Why Do Angelfish Have Such Long Fins?

5 min read

Angelfish is a popular breed among aquarium enthusiasts – one of their striking features is their lengthy fins. Angelfish have long fins that flow elegantly.

In fact, angelfish get their name partly due to their long fins. Together with their flat triangular body, the fins make them look like an angel when viewed from the side.

We know it makes them look appealing, but have you ever wondered why angelfish have such long fins?

We’ll look for an answer in this post, while also looking at veil angelfish ­– a specific genetic trait that makes the fins extra long – and the problems faced by angelfish with long fins. 

Let’s get started.

Why Do Angelfish Have Long Fins?

We think there is more than one reason for the existence of long finned angelfish. It could be one of many things, as discussed below.

The General Shape of Their Body


Besides the long fins, the other striking physical feature of angelfish is their body shape. If you look at an angelfish from the front, all you’ll see is a thin fish with a flat body.

This unique shape helps them hide in tall vegetation. It makes sense when we consider their natural habitat, the Amazon basin, which is populated with dense plants.

This helps the angelfish hide from predators, and, considering how they are ambush predators themselves, helps them catch their prey.

So what does this got to do with their fins? Well, this lateral compression of their bodies also has the effect of making their fins longer than usual.

The Angelfish’s Long Fins Make Them Fast Swimmers

We all know that fins are there to help a fish move. It turns out, the bigger the better. Longer fins produce more thrust, enabling the fish to move faster.

While the longer fins give the angelfish more thrust, their thin profile also reduces drag, making them really fast swimmers. In a world of eat or be eaten, that kind of speed is really crucial.

And it’s not just about forward speed, but also about how fast the fish can change direction – the long finned angelfish can twirl really fast.

It Makes Them Appear Larger to Predators


Size matters, especially in the highly dangerous underwater world. Angelfish with long fins appear larger to predators.

It makes them look bigger without a lot of additional weight, so in case their bluff doesn’t work, they can use their speed to dart to safety.

It Could Be Due to Artificial Selection

Angelfish may have a tendency towards long fins due to any of the reasons listed above, which constitute natural selection. On the other hand, artificial selection may also have played its part. 

There’s no doubt that most aquarists find long-flowing fins appealing, so they want it more and more. The end result is that angelfish have progressively longer fins with each generation as people pick the ones with the longest fins.

This is a phenomenon seen in not just fish, but also in other pets as well, notably dogs; it often leads to extreme physical features.

What is Veil Angelfish? 

Sometimes, ‘long’ may be a relative term – how do we distinguish from the normal ‘long’ to something unusual?

That is the case with veil tail angelfish, which have fins that are even longer than usual. In fact, the fins are bigger than the fish itself.

Veil angelfish have a dominant genetic trait that makes their fins extra long. Since this is a dominant trait, it will be easy to breed more veil angelfish with fish having these genes.


However, care must be taken to avoid creating angelfish with homogenous veil genes, known as super veil. This kind of fish has even longer fins than regular veil tail angelfish (it seems to be never-ending isn’t it?). You may prefer the fins to be extra long, but it presents a host of issues.

First, it makes the fins really narrow and makes them droopy as the fish ages. Second, super veil angelfish grow slowly and are somewhat unhealthy; they are even hard to breed due to this reason, as they’d be outcompeted by healthier angelfish with normal-sized fins.

So if you think your angels have unusually long fins, the chances are they are veil or super veil fish. It turns out about 60% of people buy fish with veil.

The real question is should you get veil angelfish? As we’ll discuss in the following, having extra long fins isn’t as glamorous as you think.

Problems Caused by Angelfish’s Long Fins

Having unusually long fins may make them look appealing, but it causes numerous issues, mostly for the fish.

First, longer fins are more prone to damage. The angelfish fin damage may be in the form of bent or broken fins, which is not a pretty sight.

Furthermore, fins are a favorite target for aggressive fish that look to bully other fish – having long fins makes it really easy to do so. Relentless fin-nippers such as tiger barbs can stress out the angelfish to the point that they succumb to the attacks.

Another thing you have to watch out for is angelfish fin rot. It sounds unpleasant, and it sure is. Fin rot is an infection of the fins caused by bacteria or fungi.

You can identify fin rot by closely examining the fins to see if there is something that shouldn’t be there. If it looks rotten, frayed, dark red, or white, then it probably is fin rot.

Infection is also a complication of damaged fins, so long fins are surely not something that is in the best interest of the fish.

Here’s another thing you have to consider if you get angelfish with really long fins: tank size.

Due to their immense vertical size, you need to get a tank that is tall enough. The tank size needs to increase if you want to have multiple fish. You wouldn’t want the long fins to scrape the bottom surface, dealing damage to it.


Fins are a vital part of any fish – for an angelfish, having long fins helps them move fast and appear larger to predators.

It could be their unique body shape that causes them to have long fins, or it could be due to selective breeding.

The chances are what caught your eye is a veil or super veil angelfish, which has a certain gene that makes their fins extra long.

Whatever the reason, angelfish with long fins are really a treat to watch. The long flowing fins add a streak of elegance to an already graceful fish.

However, with great fins comes great responsibility. You need to be extra careful to prevent angelfish fin rot or fin damage. And getting a large tank is important to make your long-finned pets comfortable.

Thanks for reading.


Written by:

Pet Aquariums

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