Can angelfish and fighting fish share the same tank?

Angelfish and Fighting Fish are beloved by aquarists all over the world due to their unique looks. But can they live in the same community tank? In this post, we will cover their main characteristics, specific requirements, and if these two fish can live together. 

Can angelfish and fighting fish share the same tank?

Well, it all depends on the temperament of each fish. If any of them display aggressive behavior it is better to keep them separated. There are other tank mates for them. If both your angelfish and fighting fish are calm,  you might be successful in having them share the same aquarium. 

We will now share information on each species from their origins to appearances, behaviors, diets, and tank requirements followed by our conclusions.

Overview of angelfish

Angelfish are freshwater fish from South America. They are members of the Cichlidae family, presenting less aggressive behavior than other cichlids. Their lifespan is about 10 years if they are well maintained. The most common species of angelfish is Pterophyllum scalare.

Angelfish appearance

The body of a freshwater angelfish looks like an arrowhead. Their fins are vertically dangled.  An adult angelfish can be 6 to 8 inches in height and length (approx. 15-20 cm). 

The most common freshwater angelfish are silver with black bands. Other common angelfish can be black, silver, gold, and marbled. The latter resembles a koi fish with irregular bands or black spots. Golden and silver individuals don’t present their characteristic stripes. 

Angelfish behavior

Although presenting combative behavior, angelfish are known for their semi-aggressive behavior being less aggressive than other cichlids. They can be very territorial, securing their hierarchical position in the school. 

An even number of angelfish is better to avoid the odd one being bullied or attacked. When it comes to breeding, angelfish are one of the few fish species that care for their eggs until they become fry. 

Angelfish diet

Angelfish can have a voracious appetite, eating all the feed, and on some occasions, smaller fish such as Neon fish, baby guppies, or similar size fish.

In the wild, angelfish are omnivorous, eating plants and small prey such as insects, smaller fish, crustaceans, and larvae.

Hence, their diet must have high contents of proteins composed of whole fish as the main ingredient, krills, whole shrimp, and spirulina for great nutrition. 

The perfect tank arrangements for angelfish

The adult angelfish needs a minimum of 20-gallon (75.5 L) volume in the tank per fish. A 55-gallon (208.2 L) tank is ideal so an angelfish can cohabit in a community tank. Angelfish tend to swim in the middle and upper part of the aquarium. So, a taller tank is preferable to avoid fights.

Sharp decorations that could harm your fish should be avoided since they have long and delicate fins. An environment resembling their natural one with natural plants, smoothed rocks, and plenty of hiding spots is ideal for angelfish.

Cultivation parameters

Angelfish must be kept under a pH-neutral environment (6.0-7.5) and temperatures between 75 to 84 F (23.9 to 28.9 °C). In the wild, angelfish have 8 to 12 hours of light exposure. So, a light mimicking sunlight is needed. Angelfish are familiar with little water flow, an under-gravel filter or low flow aeration do just fine.

Overview of Fighting fish

Fighting fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish or simply Betta fish (Betta splendens), are native to Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Their natural habitats comprise rice paddies, canals and floodways, and marshes. Fighting fish are extremely territorial where males can attack each other if sharing the same tank. These fights can even lead to their death. Hence, their name: fighting fish were long used for gambling matches similar to dogfighting or cockfighting.

Fighting fish appearance

Adult fighting fish grow to a length of 2.4 to 3.1 inches (6 to 8 cm). In nature, B. splendens are either green, brown, or grey with shorter fins. However, they have been selectively bred to enhance features such as colors and types of fins. They can live up to 5 years. However, they can be found in beautiful shades of yellow, red, turquoise, marble, copper, and even multicolor. 

Fighting fish finnage variations

Here are some of the various finnage variations among fighting fish:

  • Veiltail: the most common tail type with extended finnage length and non-symmetrical tail; 
  • Crowntail: Fin rays are extended beyond the membrane making the tail look like a crown; also known as fringe tail;
  • Rosetail: Overlapping finnage that reminds a rose;
  • Plakat: Short fins like the ones present in wild-type fighting fish;
  • Double tail or Full-moon: Duplicated tail fin with an elongated dorsal fin; 
  • Elephant Ear: Larger pectoral fins than normal resembling elephant ears. They are frequently white.

Fighting fish behavior

Fighting fish can display associative learning making them good subjects of scientific studies. They often flare or puff their opercula to intimidate other fishes or during courtship. 

In their tank, fighting fish fiercely defend their territory. Fighting comprises fin nipping, extended fins, intensified colors, and flared gills. They can even fight their reflection! So, when pairing two fighting fish in a tank, make sure they have plenty of hiding spots and at least 10-gallon (45 L) per fish. Fighting fish can demonstrate aggression towards slower and smaller fishes though.

During breeding, male fighting fish build a bubble nest to attract potential females for breeding. After the eggs are hatched, only the male look after their fry.

