Angel Fish Advice Needed - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 6 Old 12-08-2010, 06:09 AM Thread Starter
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Angel Fish Advice Needed

Hi, I have 5 Angels that have been together for several months now. I have been observing their behaviours and have noticed a 'bullying' behaviour among these Angels. Currently, they are ALL fin nipped and can be seen chasing one another throughout the day and night. No one else in the tank goes near them so I know they are doing it to eachother.

So, my number 1 concern is this constant bullying. The last thing I want is a tank with stressed fish. Is there any particular reason as to why these Angels are behaving this way? I have no idea regarding their individual sexes and believe that sexing Angels is not an easy task.

My second concern is that their behaviour is negatively affecting my other fish, namely my beautiful peaceful Silver Dollars. Due to the unrest in the tank between the 5 Angels, my Silver Dollars (who can become quite 'skittish' when there is conflict occurring among the Angels) have incurred a few injuries due to trying to get out of the way quickly when these Angels are carrying on.

I am at a point where I feel so stupified by what to do that I am considering taking ALL 5 Angels back to my LFS and replacing them with something else. However, this is NOT what I really want to do. I love my Angels, they have such distinctive personalities and all eat directly from my hands however, I do not want a tank that is unsettled and stressed all of the time.

Please, if you have any ideas I would appreciate hearing them.
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post #2 of 6 Old 12-08-2010, 06:33 AM
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What size tank do you have? Mature angels need a fair bit of space. They also need lots of tall plants to hide in. It sounds like they are fighting over territory - which is something all cichlids do. You could try rearranging the tank so it's all neutral, or if you have a pair that are ready to spawn, take the others to your lfs and keep the pair. I have angels, and they love the root-like driftwood and long reedy plants in the tank. There are plenty of hiding spots, so when one does get a bit cranky, the others can get away.
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post #3 of 6 Old 12-08-2010, 05:10 PM
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I agree with amberjade. The tank size and environment (decor, like plants, wood) have a great deal to do with angelfish aggression (and all cichlids for that matter).

Having a group of 5 is very good; many make the mistake of getting 1 or 2. Angels have a social structure to the group, they are shoaling fish in their native habitat (live in groups), and when denied this they frequently turn aggressive to any number of other fish. In "bare" tanks they are also under stress, because in nature they cruise among thick branches and tall plants (if plants are present in that particular stream)--their vertical pattern is indicative of this, it is camouflage. Without such protection in the tank, they will feel very exposed and vulnerable, hence more stress.

Fish under stress often become more aggressive, so the situation gets worse. The normal interaction between the fish in the group is heightened. A group of 5 angels in a 55g or larger aquarium with plants, wood, or some sort of "hiding" material should never be nipping fins, other than perhaps a male about to spawn.

I would not recommend angels with silver dollars; the latter are vegetarians, so planted tanks are not usually "safe" with SD's. Also, they and the angels are much alike, and best separated. The SD's, depending upon their size in relation to the angels, could be another source of stress. Not saying it is the cause, just one possibility. Lots of things can cause stress, esp with angels those mentioned above.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #4 of 6 Old 12-09-2010, 01:16 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you Byron and Amberjade for your helpful advice.

Ok, firstly the tank size is 5ft by 2ft by 2ft so we believe this is plenty big enough for the fish we have in there. When we very first noticed this aggression we sought advice from our trusted aquariest at our lfs. We were advised then to create plenty of hiding spaces and to break the tank up in this way.

We bought several large plants (tall grasses, large bunches of tall alodea and other varieties of tall, medium and small plants): this should actually read......About 8-9 fairly large, mature plants. We put the plants into sections of the tank creating hiding places and also used our driftwood to help add places where the Angels can retreat to.

However, this did not seem to make any difference at all. The Angels never displayed any hiding behaviours. They actually seemed to avoid these protective hiding sections of the tank which we had made especially for them.

The Silver Dollars we believe are not a problem at all. We have 3 of them and they spend their time together, either just 'hanging around' or swimming up and down the length of the tank. We have never seen any type of aggression between the Silver Dollars and ANY of the other inhabitants of the tank. They are about as peaceful as can be.

This is such a frustrating situation to be in as all we want is for everyone within our tank to be happy and have no sources of stress. These Angels just seem to be bullies to one another and it is almost impossible to work out why. We have 2 very large Angels whom we have watched grow from babies and as they have gotten bigger, one has bullied the other mercilessly. We removed the bullied Angel earlier in the week as we noticed that his (or her) side fins had been nipped quite badly. The top and bottom fins have also been nipped as well as the 'tenticles' hanging underneath.

The dynamic in the tank unfortunately hasn't changed. The large Angel left in the tank has continued to bully the other 3 Angels and these 3 Angels have continued to bully one another. We were hoping to find that we had atleast 1 male and 1 female whom would pair off and spawn. We had planned to remove the other 3 Angels if this scenario had worked however, here we are still not knowing what sex each Angel is.

I am heading to my lfs this evening so I will purchase a few more tall plants and see what else I can get in the way of suitable hiding places. Is there any particular way to work out the sex of Angels or is this something only an expert can do?
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post #5 of 6 Old 12-09-2010, 11:55 AM
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Arrow Pairing Off?

Your Angelfish may be pairing off for mating options....when you get several angelfish young, they will pair off at a certain size, that is probably what they are doing...

Hope it helps
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post #6 of 6 Old 12-09-2010, 12:01 PM
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Something has come out in your latest post that I was not previously aware of and had not thought of since I had assumed the angels were always together as five. From your latest, this does not seem to be true, and this is major issue.

As noted in our profile of this fish, the group (5+) should always be acquired together and placed in the tank together. Angels establish their territory quickly, and the tank is basically their territory. If there are three angels together and two are added, the two added will invariably be viewed as unwanted newcomers, and often be hounded to the point of death.

Similarly, you mention two large angels that you have raised from babies and one has bullied the other. As I mentioned previously, this is common. I would assume both are males; a male and female will rarely do this, though it is possible. Sometimes moving such fish to a fairly large tank will result in the aggression lessening, but not always; and while a 5-foot tank may seem large (it is, my 115g is 5X2) it really is not to angels. As I said, the dominant fish will own the tank, period. To be honest, given the intensive aggression, it in my view is unlikely to abate until the fish die and the dominant angel is left in his space without rivals.

Sexing angels is difficult, but if they are getting ready to spawn, the females ovipositor will be noticeably thicker than the thin ovipositor of the male. The ovipositor is the breeding tube common to all cichlids through which the sperm/eggs pass and this becomes quite visible when spawning approaches. Another method is behaviour, though given the fact that like people some angels are more inclined to aggression than others this is not totally reliable. The "bully" is probably a male, and his aggression would likely be directed more at other males than a female. But different fish may mean different behaviours, this is very general.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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