Black and White Bandit Angelfish Profile

Shy, Gentle, and Tricky to Raise

Black & White Bandit Angelfish
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The Black & White Bandit Angelfish (Holacanthus arcuatus) is a beautiful fish which is found in the deeper waters outside of the reef, most commonly in the Hawaiian and Johnston Islands of the Pacific. A shy angelfish that should be provided lots of places to hide, and best kept in a well-established aquarium with ample live rock growth to graze on.

Breed Overview

Common Names: Black and White Bandit Angelfish, Bandit Angelfish, Black and White Banded Angelfish, Black Banded Angelfish

Scientific Name: Holacanthus arcuatus

Adult Size: 7 inches

Life Expectancy: 2 to 5 years


Family Pomacanthidae
Origin Endemic to the Hawaiian Islands region.
Social Semi-aggressive
Tank Level All

Minimum Tank Size

100 gallons


Breeding Does not breed in home aquariums
Care Difficult
pH 8.1-8.4
Temperature 72 to 78º F (22 to 25.5º Cel)

Origin and Distribution

This beautiful angelfish originates around the Hawaiian and Johnston Islands in the Pacific. Usually found on or near the rocky ledges of coral reefs or in caves, it is most comfortable in fast-moving water. In general, they live at depths between 12 and 50 meters, but they are capable of diving as deep as 500 feet.

Colors and Markings

The Black and White Bandit is a spectacular, rare, and very distinctive angelfish. When seeing this species in person, the white areas of the body have a somewhat reflective pearlescent appearance, which truly makes it an eye-catching aquarium fish. Its body is white with a broad black bar; a white band runs across the upper side all the way from the eye to the back of the dorsal fin. A wide white-bordered black band runs along the anal and caudal fins.


The Black and White Bandit is generally easy going with other species, but can be quite aggressive with other angelfish and with other fish of about its size. It doesn't do well in a reef tank because of its habit of nipping at live coral. Thus, good tankmates include smaller, peaceful species; when adding new tankmates to join your angelfish, introduce the smallest and most docile first and allow time to see how your particular angelfish handles the stress of sharing space. If your tank is relatively small, consider keeping a Black and White Bandit as your only fish.

Black and White Bandit Angelfish Habitat and Care

Provide your Black and White Bandit Angelfish with a large tank. Between 180-200 gallons is sufficient, but the larger the tank your happier your fish will be. Like all angelfish, the Black and White Bandit needs top notch water quality and a fast flowing current.

Remember that these fish are native to the reefs off the coast of the Hawaiian Islands, and try to replicate that environment to the best of your ability. Provide corals and plenty of live rocks to keep your fish comfortable and happy. You can even consider creating a live rock wall where your Bandit Angelfish can graze.

It is best to avoid using a net on this fish due to the rough texture of its scales. The fish will get stuck in the net material, and once snagged the only way to separate the fish from the net is to pull it off, which is much like peeling velcro apart.

Decompression Sickness in Black and White Bandit Angelfish

Due to inhabiting deep ocean waters, when this fish is collected it may encounter decompression sickness. Some fish collectors use a procedure called "needling", which is a process of piercing a small hole in the fish's air bladder with a syringe needle to release the trapped nitrogen gas. Unless a person is well experienced in this procedure, it can lead to complications of internal infections.

Since the Black and White Bandit Angelfish is normally only found at a depth below 50', proper decompression (bringing the fish up from depth at intervals) to avoid the "bends", decompressing can take over 4 hours. Many collectors prefer to save the time and just needle the fish on the way up to the surface. While needles can be a great time saver for the collector, the risk of the fish developing an internal infection from a dirty needle (the ocean is teeming with some very nasty bacteria) can be quite high.

The takeaway here is to make sure that you inspect this fish very carefully before purchasing it. Also make sure that the person you are buying this fish from can show you that the fish is, indeed, eating and, for that matter, exactly what it is eating.

If you buy these fish be sure to check it out thoroughly. It should be flying level, not struggling at a vertical position, and its abdomen should is not puffed out. These are usually signs of a possible internal bladder infection or residual effects of decompression sickness.

Black and White Bandit Angelfish Diet

Relying on sponges as its sole source of food in the wild, this fish can easily starve in captivity. If you are interested in keeping one, it wise to wait for a larger juvenile or sub-adult specimen. In most cases, these specimens will adapt to tank fed foods more readily than very small juveniles or large adults (some breeders will have already helped their fish to adapt). Provide plenty of frozen preparations especially for angels that contains sponge as the main ingredient, such as Ocean Nutrition and San Francisco Bay Brand frozen formulas.

Sexual Differences

Male and female angelfish look so similar to one another that even experts find it hard to tell them apart. In some cases it's possible to sex an angelfish based on the size of the tube located between its ventral and anal fins, but this is not a very reliable method. For most people, the only way to determine if a fish is a male or female is to wait for it to spawn—which is extraordinarily rare among Black and White Bandit Angelfish kept in captivity.

Breeding the Black and White Bandit Angelfish

There are no accounts of hobby aquarists breeding Black and White Bandit Angelfish. Even professional fish breeders find this species extraordinarily difficult to breed; the vast majority of Black and White Bandit Angelfish in captivity are captured in the wild. This, in part, explains their very high cost: a single Black and White Angelfish can cost $800-$1000.

More Pet Fish Breeds and Further Research

There are many types of angelfish, and most are beautiful additions to a hobby tank. If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other saltwater pet fish breed profiles.

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  1. St. John, Jill. "Is Your Fish 'Bent' And Will It Survive?". Pacific Community Fisheries, Aquaculture And Marine Ecosystems, 2003,