Why Angelfish Eat Their Eggs And How To Prevent It?


You’re excited.  Finally, after all your preparation and efforts, your Angelfish sweethearts are now expecting parents.

But before you can call yourself a successful breeder, certain things need to happen first: (1) Angelfish mommy has to lay the eggs, (2) Angelfish daddy has to fertilize them, (3) and Angelfish babies have to come out of the eggs and survive.

Let’s Learn About Gravid Angelfish If You Are A Newbie

What Do Angelfish Look Like When Pregnant?

By the time your Angelfish become mature at 6 to 12 months of age, they will have grown to be about 4 to 6 inches big.  This is when they pair and mate.

You can tell if your Angelfish is pregnant when it has a protruded belly and a gravid spot above its pectoral fins.  Looking from above the fish, you’ll notice she’s a bit rounder or plumper than normal.

How Long Does An Angelfish Stay Pregnant?

Technically, Angelfish don’t get pregnant because the eggs inside her are not fertilized.

An Angelfish will carry roe inside her belly for 20 to 40 days.  It’s not pregnancy; the correct term would be “gravid”.

How Do You Know When Angelfish Are Ready To Lay Eggs?

A gravid (pregnant) Angelfish will become less active than usual.  She might forego eating altogether on the day she’s about to drop the eggs.

Typical behavior of a mommy-to-be Angelfish includes becoming aggressive around tankmates, sometimes even to the point of killing smaller fish if they’re in a community tank.

About a day before the main event, you’ll notice her constantly cleaning the area where she will lay her eggs.

As she’s about to start laying, she will hide behind leaves or under decors in the tank.

How Often Do Angelfish Lay Eggs?

How often an Angelfish pair spawns depends on how clean their water is and how healthy their diet is.

A healthy Angelfish pair will lay eggs as often as every 5-10 days if their eggs are taken.  Angelfish parents that are caring for their fry will not spawn again right away. 

Frequent water changes and feeding them live food will help prepare their bodies for successful breeding.

Where Do Angelfish Lay Eggs?

Angelfish might choose to lay eggs on a surface which can’t be removed, so it’s better if you provide something that you can pull out in case the couple starts to eat those eggs.

Why Angelfish Eat Their Eggs
Why Angelfish Eat Their Eggs And How To Prevent It?

Angelfish usually look for a partially hidden, wide, vertical surface such as a broad leaf, a slate, a breeding cone, the tank wall, or even the sides of a filter.  She will then proceed to line the surface with neat rows of eggs, with the male spraying milt shortly after.

The male’s papilla will emerge and squirt milt all over the eggs.

Sometimes, they will alternate laying and fertilizing with every row.

Rows of roe, get it?

As eggs sometimes fall to the bottom of the tank, the parents will work hard to gather them into their mouths and spit them out onto the chosen site.

They may also opt to change the eggs’ location to avoid threats.  They can keep doing this until they feel the eggs are safe.

How Many Babies Can Angelfish Have?

Depending on the size and strain, a female Angelfish can lay 100 to 1000 eggs in one spawning.  The average number of eggs per brood is about 300 to 400.

Does The Male Or Female Angelfish Guard The Eggs?

Angelfish with a strong instinct to parent will be protective of their young.

Angelfish in the wild pair naturally, with females preferring males who will look out for his family.  As it is difficult to raise fry in the Amazon with all the dangers of predators lurking around, the female will need the strong male to help her fight them off.

Males will even aerate the eggs using their tails if they think oxygen level is low.

In an aquarium, it’s sometimes just the female that exhibits this aggressive character, even fending off her mate if she and her eggs feel threatened.  Angelfish males will help her, though, especially in a community tank.

Are Angelfish Good Parents?

Angelfish are generally peaceful creatures, but they are known to be territorial and aggressive especially when they are young.

Since the Angelfish we can find at pet stores today have been bred in captivity for the longest time, their parental instincts are off-kilter.  This is due to breeders removing the eggs and raising those themselves for higher fry yield.

Sometimes, it takes a few to several batches of fry before they show any care towards the eggs and eventually the fry.

Angelfish that were parent-raised are known to become better parents, though.  They are more suited and instinctual to raise their fry themselves.

Some fishkeepers report having the Angelfish parents do everything for their babies: from the pairing, to the cleaning, the laying, the fertilizing, protecting, and caring for the babies.

One can never know for sure, though, if a pair will care for their young or not.  Hobbyists note that by the third or fourth brood, Angelfish pairs calm down significantly to start showing parental instincts.

