Angelfish are piscivores – they eat other fish, including their own species. They mainly eat other fish due to inadequate living conditions, stress, territorial disputes, and limited food. Provide enough space, hiding places, food, and similar-sized fish to prevent angelfish from eating other fish.
Have you noticed some of your fish disappearing? Can your angelfish really be eating its tankmates? Let’s deep dive into if and why they eat their tank mates (and fry) and, more importantly, how you can prevent angelfish from doing so.
Do Angelfish Eat Other Fish?
Angelfish are naturally piscivorous and cannibalistic, meaning they eat other fish, including their own species and fry.
Angelfish are the most docile of the cichlid species; however, they remain semi-aggressive, territorial, and predators. As a result, they may consume any smaller fish that fits into their mouth – even their own fry.
In their natural habitat, angelfish ambush and consume small fish, invertebrates, and insects to gain nutrients – this hunting instinct remains in domestic tank settings. However, while angelfish eat plants and algae, they require a high protein diet for optimal health.
So, although angelfish eat brine shrimp, blood worms, tropical flakes, color flakes, and shrimp pellets, they will feed on other fish if their environment is inadequate (more on that later).
You can also find angelfish eating their eggs or fry, cannibalizing dead fish, nipping the fins of other fish, and eating fish poop. In addition, male angelfish can bite each other during disputes, resulting in one eating the other.
You’ll need to be selective when choosing tankmates for angelfish to prevent them from becoming dinner.
What Fish Do Angelfish Eat?
Angelfish occasionally exhibit predatory behavior, demolishing smaller fish like tetras, neon tetras, and small guppies.
Like all living organisms, angelfish have the instinctual need to survive. As a result, they will act in self-interest and eat other small fish.
Angelfish regard the smaller fish as a food source instead of tankmates. These opportunistic feeders happily snack on their smaller tankmates when their resources are limited or when displaying territorial behavior.
Are Angelfish Cannibals?
Angelfish can be aggressive and cannibalistic toward each other. However, it’s not their initial choice. Instead, angelfish will first eat other smaller fish before eating their own species.
However, cannibalization typically happens in the following situations:
- Angelfish are filial cannibals, eating their whole brood (total filial cannibalism) or a portion of the eggs and offspring (partial filial cannibalism)
- The smaller angelfish easily fits in the larger angelfish’s mouth.
- Conflict during mating or territorial disputes.
Do Angelfish Eat Their Babies?
A pair of angelfish often eat up all the eggs of their first brood. However, they stop this behavior after the third or fourth brood.
Some male angelfish may still eat a portion of the eggs (partial filial cannibalism) and fry. This ensures that there are sufficient resources and reduced mating competition.
Do Angelfish Eat Fish Waste?
Angelfish are opportunistic feeders and may feast on other fish waste, including:
- Other fish’s dead bodies
Why Do Angelfish Eat Other Fish?
Many novice tank owners believe that angelfish only eat smaller fish when they aren’t sufficiently fed. However, this is only partially true. The most common reasons angelfish eat their smaller tankmates include:
- Territorial Disputes
- Space Constraints
- Food Availability and Food Scarcity
- Incorrect Male to Female Ratio
Territoriality is an instinct that allows angelfish to protect their territory, resources, and spawning spots. Even though angelfish typically live in groups, they can become aggressive when there’s a shortage of territorial markers. Aggression is how angelfish communicate their hierarchy.
A home aquarium has significantly less space than its natural habitat. So, when smaller fish invade their territory, male angelfish display aggression as a sign of dominance or to clear the area by eating the smaller fish, especially during procreation.
Indications of territorial disputes include chasing, nipping, hitting with tails, and staring.
Angelfish grow pretty large compared to smaller fish varieties like guppies and tetras. So, as angelfish mature, they need ample tank space.
Although generally docile, angelfish can become aggressive from limited tank space, overcrowding, and restricted movement. In addition, space constraints lead to stress which triggers aggressive behavior.
Food Availability and Food Scarcity
Angelfish can also display aggressive behavior if they experience food scarcity or lack adequate nutrition and protein. In turn, they may chase or eat other fish. Therefore, you will need to provide plenty of varied, fresh foods for your angelfish to eat.
The angelfish environment can also impact the availability of food. For example, more prey is available during spawning.
Freshwater angelfish are monogamous. They form long-term monogamous pairs with their mates that last a lifetime. If one of the angelfish partners dies, the remaining fish spends its life in celibacy.
Mated fish pairs display aggressive behavior and protect each other from predators or threats. As a result, angelfish may eat smaller fish, which can be viewed as a threat. In addition, unpaired male angelfish might also fight for mating opportunities.
Stress is another primary contributor that flames aggression in angelfish. When anxious or stressed, your angelfish may feel threatened and resort to eating in a state of panic.
Angelfish can experience stress from illness, food shortages, overcrowding, poor water quality, unstable water parameters, incompatible tankmates, too frequent water changes, etc.
Stressed angelfish will exhibit aggression towards other tankmates – including their own kind – leading to fights, severe injuries, or eating the smaller fish.
Incorrect Male to Female Ratio
Angelfish are prone to aggressive behavior during breeding, especially when there are too many angelfish of the same gender.
Housing too many males with too few females lead to competitive behavior and territorial disputes for mating rights. As a result, the males resort to fighting to assert dominance over females.
The fight can get out of control, resulting in severely injured or killed fish. Therefore, it’s vital to closely monitor the tank to ensure a proper gender balance and avoid potential conflict.
How To Stop Angelfish Eating Other Fish?
Angelfish can eat other fish and their young despite perfect tank conditions. However, ideal tank conditions reduce the risk significantly.
Here’s how you can minimize angelfish from eating their smaller tankmates:
- Ensure you provide a well-balanced diet of live foods, pellets, flakes, veggies, and plants
- Avoid frequently swapping and changing the aquarium plants, changing the tank water too often, and adding new fish to the tank
- Monitor the tank’s water temperature, pH, oxygen levels, and cleanliness
- Ensure the angelfish have sufficient tank space and avoid overcrowding the tank
- Reduce stress by placing the tank in a quiet corner of a room
- Separate any injured fish and quarantine them to prevent your angelfish from picking on them
- Ensure their tank is large enough
- Aim to have a 1:1 ratio between females and males
Angelfish eat other smaller fish; it’s part of their innate nature. However, you can minimize the likelihood by providing a large enough tank, ample food, privacy, and a 1:1 female-to-male ratio.