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was only a matter of time before Reefkeeping
Magazine decided to feature the marine fish
family Pomacanthidae as its ReefSlides feature.
Nearly all of the approximately 90 species from
the six to nine Pomacanthidae genera (depending
on which ichthyologist you subscribe to) are
meticulously detailed in exquisite colors in
this issue. Though Angelfish are not commonly
thought of as coral-friendly fish, aquarists
worldwide sometimes still tempt fate by placing
these magnificent beauties in aquariums loaded
with corals. Some hobbyists are successful in
this endeavor for an extended period of time;
unfortunately, most are not.
The most commonly seen members of the family
are the Dwarf Angels of the genus Centropyge.
These beauties are usually the first angelfish
a hobbyist purchases. Unfortunately, their feeding
habits make them unsuitable for most of today's
coral aquariums. A large component of their
diet is coral slime and when this is combined
with their natural, frequent picking at the
substrate and bases of corals, these fish are
sure to pester most corals and even clams in
your aquarium. Nevertheless, they remain exceptionally
popular in the trade. For a more detailed look
at the genus Centropyge, visit my previous
Perhaps not as common, but more sought after,
are members of the genus Holacanthus.
These species practice two distinct feeding
patterns. As adults the majority (up to 97%)
of their diet is sponges, but as juveniles they
are more likely to eat algae. The good news
is these angelfish are considerably less likely
to nip at your corals than are those of the
Centropyge genus. The bad news is the
"nips" of these angels are often damaging
due to the fishes' size and jaw strength. Another
concern is their large overall size and swimming
characteristics which can be appreciated only
by diving with them in their natural habitat.
To say the least, this combination of size and
active swimming characteristics should be enough
to discourage their purchase for all but the
largest of aquariums.
genus similar in many ways to Holacanthus
is Pomacanthus. Members of this genus
are also aggressive sponge eaters (up to 70%
of their diet), but they are also more likely
to taste-test a variety of soft corals including
zoanthids and gorgonians. These are also the
giants of the angelfish family, with some adult
species reaching nearly 20" in length and
defending an area of 21,600 ft2.
I cannot think of many aquariums capable of
providing a territory this size. Perhaps the
most intriguing aspect of this genus is the
color transformation that takes place as individuals
mature from juveniles to adults.
best angelfish for the coral aquarium are from
the genus Genicanthus. Most fish from
this genus grow to less than eight inches. As
an added bonus they are zooplankton feeders.
What this means to aquarists is this fish feeds
from the open water column and not from the
substrate or bases of corals. They do not feed
on any corals or even coral slime. They feed
on passing fish eggs, copepods, and invertebrate
larvae. It is therefore possible to mix corals
and these angelfish in the same aquarium without
concern. The only downfall is, perhaps, their
looks. They are not as colorful as some of their
Pomacanthidae cousins, with most species being
shades of gray, silver, blue, black or yellow.
However, pairs and even harems are easy to maintain,
and the males and females are distinctly differently
colored, or sexually dichromatic.
of the rare angelfish are from the genus Chaetodontoplus.
These species, like most of their Pomacanthidae
cousins, consume their food by picking it from
the substrate or from the bases of corals. They
eat a more varied diet than most angelfish,
which is generally bad for coral aquarium enthusiasts
since their wider palate of food choices means
they are more likely to taste-test your corals.
species are more in line with the size of Centropyge,
making them ideal for many home aquariums. Their
food habits and feeding tendencies are, however,
also similar to those of Centropyge.
These individuals will eventually harass large-polyed
stony (LPS) corals. For the majority of aquarists
this genus might as well contain only a single
species- P. venustus. The remaining species
are all found at depths beyond conventional
SCUBA's reach and thus any that are captured
for the trade fetch a King's ransom..
find it interesting how so many aquarists can
overlook these many, certain flaws all in the
name of beauty.
Text by Henry C. Schultz
Photos by Reef Central members.
Reefkeeping Magazine Reef Central, LLC-Copyright © 2008