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Are you thinking of adding a flame angelfish to your reef tank? If so, you need to know what care is required to keep this beautiful fish happy and healthy. In this complete guide, we’ll take a look at the ideal water conditions, diet, and Tankmates for these delicate creatures. So read on to find out everything you need to create a perfect home for your flame angelfish!
A Quick Overview On The Flame Angelfish
|Scientific Name||Centropyge loricula|
|Common Names||Flame angelfish, flaming angelfish, flame angel|
|Origin||Country – Pacific Ocean|
|Colors||Reds, yellows, oranges, purples, blacks|
|Minimum Tank Size||70 gallons|
|Max Size||4 inches|
|Temperature Range||76 – 82 degrees F|
|pH Range||8.0 – 8.4|
|Salinity||1.025 or 35 PPT|
|Reef Safe||With caution|
|Available As Tank Breed?||Available|
Origins And Habitat
As one of the most colorful fish in the entire saltwater aquarium hobby, the flame angelfish comes from the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean. These marine fish have a very wide natural range, taking to the shallow lagoons and reefs of tropical island ecosystems, like the Great Barrier Reef. Flame angels are highly dependent on the reef for food and shelter and rarely venture deeper than 60 meters in depth.
Interestingly, these dwarf angels form harems with one male for every 2-6 females. Like most other saltwater fish that form harems, flame angelfish are hermaphrodites. This means that all flame angels are born with male and female reproductive organs, though their external appearances are nearly identical; this can make it difficult to form harems in the reef tank setting.
As environmental and social changes occur, the largest and most colorful flame angelfish will assume the position of the male in the harem; this could be caused by a sudden death of the previous male or external factors, like resource availability or mating patterns.
In the aquarium, this sex change is unlikely to occur to your flame angelfish. As we’ll see, flame angels cannot be kept together due to various aquarium limitations, though some hobbyists have been successful. This makes for an otherwise stable environment where the flame angelfish does not need to adapt so drastically by changing its sex.
What Do Flame Angelfish Look Like?
Flame angelfish are one of the brightest and most appealing fish in the aquarium hobby. These fish have bold colorations and stay under 4 inches when fully grown, making them a suitable addition to the saltwater aquarium for the average hobbyist.
The flame angelfish has a compact body, with rounded dorsal and ventral fins. The overall color is a bright red, with several vertical black stripes along the side of its body. The middle portion of the body may be more orange or red than the rest, along with the caudal fin. The outer margins of the dorsal and anal fins may have electric blue or purple accents.
Color and intensity will greatly depend on the lights being used on the reef tank and the quality of diet.
The flame angelfish is a dwarf angelfish species. They have a very similar body shape and temperament to the closely related coral beautiful angelfish (Centropyge bispinosa). Though these fish may be smaller than their full-sized angel counterparts, they are still active fish that need a decent amount of aquarium space.
Coral Beauty Species
In comparison, coral beauties are slightly less desirable than the flame angelfish for the reef tank. However, they’re still one of the most beautiful fish available in the hobby and within the price range and care requirements that the average hobbyist can afford and provide.
Coral beauty angelfish have a more concentrated natural range throughout the Indo-Pacific. They grow to be about 4 inches and require a 70 gallon tank or more. They have a deep purple body with many thin black lines across the middle of their body; this area is lighter in color, ranging from dull yellow to intense oranges. Their behavior is nearly identical to that of the flame angelfish, though they can sometimes be shyer in personality.
It is also believed that coral beauties are slightly more reef-safe than their more colorful counterparts. Still, there is no guarantee that a coral beauty will leave all the corals in the tank alone for an indefinite period of time and caution is needed.
These dwarf angelfish have also been successfully captive-bred, which lessens environmental impact and increases overall hardiness and availability.
Though small, the flame angelfish can be more challenging to keep than the average community fish. This is largely due to their level of activity, green-based diet, and semi-aggression.
At the bare minimum, dwarf flame angels need 70 gallons or more. For many years, these reef fish were believed to be a nano tank fish species that could fit into small aquariums under 40 gallons. As hobbyists began to understand their true needs, it was revealed that they are very active swimmers that heavily rely on the live rock for food and protection.
