Dwarf Angelfish have colours to rival any marine fish, which combined with their small size and individual behaviours make Dwarf Angelfish some of the most popular fish on the marine market. There are some 34 described species in the Centropyge genus, rarely ever longer than 15cm. Dwarf Angelfish vary in their ease of keeping and the differences in behaviour between individuals of the same species may surprise some.
For a smaller Dwarf Angelfish, such as the Cherub (C. argi), an aquarium volume of 150 litres is sufficient but for larger species, such as the Lemon-peel (C. flavissimus), an aquarium of at least 300 litres is required.
The aqua-scaping provided for Dwarf Angelfish needs to reflect the reef zones that they naturally inhabit. This commonly comprises areas of rubble, although these fish may also be found on the crest among Acropora corals and in the depths of the reef’s drop-off zone.
Plenty of rockwork, preferably live rock, is therefore desirable and the more caves, nooks, crannies and overhangs the better. These fish spend much of their time grazing on the substrate of the reef. A mature system with ample live rock is therefore highly desirable. A refugium or deep sand bed combined with ample live rock will provide the suitable invertebrate life to sustain your Dwarf Angelfish between feeding sessions.
Food variety is important and these angels are generally easy to feed in the aquarium. Chopped fresh and frozen meats, algae and even frozen sponge-based angelfish diets should be eagerly accepted. Small feedings at least twice daily are required.
Occasional supplementation with vitamin preparations may help maintain health and prevent disorders, such as head and lateral line erosion (HLLE).
Smearing ‘feeding rocks’ with gel-based diets can help provide adequate nutrition and encourage natural foraging.
Dwarf Angelfish in the Reef Aquarium
Adding Dwarf Angelfish to the reef aquarium is always a gamble. There are absolutely no guarantees when it comes to whether or not Dwarf Angelfish are ‘reef safe’. Take the Cherub angel, for example. Considered one of the most ‘reef safe’ Dwarf Angels, even with this species some individuals may become destructive. However, other specimens have behaved impeccably in reef systems for years.
While there are no guarantees with Dwarf Angelfish, there are some species that present a higher risk than others. Regular feeds, however, may dissuade unwanted destructive behaviour.
The safest home for Dwarf Angelfish is a mature Fish Only with Live Rock (FOWLR) system. Such systems provide great foraging material and are a good compromise between the sparse ‘traditional’ fish-only system and the invert-laden reef tank.
Making Wise Selections
Before you purchase a Dwarf Angelfish, thoroughly inspect it in the dealer’s holding tank. Look for frayed or torn fins and signs of haemorrhaging around the fin rays. If the fish displays any of the above symptoms, DO NOT BUY! The fish should be alert, active and preferably feeding. You may want to ask the dealer to feed the fish so that you can be sure that any fish you purchase is eating.
Quarantine and Acclimation
Quarantining is highly recommended for two reasons; firstly, it will provide an opportunity to treat any fish affected with parasites or otherwise suffering health-related problems. Dwarf angels may be sensitive to copper treatment, so pay particular attention to dosage rates. A second reason for quarantining is to allow these fish to begin feeding in a controlled environment and some seeded live rock in the quarantine system will be welcomed.
Damage and stress during transport can spell trouble, so ensure any potential purchases have been sufficiently rested before committing to buy.
Acclimatisation should be a slow process, under subdued lighting to minimise stress.
Dwarf Angelfish are beautiful but feisty, so choose tank mates with care. Avoid larger predators, so large lionfish, big puffers, larger morays and triggers are out of the question. Similarly, overly shy species should be avoided as the Dwarf Angelfish may begin to bully them.
Suitable tank mates include; hawk fish, tangs, wrasse and other semi-aggressive fishes. Adding the angel towards the end of the stocking list may help limit territorial aggression but once again, nothing is guaranteed. It is safest to limit stocking to one Dwarf Angelfish per aquarium to avoid unwanted aggression.