Some of the smaller pygmy or dwarf angelfish will occasionally pick at your reef tank. However, this predation behavior will happen less often if angelfish have more live rock to pick at and room to roam in a larger tank. Most reef tanks can benefit from the algae-eating habits, the striking colors, and the busy behaviors of these smaller angelfish. Here is a look at 10 angelfish species that are the most likely to leave your reef alone.
Angelfish species in the wild are omnivores. They normally eat both algae (plant matter) and invertebrates: coral, clams, and shrimp are all mainstays of all omnivorous reef fishes. Their normal predation behaviors can be augmented in a home aquarium as long as they get plenty of meat-based vitamins and minerals in their diet.
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The swallowtail angelfish is naturally a planktivore and often browses on diatoms and filamentous algae. The beautiful Japanese swallowtail angelfish is one of the few truly reef tank safe angelfish as it does not bother corals or other invertebrates. The swallowtail angelfish is a mid-water column fish, meaning that in the wild it does not live on the reef nor near the surface.
Length: Up to 6 inches
Physical Characteristics: Females have a yellow stripe on the back with a light blue body and black and blue stripes on the tail; males have an additional thick black line on the body and trailing tails.
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Coral Beauty Angelfish
The Coral Beauty is a favorite dwarf or pygmy angelfish species for hobbyists; its brilliant coloring, hardiness, and low cost makes this species readily available. This fish may occasionally nip at clam mantles and large-polyped stony corals, particularly if kept in small reef systems. If the fish has plenty of live rock to pick at and to keep busy with, it seldom causes damage to corals.
Length: 2 to 4 inches
Physical Characteristics: Deep royal blue, highlighted with an iridescent orange to yellow; body and head is a deep, royal blue, but may feature some hints of orange or yellow
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One of the smallest dwarf or pygmy angelfish species, Fisher's angelfish is normally not as aggressive as many other angelfishes, but some individual specimens may be territorial in smaller aquariums, particularly toward the more docile fishes. Since it does well in tanks with diatoms or brown microalgae, the Fisher's angelfish is best kept in an established live rock aquarium with ample algae growth present for grazing.
Length: 2 inches
Physical Characteristics: Orange body with a thin, sapphire-blue outline highlighting the belly and anal fin; caudal fin is pale yellow; genders look similar
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One of the more docile of angelfish species, Potter's angelfish still has a tendency to be aggressive toward new fish once it has become established. It may also nip at large-polyped stony corals, Zoanthids, Tridacnid clam mantles, and even some soft coral polyps. If kept in a reef tank with plenty of algae to graze on to keep it occupied, it should leave most corals alone.
Length: Up to 5 inches
Physical Characteristics: Body is a brilliant orange, with pale to dark blue; the caudal portions of the dorsal, anal, and caudal fins are a dark blue-black; genders look similarContinue to 5 of 10 below.
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This striking angelfish is considered to be semi-aggressive, particularly in a smaller tank where its territory is challenged. Considered reef tank safe with caution, it may nip at clam mantles and stony and soft corals. A larger tank and more live rock may help mitigate any damage.
Length: 3.5 inches
Physical Characteristics: Pale peach-orange to yellow; black speckles on a background of blue behind the eye; dorsal and anal fins are blue-black while the caudal fin is yellow; horizontal swatch of silvery-white from mid-body to caudal fin
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A cherub angelfish prefers reef tanks to fish-only tanks, but like other angelfish, it is not completely reef-safe so caution is recommended when adding this fish to a coral tank. The mucus on the coral is what the fish actually wants to eat, not the body of the coral. And yet, repeat nipping will cause any coral or clam to retract and eventually die from stress.
Length: Up to 3 inches
Physical Characteristics: Metallic blue body and yellow to orange on parts of the head only; genders are similar
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This species is well known for picking at large-polyp stony corals, and tridacnid clam mantles. The lemonpeel angelfish may also eat some soft coral polyps, as well as pick at zoanthids. Therefore this fish, as true with most all angelfish, cannot be completely trusted if these invertebrates are present.
Length: Up to 5.5 inches
Physical Characteristics: Uniform bright yellow body, blue or white ring around the eye, and dark-blue edges on the vertical fins
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The flame angelfish is a tropical Pacific reef dweller from Oceania. Although it does not breed readily in captivity, the wild population is not currently threatened. The flame angelfish is considered reef safe as they do adapt well to a captive diet. Individuals that learn to pick at your coral or clams are likely just underfed and would benefit from Mysis shrimp or frozen clam.
Length: 3 to 4 inches
Physical Characteristics: Bright orange-red with a vertical elongated black spot and four or five bars on the sides; the posterior part of the dorsal and anal fins have alternating purple-blue and black bands; males are often larger and slightly more colorfulContinue to 9 of 10 below.
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Orangelined or Eibl's Angelfish
One of the larger dwarf or pygmy angelfish species, the Eibl's angelfish adapts well to a peaceful aquarium environment with plenty of hiding places. But larger individuals may act aggressively towards smaller fish, particularly when confined in a small aquarium.
Length: 6 inches
Physical Characteristics: A pearlescent body with several vertical, evenly-spaced orange to red stripes; a brilliant sapphire-blue stripe outlines the caudal fin
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These stunning reef angels are somewhat aggressive; they require a minimum tank size of 150 gallons. In their wild habitat, they are found at great depth, but captive-bred individuals have adapted to surface water pressure. With sufficient live rock, these fish will not bother your invertebrates.
Length: 8 inches
Physical Characteristics: Females remain black and white but when males mature, their masks turn from black to yellow and orange fins.