Credits: Neil Turner (Creative Commons license)
Angelfish are my favorite fish to raise. They are hardy, beautiful, breed easily, and make excellent parents – basically, they tick all the right boxes. Unfortunately, when I first bred angelfish, I tried to incubate the eggs myself, which was a total disaster.
But that was just one time. I’ve since learned my lessons and have successfully bred angelfish and raised the fry. In this blog, I’ll walk you through every step of breeding angelfish, starting with the question – How Often Do Angelfish Lay Eggs?
Make sure to stick it to the end, so you don’t miss out on any information.
How Often Do Angelfish Lay Eggs?
Biologically, angelfish can lay eggs once every two weeks. However, there might be a slight delay if the parents are raising the babies by themselves.
Angelfish are incredibly hardy fish that are super easy to breed. That being said, the parents may eat the first clutch of eggs or two by mistake before they develop a nurturing nature. But once they get a feel for parenting, they’ll quite diligently look after the eggs and the babies.
How Long Do Angelfish Eggs Take To Hatch?
Angelfish eggs take around 3 days (72 hours) to hatch. Usually, it’s believed that higher temperature hatches eggs early. But there’s no need to rush things. Instead, you can leave the eggs to hatch at regular tank temperature.
How Many Eggs Do Angelfish Lay?
Angelfish can lay up to 300 eggs at once cycle. On the internet, I read someone reporting the numbers can range between 100-1000. But personally, I don’t know how true that is. I’ve definitely never had an angelfish lay around 1000 eggs or anything in that range.
How To Know If Angelfish Eggs Are Fertilized?
The fertilized angelfish eggs will turn a color that ranges from translucent amber to light brown. If they turn white, it means the eggs have been left unfertilized.
Can Angelfish Lay Eggs Without A Mate?
Like any other egg-laying fish, yes, female angelfish can definitely lay eggs without a mate. Well, the female’s body will still produce eggs regardless of whether she has a mote or not.
However, since there’s no male to fertilize the eggs, they will not spawn tiny fry. The female will fan the eggs and clean them, but they’ll eventually develop fungus and turn opaque white.
The female then either consumes the eggs or discards them. Make sure to remove the unfertilized eggs as soon as you see them, as they can cause a fungus outbreak in the tank.
When Do Angelfish Start Laying Eggs?
Healthy female angelfish will start laying eggs at around six to twelve months of age. They will then continue to do so throughout their life, which lasts about 10 years.
The size of the clutch will largely depend on the female’s age and health. Usually, the largest egg clutches will be laid in the female’s prime.
How To Tell If Angelfish Is Ready To Breed?
- The genital papillae in both males and females will get enlarged
- Female’s belly will appear bloated and distended
- The pair will meticulously clean the spawning site
- The pair grow increasingly intolerant of other fish
These are the top 4 reasons that signify the onset of the breeding season.
You need to observe the female’s belly carefully to determine whether she’s carrying eggs or not. You will notice a prominent bulge at the ventral part, which will continue to grow as pregnancy proceeds.
Also, the gravid spot will be more noticeable as it goes darker, resembling a shiny black blotch in the posterior part of the lower stomach.
Here’s an interesting bit: It turns out the gravid spot doesn’t necessarily only appear when carrying eggs. The females may also develop it to entice males to reproduce.
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Differentiating Male And Female Angelfish
Sexing male and female angelfish can be cumbersome since there’s minimal sexual dimorphism. They almost look identical. However, here are a couple of ways you can tell them apart:
- Male bodies are large and circular, while female bodies and smaller and angular
- Males have a slightly pronounced bump on the forehead
- Males have forky fins, while females have smooth fins
- Male genital papillae stick out comparatively
Step-By-Step Guide To Breed Angelfish
- Raise 6-8 Juveniles Or Buy A Breeding Pair
- Set Up The Breeding Tank
- Feed Protein-Rich Diet To The Pair
- Wait For The Big Day
- Leave The Eggs With The Parents Or Incubate Them Separately
Raise 6-8 Juveniles Or Buy A Breeding Pair
The only tricky thing about breeding angelfish is that they mate for life. Once they’ve chosen a partner, they’ll stick with it through the end. Romantic much!
