Why is my angelfish not eating? This is among the most commonly asked questions here at Urban Fishkeeping. Angelfish are one of the hardiest freshwater species we know. But any time your fish demonstrates unusual behaviors, like refusing to eat, it’s a telltale sign that something’s wrong with this fish.
And as specific as I would love to be, the answer to this question can be as vague as possible.
Below, I will lay down the most common reasons behind an angelfish’s hunger strike. You can then gauge and pinpoint the correct answer for your fish yourself.
Why Is My Angelfish Not Eating?
The possible reasons behind angelfish not eating are:
- Poor water quality
- Angelfish is stressed
- You’re giving the wrong food
- Your angelfish is sick
- Your angelfish is gravid
- You’re giving too much food
- Your angelfish hasn’t adapted to the new environment
- There is a pecking order in the tank
Wrong Water Quality
The first thing to rule out when your fish suddenly loses its appetite is water quality. As hardy as angelfish are, they are known to quickly lose their appetites when exposed to nitrite, ammonia, or inappropriate water chemistry.
Here’s what ideal water parameters for angelfish look like:
- Temperature: 78-84 degrees F
- pH: 6.8-7.8
- Hardness: 54 to 145 PPM
- Ammonia: 0 PPM
- Nitrite: 0 PPM
- Nitrate: Below 20 PPM
Water quality is undoubtedly the most critical factor in maintaining your fish’s health. And there are so many things that can go wrong with water chemistry.
For instance, there can be a buildup of harmful toxins in the water, incorrect temperature, low dissolved oxygen levels, high levels of dissolved carbon dioxide, and wrong pH.
And these factors I mentioned above can collectively or single-handedly suppress your fish’s appetite.
I’ll give you an example.
Freshwater angelfish are tropical fish originally coming from the “warm” waters of South America. The ideal temperature range for these elegant fish falls between 78-84 degrees F.
And if the temperature drops any low than 78 degrees F – let’s assume 70 degrees F – it will profoundly slow down your fish’s metabolism. And when the metabolism is compromised, so is their digestive process.
As a result, your angelfish won’t have a good appetite for even its favorite foods.
Angelfish are endothermic beings that rely on their external temperature to maintain their body temperature. Therefore, when the external temperature drops, so will their body temperature.
They will then feel sluggish and sleepy. As a result, their activity levels will drop. And therefore, there won’t be a strong need to eat.
Just like wrong water temperature, wrong water chemistry can be equally harmful to your angelfish’s appetite, if not more.
First, the fish will become immensely stressed. Second, it will start experiencing physical signs like suffocation, reddening of gills, white spots, and labored breathing.
And I doubt any fish would be interested in eating in such a state. It will naturally suppress their appetite.
Also, if they go for long without eating, it will invite several health complications and potentially untimely death.
Therefore, you should always stay on top of water parameters. From topping off water levels and removing uneaten food daily to performing water changes and siphoning the substrate, there are quite a few things that need to be done regularly.
I don’t like shoving product placements unnecessarily in someone’s face, but here’s a link to API Freshwater Master Kit that I use.
I recently found out that liquid-based tests like these are far more accurate than strip tests.
Frankly, I don’t know the science behind it, but I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt as it literally has thousands of raving reviews on Amazon!
Angelfish Is Stressed
Let’s be honest, we don’t think very highly of angelfish – or any fish for that matter. We’re all here just for the aesthetics.
But over the years, science has over and over proved that fish aren’t as mindless as we deem them to be.
On the contrary, they’re highly intelligent beings capable of processing an array of feelings. However, there’s one downside to it. They’re highly susceptible to stress.
And what’s even worse is that sometimes stress becomes the fish’s silent killer before we can even put our fingers on it.
I’ll lay down some of the most common reasons behind a stressed angelfish. You can then diagnose the problem and make necessary amends.
- Your fish just had a rough journey and is still trying to adapt to its new environment.
- There are bullies in the tank pushing your angelfish around and nipping its fins.
- The water quality is wrong or poor – quite literally suffocating your angelfish.
- The tank is too small, and there’s territorial animosity among different parties in the tank.
- Your angelfish cannot compete for food against other big and aggressive fish.
- There are multiple male angelfish present in the tank competing for mates and resources.
- There are’nt any hiding places in the tank to retreat to when your angelfish feels vulnerable.
So, these are the likely reasons behind a fish’s stress off the top of my head.
Do you think any of these points apply to your angelfish?
If yes, excellent! Do something about it. If not, don’t worry. Keep on experimenting gradually until you hit the sweet spot.
You’re Giving The Wrong Food
Angelfish are omnivores. There are many great food options to choose from. Also, they will readily accept most kinds of foods. However, it is still essential to understand your fish’s dietary requirements and feed accordingly.
Buying just about any random fish food off the shelf without looking at the ingredients first will most likely result in uneaten food sinking at the base of the tank.
As I said above, angelfish are not picky about what they put in their food.
They will have it all from commercially made pellets and flakes to freeze-dried worms and live fish.
However, as easy as it would be to generalize, no two angelfish are the same. Even those born from the same clutch of eggs can have vast differences in their dietary preference.
If your angelfish has started to lose interest in the food you give, try to feed some of its favorite foods first. Also, look into what they would typically eat in the wild.
In nature, their diet mainly consists of smaller fish, insects, and invertebrates. They’re not a big fan of a plant-based diet.
