All nine species of Red Sea angelfishes are imported
into the trade, but only a few (Pomacanthus asfur, Pomacanthus
maculosus) are regularly brought into the west. The others are
better or only available from the region, but of considerably more
expense due to related higher costs of collection, holding and
transportation. But don't let me leave you with a false impression, the
same species and the endemic (only found there) are BEST from the Red
Sea; hardier and more beautiful than from anywhere else; well worth the
Selection: General to Specific
Very generally; for small species get one that is 2-3
inches in length, the genera of larger angels, about 3-5 inches. Smaller
individuals tend to be too beaten up in the processes of collection and
transport and too-big one's adapt poorly, refusing food and displaying
undesirable behaviors like bullying. Very generally; for small species
get one that is 2-3 inches in length, the genera of larger angels, about
3-5 inches. Smaller individuals tend to be too beaten up in the
processes of collection and transport and too-big one's adapt poorly,
refusing food and displaying undesirable behaviors like bullying.
Bloody color around the mouth, fins or body flanks is
definitely a bad sign. I would not consider such a specimen for
purchase. The scales should be flat, smooth and clean on the body.
Ask to see if the specimen is taking the kinds of
foods you will be offering it. Ask to see if the specimen is taking the
kinds of foods you will be offering it.
Location of Capture:
Huh? "I thought we were talking about the Red Sea here?". We are; but
how can you tell the animal you're looking at comes from there? Trust an
invoice? The price? No; instead you should study up. You will be able to
discern from appearances the differences yourself. These fishes are that
much better looking. Look through reference works and/or take this
magazine with you.
A few remarks here concerning pricing and sources of
Red Sea livestock. For the lowest landed cost, you may well be tempted
to "mail-order" these fishes (They ARE still expensive). Be prepared to
pay for related costs, have your system ready and means of meeting the
Alternatively, you may be able to coax a more local
dealer into ordering and possibly tanking them for you, for a while. It
may be necessary to front a sizeable, non-refundable deposit for this
service, but well worth the cost of having them as your go-between.
The last scenario may exist for some lucky types who
are near stores with standing inventories; these animals will most
likely of the highest cost... however you will A) be better assured of
their origins, B) have a leg to stand on in first person, for warrantee,
and C) will be getting the most-aquarium acclimated specimens.
The first and most important requirement for keeping these socially
aggressive species is space; they must have as large a system
as possible with as much cover/decor as practical. A good rule of
thumb is a good ten gallons per inch of angel at presumed adult size.
For the larger species we are obviously talking a very big tank.
Cramping them without cover will only provoke fighting, hiding, and
Seasoned (previously stocked system) water is best
with angels. For Red Sea systems overall, a constant temperature in the
mid seventies to low eighties, high specific gravity (1.025) and pH of
8.0-8.4 is ideal.
Should be vigorous and heavy on aeration. Marine
angelfishes are extra active, and need saturated oxygen levels.
Most species of marine angels are best kept one to a
system (unless bought or collected as a pair, or harem). Further,
similar appearing (color pattern and body shape) species rarely get
along. Fighting is greatly reduced by undercrowding, and housing
dissimilar species of decidedly different size. If you must have more
than one angel species in a tank, do take care to introduce the smaller
one(s) first, and keep your eyes on them.
Species other than angels generally leave angels well
enough alone. Should your pomacanthid overly bully a tankmate, it is
time to move that organism before it's too late.
It is not unusual for a newly introduced specimen to immediately take
cover and stay there for a few days! Neither is it uncommon for the
newcomer to join right in with its tankmates. Don't let either end of
this spectrum surprise or worry you. These fishes are individualistic,
but almost all adjust after a short while.
Feeding/Foods/Nutrition: Types, Frequency,
This aspect of marine angel care vies with space in
importance. In the wild many of these angels are coral, sponge and algal
grazers; happily Red Sea angels have proven to adapt readily to
substitute foodstuffs. Fresh or live clam, mussel, squid or shrimp,
vegetable material and prepared angel foods (containing sponge material)
are accepted by most with gusto. Some greenery, possibly with vitamin
supplement should be offered daily.
Ideally some "live rock" would be cultured with these
fishes, affording them the opportunity to feed on a mix of
non-vertebrates and algae at their leisure. Marine angels should be fed
a minimum of twice daily, preferably more often. I prefer to offer the
meaty foods (chopped shrimp, crab, clam...) in the AM so I can remove it
before retiring later; and a vegetable-based prepared mix in the later
Red Sea angelfishes are about as "specific pathogen
free" as I've ever encountered from anywhere. Protozoans and flukes are
rarely found on newly imported specimens, and they tend to stay clean. I
encourage you to stick with standard prophylaxis (quarantine, dipping)
to prevent introduction of infection.
Marine angels in general are easily susceptible to
copper poisoning. If possible (it is), you should avoid treating them
with copper compounds, instead relying on quarantine, dip and biological
control methods to prevent disease.
Whichever angelfishes from the Red Sea you choose to
invest in, it is money well spent. You are virtually assured of getting
the hardiest of specimens, a long-term centerpiece, and something more;
the knowledge that the individual has been collected with conscientious
habitat and species-sustaining methods.
Angels in General
Allen, Gerald R. 1979. Butterfly and Angelfishes of
the World, vol.2. Mergus Publishers, W. Germany.
Burgess, Warren E., Herbert R. Axelrod & Raymond E.
Hunziker. 1990. Atlas of Aquarium Fishes Reference Book, v.1 Marine
Fishes. T.F.H. Publications, NJ.
Campbell, Douglas. 1981. Marines: their care and
keeping; Pomacanthus. FAMA 9/81.
Debelius, Helmut. 1981. Latest discoveries about the
angelfish G. caudovittatus. FAMA 4/81.
Dor, Menahem. 1986. Checklist of the Fishes of the
Red Sea. Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Jerusalem.
Emmens, C.W. 1983. Large Pacific angelfishes. TFH
Fenner, Robert. 1995. The regal angelfish,
Pygoplites diacanthus. TFH 2/95.
Fenner, Bob. 1995. An emperor among angelfishes,
Pomacanthus imperator (Bloch, 1787). FAMA 3/95.
Fenner, Bob. 1995. Expensive, gorgeous and hardy, the
yellow-band angel, Pomacanthus maculosus. FAMA 4/95.
Giovanetti, Thomas A. 1989. Getting acquainted with
Red Sea fishes. TFH 9/89.
Moenich, David R. 1987. Angel Food; the most
important single factor in keeping marine angels is a varied diet. TFH
Moenich, David R. 1988. Breaking the rules (marine
angel compatibility). TFH 3/88.
Ranta, Jeffrey A. 1995. The emperor of the aquarium.
Spies, Gunter. 1988. The emperor of the reef:
Pomacanthus imperator. TFH 11/88.
Steene, Roger C. 1977. Butterfly and Angelfishes of
the World, vol.1. Australia. Mergus Publishers. W. Germany.
Thresher, R.E. 1984. Reproduction in reef fishes,
part 3; Angelfishes (Pomacanthidae). TFH 12/84.