Bold in personality and color, Pygmy Angelfish are some of my favorite fish to keep! They tend to be easy to find and quite affordable as well. And they have fewer of the bad habits of their larger cousins. Pygmy Angelfish can live in aquariums as small as 20 gallons and have much better manners when it comes to tank mates.
The Flame Angelfish is possibly the most popular of the bunch and arguably the most beautiful as well! They are ideal showpiece fish for nearly any aquarium and not especially difficult to keep, either! What else is there to know about Flame Angelfish?
Getting to Know Flame Angelfish
Flame Angelfish are one of the most popular aquarium fish right now and for very good reason! They are on the small side, intensely colored, adjust well to captive life, and fit into a wide range of living conditions.
Depending on where they are from, Flame Angelfish can show a fair amount of variation in their background color. Tahitian and Marshall Islands Flame Angelfish are the most expensive and in demand as they have a vibrant tone that’s almost eye-wateringly bright.
Other varieties range from a golden orange to scarlet hued that tends to be darkest on their backs and bellies. But all of them have blue edges to their fins and black bars on their flanks.
Flame Angelfish belong to the genus Centropyge, which include all of the so-called Pygmy Angelfish. These Angelfish never exceed 6 inches and the majority are 3-4 inches long when fully grown. They are mostly peaceful but can be territorial on occasion, especially towards other Angelfish.
In fact, Flame Angelfish are fairly variable in temperament, which makes finding tank mates for them a challenge. Some are entirely reef safe while others pick at corals incessantly. One always has to plan for a Flame Angelfish. But their beauty makes them worth the hassle.
For the mature, fully cycled aquarium, Flame Angelfish are a great fish that intermediate aquarists can handle so long as there is no chance of new tank syndrome setting in. Their sensitivity to sudden shifts in water parameters makes them a poor choice for beginners unless they have a solid foundation of maintaining good water chemistry.
- Common Names: Flame Angelfish, Fire Angelfish, Hawaiian/Phillipine/Pacific Flame Angelfish
- Scientific Name: Centropyge loricula
- Origin: Pacific Ocean
- Length: 3-4 inches
- Aquarium Size: 20+ Gallons
- Temperament: Peaceful to Semi-Aggressive
- Ease of Care: Moderate
Flame Angelfish Care
Flame Angelfish are a little on the sensitive side. But armed with the right knowledge, even new aquarists have a good chance of succeeding with one!
As dwarf angels, the Flame Angelfish can live in aquariums smaller than their larger cousins. As young 1-2 inch juveniles they can be kept in nano aquariums of 20 gallons or less. But as adults they need 20 gallons at a bare minimum, with 30-40 being better if your Angelfish ends up on the larger side of the spectrum.
Larger aquariums offer several benefits for Flame Angelfish keepers. They are slower to shift in parameters due to the sheer volume of water. Flame Angels are sensitive to shifts in water parameters and crave stability. Smaller tanks take a lot more effort to maintain stability.
A larger, mature aquarium also generates more algae, biofilm, and other encrusting organisms that Flame Angelfish naturally feed on. If your Angelfish runs out of this natural food source, they are more likely to begin picking at corals and other sessile invertebrates.
Larger tanks give you more room for expansive live rock aquascaping. Flame Angelfish love nothing more than to spend their time investigating every crevice for hidden morsels of food. Abundant caves also give your other fish respite from the occasional chase.
Lastly, if you get a more aggressive Flame Angelfish, a larger tank ensures its tank mates have plenty of room to avoid its behavior and territory in the first place.
Flame Angelfish prefer standard marine fish parameters and are overall undemanding. Temperatures should fall between 72-78℉, with slightly warmer being better for these fish. The specific gravity (salinity) can fall between the natural range of 1.020-1.025 as should the pH (8.0-8.4).
They are slightly sensitive to elevated levels of nitrogenous wastes, however. Ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate should all be at or close to 0 ppm for optimal health. But that shouldn’t be an issue in a properly stocked, filtered, and mature marine tank.
But what’s most important is to keep things stable. Like corals and other sensitive reef animals, Flame Angelfish are bothered more by sudden changes than anything. Temperature and salinity shifts need to be mild to non-existent to avoid problems with opportunistic diseases like marine ich.
Flame Angelfish aren’t too concerned with current levels. Everything from low to high water flow appeals to them. They will spend their time in all levels of the water column. The same goes for lighting conditions; Flame Angelfish actively investigate every portion of their aquatic home!
Are Flame Angelfish Reef Safe?
When it comes to keeping Flame Angelfish in reef tanks there is no clear consensus to go by. Aquarists have a mixture of experiences with these fish. And it depends almost entirely on the setup, what they are fed, how large the tank is, and the personalities of the fish in question.
Many aquarists find their Flame Angelfish to be model reef dwellers. While they graze on live rock they concentrate their efforts on algae, detritus, small invertebrates like gammarus, and anything else they find growing there. But sometimes you can get a Flame Angelfish that picks more often at coral polyps, sea anemones, clams, and other desirable invertebrates. They rarely go so far as to eat them but the occasional peck can still cause corals considerable stress.