It’s also crucial to understand if your fish is a surface-feeder or a bottom-feeder. Like most fish native to the Amazon River Basin, angelfish eat at the bottom.
And this may be the reason they are deterring flakes or other floating foods. So instead, try switching to sinking pellets.
Lastly, don’t forget to check if the food has reached its expiration date, gives off a foul smell, or has been stored incorrectly and hence compromised.
Your Angelfish Is Sick
Don’t we lose our appetite when not feeling well? It’s the same case with angelfish. A lack of interest in food or altogether stopping to eat is a big red flag. This could very well mean your fish is sick.
That’s why it’s super important to check your fish’s appearance and behavior for a few minutes every day. I know it sounds tedious, but it’s neither difficult nor time-consuming as it may first seem. It’ll just take a couple of minutes.
Besides a suppressed appetite, some other common signs of illness in angelfish are:
- White dots or red marks across the body
- Sluggish behavior
- Frayed appearance
- Abnormal swimming pattern
There’s a broad category of disease-causing agents such as viruses, worms, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi. And the signs of disease and treatment differ depending on the agent.
For instance, if it’s something like ich caused by parasitic protozoa, the disease can quickly spread to other beings in the tank. So you immediately need to separate the infected fish from the main tank.
Also, older fish are more prone to contracting health conditions due to their age and compromised immune systems. Therefore, they may avoid having food more often than young, energetic fish.
Your Angelfish Is Gravid
Angelfish don’t get pregnant. This term is only reserved for livebearers. However, they become gravid, meaning they develop and carry eggs in their system before laying them. This point only concerns the females, of course!
Gravid fish often lose their appetite towards the end of the gestation period. This is completely natural and nothing to worry about.
If you suspect your fish will lay eggs, it’s best to move her to the new tank, where she will feel safer and more comfortable. As it goes without saying, the water parameters in the new tank should match that of the old tank.
And if you’re interested to read up on what angelfish eggs look like and how to care for them, you don’t want to miss this article.
Related: How Often Do Angelfish Lay Eggs?
You’re Giving Too Much Food
Angelfish are opportunistic eaters that seldom say no to food. However, if you’re giving them too much too often, they will naturally stop eating since they’re already full from the last meal.
The rule of thumb is to give 2 meals every day. As for the amount, provide them with the food they can finish within 2-3 minutes. Any more than that, and your fish might lose interest in eating.
Your angelfish deterring the food is the least harmful consequence of overfeeding.
Overfeeding can make your fish obese. And as you know, obese fish will not grow to their best size potential and will experience stunted growth. As a result, this can also shorten their lifespan drastically.
Next, when your angelfish stops eating, there will be more leftover food in the tank to pollute the tank. And let’s not forget – more food equals more poop. This will pollute the water quite severely.
And you already know what happens when the water gets dirty, right?
Your Angelfish Hasn’t Adapted To New Environment
Although they come from the cichlid family, angelfish are relatively docile fish. Therefore, they won’t adapt to the new environment right off the bat.
It’s only natural for the anxious fish to prioritize security over foraging. Your angelfish will most likely be nervous about entering open waters to feed – even more so if big and mean fish are present in the tank.
There’s not much to worry about this time. Give your fish some time. Meanwhile, create as many hiding places as practical for your shy fish.
Other things held constant, within a few weeks, your angelfish will be out and about exploring, foraging, and snacking on delicious meals.
There Is A Pecking Order In The Tank
I just said angelfish are docile in the above statement. Now let me contradict my own statement. They’re also fighters. Research has shown a complex and super interesting social hierarchy among angelfish that’s determined through combat.
Yes, you read that right!
Angelfish fight each other using their tails as clubs and mouths to wrestle.
That’s not all – angelfish also communicate social status via chemical signals contained in the urine and poop they release into the water.
So, there’s naturally going to be both alpha and subdued parties in the tank. And naturally, the alphas will be at the top of the pecking order.
Therefore, there’s a good chance that subdominant and weak ones become reluctant to eat out of fear for their lives. This is even more true if the resources are scarce.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have listed all the possible reasons behind your angelfish not eating.
Before we end this article, let’s look at some relevant and frequently asked questions.
How Long Can Angelfish Go Without Food?
Angelfish can easily go without food for 3 days. And they can starve and still survive for up to 2 weeks. After that, however, their health will decline steeply over time.
Why Is My Angelfish Spitting Out Food?
The most likely reason behind an angelfish spitting out its food is to break it into smaller and more manageable sizes. However, it could also mean the fish is not hungry, doesn’t like the taste of the food, is stressed, or is suffering from an illness.
Why Is My Angelfish Not Eating And Hiding In The Corner?
An angelfish not eating and hiding in the corner probably means the fish is stressed and scared. Now, the reasons behind stress and fear can be many. It can be mean tankmates, poor water, and so on.
Why Is My Angelfish Not Eating Flake Food?
The possible reason behind angelfish not eating flake food is that it simply doesn’t like its taste. Or maybe they’re not a fan of eating at the surface. Try switching the flake food’s brand or give something that sinks like pellets.
Final Words: Why Is My Angelfish Not Eating?
Frankly, the reason behind an angelfish not eating can be as vague as they come. Sometimes, it’s something benign like you giving too much food or your angelfish waiting to adapt to its new environment.
Sometimes, it’s good news – your angelfish may be gravid. Congratulations!
And lastly, it can also be due to foul water quality, acute stress, and wrong food!
Don’t forget to experiment subtly until you find out the reason and make necessary amends.