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Lost Eventide 08-03-2012 07:36 PM

Questions regarding scalare angel care
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Hey all! I got confirmation that I am likely going to be getting a 55g sooner rather than later (woohoo~), so I can hopefully get it started on a fishless cycle while I'm away at school for the next couple of months.

Now, the main reason I'm jumping for a 55g is because I need a place to move my redtail black shark. However, seeing I'm going to have a larger space, I've also been looking at species I can keep with the said shark, and I decided I definitely want some angels (Pterophyllum scalare to be precise) seeing the RTBS and angel combo seems to be a tried and true combination.

Obviously I'm not going to be getting said angels for a while seeing I don't even have the 55g at my house yet (still waiting on a price quote from the family friend I'm getting it off of and then I need to sort out picking it up). The earliest I'm going to be getting the angels is likely going to be spring of next year unless we have a VERY mild winter here again this year for my winter break. So in the meanwhile I've been trying to do some research on the angels. Unfortunately there is a lot of conflicting information on the various sites I've been looking at, so I figured I might be better off trying to get some clarification from people who have actually kept the angels.
  • What's the minimum amount of angels you can keep together? I know in the fish profiles here it recommends four or five unless you're spawning a mated pair, but I've read otherwise elsewhere. For instance, some people have said you should only keep one or a mated pair because, while they school when young, they get very territorial when they get older. Other people have said to always keep an odd number of five or more. Needless to say, I'm a bit confused.
  • If you keep a mated pair, will they display the territorial mating behaviours even if you are not specifically catering the tank environment to spawning? How dangerous is this behaviour as far as other fish go. Would it be harmful for my RTBS?
  • If you are going for the "duo" setup would two females work if there are no pairs formed? I'm asking because I don't have a mom and pop LFS readily available, and therefore am limited as far as getting five or six juveniles and waiting for some to pair off and then returning the others -- I don't think the local chain stores allow that. I was reading that if you pick two you have a 75% chance of getting two that will get along as the only "duo" that wouldn't work would be two males. How true is that?
  • The angels available are captive-bred, and I have read that a lot of the discrepancies on school numbers and such are due to captive-bred angels being more aggressive than wild-caught ones. Is that true?
  • How accurate are the illustrations showing differences between males and females (image attached below)? Some people have said that the only way to tell is to look at the breeding tubes, but other people swear by the differences presented in the illustration as well as looking at size in angels of roughly the same age (males tend to be larger).

Any insight would be most appreciated~ I would like to avoid jumping in head first without a better handle on what's acceptable with numbers and such seeing there seem to be a lot of conflicting opinions. The absolute most I want to get is four or five seeing, with the RTBS, that sort of stocks my 55g once they are all full-grown, but if fewer tend to work better I'm more inclined to get maybe two and get a school of cories to add some activity to the bottom.

sidluckman 08-05-2012 07:50 AM

I don't think any combination is "tried and true" where RTBSs are concerned. I would worry that the shark would be the aggressor, not the Angels, whether they are breeding or not. Make sure the shark has a hollow log or tangle of driftwood or thicket of plants in which to hide. This might dissuade it from being a total terror.

I have seen many large (50-75 gallon) tanks of angels in which one pair guarded a clutch of eggs without doing violence to the other angels in the tank. And I have seen a pair of angels tear up the place once they decided to settle down and lay eggs. This is, I think, difficult to predict.

I have not heard or read that wild-caught fish are less aggressive than captive raised. . .presently, so very few people have access to or keep wild caught angels.

Although you say you will not actively try to get your fish to spawn, remember that if you provide excellent care and proper water conditions, they probably will. I would not worry, at this point, however.

The illustrations do not show the one feature I have sometimes used to try to tell the sexes apart. The area labeled "C" in your illustrations (the interval between pelvic and anal fin) is said to be more angled in males and nearly horizontal in females.The last time I kept angels, I found that this was indeed true, based on the gender revealed when my fish matured and began breeding. At least for the strain I was working with.

I would start with the recommended 6 juveniles and see what happens.

There are almost no true scalare angels available unless you seek out wild-caught and expensive stock from angel fanatics. Most commercially available angels are a mixture of many races, varieties and species.

But you have to love them. I prefer the wildest-looking striped angels to all newer varieties, and the exquisite Altum Angel is, IMO, the king of them all.

I have kept angels many times and had them spawn successfuly but am by no means an expert. Take my comments, then, for what they're worth. Good luck.

