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Related FAQs: Fijian Angelfishes, Marine Angelfishes In General, Selection, Behavior, Compatibility, Health, Feeding, Disease

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/The Fishwatcher's Guide to Fiji

The Marine Angelfishes of  Fiji

Bob Fenner

 A gorgeous male Genicanthus melanospilos in Fiji

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

Fiji is an underwater paradise mainly known for its abundance of spectacular soft corals. There are some 725 species of marine fishes cataloged, with many more to be counted still, but the ones collected for the aquarium trade here are surprisingly low in number or volume in shipping. This is a great shame as this island nations resources in tropical marines are vast, and its people in need of more gainful employ.

    There are some exemplary individuals (e.g. Tony Nahacky, "king" of Centropyge collectors), and businesses in the country (e.g. Walt Smith) with state-of-the-art facilities for gathering, acclimating, holding and shipping marine livestock. If you are new to our diversion and haven't heard/learned otherwise, not all specimens of a given species are "equal" in their likelihood of adapting, doing well in your aquariums... Not by a long shot. It's a fact for instance, that Dwarf Angels from Fiji have higher historic survivability. 

    In the way of marine angelfishes, Family Pomacanthidae, Fiji is especially poorly known. The venerable database FishBase.org lists only seven species hailing from the area. I am well aware of at least ten more, having seen, collected, photographed them here myself. This document will disclose all of these species, their suitability for use in captive aquatics, and pertinent notes on their aquarium keeping. 

About My Captive Suitability Scoring:

    After long thought, investigation of others declared opinions, and handling thousands of these fishes over the last thirty some years in the trade I've come up with the following scheme of "scores" for each on its likelihood of surviving the rigors of aquarium care. To a degree this information is necessarily historical (what has happened, may not be the general trend to come), and is subject to "improvement" on the keepers side as a consequence of providing larger, more stable quarters and more diligent husbandry. But, by and large a relative score of one (1) indicates the "highest and best" survivability under captive conditions; let's say most of the specimens of this species collected surviving more than three months. A score of two (2) is indicative of a mortality of more than fifty percent between one and three months. Lastly, and sufficient for our purposes, a three (3) is the worst score, with more than 50% of the species perishing before a months time of capture. I entreat you to leave the latter group to the sea, or at least to study and provide the best possible circumstances for these animals.

    Im aware that other authors, even highly respected scientists? ratings are different than your dealers and mine probably consider my "judgments" too harsh. My advice is indeed, not to rely on what's stated here and/or any one other source of information. Before purchasing these (or other livestock) do your best to gather as much pertinent "accurate, significant, and meaningful" information as you can from reading, other hobbyists and the industry.

Fijian Angelfish Species:

Apolemichthys trimaculatus (Cuvier 1831), the Three-Spot Angelfish (2). Can make a hardy addition to a good size (100 gallons plus) well-established reef system. East African coast to western Pacific. To ten inches in the wild. This adult in Fiji.

Centropyge bicolor (Bloch 1787), the Blue-and-Gold, Pacific Rock Beauty, Bicolor or Oriole Dwarf Angel (3), is highly variable in it's survivability in captivity. Better specimens come from Fiji than most anywhere else. To 6" if they live. This near full-size adult in Fiji.

Centropyge bispinosa (Gunther 1860), Two-Spined, Dusky or Coral Beauty Angel (2). Usually hardy from everywhere but the Philippines. Found widespread throughout the Indo-Pacific to central Pacific. Aquarium pic. 

Centropyge colini Smith-Vainz & Randall 1974, Colin's Dwarf Angel (3), is a deepwater form (usually collected below 100 feet) that does poorly as far as the genus goes. Rare and expensive in the hobby. Indo-west Pacific to western Pacific area. Thanks to Evan McLaughlin for this pic!

Centropyge flavissima (Cuvier 1831), the True or just the Lemonpeel Dwarf Angel, (3) look for and pay the extra-cost for Indian Ocean specimens (Christmas and Cocos-Keeling Islands)(1-2) and ones from Fiji as they are much more likely to live. Fiji image.

