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FAQs about Dwarf Marine Angelfish Behavior

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Angelfishes for  Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care

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by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Cherub angelfish distressed/mal-contented   2/23/13
Dear Bob
<Heya Joe>
I have a mature cherub angelfish, who has been resident for several years now, and until recently was ostensibly content.
<Like your adverb choices/use>
Now, though, he spends the majority of his time swimming up and down against the back of the tank, and doing a manic loop of this area through the rockwork etc.  He will only break off from this behaviour to feed, which he still does with gusto.  He is otherwise in good health.
<Mmm, can guess w/ some confidence re what is going on here>
The only thing I can think of, is that this behaviour only began after the rapid and unexplained demise of his female cherub angelfish companion, with whom he had been displaying, and generally cavorting with (you may recall an earlier email regarding my unfounded fears at introducing them).  Do you think it might be the case that, now being a mature fish, he is keen to get on with the business of gene continuation, and is thus looking for the way out of the aquarium, to a place where there will be other cherub angelfish?
<This is doubtless a contributor>
Other fish and invertebrates are not displaying any changes of behaviour or health.  The only water parameters that have changed are higher calcium (445ppm) and alkalinity (9.3dKH), due to increased use of supplements.
Any input you could provide as to the reasons for his manic, unhappy behaviour would, as ever, be most appreciated.
<I fully suspect the one Cherub is interacting w/ its reflection in the side wall of the tank... do tape a piece of paper over one end (you can't see the internal reflection from the outside), and you should soon see a change for the better in its behavior. Bob Fenner>

Side Questions (Centropyge Behavior/Coral Food) 11/26/08 Hi (again) Eric, <<Howdy Michael>> Just a couple of side questions. <<Sure>> At first I thought that they were not worth mentioning, but I'll let you be the judge of that (No pressure, Grin) <<Okay>> First the Rusty does seem to still chase the Argi from time to time. <<Yes, Centropyge are feisty little buggers especially with those of their own genus. These are fabulous little fishes check out this site devoted to the genus: http://www.centropyge.net/ >> It does seem like it is only to scare it (or maybe the Argi is too fat for it?), <<A territorial dispute>> but it hasn't turned into anything physical yet. At least that's what it seems to. <<Doesn't sound like anything to be overly concerned about at the moment, but do keep an eye on the subordinate species here for any signs of decline>> Secondly what's your take on Tropic Marines Pro-Coral-Zooton? <<I've never used/seen it>> Are you familiar with it? <<I am not>> I add it for my feather dusters, and for my small polyp stony corals (Acropora, Fungia) <<Mmm, the Fungiid is actually an LPS>> The Fungia seems to love it. When it inters the water, its polyps immediately come out. Is it a good thing to add or not? <<If you're seeing results/positive reactions from your corals, I don't see why not>> By the way I managed to capture one of the Banggai Cardinals. I caught the aggressor. <<Excellent>> Looking forward (as always) to your reply. Michael <<You got it. Eric Russell>> P.S. Scary article in today's FAQs, about cyanide poisoning of marine fish. It makes me so mad, when will we humans ever learn? <<Someday hopefully someday>> Take care my friend. <<You too! EricR>>

Centropyge behavior in small tank   3/1/07 Hey guys, <Hello Kevin.>   I added a Flame Angel to my 30 gallon reef tank which also contains a Percula Clown and a Royal Gramma. <On the small side for a Centropyge.> I introduced him on Sat and he hid in the rocks all day. <Nothing out of the norm. at this point.>   He started to come out of the caves, slowly and progressively. <Good.>   He has not actually eaten any food yet, though has been picking at the rocks <I would not be concerned yet, interest in his/her environment is good though.> and taking in the shrimp and then spitting it back out. <Again I would not worry yet, and don't offer the same foods go with a variety.> He has appeared relaxed and has interacted peacefully with the other fish. <So far so good then.> Today I came home and he is swimming frenetically around the tank, picking at all of the live rock, and also the other fish. <By frenetically do you mean he was pro-actively investigations...becoming comfortable with his new niche or "frenetically" in a flighty, "scared" overactive nature? As for picking at the other fish, this is not uncommon w/ Centropyges in guarding their immediate territory and this tank is rather small.> This sudden change of behavior has me very concerned.  What do you think? <I think I would be concerned for the other tankmates in this confined area.> Kevin <**AJ**>