Lost Eventide 08-05-2012 11:08 AM

Well, there's definitely going to be a lot of cover once I get the tank setup. I'm going to be ordering a couple large pieces of driftwood, and I'm intending to heavily plant the tank as well. So far my shark has proven not to be a total terror fortunately, but she does chase my tetras around here and there if they choose to wander into the driftwood "cave" she has staked out in my 29g. It's nowhere near as bad as some horror stories I've heard though, so I'm hoping that getting her in a larger tank with some other fish that also tend to be a bit semi-aggressive will keep her from getting too bad. Seeing you mentioned she may still be a bit of an aggressor though, I'll definitely be keeping an eye on her regardless.

(And I mean "she" in a bit of a relative term. I don't know if the sex makes a difference in the behavior of a RTBS, but I recently noticed she has a paler belly, which some people have said may be an indicator of a female.)

I'll definitely keep the interval between the fins in mind -- it'll be nice to have another verified method of telling the difference other than just the breeding tubes.

I'm hoping I won't have to pair the group down if I end up with five or six of them just because I'm not sure what I'm going to do about rehoming any I need to remove (lol, the only other aquarium keeper I know of in the area with a larger tank is the one selling me the tank seeing my dad doesn't keep fish anymore and he left his 75g at the house we sold), but I suppose if I get desperate I can try CraigsList. The local chain store I'm getting them from might take some back of I give a heads up just because we know one of the managers fairly well and he knows we tend to be sticklers for tank and fish health, but if not I guess I have a while to get something sorted out.

Thanks so much for your input!

sidluckman 08-05-2012 11:43 AM

RTBSs really are individuals and you make have lucked out. I think I read (about ten years agao) in TFH that male and female RTBSs can be distinguished by the contour of one of their fins. . .but I can't recall which fin and which contour (straight or curved) indicated what sex.

I know. . .a lot of help I am!

nicolaas 08-05-2012 04:12 PM


You could go with 4 angels,1 RTBS and some other small fish.
Angels look and feel better when they are more than 3.

Angels are not as aggressive as other cichlids when breeding.

I have 7 angels in a 70 gal, 3 adults and 4 young ones with 2 bronz corys a spotted talking cat fish and a Black Ghost Knife all living happily and breeding.(well the angels and the corys)
I have kept angels with a rainbow shark, but not with RTBS.

Feed the angels a good flake or a small pellet.

All the sexing methods are 50/50 exept for the breeding tubes100%

If you need more help ask Byron(he is one of the best)

Byron 08-05-2012 05:04 PM

Have a read of our profile of the Red Tailed Shark. It mentions that this fish is frequently aggressive with other fish having vertical stripes--like angelfish.:shock:

Olympia 08-05-2012 06:04 PM

Vertical stripe aggressive? Now THAT is weird. Of course the OP could always try the solid black/platinum ones if it comes down to that specifically, right?

Lost Eventide 08-05-2012 10:56 PM

Oh geez xD I missed the part about the vertical stripes when I read through that. That's a weird little tidbit.

However, my pet store actually doesn't sell any of the "true scalare" colour varieties. I've actually never seen a normal striped angel in their display tank. From what I remember last time I glanced at it, they only had marbles and pure colours like platinum and black with maybe a few spots of other colour here and there. They might have one or two koi angels, but no striped ones. At least not in that shipment.

At least I won't have to worry about that little quirk xD I guess RTBS just aren't too keen about pinstripes coming back in style or something, lol.

So school-wise, any school above three should be okay (in other words, what's listed on the profile here)? If that's the case I probably will go with four then so I don't max out my bioload right there (though seeing they're little to start I suppose I probably won't have to worry about that as much as I am as the bacteria could probably catch up okay as they grow).

It's nice to know angels aren't as aggressive as other cichlids when breeding though.

Byron 08-06-2012 11:22 AM

Decide how many you want and acquire them together. Once a group of angelfish is established, they will develop a hierarchy with a dominant male, who will own the tank. If angels are added later, they may well be attacked and killed as intruders. So if you want 4, 5 or 6...get them now together.

Just a caution, you still may have trouble from the shark. As the profile mentions, this really is not a good community fish. There is no way around this. The individual fish's temperament will be whatever it is. It also restricts substrate fish, which in a 55g is a shame because you could have such a nice group of corys, with other cats like whiptail, etc, in with angels. But not with a shark.


sidluckman 08-06-2012 12:30 PM

I agree with Byron. Much as I enjoy seeing large, well-grown RTBS's (which you very seldom see), there are so many sociable substrate dwellers. Some of the loaches are entertaining as heck. With the exception of the Dwarf Chain Loach they are mostly destined to be larger fish, so a 55 gallon tank is appropriate.

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