How To Tell If Angelfish Eggs Are Fertilized – Complete Breeding Guide

    how to tell if angelfish eggs are fertilized

    How To Tell If Angelfish Eggs Are Fertilized – Complete Breeding Guide

    Angelfish (Pterophyllum) are expert breeders but pretty lousy parents. So, if you decide to breed these majestic freshwater fish, this is your 101 angelfish breeding guide! You’ll learn how to tell if angelfish eggs are fertilized, how to care for angelfish fry, and much more.

    Getting angelfish to spawn in captivity is a relatively easy task.

    But having angelfish eggs reach the hatching stage is where most breeders fail.

    Eggs not getting fertilized, eggs changing colors, or eggs developing fungus are just a few of the obstacles you might bump into when trying to breed angelfish.

    Luckily, angelfish will give you plenty of opportunities for trial & error, especially if you already have an established pair of mating angelfish.

    Angelfish Overview:

    Care level Easy
    Family Pomacanthidae
    Size 8 to 12 inches
    Lifespan Up to 10 years
    Diet Omnivorous
    pH 6.8-7.8
    Temperature 78-84°F
    Temperament Semi-aggressive

    What Do Angelfish Eggs Look Like When Fertilized? What Color Do They Turn?

    What color are angelfish eggs

    Fertilized angelfish eggs will have a color that ranges between translucent amber and brown.

    The color of angelfish eggs is the best indicator of their health and a great way for you to tell if (and how!) you need to intervene in order to end up with free-swimming fry.

    Additionally, knowing the indicative colors will help you tell if angelfish eggs are fertilized.

    As long as your angelfish eggs have only slight variations of color within this range, they are healthy, fertilized, and on their way to a successful hatching phase.

    If they turn white, you’ll need to step in and make some changes. We’ll touch more on that later.

    Fertilized angelfish eggs will need a short period of time to fully develop into fry.

    So, if the eggs in your angelfish breeding tank are the right color, monitor their progress often.

    Angelfish parents will eat the fry in a heartbeat if any environmental factors trigger their feisty tempers.

    Angelfish Egg Fertilization Steps

    Remembering these steps will help you know how to tell if angelfish eggs are fertilized.

    Your angelfish will start cleaning the spawning area

    The first indicator you’ll notice when a pair of mating angelfish are preparing to breed will be the intentional clean-up.

    Both the male and the female will start to clean a particular area, where the female plans to lay her eggs.

    This cleaning session can last for up to 24 hours, and the chosen spot can change for future breeding cycles.

    The heater, the tank’s glass walls, a plant or removable spawning elements (which you can introduce), are all on the list of potential egg-laying locations.

    If you plan on moving fertilized angelfish eggs to another tank, in order to give them the best chances to hatch, you should provide your angelfish pair with a breeding slate or a breeding cone.

    They are easily removable and will be a far better alternative than your tank’s heater. 


    After their tedious clean-up, the female angelfish will lay her eggs in rows.

    The male will immediately follow her and brush over the eggs to start the fertilization process.

    The breeding spot will be covered in sticky transparent angelfish eggs, each being smaller than the eye of a needle.

    Tank maintenance

    This is where you come in!

    If your mating pair of angelfish have done all of the work so far, this stage is where your contribution can make or break this breeding cycle.

    You can trust the angelfish parents to take care of their eggs, but they need a pretty ridiculous environment to keep their cool.

    Any distractions, sudden movement, or change in tank conditions will put your angelfish fertilized eggs at risk of being eaten by the adults.

    Your best bet is to remove the fertilized angelfish eggs and put them in a well-filtered smaller tank.

    They will benefit from frequent (daily if possible) water changes of 25% of the tank’s volume.

    This is also the stage where monitoring the color of angelfish eggs is crucial.

    Removing or treating the eggs that are outside of the translucent amber-brown spectrum will protect the healthy eggs.

    Larval pre-hatching stage

    After approximately 60 hours from when the angelfish eggs are laid, they enter a larval pre-hatching stage.

    The angelfish larvae will be fully developed and sit curled around their yolk sacks. 

    The color of the eggs will go from translucent to transparent, with beating hearts and active blood flow being visible if inspected under a microscope.

    Wiggler stage

    First signs of successful hatching! Once angelfish eggs reach the wiggler stage, you can consider this breeding cycle a success.

    The larvae will still be attached to their original breeding location by a filament that connects them to their egg yolks.

    They will feed on the egg yolk while their internal organs, eyes, and tails develop further.

    Free-swimming fry

    Within 3 to 5 days, larval angelfish will become free-swimming fry that you can expect to grow up to be healthy juveniles.

    Feeding angelfish fry is easy, as they need minute portion sizes.

    They can survive solely on microscopic organisms in the tank, also known as infusoria in the hobby.

