If you’re breeding angelfish, it’s important to know when they’re about to lay eggs. Helping them prepare for this moment can boost the eggs’ chance of survival. If you’re not breeding your fish, you may also want to know when eggs are incoming. This will give you a chance to remove them before they develop into full fry. The good news is that angelfish will display clear signs when they’re about to lay eggs.
A female angelfish will grow eggs inside of her over the course of 2 weeks. During this time, she will prepare and clean an area for laying them, either by herself or with a mate. She will then become more protective of this spot, her territory, herself, and her mate. She will develop a bulge in her underside where the eggs are growing, which is most notable when you look down at her from above. Once she’s about to lay the eggs, her papilla will become very obvious.
Angelfish are able to lay eggs once they reach maturity. Depending on their species, and their tank condition, this may be at 6-12 months of age. While it takes both a male and a female to create fry, the eggs themselves don’t require a male. A female angelfish can develop the eggs inside her and lay them by herself. If a male doesn’t come along to fertilize them, then the eggs will eventually die and begin to rot.
Do Angelfish Lay Eggs Without A Male?
According to the Journal of Biology, female angelfish don’t lay eggs unless they receive cues from their environment that trigger spawning behavior. Usually, this is a male that uses pheromones and visual cues to entice the female into spawning. However, the female can also pick up cues from her environment, and may spawn without a male.
For example, she might be interested in her own reflection in the tank glass or in any decorations you put in the tank. Likewise, she may also pick up subtle cues from plants, other fish, or angelfish she’s not paired with. This tells her the time is right to produce eggs, which will likely be fertilized even if she doesn’t have a mate. Part of it is also the female getting confused; all the signals are right, but the situation or timing isn’t right.
Because of this, female angelfish are technically capable of laying eggs without a male. The actual process of growing the eggs will take place just within her, so she doesn’t need help. Once the eggs have developed into full, viable eggs, she will lay them in a safe area. After this point, if there is no male to fertilize them, the eggs will remain sterile without life.
Angelfish are egg-layers, so the fertilization doesn’t happen through the angelfish copulating. If you’re keeping a single female angelfish in a tank by herself, she might produce eggs once every 2 weeks.
Until then, the female will go through her normal ‘pregnancy’ stage. This involves growing the eggs inside of her before they’re laid. Angelfish don’t have live births, but do show outward signs of when they’re developing the eggs. She will carry the eggs inside of her, and show signs of ‘pregnancy.’
Should My Angelfish Lay Eggs By Itself?
There’s no point in your female angelfish laying eggs by herself. They won’t be fertilized and can’t grow into baby angelfish. However, that doesn’t mean the process is dangerous.
If you notice your fish laying eggs, even when it’s kept by itself, you don’t need to panic or intervene. Your female angelfish won’t get sick or be harmed by growing the eggs and laying them herself.
As time goes on and the eggs are not fertilized, they may begin to develop rot, fungus, or algae on them. Before this point, most females will eat their own eggs. This allows her to gain back some of the nutrients she used to create the eggs. It also keeps other predators away from her territory, and helps keep her environment cleaner.
A female angelfish may also eat the eggs after they’ve been fertilized, because she’ll get confused about if they’re really her own eggs.
Signs That Angelfish Are About To Lay Eggs
Some angelfish will not show any clear signs when they’re pregnant. If they’re a large breed, or have a small clutch, then it’s difficult for you to pick out the physical changes. Likewise, if you don’t watch your angelfish at all times, it’s easy to miss the subtler signs of pregnancy.
In other fish, these signs will be very obvious. Keep an eye out, and you’ll be able to tell when the angelfish is about to lay her eggs.
Cleaning The Area
When an angelfish is about to lay eggs, it will first prepare an area in the tank. If it has paired itself with a mate, this task will be shared by both of them. If the female is alone, then she will personally find an area that is:
- Flat and smooth
- Away from other fish, or deep within her own territory
Here, she will remove any debris, fungus, and move around the rocks. The idea is for her to create a safe area for the eggs to sit while they develop and grow. If a male is present, he will also be in charge of fertilizing and protecting the eggs in this place. If there is no male, then the female will stay here and guard the spot as she goes through the ‘pregnancy’ stage.
Angelfish are highly protective of their children, their territory, and their mate. Even if your angelfish is not paired with a mate, this behavior will stick around. Your female will guard her new laying area before the eggs are placed there. She will:
- Drive off other fish
- Be more defensive of food
- May be seen to quickly swim around the tank at high speeds
An angelfish without a mate will not understand that no real fry will come out of laying these eggs. She will still be intent on keeping the area safe and secluded.
The physical changes are some of the easiest ways to tell if your angelfish is about to lay eggs. As the eggs grow within the female, her belly will start to bulge outward. This will be most obvious when you’re looking at the angelfish from the top down.
Towards the back of her body, and on her underside, there will be a gentle roundness that disrupts an angelfish’s otherwise sleek shape. You can also see this bulge from the side, but it mostly extends outwards, not downwards.
Your angelfish will develop this bulge over the course of 2 weeks. In the beginning, it will be subtle. Towards the end, it will be prominent. If you find the bulge appears out of nowhere, then you may be dealing with a health issue. Angelfish can become constipated, which happens when they:
- Eat dry flakes that have not properly expanded in the water first
- Have defects from early in life that disrupts their digestion
- Are overly stressed
To tell pregnancy apart from constipation, watch your angelfish’s eating habits. If she stops eating altogether, or eats very little, she may be constipated. If she’s just as hungry as before, or perhaps more hungry, then it’s likely that she’s carrying eggs.
