. Surely, you do not want anyone nibbling on them when you are not watching. You don’t have to worry about their requirements too much, but you have to make sure that the aquarium has proper lights to bring out the best saturation of their colour.

Koi Angelfish

Most people must have heard of Koi Carp, but did anyone ever think that the Carp and Angelfish could be combined. Well, they can be and the result is spectacular! The Koi Angelfish has been bred to have colouration resembling that of the Japanese Koi. It can have a variety of colours – from gold to bright orange with black spots.

Interesting fact about them is that Koi Angelfish change colour depending on their mood. Yes, that’s true! The amount of orange seen varies according to the stress level of the fish; as they become stressed, the orange tone gets darker.

Marble Angelfish

Marble Angelfish combine the best features in one. The classic Marble Angelfish shows the distinctive marbling on the body, coupled with stripes on the fins. They have fins that aren’t too flowing to tempt nippers, with swirling patterns in black, white, orange, and silver. Marble Angelfish are one of the most resilient types and are usually able to adapt to changes such as temperature in the fish tank. Marbles share strong genetics to the common Angelfish, which means you get a sturdy fish that isn’t susceptible to disease. This specimen has a dash of gold thrown in, making it particularly attractive.

Silver Angelfish

The Silver Angelfish are the hardiest and easiest to care for, making them the top choice for novices. They have silver bodies with three distinct dark stripes. One stripe goes through the eye, with the other two down the body. Similar to the Koi Angelfish, the three vertical black stripes can fade or darken depending on the mood of the fish.

Silver Angelfish have long been the backbone of the freshwater Angelfish trade. They are the colour variation that most closely resembles the ‘wild type’ of the species, P. scalare.

Leopard Angelfish

This variety of Angelfish looks extraordinary in a well-organized tank; however, it is not as common as the others. Leopard Angelfish trace their roots to common Angelfish. Rather than the usual stripes, they have spots on their sides. You’ll find a lot of variations in the spots with your leopard Angelfish. If you want this pattern of spots to remain clear and dazzling when they are adults, you need to keep the lighting as close to natural as possible. If you overdo/underdo it, the pigment will change and the spots will disappear, leaving behind a smoky look. Leopards make an excellent choice for freshwater aquariums if you are up for the lighting challenge!

Black Lace Angelfish

It is considered one of the most attractive of all of the Angelfish. The Lace Angelfish was first bred in the 1950s. The Black Lace variation is a Silver or Zebra Angelfish in which extra black genes are present. Angelfish that carry a single dark gene fall into the black lace type while those with two dark genes are labelled as black, double black, or double darks. This fish is very common in aquariums, though most fish keepers prefer the more colourful types. When keeping Black Lace Angels in an aquarium that has the right amount of light, it’s possible to see traces of the fish’s neutral patterns.

Black lace Angelfish aren’t the most active swimmers. They have a more relaxed temperament, though they are susceptible to loud noises. So, ensure that you keep their aquarium somewhere quiet.

Albino Angelfish

These fish represent a natural genetic aberration; they lack any black colour on their body and have stereotypical pink eyes. Complete lack of pigmentation makes them suitable for those who don’t want flash and drama in their fishy tank! However, if you catch your Albino in the right light, you can perceive pale golden stripes along the sides. They are incredibly susceptible to disease and unfortunately, your Albino Angelfish wouldn’t live very long, no matter whatever conditions you provide; this type has the shortest lifespan in the group!

Veil Angelfish

Veil Angelfish will add drama and brilliance to your aquarium. They rank at the top for popularity among different types of Angelfish and are one of the most beautiful ones too! Over 40 years of selective breeding have created the over-the-top fins available in every colour and pattern you could want; this Angelfish can be combined with any other colour Angelfish.

Unfortunately, due to their extended fins, Veils swim much slower than other Angelfish. This makes them more prone to fin and tail rot. Also, if you try to keep this fish with other aggressive species, they will have their fins bit. So you have to be careful. Another point to pay attention is the temperature of the water because this fish is sensitive to variations of temperature.

Altum Angelfish

The Altum Angelfish is more a wild species as opposed to a colour variation. It is the largest of the three described species of Pterophyllum and is sometimes called Orinoco Angelfish or Blue Angelfish. This variety of Angelfish is not commonly seen in the aquarium trade, so if you have your heart set on one, you may need to research a reputable breeder.

As Altums come from the original habitat, they are more demanding in their tank needs; they are more sensitive to changes in water conditions, and they require larger, deeper tanks. Usually, it will have a silvery body with dark bars that are brownish to red, though adults may show red spots and a blue-green cast to the dorsal fin. As they are the largest in the group, they make excellent centerpiece fish and look stunning in an aquarium.

There you go… The most common types of Angelfish for your freshwater aquarium! These striking members of the cichlid family (Cichlidae) would enhance colour and drama in your tank, adding just the right touch of sophistication.

Have fun choosing your Angelfish! 

*Editor – Creature Companion Magazine

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