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Angelfish Facts and Information

[Phylum: Chordata] [Class: Actinopterygii] [Order: Perciformes] [Family: Pomacanthidae]

Marine angelfish are perciform "perch-like" fishes that are easily identified by their laterally compressed (flattened) body, flamboyant colouring, and large fanning fins.

This section contains fun facts and interesting information about marine angelfishes, such as where they live, what they eat, and how they reproduce.

Saltwater Angelfish Habitat and Distribution

By and large, ocean angelfish live around the shallow tropical reefs of the Indian, Atlantic, and the Pacific.

There are more than eighty (80) different species of angelfish living in these saltwater environments.

The biggest angelfish are quite bold in their natural habitat. They often swim close to scuba divers and skin divers.

Angelfishes and butterflyfishes rank among the most conspicuous of all vertebrate animals that inhabit coral reef formations (e.g. atolls).

Pro Tip: Angelfish classification differs in taxonomy for "Cichliformes" (tropical cichlids) and "Pterophyllum fish" (freshwater angelfish) - often kept in captivity by aquarist fish keepers.

Marine Angelfish Characteristics

Despite being closely related to butterflyfish (family Chaetodontidae), ocean angelfish have stronger facial support from preopercle bones. These robust "boomerang-shaped" structures are gill covers that help them to breathe and feed.

Almost all angelfishes are a hardy and bold species when swimming around the reef. But, they become more timid and seek shelter in rocky crevices when darkness falls.

Here's the thing:

For the most part, they have large pectoral fins, accompanied by a long flailing dorsal fin, and lunate (or crescent-shaped) anal fins.

Most species of marine angelfish have streamer-like extensions to the soft dorsal and anal fin and a rich variety of iridescent colours.

For example:

Angelfish Size and Weight

Most of the species have a small mouth for quite a large fish. But, the large pectoral fins - and a lunate somewhat rounded tail fin - tend to match its generous body size (averaging 20 centimetres long).

The gray angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus) is the biggest angelfish that lives in saltwater. This species can grow to sixty (60) centimetres long (24 inches).

Whereas, one of the smallest marine angelfish species is Fisher's angelfish (Centropyge fisheri genus), also called the orange angel. This family rarely exceeds 2.25 centimetres in total body length (less than one inch long).

What Do Saltwater Angelfish Eat?

The classification of angelfish defines their individual feeding habits. For example, marine angelfishes of the family Pomacanthidae (also called swallowtail or lyretail angelfish) are typical planktivores (e.g. they feed on planktonic organisms, algae, and zooplankton in the water column).

Whereas, a staple food source for most of the large angelfish species includes benthic invertebrates (crustaceans, marine worms), bryozoans (moss animals), hydroids, sea sponges, and tunicates.

How Do Angelfish Reproduce?

A pronounced shift in colouration combines with maturity and social ranking for many of the angelfish phylum. Put another way, the characteristics of juvenile angelfishes see a dramatic change and colour shift as they develop into adulthood.

Marine angelfish species are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning females can change their gender to become a functional male if the dominant male dies or is removed from the harem.

But wait - there's more:

Angelfishes are pelagic spawners. Hence, they release between 150 and one thousand miniscule buoyant eggs into the water column.

The eggs float around with plankton in ocean currents until they hatch. As a consequence of that, most of them fall victim to a range of planktonic feeders, such as large marine mammals.

Threats and Predators

Saltwater angelfish have several natural predators, especially barracudas, large open ocean fishes, and most of the shark phylum.

Are Angelfish Poisonous?

Some large angelfish are edible and fished for human consumption for food. But, caution is needed because some species are not safe to eat and may cause a foodborne illness called ciguatera poisoning. Moreover, ciguatoxin has similar symptoms to pufferfish poisoning.

Pro Tip: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species last assessed many of the angelfish phylum in 2009. They cited the clipperton angelfish (Holocanthus limbaughi) as "Near Threatened" (NT) and the clarion angelfish (Holacanthus clarionensis) as "Vulnerable" (VU).

Marine Angelfish Species List

Blue Ring Angelfish

Most of the angelfish phylum are aesthetically pleasing to look at. But, the curves of neon blue lines in the species named annularis catches the eye of its onlookers.

This section contains fun facts and interesting information about blue ring angelfish, including where they live, what they eat, and how they reproduce.

Emperor Angelfish

French Angelfish

King Angelfish

Majestic Angelfish

Queen Angelfish

Yellow Angelfish

Related Information and Help Guides

Note: The short video [2:59 seconds] presented by "Deep Marine Scenes" contains footage of a colourful and territorial coral reef fish known as marine angelfishes (Pomacanthidae).

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