But in the first few batches when the parents are too young or too active, the danger lies between the laying and the hatching, because Angelfish are known to exhibit filial cannibalism.

What Is Filial Cannibalism?

Filial cannibalism is the act of eating all or part of an organism’s own young.  It is a trait displayed by some animals, especially fish. 

Which Animals Eat Their Babies?

While it may be unthinkable to us to eat our babies, there are more than a few animals that display filial cannibalism.

Among the animals that eat their young are some mammals, insects, spiders, and most species of fish.

Rabbits, rats, wasps, lions, wild dogs, sloths, wolf spiders, and house finches are all known to display this behavior.

Among fish, guppies, the common goby, zander, perch, salmon, trout, and cods are some species that exhibit filial cannibalism.  As you may notice, this character is displayed for both freshwater and saltwater fish.

Filial cannibalism in fish is more common in species where the male is the parent that cares for their offspring.

Angelfish in captivity are especially notorious filial cannibals.

Why Do Angelfish Eat Their Eggs?

Although science is still looking further into this matter, there are a few theories on why animals eat their young.

Angelfish may resort to eating their eggs because of:

Angel fish eat their eggs
Why Angelfish eat their eggs?
  • Hunger
  • Reduction of competition for resources
  • Quality control
  • Stress.

Sometimes, lack of food is an issue and Angelfish are simply hungry

While Angelfish parents are busy protecting the eggs full-time, leaving the area and exposing the young ones to danger is not an option.  They may get tired and hungry and start looking at the eggs as a source of food.

Survival is an instinct of any animal, including Angelfish.  Resources can be scarce in a certain environment, and that doesn’t bode well for weaker species, in this case, eggs.  So if the parents think the overwhelming number of fry is a threat, they’ll eliminate them.

Resources can also be the reason why parents, especially the male, eat underdeveloped and damaged eggs.  It is unknown how these Angelfish can determine which is which, but they seem to know if the eggs contain sick or deformed fry. 

They also seem to eat those that have mold—usually the ones that were unfertilized.  Other than seeing these as a resource, the Angelfish might be trying to prevent the spread of the mold to the other eggs.

Instead of letting damaged and underdeveloped eggs live, the Angelfish eat these so that the remaining eggs (which are healthy) will have a higher chance of making it.

Stress can come from the Angelfish pair living in a community tank.  They eat their eggs because they’re aware that the other fish will eventually do it.

But other fish aren’t just the threat.  Stress can also be caused by too many people being in the same room as the aquarium.  The attention triggers panic in the parents and they start acting erratically.

Switching lights on and off in the fish room can also stress Angelfish. 

In cases of direct threat to the eggs, the parents eat them out of care for their young.

How Do I Keep My Angelfish From Eating Their Eggs?

One can never be sure which batch the Angelfish will parent or eat.  Taking preventive steps lessens that risk.

Keep the parents well-fed so they won’t think about eating their eggs. 

Move the pair to their own tank where there won’t be threat to resources or from attacks.

Keep stress levels low by calming your Angelfish.

How To Calm Down Stressed Angelfish?

Angelfish anxiety is common especially for first-time parents.  While they’re spawning, they will react to even the little things because of their protective attitude over the eggs.

Upon recognizing the signs of “pregnancy”, move the parents to a breeding tank free of substrates or décor, containing a clean slate or breeding cone.  The bottom of the tank should be clean. 

Having their own space lessens anxiety.

How to calm Angelfish?
How to calm Angelfish?

Don’t forget to put live plants to help maintain the cleanliness of the water.

Moving the parents before the female lays her eggs is safer than having to perform the delicate process of moving the eggs once they’re laid.  Chances of fry survival are higher this way.

If necessary, do a partial water change.

Make the parents feel comfortable and safe.  If your Angelfish pair is breeding, it would help to put the breeding tank in a quiet room without a lot of foot traffic.  Kids especially can make noises and movements that startle already nervous Angelfish.

You may put a cover on the aquarium so the Angelfish won’t see people.  You can even use an auto feeder so your presence won’t bother them.  Just check on your pair from time to time. 

Keep the aquarium light on, but put it on a low setting.

How Do I Know If Angelfish Eggs Are Fertilized?

Fertilized Angelfish eggs have a brownish or amber-like appearance. 

