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Breeding Angelfish Part 12 –Growing out the Fry

This will conclude our series on breeding Angelfish.

Angelfish will eat baby Brine shrimp immediately upon becoming free swimming.

Things you should remember. First, these babies will be very small and weak, so you will need to turn off all filtration, except for a sponge filter.  The biggest mistake that you can make is to do a water change in this aquarium with water that is not EXACTLY the same temperature.  Angelfish fry are extremely sensitive to temperature shock and will die if you do a water change with water that is more than a few degrees different in temperature.  With that said, Angelfish fry are also very sensitive to ammonia burn, so you will need to do daily partial water changes.  We like to keep our grow out Angelfish tanks, until they reach about 1 inches, at a temperature of 82 degrees, as the high temperature increases their metabolism and speeds up growth.

Start adding a small amount of live baby brine shrimp to the tank within 24 hours of the fry becoming free swimming. For the first week, just feed them twice a day.  To much food will quickly cloud the tank at this stage and that is one of the biggest worries.  By the end of one month, they will be about 1/3 inch and will be eating baby brine shrimp four times a day  At this point they are much more hardy and you are pretty much out of the woods.  Your Angelfish fry should reach 1 inch in approximately 3-4 weeks.  At about 1/2 inches, you can start adding in a crumbled flake food.   We recommend adding Flake Beef Heart to their food and slowly convert them over to a diet of primarily flake food.  This is good for them health wise and will save you a lot of money in the long run.  It is also much more convenient.

Angelfish are very sensitive to overcrowding, so putting them into larger tanks as they grow is essential. If they are overcrowded, they will stop growing.  Once they are not overcrowded, they will start growing again.


Breeding Angelfish Part 11 –Raising the Fry Naturally

Previously we went over how to artificially raise the fry. Now we will go over raising the fry naturally.  Next we will go over growing out the baby Angelfish.

Naturally raising the fry requires very little work on your part. The parents do all of the work for you.  Unfortunately, it is very common for the parents to eat the babies, so most breeders artificially raise the fry.  There are advantages to naturally raising the fry over and above that it is much easier.  Angelfish fry will eat some slime off the parent’s side for the first few days.  Unlike Discus, they can survive without the slime and will immediately start eating other food.  This slime is very high in protein and contains antibodies that help the babies fight off disease.  Naturally raised fry will grow much faster at first and will have more resistance to disease throughout their lives.

There is also the enjoyment of watching your Angelfish raise the fry. They will stay mostly around the parents for the first month and the parents will zealously guard them. When a baby strays to far, the parents will mouth it back to the main school.  This is done by both the males and females.  There is nothing more rewarding than watching your large Angelfish parents and the fry swimming around the tank as a loose school.  I find this fascinating and it has always been my favorite part or the hobby.

Things you should remember. These babies will be very small and weak, so you will need to turn off all filtration, except for a sponge filter.  You can also take the sponge from a sponge filter and put it around the intake tube of an over the side filter.  Canister filters are two powerful to put the sponge on their intake tube.  The biggest mistake that you can make is to do a water change in this aquarium with water that is not EXACTLY the same temperature.  Angelfish fry are extremely sensitive to temperature shock and will die if you do a water change with water that is more than a few degrees different in temperature.  With that said, Angelfish fry are also very sensitive to ammonia burn, so you will need to do daily partial water changes.

Start adding a small amount of live baby brine shrimp to the tank within 24 hours of them becoming free swimming. Drip it directly over where the fry are located. Be careful how much you add as if most is uneaten, it can foul the water and lead to ammonia burn.  After two weeks, slowly reduce the amount of baby brine shrimp you add and slowly start adding crumbled beef heart flake. After a month, they should be eating exclusively beef heart flake.  By the end of one month, they will be about ½ inch.  At this point they are much hardier and you are pretty much out of the woods.  They will reach the size of a dime in about three months.

Breeding Angelfish Part 10 – Artificially Raising the Fry

Artificially raising Angelfish is actually very easy and if you are looking to have the highest survival ratio it is definitely the way to go.

