Angelfish are colorful, graceful creatures that hail from the Amazon Basin and oceans around the world. Their lifecycle undergoes a complex series of stages, as the fry grows from eggs into full adults. If they’re given the right conditions, these fish can reach maturity and begin reproducing in short order. However, they do require specific conditions.
Angelfish fry takes about 6 to 12 months to become full-grown. During this, they will begin as eggs that take 60 hours to reach the hatching stage. They will then sprout out and become wigglers, with a yolk attached for sustenance. They will consume this and begin swimming freely after another 2 days. From here on, angelfish will become juveniles, growing to 20 millimeters in 16 weeks.
They will continue gaining weight, size, and strength in the following months, before finally becoming an adult. Once an angelfish has become full-grown, it can begin reproducing. An adult female will lay eggs every 12 to 18 days under ideal conditions. To speed up this growth, and make your angelfish bigger, you need to maintain a healthy tank.
How Long Do Angelfish Take to Grow?
From their egg stage to adulthood, the average pet angelfish will take 6-12 months to reach its full size. During this time, angelfish undergo 7 stages of growth. Each of these points is a delicate time for angelfish.
They need to have the right environment, food, and temperature conditions in order to successfully transition from one stage to another. If any of these factors are lacking, the angelfish may:
- Become ill
- Develop a range of deformities
- Have its growth stunted
- Even pass away
As such, if you’re raising angelfish, it’s important to understand each stage of life. This will help you cultivate the right environment, so your fish can reach their maximum lifespan.
Angelfish Fry Growth Rate
In the right conditions, the angelfish may then live for between 10 to 15 years. During this period, saltwater angelfish in the wild can grow up to 10 inches in size. However, freshwater angelfish are smaller. Your common pet angelfish will only reach an average size of 6 inches.
Your angelfish will transform from fry to a sexually mature adult in about 12 months. Once this happens, it gains the ability to lay eggs every 12 to 18 days. It will be able to find a mate, and begin the process anew. Before you actually get your fry, you’ll notice your mated angelfish completing several preparation situations.
- Preparing The Breeding Site. Angelfish of both sexes will jointly clean and tidy up an area where the eggs will be laid. This takes as long as 24 hours. The fish will choose the most stable and flat areas of the tank.
- Laying. The female angelfish will lay eggs in this spot. They will be left to the male for fertilization.
- Protection. The parents will safeguard the eggs from other fish, and keep the eggs themselves well-cleaned. Fungus, sediment, or any other material that touches the eggs will be promptly removed.
Once that’s underway, life truly begins for your angelfish fry. The parents will closely (and in some cases, viciously) defend their offspring as the eggs go through their delicate growth.
Stages of Growth of the Angelfish Fry
Once the eggs have been fertilized, your angelfish fry begin their lifecycle. Let’s explore their journey from conception to adulthood, stage by stage.
The Germination Stage
Over the course of 60 hours, the eggs will brew. During this time, the sperm works through the individual eggs and begins the complex cycle of development. Inside, the fry will begin to develop tissue, organs, and other necessary body parts on a microscopic level.
The Hatching Stage
After 60 hours, the eggs will begin to hatch. If you look closely, you may see little tails starting to wiggle and squirm out of the soft egg sac. At this stage, the fry are turning into wigglers. They are still connected to the yolk sac for nutrition at this phase.
The Wigglers Stage
Growth continues on the 3rd and 4th days. The tails of the fry will begin to elongate, and the size of the yolk sac will start to reduce. The eyes of the baby angelfish will also begin to take shape and become more prominent.
However, the wigglers are still connected to the yolk sac. They will thrash their tails with more energy, trying to break loose and swim to freedom.
The Free Swimming Stage
The wigglers finally become detached by the 6th or 7th day. They will be seen swimming freely all over the tank. By this time, there is no sign of the yolk sac. The fry have consumed it entirely and are now topped up with the energy necessary to move about on their own.
Detachment from the yolk sacs means more freedom. However, the fry must now locate food to keep up their high-paced growth cycle. In the wild, they would immediately begin foraging and scavenging. In your tank, the fry should be given micro worms as food. There is no yolk sac to provide nutrition for them, so you need to assume the role.
