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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Angelfish Feeding Habits

By Patrick Donston

Store Owner, Absolutely Fish

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Do you recommend marine angelfish, in particular dwarf angels as reef compatible inhabitants?

Marine angel fish (Pomacanthidae) are found on coral slopes throughout the tropics. They are much sought after by aquarists and, by many, are considered prizes of the marine aquarium. These fish require careful maintenance because of their delicate nature in shipping and proneness to disease. While it is known larger species from the genus--Pomacanthus, Holacanthus and Chaetodontoplus--feed on sponges, sea squirts, anemones and corals, most insinuate they are poor choices for reef aquariums. Their close cousins, the pygmy group Centropyge, have been sought after by reef aquarists probably because of their less aggressive nature and size.

Centropyge angels are more adaptive grazers than the larger species of this family. Examining a Centropyge's natural diet, it would appear the threat to corals would be minimal. Most of the pygmies feed on algae and scraped or bitten coral debris. Although these angels may not be feeding directly on coral-polyps, they do graze on the slime corals extrude, thus damaging bases and mantles. It seems once they start to eat coral-slime, they won't stop, leaving the aquarist frustrated as they watch these fish pick apart their living reef. They tend to prefer open faced corals, such as favias, trachyphyllias and bubbles. I've seen them eat Xenia and clam mantles as well.

We have sold more fish traps to catch flame angels (C. loriculus), lemon peels (C. flavissimus), bicolor (C. bicolor), keyhole (C. tibicin), and orange stripe (C. eiblii) than any other fish I can account for.

Angels from the genus Genicanthus--and some larger species of Pomacanthus and Chaetodontoplus--are sometimes better reef choices because of their natural feeding behavior. It consists of plankton, macro-algae and small organisms suspended in mid-water. Although these types exemplify less grazing, in a captive environment any opportunistic feeder can take advantage of what's available to eat. I recommend saying, "Introducing any angelfish to your reef aquarium always entails some degree of risk--some more than others.”

Educate your marine aquarists on the risks each group or individual may behave in this role.

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