Bicolor angel (Centropyge bicolor) Behavior - 02/06/07 <Greeting!  Mich here.> I just recently got my bi-color.    <OK.> Now he is just swimming up and down in the corner and occasionally darting to the other corner.   Should I be concerned?   <I don't think so.  My guess is that he is seeing his own reflection in the glass and is interacting with it, occasionally scaring himself and darting off.  How's that for fish psychology?  You could try covering the outside of the glass in the preferred corner with dark paper and see if you observe a change in behavior.  -Mich> 

C. bispinosus swimming erratically   2/6/07 Hello to the crew of Wet Web, <Brandon> I have something of a strange problem on my hands.  I have a C. bispinosus that I bought from a rather irreputable LFS. <Mmmm>   I was watching it in the store, and it seemed to be quite fine.  I bought it and a C. ferrugata. The C. ferrugata is doing quite well.  He/She has come out of hiding and is running around eating food off of the live rock.  The C. bispinosus is out and running all over the place, and here it comes.  The little bugger is swimming very very erratically.  It looks as if it is playing in the current. <Happens some times...>   There is an electric blue damsel that seems to be mimicking him, as he only does it when the C. bispinosa is around.  Furthermore they are only doing this on one side of the tank. <Ah, a clue> The left corner.  Earlier today all of the fishes went to the corner that all of this strangeness is occurring in and found something that appeared to be very interesting in the top corner. <Yes, themselves> I looked, but there was nothing there. <Due to the properties of optics and water... if your head were in the tank, you'd see "it" too>   Ok, so I was wrong, I just looked and the C. bispinosus is going all over the place in the whole tank.  I looked all over WWM, for an answer but I did not see one that matched this particular query.  My water is within normal parameters: Ammonia: 0 Nitrite: 0 Nitrate: 0 Copper: 0 Phosphate: Undetermined as of yet.  I don't think that it is too high. There are no wacky algae blooms, or other such mess. Alkalinity:  Again not sure I lost the instructions to the test, so I will be buying another soon. Calcium:  400 mg/L which suggests that the Alkalinity is in acceptable ranges, as I do not add supplements. Flow is random and over one thousand gallons per hour. I will add that I thought that they all had Cryptocaryon, but on further inspection and research I realized that the "white spots" were actually O2 bubbles.  I caught one and the spots went away.  I have not even began to look into medications yet.  I will accept the loss of one fish before I will accept the loss of all the fishes, and the cnidarians/sessile life.  I will also add that I QT'ed the C. Bispinosa, as well as everything in the tank save the H. crispa, for a month or more.  I know that I should have QT'ed the H. crispa, but I don't have lighting that would have allowed it to survive the QT time.  I was also thinking about stress as these are sensitive inverts.  I will add that the H. crispa ejected some red/brown slime like substance which appears to be a byproduct of metabolism, A.K.A Mouth poop.  One entrance/exit jeeze...  Each fish tried to eat it and found it to be unpalatable.  Is this stuff toxic? <Yes, mildly usually>   Just one more thought on the erratic swimming.  Is it possible that the fish is reacting to it's own reflection in the glass and might be attempting to mate/spawn/fight? <Bingo! This is very likely the case> I know that I have seen certain Wrasses react to mirrors in a myriad of ways, could this be a possible explanation?   <Yes> Some of the other fishes have "noticed" themselves in the glass but they quickly loose interest.  Oh yes.  One other thing happened today.  A curious fish knocked a Sarcophyton elegans off of it's perch and into the H. crispa today.   <Yikes...> The S. elegans did not make it.  I was thinking that this could be related, but wouldn't it be systemic? <Not likely related, but not healthy either> As in wouldn't everyone be getting poisoned as opposed to one particular fish? <Yes, confirmed> The H. crispa appears to be fine.  I will know more in a week or two. Thank you for all of you wonderful advice, and help thus far.  I apologize for the overtly long query. Brandon R. Foster <Try placing a piece of dark paper over the one panel (on the outside)... Not to worry. Bob Fenner>