Like larger angels, flame angelfish are algae grazers. They will spend their time weaving in and out of the live rock, looking for food. Unfortunately, this also sometimes includes sessile invertebrates which don’t make them completely reef-safe, though we’ll discuss more later.
Otherwise, flame angels don’t require much. They can be slightly more sensitive to changes in water parameters than other fish species but will show their best colors when happy.
Are They Easy To Keep?
Yes, flame angelfish are relatively easy to keep. They’re not as hardy as other community fish, like clownfish, but they don’t require any special water parameters or diet.
That being said, flame angelfish should not be attempted as one of the first additions to a new aquarium. Not only is water quality subject to change during this time, but this stocking sequence can also affect your fish’s ability to adapt to new additions in terms of aggression.
Are They Prone To Marine Ich?
For the most part, flame angelfish aren’t any more prone to contracting marine ich than any other saltwater fish. For some reason though, most flame angelfish in-store have often already been affected.
With any fish, it is always recommended to do a quarantine period before adding the new fish to the display aquarium. Allowing 2-4 weeks of seclusion will let illnesses arise in a safe environment where medications can be freely dosed.
If your fish does show signs of ich or another parasite while in your display aquarium, it is still strongly recommended to start the quarantine process and dose medications accordingly.
Marine Ich Symptoms & Cures
It can be very scary dealing with marine ich for the first time in the aquarium. These parasites are relentless and much more difficult to treat than their freshwater counterparts, which are not closely related at all.
Unlike freshwater ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis), marine ich cannot be solved with simple water changes and water temperature adjustments. Instead, there is a pretty exact protocol that needs to be followed.
Marine ich is a type of parasite called Cryptocaryon irritans. The most obvious sign of ich is a sprinkled coating of small white specks that cover the entire body of the fish; these can be especially difficult to see under some aquarium lights and on lighter colored fish bodies.
Contrary to popular belief, these white spots are not actually the parasite, but a symptom instead; as the parasite digs into the skin of the fish, the body excretes a mucus that causes the signature ich-appearance. These spots might not always be visible as the parasite can internally infect gills. At this stage, the parasite is depending on the fish for survival.
After this stage, the parasite drops off and attaches to the substrate or another surface. These create daughter parasites that swim until they find another host. This means that ich can be transferred through aquarium water alone while in this life stage.
Other symptoms of marine ich include:
- Heavy breathing
- Lack of appetite
The best way to prevent ich is by stopping it from entering the aquarium altogether. Purchasing from a reputable seller and a subsequent quarantine period will increase the chances of receiving a healthy fish on arrival that can be observed and treated for any given ailments.
If ich manages to enter the display aquarium, there are few options available to the hobbyist for treatment. All fish must be captured and transferred to a quarantine tank while the main display is left fallow for several weeks. Most prescribed medications are too strong for biological filtration, which could easily wipe out everything that’s living in the display.
Once in quarantine, there are a few courses of treatment that can be done for marine ich. In general, raising the temperature has little effect on saltwater fish suffering from ich. However, raising the temperature to about 81°F has shown to result in a shorter fallow period needed for the display. The freshwater dip method has also been proven to be ineffective.
Ich will not treat itself and medication is needed on top of a quality diet and stable water parameters. Some of the recommended medications are copper and chloroquine phosphate.
One of the least aggressive methods of treatment is hyposalinity. This involves lowering both the pH and salinity over the course of a few days to combat an ich infestation. While this method is very gentle on fish and can be successfully executed in the display aquarium, it can be very difficult to execute with precision.
This is mainly due to needing exact recordings of water parameters while keeping on top of freshwater top-offs and buffering the pH.
As mentioned before, flame angelfish can be hardy once established in the aquarium. Though they don’t have the thickest mucus protecting their skin from parasites such as ich, they are not the most susceptible either.
You never know what you’re going to get when you bring home a flame angelfish (video source). In general, they are regarded as being a semi-aggressive species that might nip at other similar-looking species. This is especially true if hoping to keep the popular combination of flame angelfish and coral beauty angelfish together.
