Scalars in a planted tank
Angelfish and aquascaping

The scalar or angelfish is a very popular aquarium fish and belongs to the cichlid family. Their correct latin name is Pterophyllum scalare. Like many other, tropical fish the scalar originates from South America, where he is domestic to the Amazon region. Pterophyllum altum, the deep- or altum angelfish is very popular and usually available in its wildform. This one is built even higher and more elongated than the regular angelfish Pterophyllum scalare.


Like discus, scalars have a stocky, disc-shaped physique. The very long fins are unique to this species. These aquarium fish are quite large (about 20 cm) and most of all very tall. An adult Altum Scalar may well exceed a height of 35 cm. The male specimens usually have a beefier head. The sexes can also be distinguished by the sexual openings. The female genital papilla has a much rounder shape than the male counterpart.
The wild form has a silvery-gray color with black, vertical stripes, though different cultivated breeds and color variations are commercially available today.


Due to the size and especially the tallness of the fish, a suitable aquarium needs to be used for keeping. The glass tank should have a height of 60 to 70 cm. In addition, scalars are group animals, so the aquarium should also have a sufficient volume. In terms of water values, scalars, like other South American cichlids, tend to prefer soft and acidic waters and temperatures ranging from 24 to 28 degrees. A good water quality should be taken care of by sufficient filtration and water changes.
The aquarium should offer the fish hiding places appropriate to their body shape. Aquatic plants as well as decorations like driftwood with vertical structures are suitable.

A stock of high-growing Vallisneria is a great hiding spot for sailfins.

Larger live- and frozen food lend themselves to be used as feed. Additionally, vegetable food is accepted by the animals. Since scalars as cichlids live first and foremost predatory, smaller fish or shrimp can end up on the menu. This should be kept in mind when planning accompanying fish.

Angelfish and planted tanks

Angelfish can be kept pretty well in a planted tank, as long as you commit to the keeping requirements of these special fish. Since, to a small extend, scalars feed on plants, e.G. duckweend or filamentous algae, there is a small risk, that other, especially fine-leaved, aquarium plants will be eaten. In order to avoid this, one should pay attention to a balanced diet and to offer vegetable food (for example pellets) from time to time.