Brazilian Flameback angel problem  - 06/07/06 Hi, <Hello> I've posted this question on a few BB with no answer. "sigh" I currently have a pair of  Brazilian Flameback angels anyways the biggest does a swooping maneuver while swimming sideways come out of the maneuver with it's fins erect and it's color faded. ( blue to grey) It does this for 3-4 minutes constantly then act fine afterwards ( happens every day). The other part of this duo goes about it's business. The tank is 75g all parameters are in check except the nitrates which are around 20ppm. In 15 years of keeping fish between FW and SW I have never seen the behavior in a fish before. Do you have any idea's of what could be causing this? <Is a territorial challenge/behavior... have seen this in Centropyge aurantonotus in the wild... Unlike C. argi/congener to the north, the Flameback is not that social...> The tank has been set up for a year and a half there's no other fish in this tank. I have the usual gear protein skimmer etc.  and about 40 pounds of live rock with no substrate. I've had this pair for two months. thanks Keith <Despite the apparent oddness of this behavior, in a 75 gallon as this these fish should be fine. Bob Fenner>

Aggression Towards Its Reflection - 04/03/06 Hi everyone. <<Hello!>> I've had a rusty angel for about 2 weeks now and he's been doing great. <<Ok>> Today, for the first time, I put a "seascape" background on the back panel of my tank.  It's dark blue with plants, etc. <<Mmm, yes...know the type.>> Next thing I know, the rusty angel is "attacking" his reflection and bumping into the back and side walls of the tank.  I think that the darker background on the tank has heightened his reflection in the side walls as well. <<Possibly>> I read on your site that I should tape paper to the sides of the tank to lessen the reflection.  I've done that, but he still is bumping against the back wall.  This has only just started happening within the past couple of hours (and I just put the background up around the same time this started).  My questions are: 1.  Is this behavior dangerous for the rusty and could he hurt himself? <<If the fish is not "slamming" itself against the tank wall it should be fine.  I have seen this behavior often (my wrasses/Anthias go through this most every evening as the lights go dim) and rarely have I seen it result in injury to the fish.>> 2.  Will he eventually outgrow this behavior, or do I have to remove the background paper (which I had thought was beneficial to the fish psyche)? <<I would leave the background if you like it...the angel may or may not "adjust".>> My other fish seem to be experiencing no such ill effects. <<Indeed...likely less territorial than the angel.>> Thanks as always for your expertise.   Pam <<Always welcome.  Regards, EricR (not an expert <G>, but a mere student of the hobby)>>

Potters Angel/Behavior   3/14/06 Dearest Bob,  <Dearest James today.> I happily stumbled across your site today when I began perusing for info on my little Potter's Angel ongoing saga.  Many kudos to you for helping out those of us less informed!  <You're welcome.> We bought the little guy (only about 1 1/2 inches) about a month ago from a wonderfully informative and reliable fish store down the street.  <I'm guessing you are new at this so I'm questioning just how informative your dealer is.  Did he know you were new at this, and what size tank the angel would be going into?> We had done much research on saltwater fish keeping, and Angels, but not Potter's Angels in particular, and now I see that he has a rather precarious future ahead of him in captivity.  Yes, not a real easy fish to keep under your conditions.> We brought him home to his own tank (cycled with live rock and some clams and crabs).  No other fish, as we knew that he was territorial.  We did (and do not) plan on keeping any other fish in the tank, but with bad luck of temperature change (faulty thermometer), he developed a fuzzy spot on his suddenly frayed thin.  It was at this point, we discovered that our 3 gallon tank was WAY too small for him.  <You needed to do a lot more research than you did.> I thought bacteria, but was advised that that saltwater tanks are not prone to this.  <News to me.> When he did not improve the next day, I moved him and his few buddies to our 6 gallon tank (I know, still too small, and I am currently saving for the 24 gallon down the street) <The 24 will be too small.> and was advised to add Prevent-Ich by Kordon.  Did that, and the (seemingly) fungus spot disappeared and fin regrew (yippee!!).  When my husband became bothered a couple of days later by an Aiptasia, he got two peppermint shrimp, which our Potter promptly shooed into a hole  in the crevice (although, they seem to have done their job).  Now, none of the previous fin, or spot symptoms have returned, but I do notice that his color is decreased.  Slightly pale.  Should I be worried about this?  Should I be feeding him something besides marine flakes and Mysis shrimp? <Should be feeding a variety of foods including algae and enriched with a vitamin supplement.> Should I return the peppermint shrimp?  Should I have quarantined them? <That's up to you.  Do search the Wet Web on quarantining.> Additionally, he still does these sort of mad dash flicking sessions at the live rock.  Some might call it rubbing, but he goes full speed at a part of the rock and then does a whip turn against it (he is so fast, I can not quite tell if he touches the rock, but he actually makes a whip sound that I can hear outside of the tank-he is that fast!).  <Sounds to me like he is infested with Ich.> He repeats this cycle about 4-10 times, and then returns to his merry swimming.  Other than that those two things, he seems in normal spirits again.  Should I be worried?  He is my priority, not the shrimp or any other fish, so can you advise?  <Jaime, you need to know much more about what you are buying.  Do search/read/learn.  I'd be taking the angel back, not the shrimp.  This fish isn't going to last long in that six gallon tank.> Thank you so much for your time! Best, and many thanks. <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Jaime

