Two unrelated groups of fish go by the name "angelfish." This includes reef-dwelling fish from the family Pomacanthidae and freshwater fish in the genus Pterophyllum, members of the cichlid family. These two fish come from very different habitats in very different parts of the world.
Saltwater Angelfish: Range
Saltwater angelfish have come from a very large geographic range, spanning the tropical Atlantic, Indian and western Pacific oceans. As tropical fish, saltwater angelfish usually live between the latitudes 23.4 degrees north and 23.4 degrees south of the equator, where water temperatures tend to be very warm.
Saltwater Angelfish: Habitat
Across their range, saltwater angelfish tend to live in very specific habitats. They live almost exclusively on coral reefs. Most species live in shallow water, less than 20 meters deep. Saltwater angelfish rarely live below 50 meters. Many species of angelfish have diets specialized to this type of habitat, as most eat coral, algae and invertebrates common on tropical coral reefs. Their range and habitat overlaps with butterflyfish, which are often confused with angelfish.
Freshwater Angelfish: Range
Freshwater angelfish are found across a large area in South America. Their range includes the countries of Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Peru and Brazil. They live in the drainage of several different river systems, including the Amazon, Negro and Orinoco rivers. These rivers generally run through tropical rainforests, under warm, wet conditions. The rivers are fed by rainwater, resulting in water with very little in the way of dissolved minerals.
Freshwater Angelfish: Habitat
Freshwater angelfish river in rivers, swamps and seasonal floodplains. They prefer to live in densely vegetated areas, and they have striped patterns to help camouflage themselves against submerged plants. They live in soft, acidic water, with a pH between 4.5 and 5.8. Tannins from decaying plant material produce this acidic environment. It is also generally warm water, with a temperature between 78 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
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