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Flame Angelfish Overview, Care & Breeding Guide

Flame angelfish are known for their lively and curious nature. Its heavenly vibrancy and coloration pale away even the most colorful aquarium fish. They’re one of the most popular fish for saltwater aquariums.

From their preferred water conditions to their semi-aggressive temperament, there’s more to discover about these unique fish. Let’s dive into what it takes to care for and create a thriving aquatic environment for them.

Species Overview

OriginPacific Ocean, mainly in tropical waters
OrderPerciformes
FamilyPomacanthidae
Scientific NameCentropyge loriculus
Common NamesFlame angel, red angelfish, Japanese pygmy angelfish, flaming angelfish
IUCN Red List StatusLeast Concern
AppearanceRed/orange oval body, rounded fins with black stripes and blue edging on fins
SizeUp to 10 cm (4 in)
Lifespan5-7 years
TemperamentSemi-aggressive, harmless to humans
Reef SafeSemi-reef safe
Tank LevelAll levels
Water Temperature75-80 °F (25-27 °C)
pH Level8.1-8.4
Water HardnessBelow 15 dGH
Care LevelModerate
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons
Tank EnvironmentMarine; brackish with plenty of live rock
DietOmnivore
Tank MatesDwarf angels, clownfish, tangs, anthias, large wrasses

Natural Habitat

This particular species inhabits the central to western Pacific region, spanning from eastern Indonesia to the Marquesas Islands. These are notably abundant in Palau, the Marianas, Marshalls, and the Society Islands.

They love hanging out near coral reefs in the Pacific and stay in clear waters, usually sticking to the shallower parts, not deeper than 16 to 82 feet (4 to 25 meters). You’ll often see them in groups of 3 to 7, always on the move, searching for food among the rocks and corals.

With a steady population, the IUCN Red List marks it as Least Concern.

Classification

These tiny fish comes from the Pomacanthidae family within the Perciformes order and Centropyge genus, encompassing more than 32 species.

The Centropyge genus of flame angelfish boasts the highest number of species, categorized into three subgenera and six species complexes.

It’s also known by other common names like flame angel, flaming angelfish, red angelfish, and Japanese pygmy angelfish.

Interesting Fact: In a group of flame angelfish, if the dominant male is removed or dies, the largest female will transition and become the new male of the group. This is because they are hermaphroditic.

Appearance

Flame angelfish swimming towards camera

Like all dwarf angels, flaming angelfish showcases an oval body and rounded fins. But that’s not it; these stunning fish are adorned with vibrant purple-black stripes and electric indigo-blue edging on the fins.

Wondering how big they are or want to know more about what they look like? Keep reading to learn about their different shades and unique features.

Size

Compared to other angels, flame angels are pretty small, reaching an adult size of just around 4 inches (10 cm). The males tend to grow a bit larger than the females.

While they might not be the tiniest ones in a typical saltwater tank, they’re often referred to as “dwarf” when you consider the larger angel species.

But always keep an eye out on these, as they can be big enough to create issues for smaller tank mates if not managed carefully.

Color

In the Central Pacific, flame angels from the Marshall Islands are intense red with thick black bars down their bodies. Cebu ones are red/orange with blurred black bars and a hint of yellow. Christmas Island variety is red/orange with thin black bars.

Tahiti ones are blood red without yellow, but they’re rarely collected. Hawaiian angels are more prominent with a deep, vivid red color, while Indo-Pacific ones are more orange-red. Their fin edges are a striking blue-purple hue.

Features

These angelfish are easily distinguished by their brilliant orange-to-red coloring. Typically, they display several vertical black stripes on their body, although the number of stripes can vary based on geographic factors.

Sexual Dimorphism

There is no easy way to distinguish between male and female in these fish. But it’s noticed that the males are slightly bigger, and the blue/black streaks on the males’ dorsal and anal fins are more noticeable and bigger than females.

Their social structure is quite intriguing. Usually, a dominant male oversees a group of female fish, forming a sort of “harem”. But the interesting part is that a female can sometimes transition into a male.