The Juvenile Stage
This will be a long stage, with several little stages happening in between. The fry will continue to swim on their own and seek out food. Their appetites will be heady, and you should provide nutrient-dense food 4 times every 24 hours. They will begin to gain weight and size, and need more sustenance than adults to achieve that in such a small amount of time.
For the first 2 months, give the baby angelfish frozen and live food. It’s wise to have both available, as they will need variety in their diet. During this time, you may need to isolate the fry into a tank of their own, if you haven’t already. That’s because mature angelfish have been known to consume their own fry.
This is chalked up as inexperience by the parents. They may get their natural hunting instincts and territorial behavior mixed up with their parental instincts. The habit generally goes away after 2-3 batches of fry, but it’s better safe than sorry.
You may notice some of your baby angelfish growing larger than others. If there is a very stark difference, then some may be lacking the right amount of food. If the difference is minor, this is normal. Angelfish will grow at their own pace, some pulling ahead of others. This is because of genetic differences or minor changes in their tank conditions. Overall, the little angels should reach:
- 18 millimeters in 10 weeks
- Up to 20 millimeters in 16 weeks
The Teenage Stage
From this point onward, there is a much swifter rate of growth. Any size differences might be washed away.
Your angelfish will grow a few millimeters every week. By 6 months, they should have achieved most of their size. This will be between 4-5 inches. Depending on the species, the fish may cap out at this size. If it is a larger breed, such as the common pterophyllum scalare, it will gain an extra inch over the next 6 months.
Apart from that, the clearest sign of growth is how the eyes grow in proportion to the body. As a fry or juvenile, the eyes will be thick and bulgy, seeming out of place on the angelfish’s head. As it passes through its teenage stage, its body will grow while the eyes stay relatively the same. Eventually, the bulging will subside and the eyes will be smoother on the face.
You will know your angelfish has reached adulthood when it displays sexual maturity. If you keep a single-sex tank, this may be harder to tell. In a mixed tank, the males and females will show attraction to each other. Breeding season will have them:
- Swimming quickly and (sometimes) erratically to impress mates
- Fighting with others of the same sex to assert dominance
- Spending their time exclusively with one other angelfish
- Preparing an area of their own for breeding
- Producing eggs or fertilizing them
At this stage, the cycle will begin anew. If you can’t find indicators of sexual maturity, though, you can trust your eyes and the calendar. If your angelfish has reached the maximum size for its species, and 12 months have passed, you have an adult.
How to Make Angelfish Grow Faster
Of course, there are ways to speed this growth cycle up. The biggest limiting factor in an angelfish’s growth is the condition of its tank. If you’re able to provide an ideal habitat, the fry will be able to:
- Better process nutrients
- Focus more of their energy on growing, rather than surviving
- Experience less stress, a factor which can stunt their hormone development
- Have more space to explore and exercise
All of these factors can dramatically boost how large your angelfish gets, and how fast it gets there. That’s why angelfish in the wild, especially saltwater varieties, tend to grow to impressive sizes. Wild angelfish are also exposed to climate change and predators, which can stunt their growth or shorten their lifespan. You can provide more controlled conditions.
So how can you build the perfect tank for growing fry? Here’s how to make your baby angelfish reach adulthood quickly.
Angelfish are not strong swimmers, even if they’re fast-paced. When presented with fast-moving water or strong currents, they will become exhausted. Nutrients and energy will be devoted to fighting the water, instead of growing.
As such, be sure to provide your fish with tranquil waters and a low-flow pump. The tank will need to be properly oxygenated, so it cannot be entirely still, like a fish bowl. Instead, an air pump or gentle filter that lightly stirs up the water will be ideal.
It’s wise to separate the fry from other fish, including their parents. Fry can live in schools on their own, and may enjoy the company. However, adult fish, fish of other species, or growing angelfish much later in their own growth cycle can be a danger.
This may lead to fighting, cannibalism, or the fry being chased. This can burn more energy than needed, increase the stress levels of fry, and stunt their growth. At the worst, it may end up with them getting eaten.
