The Fish Keeping & Aquarium Guide.

Why Angelfish Spit Out Food: Explained

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Angelfish are a popular species of freshwater fish often found in home aquariums. One of the intriguing behaviors of angelfish is their tendency to spit out their food after taking a bite. This behavior can be confusing and concerning for fish owners, leaving them wondering why their angelfish are rejecting their meals.

There are several reasons why angelfish spit out their food. One possibility is that they are simply testing the food to make sure it is safe to eat. Angelfish have a sensitive sense of taste and smell, and they may spit out food that does not meet their standards. Another reason may be that the food is too large for their mouths, and they are attempting to break it down into smaller pieces. Additionally, angelfish may spit out their food if they are feeling stressed or anxious, as this behavior can help them cope with their environment.

Basic Biology

Digestive System

Angelfish belong to the family Cichlidae, which includes over 1,500 species of freshwater fish. Like other fish in this family, angelfish have a relatively simple digestive system. They have a mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines. The mouth is equipped with teeth and serves to break down food into smaller particles, which are then swallowed and passed through the esophagus to the stomach. The stomach is responsible for further breaking down the food and extracting nutrients, which are then absorbed by the intestines.

Feeding Habits

Angelfish are omnivores, which means they eat both plant and animal matter. In the wild, they feed on a variety of foods, including insects, crustaceans, and small fish, as well as algae and other plant matter. In captivity, they are typically fed a diet of commercial fish food, which may include pellets, flakes, or frozen food.

One reason angelfish may spit out their food is that they are selective eaters. They may only eat certain types of food or may prefer food that is a certain size or texture. If the food does not meet their preferences, they may spit it out. Another reason may be that they are simply full and cannot eat any more. Angelfish have small stomachs and can only eat small amounts of food at a time. Overfeeding can lead to digestive problems and other health issues, so it is important to feed them small, frequent meals throughout the day.

Overall, understanding the basic biology of angelfish and their feeding habits can help owners provide the proper care and nutrition for their fish.

Possible Reasons for Spitting Out Food

When angelfish spit out their food, it can be a cause for concern for their owners. There are several possible reasons why angelfish might spit out their food, which can range from digestive issues to stress or anxiety, or simply a preference for live food.

Digestive Issues

Angelfish are known to be prone to digestive issues, which can cause them to spit out their food. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including overfeeding, feeding the wrong type of food, or feeding food that is too large for them to swallow.

To avoid digestive issues, it’s important to feed angelfish a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods, such as pellets, flakes, and frozen or live foods. It’s also important to avoid overfeeding, as this can lead to digestive problems and other health issues.

Stress or Anxiety

Angelfish can become stressed or anxious for a variety of reasons, such as changes in their environment, overcrowding, or aggressive tank mates. When angelfish are stressed or anxious, they may spit out their food as a way to cope with their emotions.

To reduce stress and anxiety in angelfish, it’s important to provide them with a comfortable and secure environment. This can include providing plenty of hiding places, reducing noise and activity around the tank, and avoiding overcrowding.

Preference for Live Food

Angelfish are known to have a preference for live food, such as brine shrimp or bloodworms. When fed other types of food, they may spit it out in favor of live food.

To meet their preference for live food, owners can provide angelfish with frozen or live foods, such as brine shrimp or bloodworms. This can help ensure that they are getting the nutrients they need, while also satisfying their natural feeding instincts.

In conclusion, there are several possible reasons why angelfish might spit out their food, including digestive issues, stress or anxiety, or a preference for live food. By providing a balanced diet, a comfortable environment, and live foods, owners can help ensure that their angelfish are healthy and happy.

Behavioral Observations

Frequency of Spitting Out Food

Angelfish are known to spit out their food frequently, and this behavior is often observed in both wild and captive populations. The frequency of this behavior can vary depending on the individual fish and its environment. Some angelfish may spit out their food more often than others, while some may rarely do so.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors can play a role in why angelfish spit out their food. For example, if the water temperature is too cold, the fish may not be able to digest their food properly, leading to them spitting it out. Similarly, if the water quality is poor, the fish may not be able to tolerate their food, causing them to reject it.

Social Dynamics

Social dynamics can also influence why angelfish spit out their food. In a group setting, dominant fish may take more food than subordinate fish, leading to the latter spitting out their food out of frustration. Additionally, if there is competition for food, angelfish may spit out their food in an attempt to intimidate other fish and assert their dominance.

Overall, while the behavior of spitting out food is common in angelfish, the reasons behind it can vary. It is important to observe the behavior of individual fish and their environment to determine why they may be spitting out their food.


In conclusion, angelfish spitting out food is a natural behavior that they display for various reasons. It is not always a sign of illness or poor health, but rather a means of communicating with other fish and regulating their food intake. By spitting out food, angelfish can determine the quality and suitability of the food before consuming it.

It is important for angelfish owners to understand the reasons behind this behavior and to provide their fish with a suitable environment that promotes their natural behaviors. This includes offering a varied diet, avoiding overfeeding, and ensuring that the water parameters are within the appropriate range.

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to why angelfish spit out food, it is clear that this behavior is an important aspect of their natural behavior. By observing their fish and providing them with the proper care, owners can help ensure that their angelfish are healthy and happy.

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