Keeping saltwater angelfish in the same aquarium

I’m a HUGE fan of saltwater fish, and I have a 180 gallon saltwater FOWLR (Fish Only With Live Rock) aquarium in my living room. By far my favorite type of fish are saltwater angels, as they are among the most colorful and interesting fish available in the hobby.

Keeping a single saltwater angelfish requires some advanced husbandry. They need large tanks (6 feet or more in length), good water quality, and a good diet. But keeping more than one in the same tank requires proper planning, consistent effort, and a bit of luck, as saltwater angelfish are territorial.

In my aquarium I have 6 saltwater angels (along with a few other non angelfish). Two of them are of the dwarf variety (meaning they do not grow larger than 3-4 inches) and 4 are of the full-size variety (with full-grown aquarium sizes of around 8-10 inches, larger in the oceans). Specifically, I have a 2 inch dwarf Coral Beauty, a 2 inch dwarf Lemon Peel, a 4 inch Emperor Angel, a 5 inch French Angel, a 5 inch Asfur Angel, and a 6 inch Queen Angel. They get along reasonably well (more on that later) and they are all healthy and eating well. So how did I do it?

First things first. You need a big tank with good filtration. If you’re going to attempt to keep multiple full-sized saltwater angelfish in the same aquarium, I would suggest a 180 gallon tank at a minimum. You’d be surprised how big, fast, and aggressive these guys can get. A 180 gallon tank might seem huge, but once you see a few angels swimming around in there, you’ll quickly realize it’s not as big as you think. You’ll also need to keep the water quality high, which means you’ll need a good quality filter (I use a large canister filter located beneath the aquarium) and a powerful and efficient protein skimmer to remove waste in between water changes. Speaking of those water changes, I change out 10% of the water every 3 weeks without fail, and you should do the same. There is no substitute for water changes.

Due to their territorial nature, angels need a lot of hiding places. My aquarium has about 100 pounds of live rock arranged in such a way that there are numerous deep caves for the fish to swim through and hide in. That really helps with aggression. Along with the live rock I utilize a 1 inch deep live sandbed to help aid in biological filtration and waste-processing. I feed my fish 3 times each day, including a high quality pellet food, various types of frozen foods, and dried seaweed (Nori). A balanced diet and good water quality are keys to successful fish keeping.

Lastly, stocking order is very important if you’re going to keep more than one saltwater angelfish. All of my fish spend a minimum of 3-4 weeks in quarantine before going into the main display, which helps with disease prevention. Always put your smallest and least aggressive angels into the main display first (this is where research comes in) and allow them to establish their territories before adding larger and more aggressive angels. In my case, my small juvenile Emperor was the first angel added post-quarantine, followed by the small juvenile French angel. Next came my medium Asfur angel, followed by my larger and more antagonistic adult Queen angel. I actually had to remove the Queen angel after a day or two because she was picking on the French angel. She went back to the quarantine tank for a few weeks before being introduced into the main display again, and this time things went a lot smoother.

Keeping large angelfish together isn’t easy, but with proper planning, religious aquarium maintenance and a bit of luck it is very possible. Your reward will be a stunning aquarium with color and activity you could never have dreamed of. Want proof? The photo in this blog post is from my living room tank, and it doesn’t do it justice.