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My Angel is a Bully
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archive: My Angel is a Bully
June 21, 2001 - 04:42 pm
Hi. . .I hope you can help with some fish pyschology. I
have 2 freshwater angelfish that I got at the same time
in Oct '99 (one was a nickel size and the other
a quarter at the time). I have them in a heated 20 gal
tank with no other fish. I feed them angelfish flake food,
I have stocked the tank with fake Amazon Sword plants only,
and some small rock formations. I have a black background
on the back of the tank. Now my problem. . . one of the
fish (the original quarter size) has grown considerably.
He is now much much larger than the other fish. He bullies
the small fish contantly and has for a long time. The smaller
fish can't eat in peace and I have to try to feed on
opposite sides of the tank so the big guy will be distracted
long enough for the little one to eat. The little one mainly
hides in the plants and rocks, because if the bully sees
him, he swims at him and hits him in the side. Little guy's
fins are nowhere near as long and beautiful as the bully's
are, as he is probably nipped and also can't grow as
tall since he confines himself to the secluded areas of
the tank. I put Melafix in the tank to reduce his stress
and to help heal any damage to the fins. My beautiful bully
(he is gorgeous, I know why he has an attitude)
swims up and down the open part of the tank parading about
constantly. The little guy never gets much open swim time.
What can I do to prevent this? I love my bully because he
is so healthy and beautiful, but I know the little stunted
one is miserable. Why is one fish doing this? I thought
I was supposed to buy a pair. . .and they would be happy!
This is my first experience with anything other than goldfish
. . . and I have raised a brute! Help!
June 22, 2001 - 02:14 am
I don't know if it works for angelfish, but my mbunas
did the same until I loaded the tank. Don't go far over
the one inch per gallon rule, but push the limits and add
more of the same fish. If there's enough of them they
might not bully each other so much.
June 22, 2001 - 09:17 am
Amanda, read the subtopic above named "white clouds".
This might give you a little bit of an idea about your angel.
Another thing might be that they are both the same sex and
the bully just will not tolerate the other one.
About the only thing you can do to calm this tank is either
remove the smaller one so that he has some peace or remove
the bully to his own tank. Sometimes if they are introduced
to a tank that already has fish in it, their territory has
not yet been marked, and they will leave the others alone.
Just for your information, you tell the difference between
sexes by the male having a "hump" on his head starting
right behind his snout. The female is "straight lined"
from the snout back to the dorsal fin.
You cannot "load" this tank. Angels need a lot of
room to swim. You might possibly add only l or two more,
but if the bully is as big as you say he is, even with l
more, this tank may be crowded and the situation will become
worse. He will start attacking all of them. Hope this helps.
June 22, 2001 - 11:47 am
Thank you so much Kick for your time and input! I will go
home from work today and attempt to sex my angels and then
think about my options.
By the way, you mentioned that maybe adding another fish
would help (or make the situation worse). I failed
to mention that I have a Plecto in there and the big angel
doesn't bother him at all. What other fish would you
recommend? Another angel? What size and sex? Another fish
that could hold his own without beating up my little angel?
Any ideas? I don't have another tank to move the fish
to right now, so I am kinda stuck. Would a fish store take
my little angel? Would the bully become lonely and depressed
without a companion of the same species?
June 22, 2001 - 05:39 pm
Okay, now let me think......you have a 20 gallon, right?
And right now you have basically 3 fish...is that correct....2
angels and a pleco. The angel probably does not bother the
pleco because he is not swimming constantly and if in the
bully's territory, which appears to be the whole tank
as far as the little one goes, he basically stays off somewhere
on the glass or plant and is not a threat of any kind to
My rule of thumb with angels does not correspond with the
basis of l inch of fish per gallon of water. Angels needs
a lot of room to swim and they need space. If this angel
is as big as I think it may be, adding 1 or two more to
the 2 you already have in there is really pushing it. You
would need a fish of approximately the same size as the
bully so he would not torment it. If you find that they
are both of the same sex, maybe returning the little one
since that appears what you want to do, and getting one
of the opposite sex that is close in size to the bully.
This may not work either, but you could at least give it
a shot. Angels can be kept alone and if you have no desire
to breed, you may just want to keep him by himself. I know
the tank will look barren, but better to have 1 happy fish
than several miserable ones. Let me know what you find out
and what you decide. I will be looking on this post for
June 22, 2001 - 05:59 pm
Thank you verifying that I had limited myself to 2 angels
for a good reason. I thought they needed room to swim and
grow, and you proved me right (boosts the ego a little,
since I am new to all of this). I am considering trying
to return the smaller angel (although I have had him
for a 1 1/2 years), especially since you said that the
larger one will not be lonely. I would like to replace it
with a larger angel, if possible, but I have not seen angels
as big as mine in pet stores.
