15 Awesome Saltwater Angelfish For Aquariums (With Pictures!)

Are you looking for saltwater Angelfish for your aquarium? If so, we have an awesome list to show you today!

For saltwater aquarium enthusiasts, there’s nothing quite like the beauty and grace of an angelfish. These gentle creatures come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, making them a popular choice for reef tanks. If you’re looking to add some angel fish to your tank, here are 15 awesome species to choose from! (With pictures!).

I’m really excited to discuss this article as this is where I get a chance to really showcase my experience in saltwater aquariums. I have been an avid reefer for over 25 years, and during my time in the hobby, I’ve kept some of the angels, including coral beauties, and taking care of an adult Emperor Angelfish in a display tank at one of the local fish stores I used to manage in the late 90s. So many things have changes including many of these angelfish now being available as tank bred and experience reefers learning overtime how “reef safe” every species is.

Before we get into things, let’s talk about what are saltwater angelfish!

Introduction To Saltwater Angelfish

What Is A Saltwater Angelfish

Saltwater angelfish are big, colorful, and simply majestic. These fish catch the eye of any onlooker, in public aquariums, their natural environments, or in the home aquarium.

From among the 100 different species of angelfish in the Pomacanthidae family, there is a color, size, and temperament for aquarium hobbyists at all skill levels. There are a few considerations that need to be taken into account before introducing one of these beautiful fish into the saltwater aquarium, though. Many of these species have hybridized. Angelfish are the species of saltwater fish that hybridize the most out of any other reef fish available in the hobby per a research study1.

Most importantly, the majority of saltwater angelfish are not fully reef-safe. Some hobbyists have had luck keeping certain species with corals, though success rates vary from fish to fish. It is also possible that an angelfish starts out as reef-safe and then slowly takes a liking to corals as they mature.

Another important factor to keep in mind is potential size. Many saltwater angelfish are available during their juvenile stages when they are considerably smaller and display drastically different colors from their final form. Too many aquarists have made the mistake of purchasing a large angelfish as a juvenile, like the koran angelfish, before knowing its true size.

Otherwise, many marine angelfish are relatively hardy fish once they are established in the aquarium.

Marine Angelfish Requirements And Temperament

Angelfish can be small and they can be big. They can be peaceful and they can be aggressive.

One of the best things about picking out an angelfish for your aquarium is the number of options available. For the most part, there is an angelfish for everyone. However, there are some basic angelfish guidelines.

In order to keep one of these saltwater fish, at least a 55 gallon tank or more is needed. Yes, there are dwarf angelfish species, but they still need more room than other fish commonly found in nano setups. On top of this, they need lots of rock for protection and food.

Angelfish are grazers and will get a lot of their dietary needs through what is already available in the tank. Of course, you will need to supplement feedings with algae and meaty foods, but the aquarium should be established for stability. Some angelfish are very picky eaters and will need special attention when it comes to their diets.

Frozen foods and specially provided foods are key with angelfish. For the best feeding responses, foods like LRS, Masstick, or live blackworms are going to be the best with initially getting your angelfish to eat.

Once added and established in a saltwater tank, angelfish are relatively hardy. That being said, the order in which you add other species to the aquarium greatly depends on the type of angelfish you plan on keeping.

Angelfish can be aggressive. In order to prevent the largest angelfish from overrunning a tank, hobbyists add those species last. Some species need other special considerations, like the regal angelfish, and should be added first to the aquarium.

Water Parameters

Angelfish can be more sensitive to incorrect and volatile water quality parameters than other fish, so a mature and stable tank is recommended.

Here are the general water parameters needed for any angelfish:

  • Temperature: 72-82° F
  • pH: 8.0-8.4
  • Salinity: 1.020-1.026
  • Alkalinity: 8.0-12.0 dKH

Keep in mind that angelfish can be found in several regions throughout the world and have individual preferences. Most angelfish are wild-caught from tropical waters and shallow reefs, though some come from cooler, deeper environments. This means that some extra consideration should be given to matching their preferred conditions.

Saltwater Types

For the most part, the genus of the angelfish will tell a lot about its personality and behavior. For example, Centropyge contains dwarf species, so fish from that genus will be better for smaller aquariums. Genicanthus is also regarded as the most reef-safe genus, though this can vary across species.

Here is a list of the angelfish genera you are likely to come across in the aquarium hobby:

  • Centropyge 
  • Chaetodontoplus 
  • Genicanthus 
  • Holacanthus 
  • Pygoplites 
  • Pomacanthus 

Keep in mind that not all fish will fit the characteristics assigned to their genus. These genera also originate from different regions across the world, so always do research on their preferred natural conditions and behaviors.

