Where Do Angelfish Live? (Freshwater and Marine Angelfish)

Angelfish living in freshwater habitat

Freshwater angelfish are found in the calm, slow-moving waters of South American river basins. They prefer areas with dense vegetation that helps them to hide from predators. On the other hand, marine angelfish are found in coral reefs across the Indian, Atlantic, and western Pacific oceans.

Let’s learn about the habitat of angelfish in more detail.

Origin of Freshwater Angelfish

European explorers reportedly discovered freshwater angelfish in the mid-19th century.

They are tropical fish belonging to the Cichlid family.

Angelfish are believed to have descended from a shared ancestor of other cichlid species found in South America.

As time passed, they acquired distinctive physical traits that separated them from other cichlids.

Habitats of Angelfish Species Living in Freshwater

Angelfish that live in freshwater are native to tropical South America.

They are found in most Amazon waterbodies of Brazil, Guyana, Peru, Columbia, and French Guiana.

These fish are found in densely planted waterbodies surrounded by thick vegetation.

They inhabit slow-moving streams, swamps, floodplains, ponds, etc., where the water is usually warm, soft, and slightly acidic.

Currently, there are only three recognized angelfish species living in freshwater:

  1. Freshwater Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare),
  2. Altum Angelfish (Pterophyllum altum), and
  3. Leopold’s Angelfish (Pterophyllum leopoldi).

However, a lot of angelfish variants living in freshwater are available today because of selective breeding.

Let’s now learn more about the habitat of these three angelfish species that live in freshwater.

1. Freshwater Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) Habitat

Pterophyllum scalare is an angelfish species that is very popular among aquarists worldwide.

It’s also known as Angelfish or Freshwater Angelfish.

Fish belonging to this species are endemic to the Amazon basin in Peru, Brazil, and Colombia.

They are commonly found in aquatic habitats with dense vegetation and clear or silty water.

In the wild, these angelfish primarily feed on small fish, shrimp, tiny worms, prawns, crabs, water bugs, floating insects, mosquito larvae, and other tiny aquatic creatures.

Some popular Pterophyllum scalare angelfish varieties kept in captivity are Silver Angelfish, Veiltail Angelfish, Blushing Angelfish, Zebra Angelfish, Marbled Angelfish, etc.

These angelfish are tolerant, and you keep them with many other fish species in a community tank.

2. Altum Angelfish (Pterophyllum altum) Habitat

Pterophyllum altum species is also known as Deep Angelfish, Altum Angelfish, or Orinoco Angelfish.

It’s native to South America, specifically the rivers in the Amazon and Orinoco basins.

In their natural habitat, these angelfish inhabit river systems and floodplains with moderate water flow, underwater vegetation, and tree and plant roots.

They thrive in soft, well-oxygenated waters with plenty of vegetation and rock formations. These help them to hide.

These angelfish are found in small groups in lagoons or streams with a maximum depth of up to 2 meters during the dry season.

3. Leopold’s Angelfish (Pterophyllum leopoldi) Habitat

Pterophyllum leopoldi species is also known as Leopold’s Angelfish, Roman-nosed Angelfish, Teardrop Angelfish, or Dwarf Angelfish.

It’s a species native to the Amazon River (between Manacapuru and Santarém), Essequibo river, and Rupununi river.

It’s the smallest angelfish species, reaching a maximum length of 3.9 inches.

These angelfish are found in slow-moving waters, typically sheltered by plant roots, overhangs, and other vegetation that provides adequate cover.

This species only appears in its natural form, with no hybrids. Hence, they aren’t commonly found in the aquarium trade.

Alright! Now that you know about the habitat of freshwater angelfish species, let’s also learn about marine angelfish habitats.

Origin of Marine Angelfish

Marine angelfish species were first classified in 1758.

Their extensive history enabled them to evolve into the different varieties of angelfish seen today.

Marine angelfish are members of the family Pomacanthidae, with approximately 85 individual species.

Their distinct coloration and patterns distinguish them from other saltwater species.

Habitats of Marine Angelfish Species

Angelfish living in marine habitat

Marine angelfish are found in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and western Pacific oceans.

They inhabit the warm, saline environments that are often close to coral reefs.

Generally, marine angelfish prefer shallow waters with plenty of hiding places among rocks or coral formations.

They inhabit a wide range of geographic areas, depending on the species.

Given below are the natural habitats of some of the popular marine angelfish species.

1. Flame Angelfish Habitat

Flame angelfish are among the most popular and exotic marine angelfish species in the aquarium trade.

They are known for their vibrant colors. This has earned them the nickname “pearls of the reef basin.”

Flame angelfish are found in tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific ocean and inhabit various reefs in the Marshall, Line, and Cook Islands.

They inhabit shallow lagoons, coral reefs, and reef flats.

They feed on algae and invertebrates. Here’s the complete list of what flame angelfish eat in the wild and aquariums.

2. Rock Beauty Angelfish Habitat

The Rock Beauty angelfish is an increasingly popular saltwater angelfish species with unique qualities.

The rock beauty is distributed in the Western Atlantic Ocean across Bermuda, Georgia, and Florida, further stretching southwards toward the Caribbean Sea and coastal regions of South America up to Rio de Janeiro.

In the wild, young rock beauty angelfish often occupy habitats near fire corals and are usually found within shells.

They are found at depths of 3 to 92 meters.

3. Queen Angelfish Habitat

Queen angelfish inhabit the tropical and subtropical regions of the Western Atlantic Ocean, off the coasts and islands of the Americas.

Queen angelfish inhabit areas from the shallow waters near the shoreline to depths of 70 meters.

They inhabit coral reefs and generally prefer soft corals. In the wild, queen angelfish swim alone or in pairs.

4. Emperor Angelfish Habitat

Emperor angelfish are found in the Indian and Pacific oceans, inhabiting coral reefs from the Red Sea to Hawaii and the Austral Islands.

They live in reefs with abundant coral growth at depths of 1 to 100 meters.

These fish primarily feed on sponges, tunicates, and other encrusting organisms in their natural environment.

5. Lemonpeel Angelfish Habitat

Lemonpeel angelfish are an attractive dwarf angelfish commonly found in marine aquariums.

They are found in the Indo-Pacific region, but some specimens have also been found inhabiting the Kaneohe Bay in Oahu, Hawaii.

Lemonpeel angelfish are found in shallow waters of less than 20 meters.

They inhabit areas with abundant coral growth, such as lagoons and seaward reefs.

They are found in small groups in their natural environment, usually a harem of several females with a single male.

6. Peppermint Angelfish Habitat

Peppermint angelfish are native to the Cook Islands and are commonly seen in the Central region of the South Pacific Ocean.

They inhabit coral rubble, caves, overhangs, and steep outer reef slopes. They are found at depths of 55 to 120 meters.

The diet of these angelfish is believed to consist of worms, crustaceans, sponges, tunicates, and detritus.

At What Depths Are Marine Angelfish Found in The Ocean?

Marine angelfish have a wide distribution. However, they live in specific habitats in the ocean, depending on the species.

Most marine angelfish species live in shallow waters, usually less than 50 meters deep.

They are primarily found in coral reefs, lagoons, reef flats, shallow waters near the shoreline, or steep outer reef slopes.

They typically feed on algae, coral, and other invertebrates in tropical coral reefs.

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