You can buy breeding pairs from your local fish shop. But this will be slightly costlier. So the other choice you have is to raise 6-8 juveniles from the start. This way, you’ll end up with 3-4 pairs. However, you’ll have to wait around 6 months for them to be mature enough to mate.
Set Up The Breeding Tank
The breeding tank should at least be 20-gallons big. Remember, angelfish do not prefer mating in a cramped aquarium. Also, since these are tropical fish, you need to maintain the water’s temperature around 24-28°C (75-82°F).
Angelfish don’t breed in alkaline waters. So, you need to maintain the tank’s pH around 6.8-7.5. They prefer acidic water.
The substrate should be fine to medium-grade, smooth-surfaced gravel since angelfish like to dig and forage along the bottom for food.
Also, install a reliable filter. We recommend using a reliable sponge filter so that it doesn’t suck in the eggs or fry.
Performing a big water change often triggers a fish to mate – so you can try your luck.
Here’s a link to the sponge filter I use for my angelfish breeding tank.
Lastly, complete the tank setup with a few plants with big leaves, flat rocks, and a breeding cone.
Feed Protein-Rich Diet To The Pair
It’s essential to feed a protein-rich diet to the breeding pair to maintain their good health and encourage them to breed. So after I move them to the breeding tank, I usually feed them bloodworms along with high-quality dry food. They typically mate after 4-5 days of providing protein-rich food.
Here’s a link to the frozen bloodworms I give. Make sure you don’t go overboard with these treats, as they can cause bloating and indigestion.
Wait For The Big Day
Now, you’ve only got to wait. Since they are already in a ‘relationship’ to begin with, we cannot expect intricate mating rituals. However, they will engage in fin-shaking, lip-locking, and scrupulous cleaning of the egg-laying site.
The egg-laying and fertilization process can take anywhere between 1-3 hours, depending on the size of the clutch. The eggs are sticky and will readily attach to any surface.
The male will then follow the female and brush over the eggs to begin the fertilization process. The breeding site will be covered in sticky, almost gooey angelfish eggs that are barely the size of a needle’s eye!
Leave The Eggs With The Parents
You are now left with two options: leaving the eggs with the parents or artificially incubating them. I personally separate them from their parents and raise them in a separate tank because they stand no chance in a community tank.
But if you are housing only the parents in the breeding tank, you can let them raise the fry by themselves. You can leave the babies with their parents for up to 3 weeks. Most likely, the angelfish will adequately care for the young ones and will not eat them – especially if they already have had a few litters before.
However, some fishkeepers report that angelfish are prone to eating their young ones when stressed. So, make sure the tank is placed in an area that receives low footfall and feeds a nutritious diet routinely.
The doting parents will fan the eggs and clean them constantly, so they don’t develop fungus. They’ll also discard the rotten ones, so the fungus doesn’t spread.
Keeping the fry with the parents delays the reproductive cycle. So, if that’s not what you want, you can incubate the eggs by yourself.
Incubate The Eggs Separately
If you’re paranoid about the parents performing infanticide, you can remove them or the eggs and raise them separately. I personally like to move the eggs to a 5-gallon tank. If the tank is too big for the fry, they’ll have a hard time finding food.
You can simply take out the leave or rock or cone they laid eggs in and place it in the fry tank.
Remember, you need to acclimate the eggs when transferring them to another tank for hatching. Sudden environmental shocks can swiftly demolish the fertilized eggs. So keep the incubator tank ready and cycled at least 24 hours before you move the eggs. You can also use water from the breeding tank.
Use fine sand for gravel, a heater to maintain a stable temperature [24-28°C (75-82°F)], an air pump for oxygenation, and a sponge filter, so it doesn’t suck in the fry.
Add a couple of drops of anti-fungal methylene blue in the tank, so the eggs don’t rot. Also, perform partial water changes every day or every alternate day. Proper aeration and clean water are indispensable.
Once the fry are big enough to not fit inside the mouth of an adult fish, you can move them to the community tank and hope for the best!
Feeding Angelfish Fry
Unlike the offsprings of livebearers, angelfish fry aren’t born free-swimming. Instead, during the wiggler stage, which lasts about 5 days, they depend on the yolk sac for nutrition.
