Angel fish, also called scalar. It is a fish that can be divided into two types: those that live in freshwater rivers and those that live in saltwater. The saltwater species are the most numerous. However, freshwater species are more popular as they are easy to keep in aquariums.


There are about 100 different species of angelfish in total (including freshwater and saltwater species).

Sweet water

  • Gender: Pterophyllum
  • Gender: Pterophyllum leopoldi
  • Gender: Pterophyllum scalare


  • Gender: Apolemichthys
  • Gender: Centropyge
  • Gender: Chaetodontoplus
  • Gender: Genicanthus
  • Gender: Holacanthus
  • Gender: Paracentropyge
  • Gender: Pomacanthus
  • Gender: Pygoplites


Angelfish characteristics differ according to the percentage of salinity they can withstand. Although their names are the same for both types of fish, they are not closely related. The freshwater angelfish belongs to a tropical species of cichlids, a long way from the lake-dwelling cichlids of Africa. The marine angelfish is most closely related to the butterflyfish.

Freshwater angelfish

The freshwater angelfish has a more triangular appearance and only grows a couple of centimeters in length. The triangular shape of this fish allows it to blend in with aquatic plants. Also the dark vertical stripes that it has serve to better camouflage itself with its surroundings.

Freshwater angelfish

Freshwater angelfish

Saltwater angelfish

The marine angelfish grows to 30 cm (about the size of a large ruler). Colors vary for each species of angelfish. They are well known for their bright colors and the various patterns on their bodies. It varies in color and size depending on the species, although patterns and colors are known to change dramatically as they age. These variations are thought to indicate to other fish their position within the social hierarchy.

Species: Emperor Angelfish (Saltwater)

Species: Emperor Angelfish (Saltwater)


Although behavior can vary greatly between species, we will name the common behaviors.

  • Freshwater angelfish: They are territorial fish, therefore, it tends to attack other fish that enter its territory.
  • Saltwater angelfish: They are quite intrepid, curious and inquisitive fish for divers. Some species are very solitary, while others form groups and mating pairs. Groups are usually made up of a male and several females.


  • Freshwater angelfish: It is native to the Amazon and is also found in the rivers that flow into it. It lives in clean waters and prefers temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius.
  • Saltwater angelfish: Found on shallow reefs, no more than 50 meters.


  • Freshwater angelfish: It is an omnivorous animal and in its natural environment it feeds on small invertebrate fish and nutrients from the water.
  • Saltwater angelfish: They feed on algae found on reefs and rocks. They also eat fish and small crustaceans like shrimp.


  • Freshwater angelfish: It has many predators, most of them large. It is prey for fish, birds and marine mammals.
  • Saltwater angelfish: They are prey for sharks, marine mammals, and humans. The young are eaten by different animals such as birds.


The way they reproduce is also different depending on the type of water where they live.

Freshwater angelfish

Freshwater angelfish spawn between 100 and 1.000 eggs which hatch in a couple of days. The eggs are laid on a flat sheet or underwater log. The young are known as fry, they remain attached to the eggs for seven days and feed on the remaining yolk. After another week, they are ready to swim freely. In this stage it will feed on the nutrients available in the water and from the plants.

Couples are for life. If one of the two dies, the surviving individual loses interest in reproduction.

Saltwater angelfish

The saltwater angelfish, unlike freshwater angels, spawn their eggs directly in the water. The tiny eggs float in the water mixing with the plankton. Unfortunately, most of them will not be born, as they will be eaten by many marine animals that feed on plankton.

State of conservation

By including many species, the conservation status of angelfish varies between species, but they are generally threatened. Freshwater fish are the most affected as they are captured by humans to include them in aquariums. Saltwater species are also threatened as they tend to live on reefs that are disappearing due to climate change and water pollution.

Relationship with humans

Angelfish is bred in captivity by some humans. Both freshwater and saltwater angelfish are very difficult fish to keep in home aquariums as they require special water conditions. They are very sensitive to changes in water such as salt levels and pH, if the changes are too drastic they can die.

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