After about 2 days, these fertilized eggs will have visible movement.  Their tails will appear and start wiggling from below.  These wigglers are live fry that will develop further before completely breaking free of the sac.

If you are interested in learning more about your fish behavior, check out the links below:

Prevent Your Angelfish From Eating Their Eggs

Should I Remove White Angelfish Eggs?

It is common to see some unfertilized eggs in the rows.  Every batch will have some.

These unfertilized eggs are distinctly white and should NOT be removed if you’re parent-raising fry.  Instead of maturing like the rest, unfertilized eggs become covered with mold and will be eaten by the adults.

Angelfish recognize the weak and unfertilized from the rows and rows of eggs.  Moldy, rotten eggs are among those that the parents will consume.

If you separate the eggs from the parents to raise them on your own, you can opt to not remove the whites and you’ll still yield some fry.  

But if you want to remove them to help stop the spread of fungus to other eggs, do so with patience and a gentle hand.  You wouldn’t want to damage the healthy, fertilized eggs.

Should I Remove Angelfish Eggs?

If your Angelfish parents have eaten their eggs from a previous brood, or your first-time parents are starting to eat the eggs, then it’s time for some intervention.

If it can’t be helped, put the newly-fertilized eggs in a separate tank and let them hatch on their own.  Do this right after the eggs appear.

The period when the Angelfish eat the eggs is 1 to 2 days after laying.

How Do You Take Care Of Angelfish Eggs?

Taking it upon yourself to raise Angelfish eggs requires some patience.

Angelfish eggs need clean water and lots of oxygen.  Set up an air stone underneath the slate for better aeration.

When choosing an air filter, don’t choose the hanging variety as it will kill your fry.

With the right conditions, they will hatch successfully right on schedule.

How Long Do Angelfish Eggs Hatch?

Two days after laying and fertilization, the tails of the fry will be visibly wiggling while still attached to the tank wall or slate.  They will completely hatch approximately 3 days after they are laid.

Angelfish eats eggs
why and how angelfish eat their eggs?

Other than damaged eggs, it seems that Angelfish don’t like eating the eggs that develop quickly.  That might be because parent fish expect their young to live in the harshest of conditions where only the strongest survive.

How Long Do Angelfish Stay Wigglers?

Before fry become free swimmers, they’re still attached to the surface where the mother Angelfish laid the eggs.  They won’t need food as they’re consuming the yolks in the sacs.

This stage lasts about 2 to 3 days.

Prevent Your Angelfish From Eating Their Fries

Will Angelfish Eat Their Fry?

It’s not usual for Angelfish to eat their fry, but if the threat of predators looming in the tank is high, they will.  Of these, Angelfish will eat the sick and weak fry.

How To Keep Angelfish Fry Alive?

Even hatched, fry are still in danger of getting eaten if they’re in a community tank or if their parents are stressed.

Add live plants like Amazon swords, water lettuce, water hyacinth, water wisteria, Java moss, or hornwort in the tank (if there aren’t any yet) so that your fry have somewhere to hide in. 

Live plants not only serve as hiding places, but they also provide much-needed water filtration that fry need.

The water lettuce, water hyacinth, and Java moss is extra beneficial to fry for their long drooping roots that contain microscopic algae that these babies love to munch on.  That natural food is healthier than most manufactured fish flakes you can buy at the pet store.

There are times when these plants are the only reasons why there are still fish fry left alive in a brood.  If the water quality is good, the fry are fast enough in hiding, and they have enough to eat, they can and will survive.

Taking Care Of Angelfish Fry

What Do Newly Hatched Angelfish Fry Eat?

You won’t need to feed your fry until they become free swimmers.

As free-swimming Angelfish fry, freshly hatched baby brine shrimp and micro worms are suitable first foods.

Alternatively, the yolk of hard boiled chicken eggs will also suffice.  They should be crushed before they are given to the Angelfish fry.

You can feed them this food until they are about three weeks old.  From then on, you can add crushed fish food into their diet.  At 6 weeks, you can slowly introduce the adult Angelfish diet of pellets, flakes, and frozen worms.

How Often Do You Feed Angelfish Fry?

It’s best to feed Angelfish fry a small amount of food three times a day.

Can You Overfeed Angelfish Fry?

Overfeeding is always dangerous to Angelfish no matter the age.  That’s even truer with fry, as they will ingest just about anything you give them.  Their stomachs could rupture and cause death.

Explore Fish World wishes you luck in your hobby and hope that you get those beautiful Angelfish babies!

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