The freshwater angelfish is recognizable thanks to its tall, gorgeous fins, interesting markings, and graceful swimming style.
As an Apistogramma enthusiast, have you ever wondered if apistogramma and angelfish can live together in the same aquarium?
This article will explore the factors that determine whether or not these two species can coexist peacefully, including their size, aggression levels, and tank requirements.
Can Angelfish and Apistogramma Live Together?
While it may seem like a straightforward answer as to whether Apistogramma can live with Pencilfish, it can get a little tricky. The short answer is yes. In large, well-designed display tanks, Angelfish and Apistogramma often get along well, although it does depend on the species and the temperaments and behavior of all involved. Do not mix them in the same tank for breeding purposes.
Angelfish and Apistogramma Coexistence
There are a variety of factors that can help determine fish compatibility. Possibly the two most important things in making the angelfish a potential tank mate for Apistogramma are their preferred tank levels and their same water parameter requirements.
Preferred Tank Levels
One overlooked but important point in mixing different species in a community aquarium is the water level at which the fish swim. Angelfish typically swim in the middle to top levels of the aquarium, while Apistogramma are bottom dwellers and spend most of their time near the bottom.
Unlike Corys or Rams, this helps reduce the unnecessary stress caused by completion for territories.
Habitat & Water Quality Parameters
The most commonly kept angelfish in the hobby is Pterophyllum scalare or its domestic varieties. In the wild, it hails from the Amazon River system, inhabiting the Río Ucayali in Peru, the Rio Oiapoque in French Guiana, the Río Esequibo in Guyana, and the Rio Solimões, Rio Amapá, and Río Amazonas in Brazil.
They are found almost exclusively in still, slow-moving, deeper water in forest areas where the light is filtered by overhanging vegetation and tends to be fairly dim.
As for water parameters, wild-caught specimens prefer warmer temperatures in the range of 78-86°F (25.5 – 30°C) and a neutral pH of 6.0 up to near 8.0. The water is naturally soft with hardness between 3° to 8° dKH (54 to 145 ppm). Many captive-bred strains in the trade come from Florida fish farms, which are known for having high GH levels.
Did you know that many species of Apistogramma and Angelfish may be sympatric but not syntopic in biology? This means they may coexist in the same biotope throughout the Amazon, but they usually do not occupy the same habitats.
In captivity, they will eventually adapt to a range of environmental parameters and tank set-ups without any problems if reproduction is not paramount. However, to increase the chances of success, it is also advisable to choose species that have similar water parameter requirements.
Ways to Help Angelfish and Apistogramma Coexist
No matter what kind of aquarium setting you keep them in, all fish require good water quality and a nutritious, balanced diet. Besides that, there are a few things you can take to help ensure that Angelfish and Apistogramma live together peacefully in a community tank.
The common Pterophyllum scalare can grow quite large, up to 7 inches (18 cm) in length and 13 inches (33 cm) in height. These monogamous fish do best when kept in a shoal of at least four individuals.
On the other hand, Apistogramma are typically smaller but require roomy bottom areas to establish territories. They can be kept in pairs, trios, or large groups with ample hiding places.
To ensure the coexistence of the Apistogramma and Angelfish combination, it is necessary to plan the tank size before adding any fish.
An ideal tank should be high enough to provide enough vertical space for the angelfish while still offering a large enough footprint for the Apistogramma to establish territories. The most popular tank size for this combination is a 55-gallon aquarium (48″ x 13″ x 21″).
Since most Apistogramma species prefer slightly cooler water compared to angelfish, and consistently higher temperatures are associated with increased metabolism  and shorter lifespans, you should try to keep the tank temperature on the cool side. Ideally, aim for temperatures below 82°F (28°C). Periods of fluctuation in water temperature won’t cause major damage.
Furthermore, do not mix cold-water Apistos, such as Apistogramma borellii, with angelfish. A significant temperature difference can cause stress on both species and may weaken their immune system, resulting in disease outbreaks.
The filtration should also be gentle enough since Angelfish and Apistogramma prefer areas of low water movement. You may benefit from using two HOB filters for your 55 gallons community tank.
These two South American cichlid species require soft water. Several methods can reduce the phosphate content in your tap water, including using rainwater or reverse osmosis (RO) water, purchasing pre-mixed water from your local fish shop, or investing in a RO/DI unit for long-term use.
Another important factor to consider is the number of fish you plan to keep. While angelfish can be kept in pairs or small groups, Apistogramma can also be housed in larger groups such as trios or harems.
For a 30-gallon community aquarium, keep no more than four adult angelfish along with a pair or trio of Apistos. As a general rule, have just one male Apistogramma with a group of females. This will help reduce aggression and ensure that each fish has enough space to establish its own territory.
For a 55-gallon or 75-gallon community tank, it is advisable to start with at least 6 to 12 juvenile angelfish and the same number of juvenile Apistogramma, depending on the species. Raise them together until they reach adulthood.
Juveniles are usually outgoing and less territorial, so they should be able to get along well. It is also wise to have an extra 20-gallon high tank on hand as a backup for breeding purposes or aggressive fish.
Remember that angelfish will get to the food faster, so it is important to ensure that Apistogramma receives enough food. Both fish have a taste for live foods, like brine shrimp, daphnia, and mosquito larvae. To avoid competition between the two species, you can simply provide Apistos live foods using a piece of PVC pipe.
Be aware of your fish and their temperaments. If you have a bully or territorial Apistogramma pair, it may disrupt the angelfish, and you may need to separate them.
When introducing new fish into an established tank, supervise carefully and watch for signs of aggression. If you see any, you can use a partition or rearrange plants to separate the fish until they are fully acclimatized.
- The Influence of Temperature and Diet Quality on Fish Metabolism Frances M. Iannucc 2012
- Species monographed by Kullander (1982a).