This might be a crazy thought, but I have been interested
in the (african) butterfly fish for sometime. I
have been hoping to save for a larger tank and investigate
this species. I noticed that Joyce had some questions about
this fish in the archives, but she did not get any answers.
I have researched it the best I can and found that it likes
the water conditions that angels like (soft water with
a slightly low PH, filtered through peat, no strong currents,
carnivious (my large angel would surely love me starting
him on frozen or live food, right?). Would it be irresponsible
to try to introduce one of these (if I remove the smaller
angel)? My tank does have a tight-fitting hood so it
(hopefully) won't jump out. Is it worth a try?
It doesn't seem like it a commonly kept fish so I don't
know if anyone knows anything about this. . .
I appreciate everyone's advice. I really want my tank
to be "happy" and I am so grateful for this newly
June 22, 2001 - 06:46 pm
Oh gosh, Amanda, I probably will not be much help here.
I don't know a lot about African butterfly fish. They
may get along okay as both are from the cichlid family.
However, if we are talking about the same fish, my references
tell me that they like pH of 7.8, where the angels prefer
6.6 to 6.8. and a hardness of 12. They like rocks and no
plants, and sad to say, it specially says they are not for
beginners. I am not saying that you are a beginner, but
this leads me to believe that they are not a very easy fish
I personally don't keep cichlids other than my angels
as so many of the species are aggressive and territorial.
I know what you mean about not being able to find "large"
angels and sad to say when you do, most LPS's want and
arm and a leg for them.
Maybe someone else can jump in here and help you, but I
know Jeff and Joyce are gone for the weekend. Curt might
also be able to help, but I don't know where he has
been for a number of days. I guess you can wait to see if
someone else can help with the butterfly or take a risk
and see what happens. Keep a close eye no matter what you
do, as you just don't know of the temperament of either
the bully or another fish, and it could end up he will be
the one that gets bullied.
June 22, 2001 - 09:39 pm
Thank you for your words of caution. This will certainly
be a hard decision, no matter what I decide. All I know
is that I love these fish and I don't want to have to
give up either one. . .so if anyone else has any advice,
I'll be checking the board.
By the way, both of my angelfish appear to be males (I
think). They do have a slight bulge behind the snout,
but I don't have anything to compare it to. Is the snout
an accurate way to identify sex in all ages of Angelfish?
Can I have hope that a female might not be as bullied as
my poor little gold male? Are they any known behavior differences
between different strains of angels? For instance, the aggressor
here is a large marble-like angel and the victim is a gold.
How likely is breeding if I introduce a female this late
in life? I have not thought of breeding before, but I don't
want to be caught off guard (or disappointed).
How long will it take for another angel to grow to a size
of my large angel (and I assume even he is still growing)?
His body has a 3in diameter, 6-7in long with his tail. He
is about 6-7in tall including his uppermost/lowermost fins.
--for comparison, my little angel has only grown to about
2in diameter body, about 3in long including tail, and about
I am contacting a LFS tomorrow to see if I can make a trade
arrangement. I have never tried to make such an arrangement
before so any advice would be appreciated. I moved with
my fish (and order my supplies), so I have not purchased
in the area before. Please wish my angels and me luck!
June 26, 2001 - 01:47 pm
Amanda- What ever happened?
June 26, 2001 - 02:35 pm
Amanda I just read your post. I have kept Cichlids for about
four years...Angels, African mbuna and Festivum. They are
all territorial to some degree. My festivum fought constantly
until I moved them to a 55gal tank. They were even knocking
around the heater and I was afraid they would break it.
The smallest tank I would keep two angels in would be a
29gal and a larger one would be better. Unless you are sure
you have a mated pair and that is pretty hard to determine,
there is a very good chance they will pick at each other.
If you really want to keep 2 having a lot of plants where
they can hide from one another may help..it does in my 29gal
tank. Also you may use small 'dither fish' to distract
them from each other. The smaller tetras that are quicker
become the target instead of their fellow angel. The two
angels in my 40 gallon high seem more content and rarely
fight with each other(a little room goes a long way)
June 30, 2001 - 03:44 pm
Dither fish? That sounds interesting, but how how do the
smaller fish take it?
June 30, 2001 - 05:27 pm
Someone who bred angels told me about this and it seems
to work. The angels are distracted by the smaller fish and
will briefly pursue them so they forget about really picking
on each other. If you use tetra they are very fast, spunky
and can outmanuever any angelfish. If you have a small group
they won't be that stressed or bullied, since the angel
isn't really actively seeking a fight with one ...just
trying to get them out of his territory. Anyways seems to
work fine with my angels. I am not sure how the nickname
'dither fish' got attached, but it is also in a
lot of books.