Once free-swimming, you can give them freshly hatched baby brine shrimp, micro-worms, and crushed flakes/pellets.
As a matter of fact, angelfish fry are capable enough to survive on just microscopic organisms (infusoria) available in the tank. But just because they can doesn’t mean they should, right? Why take the chances!
The Different Stages Of Angelfish Fry
- Larval pre-hatching stage
- Wiggler stage
- Free-swimming fry
Larval Pre-Hatching Stage
After about 60 hours from when the eggs are laid, they will enter the larval pre-hatching stage. By now, the angelfish larvae will be fully developed and sit bundled around their yolk sac.
The eggs will go from being translucent to transparent. If you inspect with a proper microscope, you can even see the beating hearts and blood flow.
After around 72 hours from when the eggs are laid, they will hatch into tiny wigglers. You can consider the breeding cycle a success at this point. Congrats!
The larvae will be attached to their hatching location by a filament that joins them to their yolk sacks. For the first 5-6 days, they will rely on protein-rich yolk sacs while their eyes, tails, and internal organs develop.
After the end of the wiggler stage, which usually lasts around 5-6 days, the larval angelfish will now become free-swimming. So you can now expect them to further grow into healthy juveniles.
Here’s an interesting video showing an angelfish’s lifecycle:
Frequently Asked Questions
My Angelfish Eggs Have Gone White. Why?
The freshly laid eggs will go opaque white after a couple of days if the male doesn’t fertilize them in time. This usually happens when the male is not present in the tank or hasn’t yet developed a knack for parenting.
Besides this, wrong water parameters and fungus can also cause the eggs to turn white be permanently damaged.
Do Male And Female Angelfish Guard The Eggs?
The answer is both yes and no. I’ve seen angelfish care for their babies with the utmost attention and have also seen some trying to devour the eggs whole. Usually, first-time parents don’t show much care or affection towards their offspring. But as they get older and understand things better, they make excellent parents.
Once they develop the knack for it, they’ll fan the eggs, fan them, and fiercely protect them against possible predators.
Angelfish Has Swollen Belly. Why?
If your female angelfish has a swollen belly, it’s most likely a pregnancy. When you look at the fish from a top angle, you will see a small, convex bump around the stomach region. However, besides this, other possible reasons can be bloating, constipation and dropsy.
What Do Angelfish Lay Eggs On?
Angelfish lay eggs on any flat horizontal or semi-vertical surfaces like a big leaf or a flat rock. Therefore, the mating pair will actively look for a suitable surface to lay eggs on during spawning.
Once they find it, they will clean it thoroughly before the female lays her sticky eggs row by row.
How Big Are Angelfish Eggs?
Angelfish eggs are incredibly tiny but still visible to the naked eye. To give you a comparison, they’re tinier than the eye of an average needle!
How To Prevent Angelfish Eggs From Developing Fungus?
The correct water parameters and oxygenation level should be maintained to prevent eggs from developing fungus. You can add a couple of drops of methylene blue to the breeding tank since it has anti-fungal properties.
How To Remove Angelfish Eggs?
The easiest way to remove angelfish eggs is to remove the entire leaf or flat rock where the eggs were laid and transfer it to the fry tank. If that’s not possible, you can also remove them using a turkey baster. But you need to have really stable hands and gentle touch for that.
Can Angelfish Change Gender?
No, freshwater angelfish that are popular in the aquarium hobby cannot change their gender. However, saltwater angelfish (also called blackwater angelfish) can change their gender from female to male.
Parting Words: How Often Do Angelfish Lay Eggs
Angelfish can lay eggs once every 2 weeks in general. This is because they have a reasonably short reproductive cycle.
Now, here’s a quick rundown of essential bits in bullet points:
- Angelfish can lay around 300 eggs at a time. Some even claim that they can 1000 during one season (debatable)!
- Angelfish eggs take around 3 days to hatch.
- Female angelfish will lay eggs even when the males are present in the tank (no-brainer)!
- Angelfish get ready to breed at around six to twelve months of age.
Happy Reading! 🙂