15 of the Best Saltwater Types For Aquariums

There are many species of angelfish to choose from. Knowing how to care for them and how to introduce them into your aquarium will make the difference between a functioning system and a failure.

For example, some species need to be added last to the aquarium to avoid aggression while others need to be added first. Other marine angelfish have very exact diets while others will eat everything you offer in addition to any and all invertebrates present in the tank.

Here are the 15 best saltwater angelfish found in the home aquarium, in both reef and fish-only systems.

1. Coral Beauty (Centropyge bispinosa)

Coral Beauty Angelfish
  • Species Type: Centropyge
  • Scientific Name: Centropyge bispinosa
  • Size: 4 inches
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific Ocean
  • Tank Size: 70 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Available

The coral beauty is a deep purple with striking orange and yellow sides. They are one of the most common and affordable dwarf angelfish species to come across, only second to the more vibrant flame angelfish.

Though small angelfish, the coral beauty needs space to swim and graze on algae. They can also be slightly aggressive to other fish, especially similar-looking and same species. For a long time, these fish were incorrectly kept in nano setups which fueled their aggression and susceptibility to common marine illnesses.

It is believed that coral beauties are more reef-safe than flame angelfish and will leave most corals alone. However, it’s not unheard of for a coral beauty to eat all the corals growing in the tank either. It is one of the few dwarf species on this list that is available as tank raised from Biota

2. Flame (Centropyge loricula)

Flame Angel
  • Species Type: Centropyge
  • Scientific Name: Centropyge loricula
  • Size: 4 inches
  • Origin: Pacific Ocean
  • Tank Size: 70 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Available

The flame angelfish brings a burst of fire into the home aquarium. These small angelfish are bright orange with blue, black, and yellow accents, mimicking a dancing flame. The flame angel is considered a dwarf species, like the coral beauty, but has a slightly larger natural range throughout the Pacific Ocean.

Too many times, flame angels and coral beauties have been forced into tanks way too small to accommodate the activity and aggression of these two fish. Flame angelfish are generally a little more aggressive than coral beauties and more likely to pick at corals. Both fish react negatively when kept with similar-looking fish.

For the best results, only keep one flame angelfish or one coral beauty per tank.

3. Flameback (Centropyge acanthops)

Flameback Angelfish in Reef
  • Species Type: Centropyge
  • Scientific Name: Centropyge acanthops
  • Size: 3 inches
  • Origin: Western Atlantic Ocean
  • Tank Size: 55 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Available

Not to be confused with the flame angel, the flameback angelfish is yet another species of dwarf angel. This is one of the least demanding angelfish species in terms of space, though they can still be semi-aggressive towards tank mates.

The flameback angelfish is named after its bright orange face that extends along its dorsal. The rest of the body is a deep blue. This dwarf angelfish grows slightly smaller than the others on this list.

These fish are naturally found among staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) in the Caribbean and hobbyists have had varying degrees of success keeping them in reef tank setups.

4. Spotbreast (Genicanthus melanospilos)

Spotbreast Angelfish in Reef Tank
  • Species Type: Genicanthus
  • Scientific Name: Genicanthus melanospilos
  • Size: 9 inches
  • Origin: Western Pacific Ocean
  • Tank Size: 125 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Available

The spotbreast angelfish can be difficult to identify in the aquarium due to the extreme differences between male and female individuals.

Males are white with black stripes with orange accents on the fins. The tail fin is noticeably elongated for a more forked appearance.

Females lack stripes and have a yellow to white gradient from top to bottom. Their white tail fin is less forked but has two black margins at the top and bottom.

Spotbreast angelfish are one of the only angels to be considered fully reef-safe. For the most part, these fish stick to meaty foods and will leave corals untouched. They are also one of the more peaceful angel species and will leave other tank mates alone, though they can grow to be pretty big and need larger setups.

5. Lamarck’s (Genicanthus lamarck)

Lamarck Angelfish
  • Species Type: Genicanthus
  • Scientific Name: Genicanthus lamarck
  • Size: 9 inches
  • Origin: Indo-West Pacific Ocean
  • Tank Size: 125 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Rare

Another peaceful species of angelfish, Lamarck’s angelfish, also known as the blackstriped angelfish, can be kept in most reef tanks. These fish have a white body with black and white stripes and spots. Their dorsal fin is margined with a very light blue thin line.

While not the most exciting in color, Lamarck’s angelfish can grow to be relatively big in a community tank setting.

