Pterophyllum scalare

Aquarium fish: Pterophyllum scalare (Pterophyllum scalare)
Size: 15 cm
Origin: South America
Water temperature: 24-30 ° C
Aquarium volume: 240 l

Pterophyllum scalare (Pterophyllum scalare ) – one of the most recognizable aquarium fish from the cichlid family.The favorite species of aquarists practically from the moment when it became possible to keep tropical fish at home. It first appeared in Europe in 1909. Due to its richness of patterns and colors, it enjoys constant popularity and is reproduced in incredible numbers on farms in Europe and Asia. Its common name “sailing ship” comes from the shape of the dorsal fin, which resembles a tall, unfolded sail. It is also found in literature as a moon fish.


South America . The natural range covers parts of Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Peru and Brazil. Found in numerous river systems, including the Oyapock, Essequibo, Ukajali, Solimões rivers and the main Amazon basin. It is also found in many rivers in the Brazilian state of Amapa. It lives in swampy and floodplain areas with dense vegetation.

Contrary to what is commonly believed, it lives in clear waters, often with cloudy suspension floating in the depths. In clear water, the color of his body becomes deeper.

Characteristics and disposition

Angelfish are usually up to 15 cm long and 22 cm high. Body strongly flattened, silvery green or olive green. On the body of specimens obtained from wild specimens there are two vertical black stripes with silver edges and one on the head, which runs in an arc through the eye.

Deviations from this pattern can often mean one of the many breeding varieties. This species has great potential to modify, change the shape of the fins and color, which has unfortunately been used by breeders. Scalar veil, black, marbled, blue, gold, silver, white, red, pearl, lunar, ghost, zebra, koi has appeared on the market. Artificially obtained forms can often have genetic defects, smaller or larger deformities, blindness or infertility. The “original” form commonly available in stores also vaguely resembles dignified wild specimens.

The dorsal and anal fins are often low and blunt, the pectoral fins twisted, and the colors and markings are faded. The reasons for this are usually inadequate, too cramped conditions, a poorly balanced diet, as well as infrequent or insufficient water changes. Relatively new are the beautiful wild varieties with orange-red coloring of the back. One comes from Manacapuru , and the other from the headwaters of the Rio Negro near San Isabel (sometimes called the red altum ). Observations in the aquarium showed that the Manacapuru variety is one of the mildest.

Couples can coexist with each other in small spaces, and also exchange brood. Unfortunately, these scalars also tend to shorter life, after 2-3 years they show the first signs of aging, and the intervals between spawning are significantly longer. The sex of scalars can be identified during the spawning period by the shape of the genital wart (ovipositor). It is long and blunt in females, and short and sharp in males. Seen from above, a sexually mature female bearing eggs will be wider behind her pectoral fins, and the male will be widest where the pectoral fins join the body.

The spawning male may also have a slight fatty hump on the ‘forehead’. Considered by many to be gentle, however, they are typical fish , and you can even say “double-faced”. In the presence of an aquarist, they can behave impeccably, and when they disappear from view, they show their true face, throwing gill covers on their colleagues and placing smaller fish around the corners of the aquarium. Due to their intelligence, they are often used in scientific experiments that study the behavior of fish. Research has shown, for example, that scalars prefer and are more likely to choose their species’ company with the same appearance as themselves.

For example, if a golden scalar grew up among other golden scalars, it will also accompany the golden when mixed together. While it is not known whether mixing color varieties has an effect on the well-being of the fish, it may be a clue as to why some individuals may not be tolerated by the rest of the group. Sometimes there are skirmishes between the fish, in a competition for status and power, they often strain sideways towards the opponent. It is speculated that in this way they use their highly shimmering scales, focusing a beam of light with them, which shocks their rival’s eyes. On many such occasions, you can see one of the fish appear suddenly dazed, as if it has suffered some kind of shock.

Despite their pugnacious nature , they are naturally social fish and have complex hierarchies among themselves. Adapting to the order of the herd is not a high price to pay for reducing the chance of being eaten by a predator. Taking this aspect into account, it becomes even more obvious why they prefer the company of similar-looking companions. Not differentiating yourself from the group allows you to avoid drawing the predator’s attention to yourself. Angelfish move slowly, mainly with pectoral fins, which means that in combination with a tall body, they have little chance of escaping from a chasing predator.

In an emergency, however, their camouflage, striped color is helpful, which, in combination with the vegetation, breaks the outline of the body, making them hardly visible in the thicket of plants. They are happy to cooperate with each other . They have learned to defend themselves against fish nibbling and nibbling, they create a kind of defensive formation, they hide their tails inwards, and their mouths are ready to attack. They are also one of the few known fish species that can count. From among similar-looking shoals, they will consistently and instinctively choose the larger ones.

In nature, the shoal can cover a large area of ​​hundreds of individuals. It is recommended to keep a group of min. 5 individuals or a matched pair. In a large group they feel safer, look prettier and exhibit more interesting behaviors. Under optimal conditions, they can live up to 15 years.

