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The Conscientious Marine Aquarist

Touchy and Expensive, the Large Angels of the Sub-Genus  Euxiphipops (Genus Pomacanthus, Family Pomacanthidae)

Bob Fenner

Adult Blue Face

Angelfishes for  Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care
New eBook on Amazon: Available here
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by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Pomacanthus Euxiphipops navarchus

P.E. xanthometopon

P.E. sexstriatus

Majestic or Navarchus Angel

Blue or Yellow Face Angel

Six Striped/Banded Angel

Three of the most beautifully striking of the marine angelfishes are classified as the members of the genus Euxiphipops ("yukes-if-ih-pops"). All but one has an utterly dismal record of longevity in captivity, and yet the other two are regular offerings to the hobby.

Prominent reasons for their early demise include poor collection and handling techniques and duration, improper diet, smallish confines, and intrinsic poor adaptability of the plural species. Here I'll offer my points of view on these issues, give you some help on picking out the more viable specimens if you can't be dissuaded from trying the subgenus, and alternatively suggest more suitable members of the marine angelfish family.

Classification: Taxonomy, Relation With Other Groups

The subgenus Euxiphipops is grouped with other large marine angelfishes within the genus Pomacanthus (Allen 1979, Burgess 1991) (The aquarium hobby however, often lists Euxiphipops elevated to generic rank; don't let this throw you, either one will serve it's purpose for us: identifying which fish is which).

The seventy four nominal species of nine genera that make up the marine angelfish family Pomacanthidae should be well-familiar to you. In my estimation some one or more members occupies about half of all marine aquarium systems. Most are gorgeously marked and gaudily colored, with enthusiastic energy and curious, intelligent natures. They are the show-piece rulers of the reef and captive seas.

The three species of concern to us here are a little tricky to tell apart at "juvenile-color phase" sizes (up to 3-4"); amongst themselves and a few other Pomacanthus and Holacanthus species. All these have a variation on the theme of "black bodied with alternating blue and white vertical bands" going for them. I have seen all three Euxiphipops sold as "Koran" angels, Pomacanthus semicirculatus, for example. Take a good reference work with you when purveying what's to be had. Adults are so distinctive that I'll save space and time here in trying to describe them in deference to the magnificent photographs shown.

The Majestic, Navarchus:

Pomacanthus Euxiphipops navarchus, the Blue-Girdled, Majestic, or Navarchus Angel is easiest to discern when young, with considerable orange color mixed amongst the blue and black of it's dorsal fin. Well caught, transported and cared for Navarchus specimens can prove very hardy and long-lived; most are not.   Juvenile, four inch medium specimen and adult in captivity.

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The Six-Striped Angel

P. E. sexstriatus, the aptly named Six-Striped/Banded Angelfish is the least striking member as an adult, and as you might guess, the hardier (or shall we say, less touchy?) than the Navarchus. Young Six-Banded Angels bear six prominent white body bands of white. Aquarium juvenile and two adults in Pulau Redang, Malaysia and off of Australia's Queensland coast.

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The Blue or Yellow-Faced Angel:

P. E. xanthometopon, alternatively the Blue or Yellow-Faced Angel, also has six white body lines as juveniles, but may be told apart from E. sexstriatus by their having three blue tail stripes to the Six-Bands one or two. This is the hardiest member of the subgenus, though most live less than three months. Shown: Juvenile aquarium and subadult specimens and  an adult in the Gilis, north of Lombok, Indonesia. 

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Natural Range

The trio of Euxiphipops species are widely tropical western Pacific, being collected and exported from Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Solomons, Singapore and more. All specimens are wild caught.


To a maximum of about a foot in total length in captivity, another half foot longer in the wild.


The most important aspect of keeping one of these angels is picking out a specimen that has more than a fair chance of living for you. The following criteria are best to have all going for yours.

1) Size matters; there is an ideal initial window of big/small, 5-3 thereabouts inches in first acquiring/placing one of the Euxiphipops. Tiny specimens are often too stressed, starved to make recovery. Larger individuals tend to adapt to captivity poorly; some become incurable bullies, killing tankmates before mysteriously perishing themselves.




Pomacanthus Euxiphipops navarchus

P.E. xanthometopon

P.E. sexstriatus

Majestic or Navarchus Angel

Blue or Yellow Face Angel

Six Striped/Banded Angel

2) The source counts too; avoid ones from their principal sources, the Philippines and Indonesia. Both countries rank as poster children for "not ready for prime time players", still condoning cyanide and other non-sustainable collection of marine livestock, including these fishes. Pay the slightly higher price for a real (viable) specimen from elsewhere; the short-lived ones from Indo and P.I. aren't worth the risk or endorsement of such nefarious practices.

3) Eating; is it? This is a major pitfall with these Pomacanthids, especially smaller specimens. Have the animal demonstrably fed in your presence, on foods you can and intend to supply, then leave it. Come back a few days later for a repeat performance. A cyanided specimen may not take food, or maybe try just one last time. Overly cautious? Perhaps, but for an expensive purchase well warranted.

4) Marks, especially reddish raised areas and spots are a danger sign of impending or current infection. Don't even think about buying these specimens.