6. Bellus (Genicanthus bellus)

Bellus Angelfish
  • Species Type: Genicanthus
  • Scientific Name: Genicanthus bellus
  • Size: 7 inches
  • Origin: Eastern Indian Ocean
  • Tank Size: 125 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Available

The bellus angelfish is a relatively uncommon species of angelfish to come across in the aquarium hobby, making them one of the most expensive varieties available. These medium sized fish can also be difficult to identify due to their sexual dimorphism.

Interestingly, both males and females are equally as colorful but look completely different. Females have a white base body with black markings and accented blue belly with orange anal fin. Males have a tan base body with a yellow lateral line and dorsal fin along with blue facial markings.

Bellus angelfish do best when in a pair or in a harem with one male and several females. Otherwise, they are peaceful fish and generally safe for reefs.

7. Scribbled (Chaetodontoplus duboulayi)

Scribbled Angelfish
  • Species Type: Chaetodontoplus
  • Scientific Name: Chaetodontoplus duboulayi
  • Size: 10 inches
  • Origin: Indo-West Pacific Ocean
  • Tank Size: 180 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Available

The scribbled angelfish, also known as Duboulay’s angelfish, is a large fish with a black and yellow body along with deep blue fins. These fins have irregular pen-mark patterns, earning them their name.

These fish are relatively hardy, making them a popular choice among hobbyists. However, they can be semi-aggressive, especially towards other similar-looking fish, and are prone to nipping at corals. Some hobbyists have been able to keep them in reefs for a reasonable time but often find that they suddenly start to snack on corals.

8. Majestic (Pomacanthus navarchus)

Majestic Angelfish
  • Species Type: Pomacanthus
  • Scientific Name: Pomacanthus navarchus
  • Size: 12 inches
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific Ocean
  • Tank Size: 180 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Available

One of the largest aquarium angelfish, the majestic angelfish, also known as the blue gridled angel, is actually one of the shyest. These fish grow to impressive sizes and need a lot of space to swim, but will pick at fleshier corals. Some hobbyists have had luck keeping them in small polyp stony (SPS) coral systems, but this isn’t guaranteed.

The majestic angelfish is named after its beautiful yellow, dark blue, and light blue colors. As juveniles, they have a dark body with alternating light and dark blue stripes.

9. Blueface (Pomacanthus xanthometopon)

Blue Face Angelfish
By Leonard Low from Australia – Flickr, CC BY 2.01
  • Species Type: Pomacanthus
  • Scientific Name: Pomacanthus xanthometopon
  • Size: 15 inches
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific Ocean
  • Tank Size: 220 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Not Available

The blueface angel is common to come across in both its adult and juvenile stages. As a juvenile, these fish are black with alternating white and light blue stripes. After growing to about 5 inches, they will start to transition to their adult colorations of mottled grey and yellow with electric blue face masking.

These angels can become pretty aggressive, especially if they’re the biggest fish in the tank. Because of this, they do best as the only angel. They are also very likely to nip at corals, though some reefers have had luck keeping them in established systems.

10. Emperor (Pomacanthus imperator)

Emperor Angelfish
  • Species Type: Pomacanthus
  • Scientific Name: Pomacanthus imperator
  • Size: 15 inches
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific Ocean
  • Tank Size: 220 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Not Available

The emperor angelfish is truly the king of the tank. These fish can be aggressive and dominate the tank. They are partially reef-safe but require a lot of rock with mature algae to keep them disinterested.

As juveniles, emperor angelfish might seem manageable. They have alternating blue, black, and white stripes that form a spiral towards their tail fin. As adults, they have a yellow base color with thin black lateral stripes and electric blue face masking.

These fish grow very quickly and need to be added to the tank last to ensure that aggression is diffused as much as possible.

11. Goldflake (Apolemichthys xanthopunctatus)

Goldflake Angelfish
  • Species Type: Apolemichthys
  • Scientific Name: Apolemichthys xanthopunctatus
  • Size: 10 inches
  • Origin: Pacific Ocean
  • Tank Size: 125 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Not Available

The goldflake angelfish fish is relatively rare and desirable. These saltwater fish used to be very rare to come across in the aquarium trade, but have become more available despite a poor understanding of how they breed.

These fish are named for the gold speckles across their dark yellow body. Their fins are black with a light blue margin and they have a pop of blue on their lips.

The goldflake angelfish is relatively reef-safe. They can become territorial at larger sizes, but have been known to leave sessile invertebrates alone.

12. Regal (Pygoplites diacanthus)

Regal Angelfish in Aquarium
  • Species Type: Pygoplites
  • Scientific Name: Pygoplites diacanthus
  • Size: 10 inches
  • Origin: Indo-Pacific Ocean
  • Tank Size: 125 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Not Available

Another crown jewel of the tank, the regal angelfish is one of the more difficult angelfish species to keep in captive life. Regal angelfish are largely wild-caught and they can have difficulty acclimating and adapting to differing parameters. They can also be very difficult to feed, which will take patience and a wide selection of foods to try.

