Angels of the sea

Marine angelfish, or saltwater angelfish, are perciform fish of the family Pomacanthidae. Found on shallow reefs in the tropical Atlantic, Indian, and western Pacific oceans, these fish are among the most eye-catching reef dwellers with their vividly coloured, laterally compressed disc-like bodies.

Blue-ringed angelfish
Blue-ringed Angelfish (Pomacanthus annularis) is one of the many species of marine angelfish.

Freshwater vs saltwater

The term angelfish may have some people mistake them for their distant cousins, the freshwater angelfish.

Freshwater angelfish (or Pterophyllum) are members of the cichlid family which originates from the Amazon Basin and various rivers in South America. They have an angular body with elongated, vertical dorsal and anal fins, whereas the dorsal and anal fins of the saltwater angelfish are slanted backwards. Their colours and patterns, while striking, are also not as vibrant and dramatic as those of the saltwater angelfish.

A freshwater angelfish, this Altum Angelfish sports long vertical dorsal and anal fins which are typical of the Pterophyllum family. Image credit

They’re no angels

Angelfish tend to be territorial and can be pretty nasty and inflict wounds on other fish.

They sex change

Angelfish are hermaphrodites. They begin life as females and switch sex when required. Such as when the dominant male of the community dies, the dominant female will turn into a male. Or if the community becomes too large, one female will switch sex and the harem will split into two or more.

Here at S.E.A. Aquarium, we have over 20 species of marine angelfish. Here are some of our most gorgeous members.

Emperor Angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator)

Emperor Angelfish
Known for its beauty and long life span of up to 15 years. It also makes grunting noises when threatened or upset.

Queen Angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)

Queen Angelfish
Easily distinguished by a black spot encircled by a striking blue ring on its forehead. Feeds mainly on sponges though juveniles also pick on parasites found on other fishes.

Scribbled Angelfish (Chaetodontoplus duboulayi)

Scribbled angelfish
Derives its name from the many scrawls over its body and large dorsal and anal fins. It enjoys nipping at both stony and soft corals.

Yellow Bar Angelfish (Pomacanthus maculosus)

Yellow bar angelfish
This species is protogynous where females eventually turn into males. Males form harems with 2-5 females and are known to live up to 36 years.

Conspicuous Angelfish (Chaetodontoplus conspicillatus)

Conspicuous Angelfish
Distinguished by the bright blue line around its eyes and gill covers over a yellow face. Feeds mainly on sponges and tunicates.

Blue Angelfish (Holacanthus bermudensis)

Blue Angelfish
Their appearance changes as they grow. Juveniles have three vertical brilliant blue bars with short bars in between, whereas adults are greyish-green overall with yellow edges on their fins.

Come meet our angelfishes at the Coral Garden Habitat beside the touchpool, and also the Hard Coral Habitat and Soft Coral Habitat. Be sure to catch the feeding session at Coral Garden Habitat at 11am daily.

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