Centropyge heraldi Woods & Schultz 1953, Herald's or the False Lemonpeel Angel (2), are overall yellow with a variable amount of black on their dorsal fins and behind the eyes (males), but never with the blue outline around the eyes of the "true" Lemonpeel, Centropyge flavissimus. Central and western Pacific Ocean. 

Centropyge loricula (Gunter 1874), the Flame Angel (1-2), is a staple in the ornamental marine trade, with some 5,000 individuals collected and sold worldwide every week. Western to central Pacific Ocean. Singapore Aquarium pic. 

Centropyge multicolor Randall & Wass 1974, the Multicolor Dwarf Angel (2), is a deepwater dwarf species (to 3 inches) requiring subdued lighting and few tankmates. Western and central Pacific islands. 

Centropyge multifasciata (Smith & Radcliffe 1911), the Multi-Barred Angel (2). More deep-bodied than other Centropyge and with 13 versus the usual 14, 15 dorsal rays of other dwarfs. Not imported regularly in any numbers. Currently  placed in the genus Paracentropyge. Aquarium photo.

Centropyge nox (Bleeker 1853), the Midnight or Black Pygmy Angel (3) is as its name implies overall black. But a few of this shy species adapt well to captivity. Western Pacific. Aquarium image.

Centropyge vrolikii (Bleeker 1853), the Pearl-Scaled or Half-Black Dwarf Angel (1), is one of my standard, "marine aquarium service account species". Very hardy. Indo-west Pacific Ocean in distribution. Closely related to, and hybridizes with Centropyge flavissimus and Centropyge eibli. Aquarium image.

Centropyge woodheadi Kuiter 1998, Woodhead's Dwarf Angelfish (2), A distinct species, though very similar to the False Lemonpeel, C. heraldi. One in Fiji. 

Genicanthus melanospilos (Bleeker 1857), the Black-Spot Angelfish (2). Similar to G. caudovittatus to the west, this species is found throughout the tropical western Pacific. Also to about six inches long. Male and Female shown, photographed in Fiji.

Genicanthus  watanabei (Yasuda & Tominaga 1970), Watanabe's Angelfish (2). Amongst the hardiest of the genus (that makes it into pet-fish markets). Western and central Pacific. To six inches total length. Male and female in aquariums shown.

Pomacanthus imperator (Bloch 1787), the Emperor Angel (1). Widespread in the central and western Pacific into the Indian Oceans coasts and Red Sea. To fifteen inches total length. Shown are a juvenile of about four inches in captivity and an adult in the Maldives. Shown below: A two inch juvenile in the wild (Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia), a changeling in the Philippines and a full size adult in the Red Sea of the Emperor of Angelfishes. 

Pomacanthus semicirculatus (Cuvier 1831), the Koran or Semicircle Angelfish (1). A beauty from throughout its wide range, Indo-west Pacific eastward to Africa, but not the Red Sea. To about thirteen inches in length. Shown below: two, five and twelve inch individuals, the first two in captivity, the adult in Fiji.

Pygoplites diacanthus (Boddaert 1772), the Regal Angelfish. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea, East Africa to the Tuamotus, north to southern Japan. To ten inches in length. Note the gray chest area of this Fijian specimen. The more desirable, hardier Indian Ocean and Red Sea ones have an orange chest area. 

Good to Bad: Aquarium Choices in Fijian Angelfishes

    Many of the same species that are available from Fiji are found, imported from the Philippines and Indonesia. And though they're better from Fiji w/o exception, there still exists a general trend in historic survivability by species. 

    The genus Apolemichthys en toto can be problematical in captivity. The one member found here, the Three-Spot, can be acclimated to a good sized (a hundred gallons plus) full-blown reef system, with plenty of live rock, cryptic organisms (sponges, ascidians...) and algae to forage... Some specimens do fine, stipulated they're "well adjusted" to captivity, handled properly and quickly getting from the wild to your system. 

    Of the Dwarf Angels of the genus Centropyge, the Flame and Pearl-Scale are superb from Fiji. The  Oriole/Bicolor, Coral Beauty and True and False Lemonpeels, as well as Woodhead's Dwarf Angel are solid medium selections, with the remainder  of Fijian Centropyge being less good choices. Again, if you have your heart set on any of the species found here, do seek them out from Fiji sources. Though they may well be priced higher than Indo. or P.I. imports, they're well worth the money.