We raise the fry in 5 gallon tanks. Getting the water correct is very important.  You should take water out of the spawning tank right before transferring the eggs and put it in the 5 gallon tank.  The temperature of the tank they are coming from and the one it is going into has to be the same.  A difference of even a couple of degrees will kill the eggs.  Clean water is absolutely essential for hatching the fry as if the water is at all dirty, fungus will form on the eggs. That is one reason that keeping the spawning tank water extremely clean is so important.  To assist in keeping fungus from forming, we do two additional things.  We add Methylene Blue to the water.  Add enough to turn the water a deep blue.  We also run heavy aeration next to the eggs, creating a current, which helps to stop fungus from forming.  When the tank is ready and all the above conditions are met, quickly take the eggs out of the spawning tank and place them into the rearing tank.  They should not be out of the water more than 10 seconds.  Just a heads up, the spawning Angelfish will be very unhappy about you taking their eggs out.  They will attack your hand and while it really does not hurt, it can be quite startling.  To reduce that, I usually tap on the opposite end of the tank to distract them then quickly reach in with my other hand to take the eggs out.  Hopefully the eggs will be on a breeding cone or something else that is very easy to remove.  If the tank they are coming from is a ways away from the tank they are going into, I use a 2 gallon bucket full of water from the spawning tank to move the eggs into before I move them to the rearing tank. 

Once the fry become Free Swimming at around 6 days, you will need to feed them within 24 hours. You should set up a Brine Shrimp hatchery on the fifth day so you can feed them newly hatched brine shrimp within hours of them becoming free swimming.  They will not eat much at first and you do not want to foul the water adding two much.  As the size of the spawn will vary significantly, how much you feed them will be somethings you have to decide when they hatch out. Feed your new Angelfish baby Brine Shrimp for three weeks.  After three weeks start cutting back on the baby brine shrimp and when you feed them add in some finely ground flake food.  Between 3 weeks and 5 weeks, slowly decrease the Brine Shrimp and increase the flake food until after the fifth week, they are eating only flake food.

After 5 weeks, you will need to transfer them to a larger tank. When Angelfish are crowded in a tank, their growth gets stunted.  They will grow VERY slowly to not at all if left in a small 5 gallon tank.  The size of the tank they need to be moved into depends on the size of the spawn.  Spawn size can be from just a few to a couple of thousand.  I once had a spawn of 2400 from one silver pair.  Black and Silver Angelfish usually have the largest spawns.  Young pairs typically have relatively small spawns, but the size of the spawn will increase as they mature.

In our next issue, we will go over naturally raising the fry.

Breeding Angelfish Part 8 – Free Swimming Fry

Previously we went over Angelfish infertility. We will now go over the fry prior to them becoming free swimming. Next we will go over fry after they become free swimming. This is the easiest part of spawning and is also one of the most fascinating. After 48 hours the eggs will begin to hatch. Only the dark ones will hatch. They are dark because after about 36 hours, the eye starts to develop and will show through the egg sack. Most of the fry will stay attached to the surface where the eggs were laid via a small membrane on their head. A few will become detached and will fall to the bottom. At this point the fry will look like a small comma to the naked eye. Under magnification, they are quite ugly and will look like something straight out of a monster movie. They will remain attached to the substrate for another four days. There is not much to do at this point. They will have an egg sack and will live off of it during this entire time. There are only two real concerns. The first is the parents eating them. If you are going to artificially raise the fry, you will want to take the parents out. If you are not going to artificially raise the fry, you should cover them with a screen. The second concern is fungus. Adding Methylene Blue to the water will mostly solve this. If you are going to artificially raise them, and have taken the parents out of the tank, you should add aeration about one inch from the fry to keep the water moving around them. They will start to become free swimming 4 days after hatching.