Fighting fish diet

Fighting fish are carnivorous, feeding on zooplankton, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, shrimp, and raw fish pellets or fish flakes. Hence, they need high-quality protein for their diet. They are prone to overfeeding. This can lead to health issues such as bladder disease, constipation, obesity, not to mention the poor quality of water. A good rule of thumb is to feed them once a day with a certain amount of food that they manage to eat within 3 to 5 minutes.

The perfect tank arrangements for fighting fish

Despite moving up and down the water column, fighting fish prefers to the surface of the tank while angelfish swim in the mid part of the water column.

Fighting fish need far less space than angelfish. A good size tank is about 5 gallons (approx. 19 L), keeping in mind that the size of a tank must increase if Fighting  fish are living in a sorority as well as with other species.

Fighting fish needs a lot of stimulation. So, an enriched environment is great to keep your fish active. Sand can be a good substrate for a fighting tank so they can feed on the remains of food that settled in the bottom of the tank without damaging their fins. 

Live plants, rocks, and caves are excellent choices of decoration. However, don’t overflow the aquarium with decorations since breathing, feeding, and breeding are activities that take place on the water surface. 

Fighting fish are used to calm waters so flow is not a must. On the other hand, a filter is necessary to keep the water clean. The minimum size tank would be 3 to 5-gallon (9 to 19 L). Fighting fish thrive in temperatures ranging from 75 to 80 F (23.8 to 26.7 °C). The ideal pH should be between 6 to 8.

Fighting fish health

There are clear signs that show the health state of your fish. Below are signs of a healthy fish and signs to keep an eye on to avoid any serious issue health-related:

Fighting fish health signs
PositiveNegative
ActiveLoss of appetite and weight  
AlertLoss of color
Regular eatingLabored respiration
Unfrayed finsBloating, unnatural frayed fins
Vibrant colorsErratic swimming
TerritorialCloudy eyes
Aggressive towards external stimulusElevated scales, spots, or fungal infection

Keeping angelfish and fighting fish together

The most important thing to consider before housing an angelfish and a fighting fish is the temperament of each fish. If either of them is aggressive, then it is not in their best interest to keep them together.

However, if they are docile there is a chance of success. Keep in mind that even if they don’t display aggressive behavior, they might become aggressive towards each other once in the same tank. Another thing to consider is the number of fish in the tank. It’s better not to have them in pairs. A pair of angelfish can be a death threat to your fighting fish.

A few factors are important when considering keeping both species under the same environment and decreasing the risk of aggression. Remember that a community tank with aggressive fish should be big enough so they don’t have to cross paths. So, they better have a tall tank that holds at least 55-gallons  (250 L) with lots of enrichment and hiding spots. This way, you will have time to separate them and relocate them into separate fish tanks.

Given that both fish are territorial, they can see each other as competitors and fight. Fin-nipping can be common and lead to severe damage and/or death. A good idea is to buy them young so they can get used to each other.

Again, that doesn’t guarantee there won’t be any fighting between the angelfish and the fighting fish. It’s always good to have a spare tank. Just in case.

5 best mates for angelfish and fighting fish

Here are some fishes that can be excellent mates to live with angelfish and fighting  fish in a community tank:

AngelfishFighting fish
Zebra LoachesKuhli Loaches
Boesimani Rainbow FishHarlequin Rasboras
PlatiesMalaysian Trumpet Snails
MolliesEmber Tetras
Cory CatfishCory Catfish
Dwarf GouramisShrimps

Conclusion

  • Angelfish and fighting fish can live together with some precautions. Make sure you have a large tank so both angelfish and fighting fish have plenty of space and hiding spots. 
  • Their ability to coexist in the same tank also depends on the temperament of each specimen. Attention towards their behavior must be given at all times. 
  • Make sure you have a spare tank to separate them in case of fin-nipping or fights.
  • Avoid keeping a pair of angelfish with your fighting fish and vice-versa.
  • Other tank mates are suitable for each species and can live well together in a  community tank. 

If you have any questions related to whether angelfish and fighting fish can be kept together, please leave us a comment below. Have you had a successful experience with them cohabiting the same tank? We would love to hear your story!

References

Forsatkar, Mohammad; Nematollahi, Mohammad; Bron, Culum (2016). Male Siamese Fighting Fish use gill flaring as the first display towards territorial intruders. Journal of Ethology. 35:51–59.  

Gómez-Laplaza, L. M. & Morgan, E. (1993). Social isolation, aggression, and dominance in attacks in juvenile angelfish, Pterophyllum scalare. Aggressive Behavior, 19(3), 213-222. DOI:10.1002/1098-2337(1993)19:3<213::aid-ab2480190306>3.0.co;2-X

Srinivasan, M.  (2013) A complete manual on Ornamental Fish Culture. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing. Saarbrücken, Germany. 222 p.

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