Flame Angelfish are worth attempting to add to a reef tank. Especially if you have a healthy growth of algae and biofilm on your rocks to keep their interest. But they are considered reef safe: with caution and you may have to remove one if it takes too much of an interest in your sessile invertebrates.
Tank Mates for Flame Angelfish
Flame Angelfish are sometimes quite territorial towards other fish as well. However they are only semi-aggressive at best, which means they will only cause stress if your tank is too small or they are matched with extremely shy species.
Given enough space, even shy fish will do okay with a Flame Angelfish, though. Rowdy tank mates like many Damselfish, larger Clownfish, Dottybacks, and many Tangs are good matches for them. If you’re concerned about aggression then add your Flame Angelfish last to ensure the other fish are well settled.
More peaceful community fish like Royal Grammas, Basslets, Ocellaris Clownfish, and the more gentle Damselfish types are also good matches so long as the tank isn’t too small. Flame Angelfish are completely safe with saltwater shrimp, crabs, starfish, and other mobile invertebrates!
Keeping Pygmy Angelfish Together
While Flame Angelfish are good community tank residents you’ll have a much harder time keeping them with their own kind. They tend to reserve their wrath for each other and other Angelfish in general.
Tangs are of a similar murderous disposition and for the same reasons. Algae, biofilm, and encrusting organisms are a renewable but slowly regenerating resource. It takes a lot of surface area to feed a single Flame Angelfish; they simply can’t afford to share with others of their kind.
They are therefore viciously territorial and chase away competitors to secure the best feeding grounds. Often this includes other Pygmy Angelfish, though you have a decent chance of keeping them together in a larger tank (55+ gallons).
Choosing Pygmy Angelfish that are drastically different in color gives you the greatest chance of success. The Black Nox Angel (Centropyge nox), Cherub Angelfish (Centropyge argi), and Keyhole Angelfish (Centropyge tibicen) all look different enough that they can work.
All of this aside, you actually can keep multiple Flame Angelfish together with a bit of planning! And if you intend on breeding them, it’s the only way you’re going to succeed. Buying several young Angelfish and keeping them in an aquarium larger than 100 gallons allows each Angelfish to have a clearly delineated territory.
They will form a pecking order, and more importantly, sex themselves according to their ranking. The dominant individual is always the male – but if the order of dominance chances the Angelfish shift sex accordingly! SInce this isn’t an instant process, it can confuse both the fish and the aquarist considerably!
Feeding Flame Angelfish
Flame Angelfish are true omnivores. They feed on algae, microorganisms, small crustaceans, and other organisms growing on the rocky slopes of the coral reef. This kind of foraging means they have a wide range of food sources that they naturally draw from. When kept in captivity, feeding a mixture of high quality pellets, freeze dried nori (Japanese seaweed), and frozen food will give them the variety they need.
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If fed only one type of food for an extended period of time Flame Angelfish can get nutritional deficiencies that lead to weakness, poor color, and death. Flame Angels that don’t get enough nutrients will also turn to picking at corals and other sessile invertebrates to make up for the missing vitamins.
Smaller feedings are best for grazers since they eat continually throughout the day. Three small feedings is best for Flame Angelfish since they will also munch on whatever is growing on your rocks in the meantime.
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Vegetable matter is especially important to Angelfish health and may be in too low a level inside many standard prepared foods. I recommend keeping some seaweed aside specifically for your Flame Angelfish. It can be placed on clips and left for them to graze on at will.
Breeding Flame Angelfish
Once you’ve mastered the basics of Flame Angelfish care you might turn your attention towards breeding them. While they are challenging to breed they are also some of the few marine fish that have successfully spawned in captivity. It’s difficult but not impossible!
The first challenge is getting them to pair off. Like many marine fish, Flame Angelfish are known as protogynous hermaphrodites. This means that they are born as females but social dynamics result in the dominant fish becoming a male. The male Flame Angelfish also grows larger and deeper in body. The blue streaks on the dorsal and anal fins are typically thicker and longer as well.
Therefore, the best way to get a pair is to raise at least two together as young fish in a spacious tank. They will grow accustomed to one another, form distinct territories, and eventually, the more dominant fish will sexually mature into a male.
It’s worth noting that the process is reversible if the male somehow loses dominance. He will then become a female and the dominant female then becomes a male! Since these sex changes take around 2 months to complete, the social dynamics can be a complex affair in a tank where the competitors interact each other constantly.
You’ll need an aquarium at least 55 gallons in size, with more space being better. Once they’ve paired off, the male and female wait until dawn or dusk to release their eggs directly into the water column. Like many reef fish, Flame Angels are broadcast spawners, meaning they simply release their eggs into the water column to develop.
This is the stage where most aquarists will have trouble because the eggs and fry are likely to get sucked up into a filter intake. Assuming you have an aquarium set up to prevent this, the fry mature very slowly. Feeding habits are also poorly understood, making it extremely rare for any to survive to adulthood. But should you succeed, do let us know your secrets!
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Some aquarists report success using green water algae (phytoplankton) to feed the nearly microscopic fry. Since freshwater green water may not contain the right nutrient balance, you can try using suspensions of marine phytoplankton used to feed corals.