Breeding Angelfish-Part 7- Infertility

We have previously gone over the problem of Angelfish eating their eggs while spawning, or shortly thereafter. We will now go over fertility. Next we will go over what happens once the eggs hatch, but before the fry are free swimming. Fertility is an issue with Angelfish and will vary drastically between different pairs. Some pairs will be totally infertile; other pairs will be infertile at first and then will become fertile. On pairs that are fertile, the percentage of fertile eggs will range from just a few to, best case scenario, about 90% fertility. The amount of fry produced can vary from just a few to a couple of thousand. There are three main causes of infertility in Angelfish. The first one is mechanical and is caused by the male not doing his job and fertilizing the eggs. The second and third are biological and are due to either the eggs or sperm being genetically or chemically infertile. When Angelfish lay eggs, the male should follow the female on a fertilizing run as soon as she does an egg laying run. Some males only make the run after every two or three egg laying runs. It is my experience that these males tend to have a lower fertility rate. Some males will not fertilize at all. These tend to be the males that also are most aggressive on eating the eggs. There is very little you can do to change these males. Some Angelfish are infertile due to water chemistry. To optimize fertility, water temps should be kept constant between 84 and 88 degrees. Ph should be kept constant at 6.5. Heavy filtration, if possible, is a big plus. I try and avoid doing water changes at this time. The hatch rate is the best when the water is soft. Fluctuation in any of the water conditions while the eggs are developing will result in infertility. So once you put them in the hatch tank, DO NOT change any water conditions. Angelfish that are genetically infertile will never be fertile. Please note that keeping water temperatures above 96 degrees for over a week will usually result in the permanent infertility of Angelfish. Some Breeders have been known to purposefully sterilize the Angelfish they sell to keep others from being able to breed the strains they have developed. We would never do this.

Breeding Angelfish – Part 5 – The Spawning Process

In the last article we went over how to get your Angelfish to spawn. In this article we will go over the actual spawning process. The spawning process is everyone’s favorite part. This is what hooked me on Tropical Fish as a young boy and I still, 45 years after my first spawn, find it fascinating.. The first sign that your Angelfish are getting ready to spawn will be their obsession with cleaning the slate or breeding cone you provided. It will always be on a surface that is mostly vertical and if you do not provide a surface that meets that condition on which you want them to use for spawning, they will spawn on other surfaces that are much more difficult such as the side of the tank or filter tubing. Once you see both of them cleaning the spawning site, spawning will usually follow within a day or two. You will also see them start doing the mating dance. They will swim towards each other at a slightly upward angle. Once they get next to each other, they will shimmer and then swim away from each other at a slightly lowered angle. The mating dance is not always performed. I have found that Wild Caught Angelfish almost always do it, but later generations of tank raised strains often do not. The most spectacular aspect of the spawning will be the colors of your Angelfish. Whatever their color, it will become MUCH more intense and vibrant during spawning. This will be the prettiest you will ever see your Angelfish. They will also become aggressive toward other fish, including other Angelfish, at this time. They will aggressively defend the breeding site from all intruders, including you. If you put your hand in near the spawning site when they are preparing to spawn or have already spawned, they, usually the male, will bite your hand. While it really does not hurt much, they will do it very aggressively, it will startle you and it will be something you want to avoid. At some point after your Angelfish start doing all of the above, they will actually lay the eggs. It will start with the female rubbing her belly, and her breeding tube, against the surface that they have cleaned. She will always lay in an upwards motion. The total length of the spawning run will be between ½ and five inches. She will lay between 1 and 12 eggs per spawning run. They can lay over a thousand eggs at one spawning, but it it usually 3 to 5 hundred. The more mature the pair, the larger the spawn will be. The male Angelfish will usually then follow directly behind her in the same basic motion fertilizing the eggs. The entire process can take between one and five hours. The eggs will usually be beige This is when the fun is over and the frustration can start. The first two issues that you will be confronted with are eating of the eggs, especially by the male, and infertility. In the next article in this series, we will go over Angelfish eating the eggs.

Breeding Angelfish-Part 6- Eating of Eggs and Fry

We will now go over what to expect after the eggs have been laid. This is where the frustration starts. The first two issues that you will be confronted with are eating of the eggs and fry, especially by the male, and infertility. We will go over the eating of the eggs first. We will go over infertility in the next part of the series. One problem, and the one you must get past, with breeding Angelfish is the eating of the eggs, or fry once the eggs hatch out, by the parents. The good news is that only about 30% of the spawning Angelfish pairs will eat the eggs and another 20% will eat the fry as soon as they hatch out. This is a much lower percentage than with some other Cichlids such as Discus. While both parents will eat the eggs, the male does it more often. This is sometimes done as they spawn and there is very little you can do if this occurs while spawning. The female will make her egg-laying run and then the male, instead of following her with a fertilizing run, will follow her and eat the row of eggs. This behavior is most common in new pairs. Many new pairs will eat their eggs in the first couple of spawns and then eventually stop eating the eggs, so do not give up on them. If you get lucky and they do not eat their eggs when spawning, there is still a chance that they will eat them before they hatch. Fortunately, if you get this far, there is something you can do. You can, at this point, take the eggs out and artificially raise them or you can take a mesh screen (house soffit screen works very well) and fit it directly over the eggs. This will allow the Angelfish to still blow on the eggs and bond with them, but will keep them from eating the eggs. Obviously, you will need to have planned for the spawning and will need to have created the screen prior to the actual spawn. If the eggs do not get eaten and are fertile, they should hatch out in two days and become free swimming in about six days. In the next article, we will go over infertility.