Flame angels and coral beauties have successfully been kept together in the same aquarium, even in those that are probably too small. However, this pairing isn’t recommended unless the aquarium is over 200 gallons.
The problem is that flame angelfish are generally more aggressive than coral beauties, leaving one fish from this duo to be bullied. A larger tank will allow for territories to be farther apart, decreasing the chances of your fish interacting with each other; it also helps if the fish are added at the same time so that neither one has the upperhand.
In the wild, flame angelfish are regularly seen in harems. In the reef aquarium setting, very few hobbyists have had luck keeping more than one flame angel per tank.
In most cases, this would require a very large aquarium, well over 200 gallons. All members of the harem would then need to pick a dominant male, though this can be achieved if you group them together while they’re still young and have time to establish their sexes.
Are They Reef-Safe?
Flame angelfish are reef-safe with caution. This is neither a yes nor a no and results will vary from tank to tank.
There are times when flame angelfish are completely reef-safe, partially reef-safe, or not reef-safe at all. There is no way to know which one your fish will be until it’s too late. If you have any corals, especially soft corals and fleshy large polyp stony (LPS) corals, that you don’t want to lose, do not introduce a flame angel into the system.
But are there any corals that a flame angelfish will leave alone no matter what?
What Corals Are Safe With Them?
If you have a coral-hungry flame angel, then chances are that they’ve destroyed your zoanthid colony. For one reason or another, their favorite coral seems to be expensive zoanthids.
Unfortunately, there is no way to stop your fish from eating your corals as this change can literally happen overnight. However, there is a good chance that flame angelfish will leave harder corals, like small polyp stony (SPS) corals, alone as opposed to fleshier varieties.
To help deter your fish even more from going after your corals, feed regularly. This isn’t a foolproof solution but can help keep your fish interested in food other than your corals. Maybe try substituting new foods every now and then to really keep them guessing.
One of the most popular flame angelfish tank mates is the coral beauty; there is no denying that the bright orange and electric purple of these two fish makes for an unparalleled combination in the home aquarium. Sadly, this pairing can only be achieved in larger systems.
If wanting to keep these two dwarf angelfish species together, a bare minimum tank size of 200 gallons is needed. Still, it is not unheard of for a more aggressive flame angel to harass and kill a coral beauty in these larger setups.
Otherwise, flame angelfish can hold their own against slightly more aggressive fish but might be too overpowering for more docile species. Good tank mates include:
Pairing your flame angelfish with other angels is always tricky. As long as the two fish don’t look too similar, there is a good chance that the combination will work.
Remember that flame angelfish are not 100% reef-safe. They are very likely to pick at and devour soft coral polyps. Flame angelfish typically leave snails and hermit crabs alone but might take interest in small shrimp.
What Do They Eat?
As a species of angelfish, flame angels heavily rely on algae and other microscopic flora that can be found growing naturally on the rocks. Because of this, they are not recommended for new aquariums that have little to no established algae growth.
A happy flame angel can be seen weaving in and out of the live rock, picking at whatever they happen to come across. Just because flame angelfish are algae-eating fish does not mean that they will solve a pest algae problem. For algae problems, first combat unstable or poor water quality and then introduce better biological solutions, like a bristle tooth tang if tank size permits.
In order to keep their dwarf angelfish constantly fed, many hobbyists leave a piece of seaweed clipped to the side of the tank for regular feedings. In addition, live and frozen foods, like brine shrimp and mysis shrimp, can regularly be given along with a high-quality marine fish flake or pellet. Flame angelfish will also enjoy algae flakes and pellets to meet their omnivorous needs.
Dwarf flame angelfish have always been a popular addition to the home aquarium, though their care requirements and needs have changed drastically over time. These beautiful fish need a decently sized aquarium with some attention to tank mate stocking. They will also do best when kept in a mature tank that has had time to grow enough algae to keep your angel fed.
And yes, a flame angelfish and coral beauty angelfish pairing is possible. Tank conditions and individual personalities of fish need to be right to make this combination work, though.
Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping – both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.