Like clownfish, flame angels are hermaphroditic, which means they’re born with both male and female parts. All flame angelfish start their journey as females, but as they grow up, the largest and most dominant female can become a male. But this happens only if there are no other males present.

Behavior & Temperament

These are semi-aggressive, usually getting along with community reef fish. But they can be territorial, especially with peaceful species and slow eaters. To manage aggression, add them last to your tank or opt for a mated pair. And providing enough space reduces territorial behavior, and having just one fish or a mated pair can prevent fighting.

Lifespan

Flame angelfish typically live for 5 to 7 years in well-maintained aquariums. Males and females share a similar lifespan.

Note: Flame angelfish are considered semi-reef-safe due to their tendency to nibble on corals and smaller invertebrates.

Flame Angelfish Care

Flame angelfish swimming with clownfish and Lake Malawi cichlids

Flame angelfish are great for aquariums as they’re easygoing when it comes to lighting and water movement. They hang out all over the tank but prefer to roam mostly near the bottom.

Whenever you’re introducing new fish to your tank, it’s a good idea to quarantine them for a bit. It’s important because they might carry parasites or diseases. Once you release them into the main tank, monitor their eating habits and how they get along with the other fish.

Try to emulate their natural habitat by following the below tank setup recommendations, which are particular to flame angelfish.

Tank Size

For a single fish, it’s recommended to have a tank of at least 30 gallons with plenty of algae growth and live rock for grazing. Going smaller can trigger territorial and aggressive behavior to protect their space against competing algae eaters.

If you plan to have a pair of these fish, a 75 to 100 gallons tank size is a must. If adding more fish or corals to the tank, increase the tank size by at least 15 gallons for every additional fish so they have sufficient room to thrive.

Water Chemistry

Although flame angelfish aren’t very fussy about the water conditions, here’s how you can replicate their natural habitat in the tank –

  • pH Levels: 8.1-8.4
  • Water Temperature: 75-80° F (25-27°C)
  • Water Hardness: Below 15 dGH
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: Below 20 ppm
  • Synthetic Salt Level: 26-33 ppt
  • Specific Gravity: 1.020-1.025

You can also consider a calcium reactor, which helps maintain stable water chemistry. Always keep a 2:1 ratio of salt mix to fresh water, and only change it when replacing all the old saltwater.

Tank Environment

To help them feel at home, set up lots of rockwork, live rock, and rubble where they can find natural food. They love having plenty of hiding spots in caves and crevices within the rocks. To make their adjustment a little easier, introduce them as the last addition to your tank.

Substrate

Flame angels have a natural behavior of foraging and exploring the substrate for food like algae and small invertebrates. Choosing a sandy or gravel bottom as the substrate allows them to exhibit these natural behaviors comfortably.

Plants

Some recommended saltwater plants include green finger algae, mermaid’s fan, tufted joint algae, dragon’s tongue algae, and halimeda. These plants look appealing while also helping to regulate water conditions.

Lighting

These angels prefer subdued lighting. Aim for less intense lighting using a single 15-watt fluorescent bulb, providing around 10 watts per gallon of water. But ensure it’s strong enough to sustain algae growth and maintain a consistent temperature not to harm the fish.

Décor

Live rock is crucial for saltwater tanks, hosting essential bacteria and microorganisms vital to the ecosystem. Add lots of live rocks to ensure ample cave space within the aquarium for these fish to find hiding spots and crevices for food.

Filtration

You can use a protein skimmer and filter socks to clean the aquarium. Live rock serves for biological filtration while using a good mechanical filter, and occasionally using activated carbon can enhance water clarity.

Water Flow Rate

These thrive in strong water movement that replicates their natural currents. Aim for a turnover rate of 10 to 20 times the tank’s volume per hour to create a suitable habitat for them.

Fish Care Tip: Put flame angelfish in tanks that have been around for a while – they’re sensitive to changes. Newer tanks might not have enough food for them to graze on.

Food & Diet

These fish are omnivores enjoying a well-rounded diet in their natural habitat. Their taste buds delight in various offerings, including algae, small crustaceans, and plankton.

In your tank, replicate their balanced diet by offering high-quality marine flakes, pellets, and frozen foods. Give them marine algae or seaweed sheets, which they’ll happily graze on.

