Angelfish Aquarium Design – How To Create the Perfect Angelfish Aquascape - "File:Pterophyllum scalare - Warsaw zoo.JPG" by Ewkaa is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.
Angelfish Aquarium Design – How To Create the Perfect Angelfish Aquascape - "File:Pterophyllum scalare - Warsaw zoo.JPG" by Ewkaa is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.


Angelfish are among the most elegant and visually striking freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby, known for their unique shape and graceful movements. Designing an aquarium that caters to their needs while showcasing their beauty requires thoughtful planning and a creative touch. The art of angelfish aquarium design is not just about creating a visually appealing space but also about constructing a habitat that mirrors the natural environment of these majestic creatures. Through careful selection of plants, substrate, and decorations, an angelfish aquascape becomes a living work of art, blending aesthetics with the biological needs of its inhabitants. Whether you’re a seasoned aquarist or new to the hobby, understanding the principles behind angelfish aquarium design is the first step towards creating a thriving aquatic ecosystem that highlights the splendor of angelfish.

About Angelfish

Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) are one of the most popular and recognizable species of freshwater aquarium fish, favored for their distinctive appearance and interesting behaviors. They belong to the cichlid family and are native to the Amazon Basin, Orinoco Basin, and various rivers in the Guiana Shield in South America.


Angelfish are noted for their elegant, triangular bodies, which are laterally compressed and can grow up to 6 inches (15 cm) in length and 8 inches (20 cm) in height. Their most striking feature is their large, fan-like dorsal and anal fins that give them their angelic appearance and namesake. Angelfish come in a variety of colors and patterns, ranging from silver with black vertical stripes to more elaborate colorations including gold, marble, koi, and even albino. Their fins may be long and flowing or more standard in shape, depending on the specific breed.


In aquariums, angelfish display a variety of behaviors that make them fascinating to watch. They are generally peaceful but can become territorial, especially during breeding times. It’s not uncommon for angelfish to establish a hierarchy within their group, often leading to some fish asserting dominance over others.

Angelfish are omnivores, feeding on a mix of flake, live, and frozen foods in captivity. They show a preference for vertically oriented leaves or surfaces on which they can lay their eggs, a behavior rooted in their natural habitat’s preference for dense vegetation and submerged tree roots.

Breeding behavior in angelfish is quite remarkable. They are known to form monogamous pairs, and once a pair has formed, they will clean a flat surface (like a leaf or the aquarium glass) where the female will lay her eggs. The male then fertilizes these eggs externally. Both parents often guard the eggs and, later, the fry, showing a level of parental care that is not always common in fish.

How Should You Create Your Angelfish Aquarium Design

Setting up an aquarium for angelfish requires attention to several key factors to ensure a healthy and stimulating environment for these elegant fish. The angelfish aquarium design should prioritize ample swimming space, proper filtration, and an environment that mimics their natural habitat in terms of hiding spots, substrate, and water parameters. Here’s a guide to creating an ideal setup:

Tank Size

Start with a tank that can accommodate the size and swimming habits of angelfish. A minimum of 20 gallons is recommended for a pair of angelfish, but a larger tank, 55 gallons or more, is ideal, especially for a group. A taller tank is preferred over a wider one due to the angelfish’s body shape and vertical swimming preferences.


A dark-colored substrate can help mimic the natural riverbeds of the Amazon and also make the colors of the angelfish stand out. Sand or fine gravel works well, allowing you to anchor plants securely while also being easy to clean.

Hiding Spots and Decorations

Angelfish appreciate the availability of hiding spots within their environment. Driftwood, rock formations, and caves offer excellent hiding spaces that mimic natural structures. These elements not only provide shelter but also contribute to the angelfish aquascape, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the tank.


Live plants are crucial in an angelfish tank, providing both beauty and functional benefits. Tall plants like Amazon swords, java ferns, and anubias can be used to recreate the dense vegetation of their natural habitat, offering shelter and breeding sites. Floating plants can also be added to diffuse lighting and provide additional cover.

Water Parameters

Angelfish thrive in warm, slightly acidic to neutral water with temperatures between 76°F and 86°F (24°C to 30°C), a pH of 6.5 to 7.5, and soft to medium hardness. Regular water changes are necessary to maintain water quality, especially to manage nitrate levels. A good filtration system is essential to keep the water clean and oxygenated without creating excessive currents, as angelfish prefer calm waters.


Moderate lighting is sufficient for angelfish, supporting the growth of live plants without stressing the fish. An automated light cycle helps mimic natural day and night patterns, contributing to the overall well-being of the angelfish.

Filtration and Aeration

A reliable filtration system that provides mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration without generating strong currents is crucial. Angelfish do not appreciate strong water movement. Additionally, ensure the tank is well-oxygenated; while live plants will contribute to oxygen levels, an air stone or similar device may be needed depending on the tank setup and stocking levels.

Creating an angelfish aquarium design involves more than just aesthetics; it’s about replicating natural conditions as closely as possible to ensure the health and happiness of the angelfish. By considering each element—from substrate and decorations to plants and water parameters—you can create a beautiful and functional angelfish aquascape that will be a centerpiece of your home.