    Here is a nice video showing the angelfish life cycle:

    How To Care For Angelfish Eggs

    Now that you know what you have to look forward to when breeding angelfish, let’s talk more about how to get fertilized angelfish eggs to hatch.

    There are plenty of things that can go wrong along the way.

    Take these two basic preventive steps first:

    1. Set up a designated angelfish breeding tank.
    2. Remove the eggs immediately after the female is done laying them.

    This breeding system will give you a head start, as you remove the first threat that angelfish eggs have to face: their parents!

    Your pair of angelfish parents are capable of caring for their eggs by removing dirt, fungus, and debris by rubbing their fins on the eggs.

    That doesn’t mean they are willing to put in the work.

    If you move the angelfish mating pair away from the eggs, you’ll need to do everything their parents would do between the egg-laying stage and hatching.

    As mentioned, this is merely a precautionary step. Hatching isn’t guaranteed.

    So, how do you care for angelfish eggs?

    Acclimate angelfish eggs when transferring to a different tank for hatching

    Sudden changes in water parameters can kill off fertilized angelfish eggs immediately after the transfer.

    Make sure you have your angelfish egg incubator tank ready at least 24 hours before you plan on moving the eggs away from the breeding tank.

    Avoid keeping them out of the water while carrying out the transfer, as they can dry out very quickly.

    Set up an active filter to keep the eggs clean

    Angelfish eggs need clean water to maximize their chances of hatching. You’ll need an active filter running in their tank.

    Remove waste, unfertilized eggs, and diseased eggs as soon as you notice them.

    Also, plan to do daily water changes until hatching.


    Control the water flow

    If the tank’s filter is too close to the eggs, you run the risk of having the sperm wash off of the eggs, making fertilization impossible.

    Either move the filter or find one that creates an appropriate water flow for the size of the tank you’re using for hatching.

    Keep the eggs oxygenated

    An air stone connected to an air pump will keep the tank and your angelfish eggs oxygenated.

    Fight off fungal infections

    Prevent and/or treat fungus development by treating the water with methylene blue.

    This common natural dye is a fungicide used by most breeders to prevent fungal infections from killing angelfish eggs.

    Monitor water parameters

    Give angelfish eggs ideal water conditions, and you’ll end up with healthy free-swimming fry quicker than you can imagine.

    Temperature: 72-82°F;
    pH: 6.8-7.8.

    How Often Do Angelfish Lay Eggs? How Many Eggs Do Angelfish Lay At A Time?

    how often do angelfish lay eggs

    Aside from knowing how to tell if angelfish eggs are fertilized, it is also helpful to know how often angelfish lay eggs (and how many).

    There is one thing that aquarists that attempt to breed angelfish fail to mention, especially after they fail on their first try.

    Angelfish will give you endless chances to learn as you go!

    But you have to be willing to start over again and again, knowing that a substantial number of angelfish eggs will die, regardless of your efforts.

    Once you have even just one established mating pair of angelfish, you’ll always have plenty of eggs to experiment with and figure out how to break past the hatching barrier.

    Angelfish breed so efficiently and frequently that you’re guaranteed to get the hang of it after a few breeding cycles.

    The number of eggs laid and frequency can, however, depend on the age, size, and type of your angelfish mating pair.

    A female angelfish can lay between 100 and 1,000 eggs in one breeding cycle.

    And your pair of angelfish can spawn every two weeks, especially if you remove them from previously laid eggs.

    How Long Does It Take For Angelfish Eggs To Hatch?

    It takes fertilized angelfish eggs about 60 hours to go from the spawning stage to hatching.

    They will go through a larval phase while still being connected to (and feeding on) a yolk sack.

    These larval angelfish will develop into free-swimming fry in 3 to 5 days.

    Keeping the tank’s water temperature at the higher end of the ideal range (80°F) will speed up the hatching process.

    How To Care For Angelfish Fry After They Hatch

    As your angelfish fry go into their wiggler phase, about 3 days after hatching, you’ll be tempted to start feeding them.

    You should definitely wait until you have a tank-full of free-swimming fry to start feeding.

    You might be wondering what angelfish fry eat?

    They will instinctually search for microscopic organisms in the tank (infusoria) to feed on.

    You can supplement their diet with freshly hatched brine shrimp and micro-worms.

    Going in two-week increments, you can move on to crushed high-quality fish food, eventually feeding angelfish fry the same food that you feed adult angelfish.

    Angelfish fry reach maturity in 6 to 8 months.

    At this point, they become sexually active and seek out partners to form pairs with.

    What Does It Mean When Angelfish Eggs Turn White?

    Angelfish eggs turning white is a huge red flag.

    If the eggs go from a translucent-amber to an opaque white, you’ll have to act quickly to save as many angelfish eggs as possible.

    The opaque-white color of the eggs signals that the eggs are overcome with a fungal infection.

