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Species Profile: Pygmy Angels

Welcome back Mellisa Leiter, one of the Marine Biologist who works in our fish room here at TFP. Mellisa has written an article about one of the coolest little saltwater fish around, the Pygmy Angel. I hope you enjoy!

Pygmy Angelfish

Pygmy angelfish are fairly small, yet bright and colorful. They are generally not-specific feeders and usually accept most prepared food offered to them. They should be offered frozen foods like Mysis Shrimp, Formula 1, Formula 2, and Clams. They should also be offered flakes, pellets, and a regular supply of algae to round out their diet. Pygmy Angelfish typically do well in an established aquarium, 55 gallons or larger. Some acceptable tankmates include damsels, clownfish, tangs, gobies, blennies, and wrasses. As with their larger Angelfish cousins, careful consideration needs to be taken when attempting to keep more than one Pygmy Angel in the same tank. Two Pygmy Angels of the same species or very similar coloration should not be housed together, they will be very aggressive towards each other. If you want to attempt to keep two different species of Pygmy Angels together, your best bet is with species of different coloration. While there is no guarantee that these feisty little fish will coexist in your aquarium, you can increase your odds of them getting along in a few ways. First, the bigger the tank the better; 55 gal tank or larger. Second, make sure that there is plenty of live rock with lots of hiding places, this will allow the fish to establish their own territory. You can also reduce aggression by adding the fish at the same time, this way no territory has been established by older residents. Pygmy Angelfish are generally “reef safe” but may nip at the occasional polyp from time to time. I would not recommend Pygmy Angels for reef aquariums with Acropora, or other SPS corals for this reason. Their max size ranges from 3-6 inches for most species.
One of the most popular Pygmy angelfish would be the Coral Beauty (Cenropyge bispinosus). Their colors range from a deep purple to shades of orange. They stay fairly small (3-4”) and can be housed in tanks as small as 30 gallons. Coral Beauty’s are usually “reef safe” but may nip on polyps as well as the slime coat on other corals. The Coral Beauty is very hardy once acclimated into a well established tank with plenty of liverock.


Another hardy Pygmy angelfish that does well in an established tank is the Flame Angel (Centropyge loricula). Their colors are a vivid red with black lines. The amount of black varies. Flame Angelfish do not have different juvenile to adult coloration’s so be sure to pick the stripe pattern that you like since it won’t change. Flame Pygmy angelfish tend to be more peaceful than some of the other pygmy angelfish. Flame Pygmy Angelfish are usually “reef safe” but may eat polyps or clam mantles.


One of the smaller pygmy angelfish that is also hardy is the Cherub Pygmy Angelfish (Centropyge argi) . Cherub Pygmy angelfish is a purplish blue with a splash of orange around its face. They reach a max size of 2-3 inches. Cherub Pygmy angelfish may be shy any first, but don’t let their small size full you. These little angels have attitudes and will defend their home at all cost. They are generally “reef safe” but may pick at the occasional polyp.
One of the larger Pygmy angelfish would be the Keyhole Pygmy Angelfish (Centropyge tibicen). They can reach a max size between 7-8 inches. Keyhole Angelfish are not as colorful as many of the other angelfish. They are mostly dark blue to black with the lower portion of the anal fin bright yellow and an oval white area on both sides of their body. Keyhole Angelfish do not tend to ship as well as some of the other angelfish but once properly acclimated they are usually pretty hardy.
One of my favorite pygmy angel is the Lemonpeel Pygmy Angelfish (Centropyge flavissimus). They are bright yellow with blue trim around both eyes and gill covers. Lemonpeels are generally shy and need lots of places to hide to feel safe. Once acclimated they usually become more social. Lemonpeel angels are more likely than some of the other pygmy angelfish to pick at LPS corals and clam mantles.
One of the more aggressive pygmy angelfish is the Eibli Angelfish (Centropyge eibli). Eibli Angelfish have a silver gray body with orange stripes, black tail rimmed in blue, and a hint of orange around the eyes and belly. These angels adapt fairly well to aquarium life if given an established tank with lots of macroalgae to graze on. Eibli Angelfish are usually “reef safe” but may nip on the occasional polyp or clam mantle.
While there are many pygmy angelfish that do well in aquariums there are some species that are gorgeous but are a challenge for even the experienced aquarist. The Potter’s angelfish (Centropyge potteri) and Golden Angelfish (Centropyge aurantia) fall under this category. Potters angelfish are bright orange with blue gray scribbled lines and blue trim. Golden Angelfish are a burnt orange color with vertical yellow stripes. These angelfish tend to be very shy and reclusive and do not readily accept prepared food.
I hope you enjoyed Mellissa’s article.
Until next blog,

One comment

  1. avatar

    Cool article! I am so looking forward to reading more posts 😀

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