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Genus Apolemichthys - Apolemichthys Angelfishes

The presence of an angelfish in an aquarium is synonymous with many people’s impression of what a saltwater tank ought to look like. These fishes are truly beautiful—magnificent creatures that are striking in both their colors and shapes—but they are also a very diverse group of animals organized into eight genera. As such, it is important to know the husbandry requirements specific to each angelfish species. Today we will look at the angelfishes from the genus Apolemichthys.

Family Pomacanthidae

Angelfishes belong to the family Pomacanthidae. They can be found in the tropical Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans, where they mostly inhabit shallow reefs down to about 20 meters (although some come from much deeper water). In the wild, pomacanthids may feed on sessile invertebrates, algae or plankton depending upon the species. Most are boldly colored, and many exhibit dramatically different color phases between juveniles and adults. All angelfishes share a strongly compressed body, and they all possess a cheek spine (preopercle spine). Depending on the generic grouping, angelfishes display different social organizations ranging from monogamous to haremic, and a few are known protogynous hermaphrodites.

In general, angelfishes make excellent marine aquarium animals if the aquarist is attentive to their husbandry needs. Many, especially those from the genus Apolemichthys, are, in fact, considered hardy. In terms of compatibility, it is necessary to consider tankmates on a species-by-species basis, as some angelfishes are bullies, while others are easily bullied. A few angelfishes are difficult to wean onto a captive diet (e.g., the bandit angelfish, Apolemichthys arcuatus, and the flagfin angelfish (Apolemichthys trimaculatus) and, generally speaking, these should be avoided. The aquarist should always pay attention to the adult size of a pomacanthid, as several can easily outgrow all but the largest home aquarium.

Genus Apolemichthys

The genus Apolemichthys is made up of nine species of angelfishes that are indigenous to the Indo-Pacific. Most make excellent marine aquarium animals, as they are hardy, not nearly as aggressive as some other angelfishes, and become well acclimated (even bold) in time. It is interesting to note that several species of angelfishes in this genus are restricted to a very limited wild range. Most will grow to around 25 cm, although two of the better candidates for aquarium life grow to only about 15 cm.

In his authoritative book Angelfishes and Butterflyfishes, Scott Michael recommends the following species from the genus as the best suited for aquarium life:

  • ·         Griffis Angelfish (A. griffisi)
  • ·         Indian Yellowtail Angelfish (A. xanthurus)
  • ·         Red Sea Angelfish (A. xanthotis)

Mark Martin, director of marine ornamental research at Blue Zoo Aquatics, mostly agrees. “Angels in this genus fall into two categories,” says Martin. “Either they are great for aquaria and terrible for aquaria. The great ones, like the goldflake or goldspotted (A. xanthopunctatus) and the griffis, are very hardy and long-lived, while the bad ones, like the bandit and the flagfin, are extremely difficult to keep alive.”  

Apolemichthys Husbandry

Caring for the more durable angelfishes from the genus Apolemichthys is generally not difficult. It is recommended to purchase smaller individuals (juveniles or subadults), as these fishes tend to more readily accept a captive diet. It is absolutely essential to feed these angelfishes a varied diet including foods specially formulated for herbivores (especially with spirulina) and meaty bits of table seafood. Angelfish formulas that include sponge material are also highly recommended.

For most species, plenty of live rock with lots of hiding places is essential. The tank should be at least 75 gallons for juveniles and the smaller Apolemichthys species and 100 gallons or more for the larger species. Be sure to do species specific research as to compatibility.




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