There is no doubt that this is one of the most beautiful saltwater angelfish species though. There are some differences in appearance between collection sites (e.g. Indian Ocean, South Pacific Ocean, Red Sea) but generally, these fish have a bright yellow base color with white vertical stripes that are outlined in royal blue.

The regal angelfish needs to be added to the aquarium first so that it has time to establish its own territory. These fish can be added to the reef aquarium, but do best with SPS species.

13. Queen (Holacanthus ciliaris)

  • Species Type: Holacanthus
  • Scientific Name: Holacanthus ciliaris
  • Size: 18 inches
  • Origin: Western Atlantic Ocean
  • Tank Size: 250 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Not Available

Talk about regal, the queen angelfish surpasses them all. These fish are bright yellow with crisp, light blue outlines across their fins and faces. As juveniles, these fish have a darker body with light blue vertical stripes (video source).

Not only are these fish one of the boldest marine angelfish, but they’re also one of the largest (second to the French Angelfish). Unfortunately, this makes them unattainable for most hobbyists even though they are relatively inexpensive.

Queen angelfish aren’t the hardiest fish and will suffer when water parameters falter and dietary needs aren’t met. They need to be the last fish added to the aquarium as they can become very aggressive once they’ve established a territory.

On top of all that, this large angelfish is not reef-safe, but still needs a lot of rockwork to naturally graze and hide in.

14. Koran (Pomacanthus semicirculatus)

Koran Angelfish in Aquarium
  • Species Type: Pomacanthus
  • Scientific Name: Pomacanthus semicirculatus
  • Size: 15 inches
  • Origin: Indo-West Pacific Ocean
  • Tank Size: 250 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Not Available

Sadly, the koran angelfish is one of the most common saltwater angelfish species to be found in incorrect conditions. This is because they are widely available in their beautiful juvenile form (pictured above), leaving hobbyists uninformed about their true size and care requirements. In reality, these fish are actually quite rare to come across in their adult stage.

As juveniles, koran angelfish have a black body with thin, alternating blue and white stripes. As adults, they develop a tannish-green body with specks of the remaining blue.

These angelfish will grow very quickly and need a new tank. They are also not reef-safe and few, if any, hobbyists have had luck with keeping them in a reef tank setup.

15. Rock Beauty (Holacanthus tricolor)

Rock Beauty Angelfish in Aquarium
  • Species Type: Holacanthus
  • Scientific Name: Holacanthus tricolor
  • Size: 8 inches
  • Origin: Western Atlantic Ocean
  • Tank Size: 125 gallons
  • Available As Tank Bred: Not Available

The rock beauty angelfish is pretty similar in shape and color to the bicolor angelfish (Centropyge bicolor) though slightly bigger. Instead, the rock beauty has a yellow face and tail with black filling the rest of the body; the fins may also have a visible orange margin.

This saltwater angelfish is slightly more difficult to keep than other species due to its reliance on sponges. In order to keep them fed, they need to be given a regular diet of marine algae and meatier foods a few times throughout the day.

Because of their preference for sponges, they aren’t entirely reef-safe and hobbyists have had varying degrees of success.


Can they live in saltwater?

Yes – angelfish can live in saltwater. However, there are two major types of angelfish in the aquarium hobby – freshwater angelfish and marine angelfish. Freshwater angelfish are from the Cichlidae family while Marine angelfish are from the Pomacanthidae family.

They both look very different and have different requirements.

Which is the hardiest for saltwater?

The hardiest saltwater angelfish is likely the flameback angelfish. As their are more tank raised varieties available, most tank raised angelfish will be hardier than wild caught species. One of the most commonly available tank bred angelfish are coral beauty angels.

How big do they get?

Many angelfish will get at least 8 inches in length and will require larger aquariums. The Centropyge genera is the smallest types of saltwater angelfish available in the hobby with many species being 4 to 6 inches in length.

What size tank do they need?

You want at least a 55 gallon tank to consider any saltwater angelfish. This size generally will only cover the Centropyge genera. Many angelfish like the ones from the Pomacanthus generally will require a large aquarium, usually over 125 gallons.

Final Thoughts

Though there aren’t many species of saltwater angelfish in the world, many of them are available in the fishkeeping hobby! Sadly, most angelfish are too large for the average home aquarium, but there are some great choices for smaller reef tank setups.

Before purchasing your angelfish, always make sure to understand their true requirements. Never buy a fish in its juvenile stage if you can’t care for them at their adult stage!


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