Angelfishes: Characteristics and Compatibility of Family Pomacanthidae

Keeping the Peace in Your Angelfish Aquarium

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Behavior of Angelfish

Considered to be very territorial and aggressive fish, it is not unusual for many members of the Pomacanthidae family to fight with species of their own kind and sex, and often with other related and non-related species that are similar in shape, color, and size. However, there are various degrees in aggressive behavior, and therefore not all Angels are necessarily bullies.

Choosing the Right Tank Mates

How any particular Angelfish will behave in an aquarium typically relates to what other fishes they are kept with, and choosing the right tank mate community for the species you have is important.

Small Centropyge species, Chaetodontoplus, Genicanthus and a few other genera species in the medium size group do well in a non-aggressive fish community with other non-related species like Anthias, Butterflies, Gobies, Blennies, Tile Fishes and such.

The larger Holacanthus and Pomacanthus species coexist well with less-passive tank mates, such as Triggers, Hawks, Groupers, Eels, Damsels, and Surgeonfishes.

Good Grouping Species

Most Angelfishes live a solitary life, but some wander the reef in small groups of two or three, which are usually mated pairs or trios of one male and several females. It is not uncommon for multiple males and sometimes females placed in the same aquarium to fight, often to the death, and although many Angelfishes do best when kept singly, one to an aquarium, here are some species that can be kept together under the right conditions.

  • Lemonpeel Angelfish (Centropyge flavissimus) -- Makes a good pair, and a trio of one male and two females can be kept in no less than a 100-gallon aquarium.
  • Cherub Angelfish (Centropyge argi) -- Good for pairing and two or more females can be kept together, but only as long as the tank is at least 50 gallons in size and they are all added at the same time.
  • Blackspot Angelfish (Genicanthus melanospilos) -- Can be kept in small groups in a larger aquarium, but with only one male present.
  • Herald's Angelfish (Centropye heraldi) -- Makes a good male-female pair but in a minimum 75-gallon aquarium.
  • Bicolor Angelfish (Centropyge bicolor) -- Can be kept with other individuals, but only in a minimum 75-gallon aquarium and all are added simultaneously.

Pairing Angelfishes

So how do you know if you are getting a mated pair of Angels, or two that are going to beat each other up? Apparently, when it comes to the pairing of Angelfishes, size plays a role here, and color may as well. To learn more about the matching up of a mated pair of Angelfishes, let two of Hawaii's top marine biology experts explain it to you.

  • About Sexing Angelfishes

Aquarium Introduction Tips

Extreme dominate or territorial aggression occurs most often when an Angelfish has been established for some in an aquarium and a new tank mate is introduced. If you are going to add an Angel to your aquarium community, it is suggested, unless otherwise noted, that it be introduced into the tank last.

When decided to keep multiple Angelfishes in the same aquarium it is best to choose mated pairs, species that commune well together or pick dissimilar species, and then introduce them into the tank all at the same time.

If you already have an established fish community and want to then add an Angelfish, you can try removing all the fish present in the aquarium and re-arrange the decor if possible, then place all the fish back into the tank along with the new Angelfish.​

Other Key Factors For Success

By providing Angelfishes with ample room to move around and shelter to hide in it allows them to better keep away from other fishes, as well as establish a more spacious territory of their own. This all helps to lessen the effects of territorial disputes with other tank mates. Of course, as true with most all marine fishes, there are no guarantees that fights or conflicts of some kind won't occur, especially taking into consideration the aggressive nature of Angelfishes.