    Genicanthus melanospilos is quite common in northern Fijian islands, and in reasonably shallow waters. G. watanabei can be found here, though in deeper water and not in nearly as abundant numbers. I rank the Black Spot as a medium-hardy species and Watanabe's as not nearly so. 

    The two largish Pomacanthus species found in Fiji are excellent coming from here. The Emperor is no where hardier in the Pacific and the Koran is a real beauty in Fiji... unfortunately often sold as a food fish for about fifty cents each. 

    The Regal Angelfish is best avoided from Pacific sources, even coming from Hawai'i it doesn't fare as well as ones collected out of the Indian Ocean or best, the Red Sea. 


      What have you learned here? For one, that according to scientific reports, not much is recorded about even the species of Pomacanthids found in Fijian waters. For two, that in my opinion, experience, due to careful, experienced collectors and businesses operating there, that Fijian sources for these fishes are superior, warranting the few extra dollars they demand at market. What cannot be easily stated in these pages is the nearness of this place, these fishes for your visiting. By all means, do consider a dive adventure travel vacation to Fiji to see these angelfishes in their environment.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Allen, Gerald R. 1985 (3d ed.). Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World, v. 2. Aquarium Systems, OH. 352 pp.

Burgess, Warren E., Herbert R. Axelrod & Raymond E. Hunziker. 1990. Atlas of Aquarium Fishes Reference Book, v.2, Marine Fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Inc. NJ. 768pp.

Campbell, Douglas G. 1983. Marines: their care and keeping; Centropyge: pts. 1,2. FAMA 3,4/83.

Carlson, Bruce A. 1985. Centropyge heraldi Woods & Schultz, 1953; An unusual variety from the Fiji Islands. FAMA 4/85.

Debelius, Helmut & Hans A. Baensch. 1994. Marine Atlas, v.1. MERGUS, Germany. 1215pp.

Emmens, C.W. 1972. Pacific angelfish. Marine Aquarist 3(1):72,

Emmens, C.W. 1985. Smaller Pacific angelfishes. TFH 6/85.

Fenner, Bob. 1995. My favorite dwarf angelfish, C. loriculus. FAMA 10/95.

Fenner, Robert M. 1998. The Conscientious Marine Aquarist. Microcosm, VT. 432pp.

Fenner, Robert. 1998. Perfect little angels (Centropyge). TFH 4/98.

Hemdal, Jay. 1989. Marine angelfish; color and style. AFM 8/89.

Kuhling, D. Undated. Centropyge, dwarf angelfish who must eat their greens! Aquarium Digest International #38.

Kuiter, Rudie H. & Helmut Debelius. 1994. Southeast Asia Tropical Fish Guide. Tetra-Press, VA. 321pp.

Michael, Scott W. Fishes for the marine aquarium; pts. 16 &17: Pygmy angelfishes- diminutive, but beautiful; Some possible pygmy angels for your marine tank. AFM 1,2/96.

Miklosz, John C. 1972. When is a Koran, not a Koran? Marine Aquarist 3(4):72.

Moenich, David R. 1987. Angel food; the most important single factor in keeping marine angels healthy is a varied diet. TFH 6/87.

Moenich, David R. 1988. Pygmy angelfishes: the genus Centropyge. TFH 1/88.

Moyer Jack T. 1989. On the blinding nature of experience; How many species of marine angelfishes are there? TFH 3/89.

Nelson, Joseph S. 1994. Fishes of the World. John Wiley & Sons, NY. 600pp.

Spies, Gunter. 1988. The Emperor of the Reef: Pomacanthus imperator. T.F.H. November 1988.

Steene, Roger C. 1985 (2d. ed.). Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World, v.1. (Australia). Aquarium Systems, OH. 144pp.

Stratton, Richard F. 1989. The bicolor angel. TFH 2/89.

Taylor, Edward C. 1983. Marine angelfishes- thinking small. TFH 5/83.

Thresher, R.E. 1984. Reproduction in reef fishes, pt. 3; Angelfishes (Pomacanthidae). TFH 12/84.

Wrobel, David. 1988. Dwarf angels of the genus Centropyge. SeaScope Spr. 88.

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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