Angelfish Aquascape Inspiration

Creating an angelfish aquarium design that is both visually appealing and suitable for the fish involves incorporating elements that mimic their natural habitat while adding aesthetic value to your home. An angelfish aquascape can range from simple and elegant to complex and lush, depending on your preferences and the needs of the fish. Here are several ideas to inspire your angelfish aquarium design:

Amazon River Biotope

Recreate a slice of the Amazon River by focusing on authenticity. Use a fine, dark substrate to simulate the riverbed, and add various live plants native to the Amazon, such as Amazon swords, echinodorus, and cabomba. Driftwood and smooth, rounded stones can be arranged to mimic natural debris and riverbanks. This setup not only provides a stunning backdrop but also creates a comfortable environment for your angelfish.

Planted Paradise

Focus on creating a lush, densely planted tank with a variety of aquatic plants of different heights, textures, and colors. Tall plants like java fern and valisneria can be used in the background, with shorter plants like anubias and cryptocorynes placed in the foreground. Incorporating floating plants will help diffuse the light, creating a serene atmosphere. This richly planted environment offers ample hiding spots and mimics the dense vegetation of the angelfish’s natural habitat.

Rocky Retreat

Incorporate large rocks and caves to create a rugged landscape reminiscent of underwater cliffs and crevices. Plants can be strategically placed around these structures to soften the appearance and provide additional cover for the fish. This type of angelfish aquascape combines the beauty of a rocky landscape with the natural needs of the angelfish, offering them places to explore and hide.

Driftwood Domain

Design your aquascape around intricate pieces of driftwood that form arches, tunnels, and canopies. Attach ferns, mosses, and anubias to the driftwood to create a naturally aged look. The wood not only serves as a focal point but also aids in the tank’s ecological balance by releasing beneficial tannins. This setup is particularly striking in a tank with a minimalist substrate and subdued lighting, highlighting the textures and shapes of the wood and plants.

Open Swimming Space

While angelfish appreciate hiding spots, they also need open areas for swimming. Design your tank with a balance of planted and open areas. A central open water column with plants and decorations around the perimeter allows angelfish to display their graceful swimming behavior. This design emphasizes the elegance of the angelfish while still providing them with the environmental enrichment they need.

Zen Garden

Inspired by the tranquility of Zen gardens, this aquascape uses sand as a substrate with strategically placed stones and minimalistic plantings. The simplicity of the layout highlights the angelfish’s beauty and creates a peaceful, meditative space. Plants should be low maintenance, such as marimo moss balls and anubias, to maintain the clean lines and open spaces of the design.

Each angelfish aquarium design and angelfish aquascape idea offers a unique way to enjoy these majestic fish in your home. Whether you’re drawn to the complexity of a densely planted tank or the simplicity of a Zen garden, the key is to create an environment that supports the health and happiness of your angelfish while satisfying your aesthetic preferences. Remember, the best aquascape is one that thrives both underwater and in the eyes of the beholder.

Angelfish Aquarium Design – How To Create the Perfect Angelfish Aquascape - "File:Pterophyllum scalare - Warsaw zoo.JPG" by Ewkaa is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.
Angelfish Aquarium Design – How To Create the Perfect Angelfish Aquascape – “File:Pterophyllum scalare – Warsaw zoo.JPG” by Ewkaa is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Tank Mate Considerations

When curating tank mates for an angelfish aquarium, the goal is to select species that not only coexist peacefully with angelfish but also enhance the aesthetic appeal of the aquarium. Ideal companions should complement the angelfish’s elegant appearance and contribute to the overall balance and harmony of the tank’s design. These tank mates should occupy different levels of the aquarium to create a dynamic and layered display, from the substrate to the water’s surface.

Opt for species that share similar water conditions to ensure a healthy environment for all inhabitants. It’s essential to choose fish that match the angelfish’s peaceful nature, avoiding overly aggressive or fin-nipping species that could stress angelfish or damage their delicate fins. Additionally, consider the full adult size of potential tank mates to prevent overcrowding and competition for resources.

Incorporating a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors among the tank mates can add visual interest and movement, drawing the eye through the angelfish aquascape. By carefully selecting companions that thrive in a similar environment, you can create a cohesive and visually stunning aquatic ecosystem that highlights the beauty of your angelfish while providing a tranquil and healthy home for all its residents.


Crafting the perfect angelfish aquarium design is an engaging and rewarding endeavor that combines the beauty of nature with the creativity of the aquarist. An angelfish aquascape is more than just an underwater landscape; it’s a carefully balanced ecosystem that supports the health and happiness of the angelfish while providing a captivating focal point in any room. From the serene simplicity of a Zen garden to the lush complexity of an Amazonian biotope, there are endless possibilities for creating a habitat that both you and your angelfish will love. By focusing on the specific needs of angelfish and employing a bit of creativity, your aquarium can become a breathtaking display that showcases the natural elegance of these magnificent fish. Remember, the journey towards a beautiful angelfish aquascape is a process of learning and growth, both for the aquarist and the aquatic life it nurtures.