Breeding Angelfish – Part 4 – Spawning

Last article we went over Spawning Tank set up. This week we will go over how to get your Angelfish to spawn. The first thing you need to understand is that you are not in total control. If Angelfish do not want to pair off, there is nothing you can do about it. The only thing you can do is provide the right conditions so that it is more likely that they will pair off. If you have a sexed pair and they are the only Angelfish in the tank, it is likely with about a 80% chance that they will eventually pair off if left together for a long period of time. To hurry our potential young lovers along, we provide conditions that are conducive for romance. We put 12 newly mature Angelfish in a 55 gallon tank and let them acclimate to it for two weeks. We then start doing some sudden changes in the tank conditions to stimulate courtship. Some of the changes we make are • Change the water temperature to 72 degrees for a few days and then bring it up to 86 degrees over about 12 hours and then leave it at 86 degrees for the remainder of a week. • Let the tank get somewhat dirty, not doing the daily water changes for a few days and then doing a 80% water change. • Feed them heavily for a few days and then stop feeding them for four days, followed by feeding them live food for three days. • Do two 60% water changes four hours apart where the Ph goes from 6.5 to 7.0 at the first change and then from 7.0 to 7.5 at the second change. • Leave the tank dark for two full days and then turn the lights on for two full days. If we have tried all of the above and after two months they still have not paired off, we switch out six of those Angelfish and start the process over again with six new Angelfish along with six remaining. In the next article we will go over the spawning process.

Breeding Angelfish – Part 3 – Spawning Tank Set Up

Last week we went over how to get the Breeding Pairs. This week we will go over the tank that we move the pairs into for spawning. We keep our breeder pairs in 30 Gallon tanks. Some breeders use 20 gallon tanks. We think the larger tanks are more beneficial to the breeders as they will pretty much stay in that tank for the rest of their lives. We use both an outside filtration and a sponge filter in the breeder tanks. Having extremely clean water is very important. The angelfish will breed in tanks that are a little dirty, but the chance the eggs will develop fungus after spawning is increased dramatically if the water is slightly dirty. We recommend a base temperature of 84 degrees for breeding angelfish. It is very important that the water not be hard. Hard water will significantly increase the chances that eggs will be infertile or the fry will die when they start becoming free swimming. Hard water will also increase the chance of deformities in fry. We recommend a Ph of 6.5 and a TDS under 100. Lighting is important for spawning. We recommend that you set your lights on timers with 14 hours of light and 10 hours of dark. You should do two 40% water changes each week. We will go over how to get your breeding pairs of Angelfish to spawn in our next article.

Breeding Angelfish – Part 2 – Breeding Pairs

As we went over in the last article, we do not sex out Angelfish to get our breeding pairs. Instead, we have found the best way is to put 12 slightly under breeding size Angelfish (body size without fins of around 1.5 to two inches) in a 55 gallon tank and let nature take its course. The only purpose of this tank is to obtain pairs and will not be the tank that is used once they have paired off. Make sure you many spawning cones spread out all over the tank. Many breeders use slate, but we use 2 inch PCV pipes at 10 inches long attached to a base of 2 inch to 4 inch converter PCV connection. We use these for two main reasons. One, the eggs will be much more easily seen on them than when they are on slate. Secondly, the PCV is much more easily cleaned between spawnings and will not hold bacteria in it like the slate. The tank should be kept at 86 degrees. The TDS should be under 100 and the Ph should be 6.5. The pairing tank should be kept immaculately clean with outside canister filtration and At least two sponge filters on the inside. You should do two 40% water changes each week. You then just need to be patient. You will find that over the next year you will likely get 3 5 Angelfish breeding pairs out of the tank. When they spawn they will become VERY territorial and will keep all other fish away from where they spawn. We then separate them into their 30 gallon spawning tank and remove the eggs for artificial rearing. We will go over artificial rearing of Angelfish in future articles in this series.