For a nutritious boost, you can occasionally serve live or frozen treats like brine or mysis shrimp. This ensures they’re nourished with essential proteins and nutrients.

Try to maintain a feeding frequency of at least twice daily for adults and four times for juveniles. When feeding late in the evenings, keep the aquarium light on for an hour so the fish has enough time to graze on any food bits that fall amongst the rockwork.

Most importantly, don’t leave leftovers in the tank for long; it can harm water quality.

Tank Mates

Typically, it’s a good idea to keep only one fish in a tank. But if you have a large tank with ample rocky structures, you can house multiple in a tank.

Although these are semi-aggressive, they can coexist with other marine fish types, provided they are also semi-aggressive species to prevent bullying by your flame angelfish. They get along pretty well with gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses, anthias, clownfish, tangs, and other dwarf angels.

Tank Mates to Avoid

Steer clear of overly aggressive or territorial fish like butterflyfishes or triggers that might disrupt the peace of the tank. Avoid slow swimmers like seahorses, pipefish, and mandarins, as they may be outcompeted for food.

Common Diseases

The best way to prevent illness is through proactive care – maintaining water quality, a balanced diet, and a stress-free environment.

But even then, your fish may not be immune to the disease that captive saltwater environments offer. Follow the below treatment if you spot any signs.

Disease NameCausesSymptomsTreatment
Marine/Saltwater IchParasite infestationScratching, clamped fins, white spots, labored breathing, lethargyRaising tank temperature, reducing pH and salinity, or use of drugs such as metronidazole
Marine VelvetParasite infestationRust-colored spots, rapid respiration, lethargy, weight lossQuarantine, reduce pH and salinity, or use drugs such as metronidazole
Bacterial Infections (like Vibrio bacteria)Secondary infection caused by parasitic or protozoan diseaseOpen sores, bleeding, red streaks, frayed fins, lethargyFreshwater dip, improve pH and water temperature, medications

Even after addressing the above diseases, should the issue persist, seek advice from experienced aquarists near you.

Quick Tip: When adding new fish, put them in a separate tank for a while to ensure they’re healthy. You can use a simple tank with a hiding spot for this.

Breeding & Reproduction

In my experience, since they are hermaphroditic, pairing these fish isn’t very hard, but breeding is. You could put any two flame angelfish together in a separate tank, and one will transition into a male while the other will remain female. But this only happens if they don’t get too aggressive with each other over territorial disputes.

Mating Conditions

Creating the right conditions may involve a separate breeding tank with simulated day-night lighting. Make sure to use a deep tank, as deep as possible. That way, your fish can duplicate that swim to the surface.

Mating Ritual & Process

Males impress females with bright colors and a swim dance. The females reproduce by releasing eggs, and the males release sperm into the water. They do this by swimming in the water and releasing their eggs and sperm at the top.

Signs of Pregnancy & Egg Release

During pregnancy, the females develop a noticeable bulge in the lower belly area that grows over time. This increase in size is easy to spot and indicates the progressing pregnancy. When the females lay eggs, they usually hatch in about 24 hours.

Egg Survival & Threats

The hardest part of breeding flame angelfish is to keep the larvae alive.

After hatching, these fish fry needs special food like phytoplankton or microscopic algae. Also, be aware of other organisms in the tank. If the parents aren’t moved to a separate tank for breeding, other fish might eat the eggs.

Author’s Note: To help flame angelfish grow, you can slowly transition to copepods, rotifers, and brine shrimp nauplii.

Quick Buying Tips

Flame angelfish are commonly available online and in stores, though they tend to be pricier than other varieties.

When purchasing these fish, choose lively ones with bright colors and no visible health issues. Look for clear eyes, intact fins, and smooth skin. Avoid those that seem sluggish, have faded colors, or display spots or lesions.

A word from FIA

Flame angelfish are captivating due to their vibrant appearance and behavior, making them popular among aquarium enthusiasts. Consider their needs for the right environment, companions, and care to ensure their well-being and longevity.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, be sure to share it and watch for more insightful content in the future. Happy fish keeping!