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Pterophyllum cichlid the King of the Aquarium
Angelfishes: (Pterophyllum) (Family CICHLIDAE)
Before the Discus fish was introduced into the hobby in 1933, the Angelfish, Pterophyllum, was probably at that time the most respected and desirable of all aquarium fishes, indeed many fishkeepers crowned it "King of the Aquarium", a title which the Discus fish was to claim some years later. Like the Discus, the Angelfish is a Cichlid, a member of the Cichlidae family, and despite it's de-throne, it is still a very popular aquarium fish. The genus Pterophyllum consists of fishes that are disc-like in shape, but unlike the Discus fish, its dorsal and anal fins are well extended, and it has ventral fins that are very long and which look like feelers.
Again, as with certain other species of fishes, confusion arises as to the identification of wild species and their origins, even more so when you consider the theories of some, that fishes in the wild may interbreed, although others think this is unlikely, and from what I can gather studies are being carried out by some scientists in a hope to clear up that disagreement. One thing does seem certain though, interbreeding does occur in captivity, indeed, you will probably find that the strains commercially available to-day are the result of many decades of selective breeding, therefore any Angelfish you may buy would most likely posses genes of more than one species. This results in fishes only having a passing resemblance to their wild ancestors, and don't actually represent any one species.
It has become clear to me that scientists don't always agree with their predecessors on the studies of a particular genus, this is why you find the names of fishes changing from time to time. It would appear at the moment that wild species of Pterophyllum currently recognized are P. scalare, P. altum, and P. leopoldi. You may also come across other names, as I have in older books, such as P.eimekei and P. dumerilii.
There are different varieties of Angelfish, and these are comprised of two general groups. One group consists of fishes with different finnage, of which there are two types, normal-finned and long-finned. Then there are the color varieties, which out-number the finnage varieties, and are derivatives of the Angelfishes basic colors of black and silver, or the lack of these colors, which produces albinos. As well as silver there are eight other distinct color forms that make up all types of Angelfish, these are: Gold, Gold Marble, Marble, Zebra, Smokey, Dark, Half Black, Streaked, and Albino. All crossbred Angelfish will be a derivative of these forms.
The most common form of Angelfish you are likely to encounter will be P. scalare, although as I've already mentioned this "common" Angelfish is becoming less and less common in its natural form due to selective breeding producing many new but unnatural color forms. All the more choice for the adventurous hobbyist of course but I'm sure there are purists out there that only want to keep the natural silver Angelfish.
The basic color of the silver Angelfish, which by the way aren't as angelic as their common name suggests, is a silver body with a slight green sheen. The top of the head and back are a light brown, as are the tail, dorsal, and anal fins, which also show blue-green dots all over. Along the length of the body are seven vertical black bars, four of these being very prominent and the other three very feint. A very noticeable feature is the way that the black bar on the face goes through the red iris of the eye.
The Angelfish originates from the Amazon Basin where it is widely spread throughout its network. It inhabits rivers where the edges are lined with tree roots, maybe this is how it eludes its predators, such as Piranhas and other large cichlids that also inhabit the same waters, by gliding between these tangles of roots with its slim body, never venturing out into the open. The breeding season begins with the onset of the seasonal floods, and the Angels spread out into the sunken undergrowth.
Wild Angelfish feed on insects, some plant matter, shrimps, and small fishes, hence the non-angelic trait. This should be remembered if you are to keep Angels yourself, if a fish will fit in it's mouth the Angel will eat it, although it has to be said that they do only have a small mouth. The fry of livebearers are particularly at risk, gravid females should be removed or you will never see the offspring.
Angelfish are almost as tall as they are long, and will grow to about 6 inches, therefore allow plenty of depth in your aquarium. They can be kept in a community aquarium, of at least 36x15x18 inches with non-cichlid species; I personally would not recommend a community aquarium with other cichlids. An aquarium of slightly smaller dimensions could be used for a species only set-up.
Angelfish like a well-planted aquarium, pieces of bogwood and slate can add to the appearance as well as the flat surface of the slate being a possible spawning site.