Leopards Don't Change Spots But What About A Rusty Angel?  - 03/13/2006 Hi Bob and Crew ! <Greg> I have a question about my Rusty Angel.  On the right side of the fish, up near the dorsal fin and back toward the tail, the fish has lost some of its' spots (see attached picture). <Yes, happens> I don't think the picture shows it real well, but imagine the orange area you see used to look like the area just forward of it (brown with small "freckles"). It is almost as if someone took a pencil eraser and rubbed off some of the fish's markings, making the area look more of a solid orange color, instead of the typical freckled brownish coloration.  This is only present on the one side of the fish.  The other side of the fish has "normal" coloration and markings.  This "condition" has existed for several months now and the fish is very healthy and active, so I'm not concerned, just curious what this could be, and if it is something that occurs frequently with these fish. Thanks, Greg <Is natural. Do become less spotted in time, with growth. No worries. Bob Fenner>

Flame Angel Hiding   03/07/06 Hello, <G'morning> My flame angelfish is either hiding in the live rock, or dying somewhere in the live rock, and I can't figure out why. <Mmm, is generally quite a shy species... and doesn't like being in crowded quarters or with aggressive tankmates...> I purchased him at my LFS as a juvenile the end of January. He spent six weeks in a quarantine tank disease free, and appeared to do fine. I drip acclimated him for 3 hours before placing him in my 46 gal FOWLR tank. He started eating right away and was constantly grazing on the LR throughout the tank. He did fine for a week, but on Wednesday morning I noticed he was no where to be found. <As stated, not uncommon behavior> The tank is occupied by three green Chromis, a royal Gramma, and a blood shrimp. <These should be fine together... but your system is too small...> I did notice that when I added the angel he immediately drew out the blood shrimp. <For a requested "cleaning job" likely> The shrimp hides in the back of the tank under a rock. I can not spot the angel anywhere from the front or the sides of the tank, so I'm left to believe he's somewhere under a rock in the rear of the tank. Is it possible that he's stressed and hiding, or is his fate not so good? <I'd monitor ammonia... try feeding some small, meaty foods in the early morning, later toward lights out time... and not panic. This fish will show... one way or t'other. Bob Fenner> Your help is sincerely appreciated! Art

Coral beauty 8/17/05 Hello. <Hi Pat> I've been quarantining a coral beauty for Ich the last month and it has started to swim furiously back and forth along the glass, scraping its mouth white. I imagine that it is chasing its reflection, and that the stress of this action in the main tank probably contributed to it getting Ich.  Are there any things I can try to get the fish to stop?  Thank you <Try putting some pieces of PVC pipe in the QT tank.  They definitely need a place to retreat and relax.  James (Salty Dog)> Pat

