As a student in Turkey I was every time taken aback when I read in aquarium books and magazines that angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) was one of the most popular aquarium fish. All the selective-bred angelfish races I saw in aquarium shops like the smoke angelfish, white sailfins, triple colors and so on, looked so sluggish, artificial and unhealthy. I thought “people have strange tastes!”.
I change my mind radically when I began to keep natural races like Peru altum, and another natural form with Columbian origins, which I named Columbian angelfish. They are absolutely beautiful, interesting and healthy fish, of course, if kept under proper conditions. The iridescent metallic greens and blues concentrated on the head are best seen under natural sunlight. You will find here an image gallery of these natural races including the red back angelfish kept by a friend.
In my personal experience, Peru altum is a sensitive fish. It requires higher temperatures and frequent live food. I bought eight young Peru altum (2-3 months old) seven years ago and put them into my large community aquarium. At the beginning they all grew well. But after several months, as the dominant fish made themselves noticeable, the subdominats became stressed and sickly, and began to die one after another. At the and only the most dominant pair survived. And the same story happened to me twice. I guess, Peru altum is in nature either not a gregarious fish in the breeding season, or each pair requires a large territory which might cause problems in a home aquarium.
The Columbian angelfish is -maybe not as majestic as Peru altum- is also a very beautiful fish. And it is robust. I had bought eight young fish and all grew well and healthy. Because they are not (yet) spoiled by artificial breeding they are also good parents. Really a joy to watch in a large aquarium. A 400-liter (100 US gallons) tank should be the minimum size for a group of 6-8 adult fish.
The red back angelfish is also a sensitive race concerning water conditions and food, but they are apparently more gregarious then the Peru altum. What I heard, they can grow quite big in a large aquarium. Many hobbyists think red back is the most beautiful race, but I find Peru altum most beautiful, Columbian angelfish most enjoyable to watch.
Tunç Ali Kütükçüoğlu, 13. December 2009, Zürich
I would appreciate if you share your experience with these angelfish races.