    You can take two routes when finding white eggs among healthy fertilized angelfish eggs:

    • Remove the white eggs with a pair of aquascaping tweezers. Do this as quickly as possible to prevent the fungus from spreading to other eggs.
    • Add a fungicide (methylene blue) to the tank and hope for the best. This is a route you should take if there are more white eggs than there are healthy ones.

    Monitoring angelfish eggs after spawning is a non-negotiable routine you’ll have to keep up with if you really want to succeed in breeding this gorgeous tropical fish.

    What Can Cause Angelfish Eggs To Change Color?

    How To Remove Unfertilized Angelfish Eggs

    There are quite a few reasons why angelfish eggs can switch from the distinct translucent-amber/brownish color they should have when fertilized and healthy:

    Mistaking two females for a mating pair of angelfish

    Female angelfish can lay unfertilized eggs regardless of whether a male is present or not.

    Because male and female angelfish are quite hard to tell apart, you might just not have a male in your breeding tank.

    And without a male angelfish to fertilize the eggs, the unfertilized eggs will die and turn white, succumbing to rapid-growing fungus.

    Male infertility

    If your angelfish eggs never reach the stage of having a translucent-amber/brown color in the first place and instead turn straight to white, you might have a fertility issue on your hands.

    Unfortunately, if the male angelfish isn’t capable of fertilizing eggs, there’s not much you can do.

    Your only option is to try breeding another pair of angelfish.

    Fungal infections

    Fungi can find their way easily among your rows of angelfish eggs, turning them opaque-white.

    A fungal infection can be triggered by eggs dying off unfertilized.

    Fungi can also enter your incubator tank during the transfer from the angelfish breeding tank.

    Poor water conditions

    Even though eggs are not live fish, they still need a tank that meets the ideal water parameters any adult angelfish would need to survive.
    Poor water conditions, and dirty water, can kill off a breeding cycle’s worth of eggs overnight.

    Transfer-related casualties

    Angelfish eggs that are kept too long out of water during transfers between tanks will dry out without you noticing.

    Turning straight to white in a few hours after the transfer will tip you off, though.

    How To Remove Unfertilized Angelfish Eggs

    Whether angelfish eggs remain unfertilized due to poor water conditions, the absence of a male angelfish, or because of a fungus outbreak, removing them as soon as possible is recommended.

    If you manage to remove white (diseased/dead) eggs in time, you can still have a successful angelfish breeding cycle with plenty of fry.

    See how to remove unfertilized/fungus-ridden angelfish eggs here:

    How To Prevent Angelfish Eggs From Being Eaten

    If you choose to leave angelfish eggs with their parents in the breeding tank or to skip a breeding tank altogether, there are ways you can try to protect the eggs/fry from adult fish.

    Although success is not guaranteed!

    A less-volatile pair of mating angelfish can make the breeding process easier for you.

    They are capable of cleaning the spawning area, laying the eggs, fertilizing them, oxygenating them, and keeping them clean.

    They can be outstanding parents, but they often lack willingness.

    Include lots of aquatic plants in your tank’s setup if you choose this breeding route.

    Add driftwood and décor elements with small crevices (where adult fish cannot reach).

    These will become hiding/refuge spots for angelfish fry if any of the fertilized eggs make it to the hatching phase.

    You’ll have to hope that your angelfish pair spawns the eggs on one of these less accessible areas.

    If the female angelfish lays its eggs on a community tank’s glass wall, there’s not much you can do to protect them from being easy snacks for adults.

    Angelfish Breeding Guide

    how to breed angelfish

    Angelfish are so easy to breed that this guide could be as short as: “Have two angelfish of opposite genders in the same tank!”.

    But this breeding guide has more to do with creating the best conditions for spawning healthy eggs than with encouraging angelfish to mate.

    How to set up an Angelfish breeding tank

    Tank size At least 15 inches deep
    Tank capacity Minimum of 20 gallons
    Plants Recommended if breeding in a community tank
    Gravel Optional (only if you choose a planted tank)
    Breeding equipment Breeding cone/Breeding slate for easy egg removal after spawning

    Ideal tank conditions for breeding Angelfish

    Temperature 72-82°F
    pH 6.8-7.8
    Water changes Daily, between 25-40% of the tank’s volume

    Sexing Angelfish

    It’s difficult to tell the difference between male and female angelfish without visual aids.

    Here’s a video showing how to tell the difference between male and female angelfish:

    Conclusion – How To Tell If Angelfish Eggs Are Fertilized

    Angelfish are one of the easiest freshwater species to breed, but there are quite a few speed bumps that can get in the way of a successful breeding cycle.

    Now that you know how to tell if angelfish eggs are fertilized and all the stages they need to go through to become free-swimming fry, all you need is a willingness to fail a few times before you succeed!

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