Coral Beauty on Speed? >Dr Mr. Fenner >>Mrs. Harding in his stead. >I have read your book Conscientious Marine Aquarist, cover to cover, searched the pages of the website for days, and I still haven't found exactly what I am looking for, so I hope you can help. >>I think I can. >I have a 1,100 litre tank (approx 8 ft x 3ft x 2 ft) with live rock, wet/dry sump with bio-balls and protein skimmer. Ammonium and Nitrite levels are zero, and Nitrate is approx 40ppm. pH is 8.4 and temperature is 26.9 degrees Celsius (80F). >>Sounds nice and ROOMY. >Livestock include a couple of Green Chromis 2-2.5", 4 small Blacktail Humbugs 1-1.5", 3 Yellowtail Blue Damsel 1.5-2", 1 Orangespot Tang 3.0", 1 Foxface 4", and 3 Centropyge Angels (Bi-color, Flame and Coral Beauty) all 3-3.5" The angels all get along very well (only purchased as they were in the same tank at LFS for 4 days and did not seem to bother each other). Anyway, my Coral Beauty has been doing laps of the tank for about 1-2 days now. While the other angels gracefully swim in the tank, this poor guy turbo's around the tank and along the glass surface of the end of the tank. When he gets to the end, he turns around 180 degrees and swims back to the other end. He repeats this for hours and hours, across and back, up and down, always on the glass. I read on your site that he may be looking at his reflection, but he still behaves this way when the lights are not on. >>The lights don't need to be on for the glass to be reflective, mate. How long have you had them in there? Were they quarantined before introduction? >He is still eating, but with all this energy usage, not as much as I think he should. I cannot see any discolorations or physical signs or other problems (parasites). >>Keep the feed coming, watch him for signs of lost weight - look head-on at the dorsal area, should be a bit rounded, no sunken areas about the head/eyes. >Is my Coral Beauty exceedingly vain, or exceedingly brain damaged, or something else? >>Reminds me of some horses I've had - couldn't keep their minds occupied well enough, so, we had to introduce a lot of toys (old tires, road cones, balls) for entertainment. If you see nothing/no one harassing the fish, then I'd wait for it to settle in. This behavior is often seen in tangs that hail from high current areas, I'm not so familiar with pygmy angels doing this. Watch, wait, and if you're very concerned I suggest also trying some of the better reefing boards. > I appreciate your assistance greatly. Regards. Brett >>Sorry I couldn't be more definitive, but it doesn't sound as though there's actually a problem with the fish. If it's bashing itself, then I might suspect harassment, internal disease (parasites can do weird things to animals). Marina 

Coral beauty and flame fighting Dear crew I purchased a flame angel and added it to my display tank today. The coral beauty, which I had for a couple of months now, immediately started showing aggressive behavior towards him. The flame is larger and I am afraid that it will eventually kill the coral beauty.  I had both a coral beauty and flame together before and they did not show this kind of behavior.  Is there anything I can do to stop the fighting. Perhaps take them both out and rearrange the live rock then put them back in.<Probably your best chances of them getting along this way.> Or should I possibly try a different coral beauty that has not established its territory yet. Please write back fast. laurel <Laurel, I would recommend rearranging the coral and decorations and then see if the angels will get along.  It is hard sometimes to mix angels when they are close in color.  They set up feeding territories.  If the fighting persists you will have to pick the one you want to keep and return the other.  Good Luck. MikeB.>

Coral Beauty- scared of itself...HELP     Hey, awesome website! A few days ago, I took a trip to a local fish supplier and purchased a M/F pair of adult Fire Gobies which are just stunning. Surprisingly the Domino Damsel doesn't harass them at all...perhaps he's scared of the extended fins (Lol.) <Maybe> I also purchased a very nice looking Coral Beauty angelfish. It's about 3 inches long, in good physical shape, and has some great coloration. It also is eating Spirulina and dry food really well. However ever since the lights came on the next day, all it has been doing is swimming close to the glass from one side of the tank to the other, and occasionally "attacking" its reflection in the glass. <Happens> Apparently he thinks that his own reflection is another Pygmy angel, and due to the aggressive nature between most pygmy angels, he insists on attacking it for hours every day. Any suggestions? It is no doubt causing tons of stress on the fish. <I would try taping a piece of paper against this glass panel... this will obscure the fish's reflection> This morning I awoke to find very light white spots on the angel, all over the place (seems like stress-induced Ich...not sure yet) I can treat this easily with medication, but it still won't take care of the stress problem. I didn't quarantine any of the fish upon arrival because the quarantine tank's pump had died out sometime that day.....what are the odds of that? However, I acclimated them with the lights off, etc. I have a (sort of) fish-only 75 gal. tank, with about a dozen hermit crabs.   Thanks in advance for your help, and please reply back to this address with any solutions/questions.                                                                                                     -Bryan  M.,  Pennsylvania <Try papering over the outside... and if the Ich, stress continues... remove this fish to a separate treatment tank... Bob Fenner>

Angelfishes for  Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care

New eBook on Amazon: Available here

New Print Book on Create Space: Available here

by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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