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Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) in the aquarium, our advice

The Scalar is a beautiful, tall, narrow fish that adorns aquariums with its beauty and elegance. Easy to raise, it has a gregarious instinct which obliges it to live in groups of at least 5 to 6 individuals. Due to its large size as an adult, it needs room to swim and breed, making it unsuitable for small tanks. What aquarium does it need? How to feed it? Under what conditions does it breed? Discover everything you need to know about the Scalar in this complete file!

The scalar: who is he?

The Scalar (Pterophyllum scalare), is a freshwater fish of the Cichlid family recognizable by its flat and elongated shape in height. Originally from the Amazon, it can live for ten years in the wild.

Fish bred to live in aquariums have a wide range of colors, from yellow to black, including white, striped, golden, blue, bicolor, etc. Wild specimens are usually silver gray in color with black stripes. The shape of its body also changes, some being more elongated, others with a long and pointed nose or even with sail-like fins. Its large dorsal and ventral fins end in a filament that gives the fish an elegant delta-shaped silhouette.

The Scalar, however, has the particularity of being able to temporarily change color if it feels stressed or threatened. For example, it can make its scratches disappear for a few moments.

The Scalar is robust and simple to raise in the aquarium. On the other hand, it needs space, because it can reach 18 to 20 cm high and 12 to 15 cm long as an adult. Being gregarious and loving to move around in shoals, it needs to live in a group. So plan to adopt at least 5 to 6 individuals in an aquarium of at least 350 to 400 liters.

The price of a scalar fluctuates between 5 and 25 euros depending on the size and beauty of the fish, but also depending on the place of purchase, in a pet store or from a breeder.

In the young scalar, it is not possible to distinguish the male from the female, because their shape is similar. It is when the male seeks to reproduce that he is identifiable, because his sexual organ is then visible and pointed forward; that of the female is more rounded and directed towards the back.

How to raise the scalar in the aquarium?

A large, well-balanced aquarium

The scalar lives in groups and needs space due to its large size. Count at least 350 to 400 liters for five to six individuals. To swim as it pleases, the scalar needs a minimum water depth of 60 cm and a tank length of at least 1.50 meters for 40 cm in width.

If you keep your scalars in a tank that is too small, they will not be able to develop and will suffer from dwarfism, which is extremely painful for fish. In effect, the skeleton compresses and the body stops growing, but the organs continue to develop, leading to compression of the fish and internal bleeding. Even if they don’t die right away, the fish get sick very easily and/or develop sometimes severe malformations. Some are aggressive or on the contrary very shy, stressed, hyperactive or immobile. These animals die young and live daily in great suffering. So be sure to provide them with good comfort with a well-sized tank or turn to other species.

Maintain a slightly acidic pH, i.e. below 6.8 or even 8, and soft to very soft water, with a gH below 8. Ideally, the temperature should be between 25 and 28°C . Pay attention to the quality of the water and in particular to nitrites; in too large quantities, these compromise the survival of the animals.

Decorate the tank with large plants, as they are appreciated by scalars. On the other hand, leave them space to swim and avoid high decorative objects. If you want to dispose of it, don’t overdo it and leave space between them so that the fish can evolve without difficulty or danger. Always choose them not pointed and not sharp so as not to hurt them.

It is essential to ensure the good quality of the tank and the water, as well as its filtration. The scalars need good conditions to live and you can keep them for up to 15 years. The slightest imbalance or a high level of stress due to the presence of predators leads to illness and premature death!

A varied and balanced diet

The scalar needs a complete and varied, well-balanced food. You will find ready-to-eat mixtures in pet stores or specialized stores. They also appreciate live, frozen or freeze-dried food.

Know that the scalar is omnivorous; it therefore needs plants and meat (bloodworms and brine shrimp). Naturally a hunter, it can feed on certain small fish living in your aquarium such as Neon, Guppy or even small shrimp. So be vigilant!

Cohabitation with other species

Always maintain a minimum of 5 to 6 individuals in the tank in order to respect the gregarious need of the scalar. Otherwise, your fish will die. In addition, this number makes it possible to better distribute the possible aggressiveness of the dominant individuals.

Don’t be surprised to see couples forming. These can isolate themselves from the group and tend to remain loyal, although this is not a generality.

Avoid placing them in an aquarium with very lively fish, which can be stressful, and greedy, as their fins can be eaten. It is not recommended to keep scalars with other fish of the Cichlid family, except Discus, with whom they get along well and who also like to live in groups.

The reproduction of the scalar

If you want to reproduce scalars, you can isolate a couple in a tank with a capacity of 200 liters. Angelfish reproduce well, even in the aquarium amongst other species, but the eggs will usually be devoured before hatching, both by other fish and by parents if they feel stressed. Isolating them is therefore preferable to take advantage of better conditions. In addition, males are very aggressive during spawning and may prey on other fish in the aquarium.

The couple fights before breeding, the male seeking in this way to stimulate the female. Do not be alarmed, injuries are extremely rare.

The female lays the eggs which attach themselves to the surface of the vegetation, in a nesting area or on a cone support. The area will have been thoroughly cleaned beforehand by the male and the female together. The male then comes to fertilize them immediately. Both parents guard the eggs during brooding and protect their offspring. Nevertheless, some couples need to make several clutches to learn how to take good care of their young.

Unfertilized eggs turn white. Parents tend to take them away. The larvae form in a few days and the couple releases them by chewing on their support. They nevertheless remain attached there for 5 to 7 days before swimming and feeding on their own.

When the small angelfish are born, they bear seven dark colored vertical bars which will fade over the weeks. In adulthood, only four remain visible. Feed the fry with brine shrimp and make sure you have a suitable filtration system to maintain satisfactory water quality without sucking in the newborn babies.

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