Collecting Your Own Notes of Note:

Almost all Euxiphipops angels are caught by one of the following three methods; a combination of fence and hand netting, "Cowboy-Banzai" hand netting, and poisoning.

The first is the worldwide standard of a determinate width and height invisible barrier in which prospective catches are "driven" by divers and hand-netted from. The second works with these angelfish species because they are more curious and casual than most Pomacanthids (perhaps with the notable exception of the super-easy "holo" or bandit angel, Desmoholacanthus arcuatus of Hawaii); they can be caught "on the fly" with two hand nets or one and a "poker" chaser rod.

The last we'll mention to emphasize that you want to avoid them; specimens collected via cyanide. These doomed individuals are often unnaturally brightly colored, finnage "perfect" at the dealers, and very approachable; that is, they don't move much. Ahem, if you can reach into the tank and touch the fish without it evading you, you don't want it. Is this clear?

Environmental: Conditions


Chief consideration must be given to size of the system and provision of physical break-up, i.e. decor. These angel species do get large, but even when small only do well where provided lots of nooks and crannies. A minimum tank of one hundred uncrowded gallons is required.


A stable, optimized environment is the ideal for most hobby species of marines; Euxiphipops angels are no exception. They do best in higher pH's (7.8 plus), with little metabolite detectable (as little nitrate as 10 ppm is a good target). These fishes visibly brighten up after water changes.


As you might surmise for such large, active fishes with so much rock and coral decor, you want to have an oversized circulation and waste-handling system. If not a sump-type arrangement, a bonus size outside power and/or canister filter set-up, with, of course, a functional protein skimmer.



Euxiphipops are mainly agonistic toward members of their own and subgeneric species. Therefore, one member of the group to a tank. Oh, and if pushed or extremely stressed they can bring their built-in saber of a opercular spine into blazing action toward tankmates and your hand.


It's best to place these angels near last in a well-established tank, turn the lights off, and observe them CAREFULLY to make sure they're eating ASAP and ongoing.

Predator/Prey Relations

Large fishes may try to engulf your new angel if there is sufficient size difference, but this is actually quire rare.


To paraphrase Thresher (1984), as yet little is known of this genus/subgenus' reproduction.

Feeding/Foods/Nutrition: Types, Frequency, Amount, Wastes

Stomach contents analysis of wild specimens shows these fishes to be quite omnivorous, browsing widely on benthic invertebrates (worms, mollusks, fish eggs, sponges...), algae, and more. Getting them to start and accept food in captivity often proves difficult.

My advice is to continue with whatever foodstuffs your supplier was utilizing, expanding offerings to include as much variety of fresh, prepared frozen and dried matter as you can. Soaking food with supplements including vitamins and appetite stimulants is encouraged. Other writers list shrimp species, squid, open shellfish, spinach, prepared sponge-containing products, live rock, and more as suitable foods.


Amongst angelfishes Euxiphipops are some of the most disease susceptible, and what's worse, least-responsive to conventional treatment. Keep your eyes first and foremost on your arrow-head angel as it will tell you of an impending outbreak or loss of water quality by infection, color loss and behavior.

To wholesale dealers and transhippers I ask you to consider preventative ph-adjusted freshwater dips with or without copper and/or formalin bathing to preclude parasitic transmission and further debilitation of specimens of these and other large angels.

Alternative Pomacanthids of Size:

When I think of all the much more hardy Pomacanthus ( Emperor, Koran, French, Gray, King...; the Holacanthus ( Queen, Blue, Clarion, Passer); and members of Chaetodontoplus that are just as graceful and pretty, and far better survivors in aquarium conditions... I wonder why folks throw their money away on Euxiphipops species. Maybe most just don't know their poor track record, perhaps they're out for the challenge. Well, at least you have my ideas on optimizing your chances with them.


Not for the slight of patience, experience or pocketbook, the three species of Euxiphipops should only be attempted by folks who have their eyes "wide open". Even given that you pick out a good specimen, provide it adequate shelter and foods/feeding, most of these angels will perish within a few months. Better still for all parties to realize the shortcomings of this admittedly beautiful subgenus' members, and go on to other gorgeous marine angelfish species that do well in captivity.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Allen, Gerald R. 1979. Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World, vol.2. MERGUS Publishers, W. Germany.

Burgess, Warren E. 1982. The Blue-Faced Angelfish. TFH 7/82.

Burgess, Warren E. 1991. Two new genera of angelfishes, family Pomacanthidae. TFH 3/91.

Campbell, Douglas. 1978. Euxiphipops, a delicate challenge. FAMA 8/78.

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

Emmens, C.W. 1983. Large Pacific angelfishes. TFH 3/83.

Fenner, Robert. 1995. Three amigo angels from Baja. TFH 7/95.

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

Ladiges et al. 1978. Marine fish, angelfish. Aquarium Digest International #19.

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 is a varied diet. TFH 6/87.

Moenich, David R. 1988. Breaking the rules (marine angel compatibility). TFH 3/88.

Nelson, Joseph S. 1994. Fishes of the World, 3d ed. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. NY. 600 pp.

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.

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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