Nutrition and feeding

Micropredators . They are visual hunters, often looking for and awaiting prey hidden behind roots or plants, only sticking out their heads. In the aquarium, they will eat dry flake foods, but they eagerly eat the frozen and live ones; these foods, when thrown into the aquarium, often do not even have time to touch the ground. Daphnia, cyclops or prawns will be eaten greedily and with great vigor. Any change in food activity could be a sign of spawning or worse for health problems.

If they stop eating live or frozen foods, something is wrong. It should be noted, however, that some fish in the new environment may not eat dry food for the first few days and this is perfectly normal.


Due to their grace and dignity, the aesthetics of the reservoir’s appearance is usually not that important, as they attract the attention of the observer themselves. The main factor to consider when setting up an aquarium should be space. 100 cm aquariums can at most be used as spawning tanks.

For two couples it is recommended to min. 120 cm long aquarium, for a larger group of min. 150 cm. The height of the reservoir is also important, which in the case of P. scalareshould be min.

50 cm. It is best to use soft fine-grained sand as the substrate. Substrates that harden water, such as coral sand, and those with higher gradation, should be avoided. Angelfish like to change the ground and can easily choke on larger pebbles. For decoration, you can use dry wood, twisted branches and roots to provide them with enough hiding places.

In the natural habitats of P. scalare , however, plants of the genus Echinodorus predominate. In nature, they live in slowly flowing, clear waters. Therefore, the water flow in the aquarium should not be too strong, it is recommended to use external filters with long sprinklers, thanks to which we will avoid sudden expulsion of water. They will feel good in soft water with a pH in the range of 6.0-7.4 and a temperature of 24-28 ° C.

When they are young they do not pay attention to smaller fish, but as they grow and their mouths get bigger, the curiosity for new flavors increases. Often it may seem that the social aquarium is functioning properly and the fish live in harmony, only to notice any deficiencies in its stocking the next day. Angelfish learn quickly, and when they examine whether the fish can fit in their mouths, they will benefit from that knowledge. It is best to keep them in a species aquarium, but if we decide on a general tank, fish with a higher body will be the best companionship, such as finefin spike , Perez spike ( Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma ), black phantom ( Hyphessobrycon megalopterus ). Avoid fish with a low, torpedo shape, such as cardinals, whose structure is practically designed for the anatomy of the scalar’s face.

Fish nibbling fins will also be undesirable company. This is a common behavior, for example, in tiger barbs that sneak up behind to break off a piece of the caudal fin. The long, dangling pelvic fins of scalars can also be a tempting morsel for quieter species. The safest choice is the larger cuirass . Most of these barrel-shaped bottom fish will not be disturbed by the day-to-day behavior of the scalars, and they will help keep the aquarium clean by eating any uneaten leftovers that sink to the bottom.


The breeding of scalars is fairly simple, as long as we get a matched pair and provide them with the right conditions. They are monogamous fish and they form strong bonds with each other , so it’s best to buy a group of young fish and let the pair mate. Unfortunately, if we do not have a large aquarium, then when a pair is formed, the rest of the fish should be moved, because it will fiercely defend its territory, chasing away potential rivals. Even in a fairly large tank, remember to provide the fish with a sufficient number of hiding places, using plants and roots for this purpose. They reach sexual maturity at the age of 7-10 months.

When they are ready, we can additionally encourage them to spawn by feeding them live and frozen food more often, increasing the temperature or softening the water a bit (the use of an RO filter may be helpful). Water hardness is a key factor, eggs have micro-cracks that clog in hard water. The optimal temperature for breeding should be around 28-32 ° C. Spawning takes one to two hours. The female uses an oviposition to stick the eggs to the selected place.

It can be a large leaf, a flat stone or a piece of glass. The male follows the female and fertilizes the eggs. During spawning, an adult female can lay up to 1,000 eggs . Under good conditions, a selected pair of scalars is wiped off every 4-5 weeks. When the eggs are laid, it is best to leave her parents to care for her.

Other fish will be chased away and the eggs will be fan-fledged, thus providing oxygen. The first few attempts are unsuccessful and one of the parents eats the eggs, but it should be noted that the parents can also clean the eggs in their mouths. If spawning takes place in a “general” aquarium and you want to raise fry, it is best to remove the roe together with the deposit (leaf, stone, etc.), transfer to a separate tank and oxygenate the water in it well. Rotten grains must be carefully removed. Hatching, depending on the temperature, takes about 2-4 days, after which the larvae sink to the bottom of the tank or slightly float in the water.

For the first few days, they take food from the yolk sac (3-5 days). After 6-7 days, they begin to swim freely around the aquarium. In the first period, the smallest food should be given, e.g. micro nematodes, animal plankton, finely ground dry food, artemia larvae. We feed the young in small portions several times a day.


We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply
Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart