The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Pterophyllum scalare
Pterophyllum scalare
(freshwater angelfish)

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Pterophyllum scalare (Schultze in Lichtenstein, 1823)

Common name: freshwater angelfish

Synonyms and Other Names: Pterophyllum eimekei, veil angelfish, black angelfish, longfin angelfish, common angelfish, angel, scalare, leaf fish [many other names]

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Schultz (1967) reviewed the genus and gave distinguishing characteristics of the species; he considered Pterophyllum eimekei a junior synonym. Many color variants are found in the aquarium trade. Photographs of live fish were given in Axelrod et al. (1985), Axelrod (1993), and Bleher (1993).

Size: 15 cm (Petrovicky 1988; Axelrod 1993)

Native Range: Tropical America. Guyana, French Guiana, Venezuela, in Amazon River basin of Colubmia, Peru, and south to Mato Grosso of Brazil (Schultz 1967; Bleher 1993; Kullander 2003).

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Pterophyllum scalare are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
CA196419682Salton Sea; Seal Beach
FL197919791Florida Southeast Coast

Table last updated 6/13/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for states where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).

Means of Introduction: Unknown. California and Florida introductions represent either escape from aquaculture facilities or aquarium releases; Kentucky record is likely a result of aquarium release.

Status: Failed in California, Florida and Kentucky.

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

Remarks: The Florida reports of Pterophyllum sp. (Courtenay and Hensley 1979) and P. scalare (Courtenay et al. 1984, 1991) represent the same record (Courtenay, personal communication). There are no known voucher specimens.

This species has been shown to be an alternative host to the glochidia of native unionid mussel Utterbackia imbecillis (Watters and O'Dee 1998).

References: (click for full references)

Axelrod, H.R. 1993. The most complete colored lexicon of cichlids. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Axelrod, H.R., W.E. Burgess, N. Pronek, and J.G. Walls. 1985. Dr. Axelrod's atlas of freshwater aquarium fishes. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Bleher, H. (editorial board). 1993. Leaf fish. Aqua Geõgraphia, volume 3 (March):76-79.

Courtenay, W. - Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., and D.A. Hensley. 1979. Survey of introduced non-native fishes. Phase I Report. Introduced exotic fishes in North America: status 1979. Report Submitted to National Fishery Research Laboratory, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gainesville, FL.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D.A. Hensley, J.N. Taylor, and J.A. McCann. 1984. Distribution of exotic fishes in the continental United States. 41-77 in W. R. Courtenay, Jr., and J. R. Stauffer, Jr., eds. Distribution, biology and management of exotic fishes. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D.P. Jennings, and J.D. Williams. 1991. Appendix 2: exotic fishes. Pages 97-107 in Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada, 5th edition. American Fisheries Society Special Publication 20. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Kullander, S.O. 2003. Cichlidae (Cichlids). 605-654 in R.E. Reis, S.O. Kullander and C.J. Ferraris, Jr., eds. Checklist of the freshwater fishes of South and Central America. EDIPUCRS, Porto Alegre, Brasil.

Petrovicky, I. 1988. Aquarium fish of the world. Hamlyn, London, England.

Schultz, L.P. 1967. Review of South American freshwater angelfishes genus Pterophyllum. Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum 120:1-10.

St. Amant, J.A. 1966. Addition of Tilapia mossambica Peters to the California fauna. California Fish and Game 52:54-55.

St. Amant, J.A. and F.G. Hoover. 1969. Addition of Misgurnus aguillicaudatus (Cantor) to the California fauna. California Fish and Game 55:330-331.

Watters, T.G. and S.H. O'Dee. 1998. Metamorphosis of freshwater mussel glochidia (Bivalvia: Unionidae) on amphibians and exotic fishes. American Midland Naturalist 139: 49-57.

FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 6/29/2023

Peer Review Date: 11/13/2012

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, and Matt Neilson, 2024, Pterophyllum scalare (Schultze in Lichtenstein, 1823): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=475, Revision Date: 6/29/2023, Peer Review Date: 11/13/2012, Access Date: 6/13/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/13/2024].

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For general information and questions about the database, contact Wesley Daniel. For problems and technical issues, contact Matthew Neilson.