Even if the parents can defend and protect the fry, this may still cause issues. The regular fights will lead to steady stress, causing the fry to grow slowly.
Compartmentalize the Tank
If you only have one tank, or are growing multiple batches of fry, you can avoid buying several new aquariums. Instead, use nettings, a fry basket, or another container to separate the fish. The fry can be enclosed in their own area, while still sharing water with the rest of the tank.
As the angelfish grow through their teenage stage, you can introduce them fully to the tank. When you do, be sure they have ample hiding places. This will allow them to:
- Isolate themselves from conflict
- Hide from larger or more aggressive fish
- Hunker down for sleep or rest
- Have spaces where they can feel safe if they’re stressed out
As you introduce them, it’s also wise to move around the existing decorations and plants. This will muddle up any territories the other fish have established. They will be less likely to see the fry as newcomers, and instead as just another distraction.
Use Artificial Plants
Angelfish, as they grow, are still building their immune systems. This can make the fry more vulnerable to sickness, disease, and injury. If they survive any bad encounters with pathogens, they may have their growth stunted. After all, they’ll need to use their nutrients for recovery, not getting bigger at a fast pace.
As such, only use artificial plants in your tank that has been properly sanitized beforehand. While live plants are a natural, healthy addition to tanks and can improve oxygen levels, there are dangers. They’re more likely to have contaminants that may hurt your angelfish or introduce dangerous bacteria.
In that same vein, try to avoid introducing new fish to the tank throughout this growth period. Angelfish that don’t have to fight off illness will grow much faster.
Pick The Right Food
Your growing fry will see an impressive jump in size if they’re well fed. According to the Veterinary Research Forum, there’s a direct connection between proper feeding and faster-paced growth. A good diet should include:
- Micro worms
- Brine shrimp
- Blood worms
- Protein-dense pellets
- Vitamin-rich flakes
For the worms and shrimp, these can be offered frozen, dried, or live. When the angelfish are still small, you may need to dice up their food prior to feeding. If they cannot easily fit it in their mouth, it may sink to the bottom of the tank and create waste. Your angelfish may also become underfed, even if they’re provided with food 4 times a day.
You should give your angelfish as much food as they can eat. There is little danger of overfeeding at this stage. Any uneaten food will float to the top or bottom of the tank. You should clean this out by hand. If the angelfish consume all the food, try offering a little more just in case. Fry have a voracious appetite and should be accommodated to help them grow quickly.
You might think these little fish don’t need much space, but the opposite is true. If your angelfish fry are given a sizable tank, they will grow at a faster rate. That’s because they will:
- Feel less constricted
- Be able to swim and exercise more easily
- Will be less stressed about overcrowding or territories
- Can map out larger territories, like they would in the wild
According to the Oceanic Institute in Hawaii, tank size even has a positive effect on reproduction. Your adult fish will produce more fry and healthier fry in large tanks. For 2-3 angelfish, you need at least 45-55 gallons.
It’s perfectly fine to start with a 20-gallon tank while your fish are in the wiggler and juvenile stage. As they grow in size, however, you should upgrade them as quickly as you can. They will grow to accommodate the tank size in short order.
Angelfish will experience illness, hormone imbalances, and stunted growth in dirty tanks. As such, it’s very important to maintain a rigorous cleaning routine on an aquarium with fry. If you want them to grow to a healthy size, this is crucial – but especially if you want them to do so fast.
You should install a quality filter, remove uneaten food immediately, and change your water monthly. Water changes should be performed more often if you have several fish and waste accumulates more quickly.
Aside from food and tank size, the chemical balance of your tank is the most important part. Angelfish will grow more quickly if they’re kept in their ideal parameters. While they’re hardy enough to survive slightly different conditions, this may result in your fish growing slowly or not reaching its full size. Be sure to monitor the levels of:
Angelfish thrive very well in a pH range of 6 to 8, and a temperature range of 75 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science, this can help with not only the growth rate, but also weight gain in angelfish. This will help them fight off illnesses or sudden changes to their environment more easily.
Light is also important, with a minimum of 12 hours needed. If you maintain these conditions, your angelfish will journey through to adulthood much healthier, happier, and faster.