An angelfish that’s about to lay eggs may become lethargic. As the day approaches for the laying, the fish will:
- Feel weighed down by the eggs
- Be putting more energy into developing them
- Be more reserved and cautious of other fish
Because of that, you might find your otherwise fast-paced fish getting slow and docile. This is a good sign. If the fish is not stressed into quickly darting around the tank, then it feels safe in its territory. It will more comfortably lay the eggs, and be less likely to start conflict with others in the tank.
However, angelfish are usually quick swimmers. If they become slow and it’s not due to pregnancy, it may be due to illness. Be sure to look over the fish and compare it to other signs of egg-laying. If the female hasn’t prepared a spot for the eggs, isn’t staying with her mate, and hasn’t developed a bulge, this could be bad news. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is the female not eating properly?
- Has she lost coloring?
- Does she show any kinds of growths or injuries on her body?
- Does she remain slow for more than a few days?
Then your angelfish may in fact be sick. You can look for other symptoms and explore different treatments. However, if she does show telltale signs of pregnancy, and the slow swimming only lasts for a day or two, it’s another sign that she’s about to lay eggs.
A pregnant angelfish will be looking for a place to hunker down as she develops the eggs. Towards the end of the pregnancy, she will spend more time in her hiding places. If she has a mate, the male will stay with her during this time. They will both be very defensive of their territory, and may lash out at other fish that get near them. When alone, the female angelfish will tuck herself:
- Under or around decorations
- Swim near or around plant life
- Stay near the bottom of the tank
- Try to stay out of sight
The female will come out to feed and to do light checks of her territory and egg-laying spot. However, you won’t find her as eager to check out the full tank as before.
No Pause In Eating
As mentioned, sick angelfish may stop eating. A pregnant angelfish, on the other hand, will eat just as much as before, or even more. It takes energy to form the eggs within the angelfish’s body, and she will need to recoup this. You can expect the female to be happy to munch on protein-rich live food or frozen brine worms.
To lay the eggs, the angelfish will ‘spawn.’ This describes the process where the eggs are laid by the female, while the male follows behind to fertilize the eggs as they become free of her body. This is done with an organ called the papilla.
Depending on the angelfish, it may be pink in color and extend slightly from the body. In the female, this organ will be large and blunt, and there may be swelling or bulging around her papilla. It will lay flatter on her body than with males, who have smaller ones that protrude farther from their body.
If you see the papilla extended from the angelfish, then it’s about to lay eggs.
How Often Do Angelfish Lay Eggs?
A female angelfish can lay eggs every 2 weeks. Depending on the fish, this timeline might vary, with the fish spawning every 10 days or 15 days. That’s because the egg-laying process is deeply affected by your fish’s health.
Fish that are healthy, well-fed, and kept in a clean environment will be able to lay more often. After all, there’s less strain on the female’s body and she’s able to grow eggs more effectively. Angelfish that are stressed, injured, or ill will struggle to produce more eggs, so there may be delays.
Once the female has laid her eggs, if they are destroyed, she’ll immediately start over. She will clean the area and her body will start working to form new eggs.
However, if the eggs are successfully fertilized and she’s able to care for them as they grow, she will not produce more. Instead, she and her mate will work to protect the eggs, defend the fry, and eventually help the offspring to be independent. Once they’re free and on their own, the female will go back to developing more eggs.
If you separate a female from her eggs, she will consider them ‘destroyed.’ Her body will begin generating more eggs. Depending on the species of the angelfish and its size, it can lay between 100-1000 eggs in a single batch. Most of these are not expected to survive since, in the wild, eggs can be destroyed by predators, environmental changes, or little mishaps along the way. The high number of eggs will ensure that some do survive into growth.
Gestation Period For Angelfish Eggs
Angelfish eggs begin their official gestation once they’ve been laid. At this point, it will take them 60 hours to process the sperm, grow organs, and start breaking free of their eggs.
How Long Does It Take For Angelfish Eggs To Hatch?
Angelfish eggs will take 2-3 days to properly hatch. At this point, the baby fish will start working their way out of the squishy ball of their egg. Their tails will pop out first and lightly begin to thrash. Over the next 3 days, they will slowly break free and start consuming their egg yolk, according to Aquaculture Research.
Once they reach the wiggler stage, they’ll graduate into more independent fry. According to Zoological Science, it will take the fry 4-5 days to begin swimming on their own after their egg has been laid. This is when most people consider their angelfish to be properly ‘hatched’.
During this time, the parents will carefully protect the clutch of eggs. If the parents are young and inexperienced, they may try to eat the fry. However, if they’re not stressed and have laid a few clutches before, they will cautiously maintain their territory and keep other fish from getting near to them. Once the fry are large enough to properly care for themselves, the parents will start working on the next batch of fry.
Angelfish will lay eggs often. You may need to remove the eggs once they’ve been laid to keep the fry safe. If you don’t want to have fry in your tank, you can use the signs of pregnancy as an early warning. You’ll have time to get prepared for removing and destroying the eggs, and keep your tank population at a balanced number.