Black Bandit Angelfish (Apolemichthys arcuatus) Complete Care Guide!

If you’re looking to add some variety into your marine saltwater tank and money is no object, then look no further than the amazing Black Bandit Angelfish ( Apolemichthys arcuatus). 

These expensive but stunning fish add a variety of color to any aquarium. Most people have the standard Angelfish that are blue and yellow but these fish add something different. Their striking black and white colors give them their name, Black Bandit Angelfish. No prizes for guessing that hey?

It is also sometimes known as the Hawaiian Pearlyscale Angelfish due to the shimmering whites to grays making up the majority of body color.

In this post, we will give you all the information you’ll need to keep and raise a healthy Black Bandit Angelfish. After all at the prices they fetch you don’t want to risk losing one.

Let’s dive right in!

black bandit angelfish

Common NamesBlack Bandit Angelfish,Hawaiian Pearlyscale Angelfish
Scientific NameApolemichthys arcuatus
Care LevelDifficult/expert
Water ConditionspH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.020-1.025, 68-77° F, dKH 8-12
Size7-8” Max
Reef compatible No
Tank Size150-170 Gallons minimum


The Black Bandit Angelfish lives in Hawaii and Eastern Central Pacific where it can be found swimming amongst the strong currents round caves, corals and rocky areas.

They are happy in depths of around 12-50m (39-164ft) but have been spotted by divers at depths of over 500Ft but this is a rare occurrence.

Living in strong currents and feeding off soft corals this fish should be carefully considered in home aquariums. Due to its difficult feeding needs, it is classed as an expert level fish.

Bandit Angelfish (Apolemichthys arcuatus) will thrive in spacious, mature aquaria with an abundance of live rock and a large open swimming space along the front of the tank. After all, you want to see this amazing fish, especially after the price you will have paid for one.

What type of tank are Black Bandit Angelfish suited to?

This stunning saltwater fish with its pearly white body and bold black bar running across the front of the eye to the posterior of the dorsal fin, with a second broad black band running through the caudal and anal fins fetches commands a high price.

The availability within the trade is limited due to the cost. Not many people can afford $1000 a fish so they are not imported in large numbers.

This means if you can afford one of these amazing fish you will be part of an exclusive group of people in the world to own one outside a public aquarium.

The challenge for keeping one of these fish is the feeding requirements. The water quality is not much of a challenge apart from them needed a strong current and plenty of space.

The hard part if the constant need to feed these fish specialist sponge based frozen foods or even the odd live sponge as a treat.  Housing them in a mature marine aquarium with lots of live rock will ensure they have plenty of nutritious micro-invertebrates in the living rock. This and the constant feeding of frozen foods and some live foods will ensure your beautiful Black Bandit Angelfish will not only survive but also thrive and become the star attraction in your tank.

Due to their insatiable appetite for soft corals, they should not be kept in a reef tank.

We would always recommend buying a younger, smaller specimen as they tend to acclimatize better to new aquariums. The survival rate is much better in younger Angelfish, and they are a little bit cheaper ( But not much ) around $500-$600 for a 2-3″ fish

Best water conditions for Bandit Angelfish

Bandit Angelfish are like most Anglefish and require excellent water quality with a fast flowing current and plenty of space. A tank size of 180-200 Gallons would be fine with plenty of live rocks at the back and space at the front for them to swim freely and for you to admire them up close.

Water conditions:: dKH 8-12, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.020-1.025, 68-77° F are fine for these fish and many other marine fish.

Once these fish acclimatize to their new environment which will take 3-4 days they can become territorial and therefore should not be kept with any other Angelfish and should be kept alone. Unless you have an aquarium of over 300 gallons!

Provide lots of rocky caves and areas for them to explore. In their natural environment, they are found feeding in and around the corals and rocky areas in Hawaii and it’s best to try to replicate this in your home aquarium.

black bandit angelfish
(Photo credits: reef central- reefslugs)

Diet requirements

This is the hard part when keeping Black bandit Angelfish. They have a massive appetite for soft corals and even nipping away at hard corals. So providing them with a suitable diet is paramount to their survival.

If the fish has just been imported it can be very difficult to get them to accept frozen Sponge based foods. We would always recommend trying to buy one that has been in the store for a number of months.

They will have done the hard part of getting the fish used to frozen foods for you. This will reduce the risk factor when buying one.

Ask the dealer what they feed them on and how long they have had the fish instore.

If they fish is newly imported and you can’t wait to get it home, you will need to buy a variety of foods until you find one they will eat. It may even be worth buying some live soft coral for they to nip them until they get used to their new frozen diet. For the sake of losing a $30 coral it’s better than risking losing a $1000 fish!

Breeding & Sexing

This species has never been bred in a home aquarium to our knowledge. It has been bred in captivity in public aquariums and zoos but never in a home aquarium.

If you know different then please let us know. With a price tag of $1000 a fish, it’s not surprising most people can’t afford a breeding pair to start with.

Prices of Black Bandit Angelfish & Availability

The Bandit Angelfish is super rare and as such commands a high price. They are rarely seen in a pet store and aquariums shops as they simply are too expensive for most people to keep. So the demand is low for these stunning fish.

I’m sure if you really want one they could import one for you. This process normally takes around 3-4 weeks from the day of ordering and they will ask for a substantial deposit.

As mentioned before, buying a wild Black Bandit Angelfish will come with risks. Especially feeding and the change of environment from the wild to captive will be a shock to their system and can often lead to death.

The desire to own one of these fish is high and I’m sure we would all have one if the price was lower. Fish prices go through ups and downs and there may come a day when this fish is suddenly imported in quantities and the price will drop.

If these fish were under $500 a pop I’m sure more people would have them as the star attraction in their tank.

I know I would!

Special Care needs and Other information

Due to this fish living in deep ocean waters, when it is collected for home aquariums it may encounter decompression sickness.  Some fish collectors use a procedure called “needling”, which is a process of piercing a small hole in the fish’s air bladder with a syringe needle to release the trapped nitrogen gas.

This process is only to be undertaken by expert level fish keepers.

When purchasing one of these fish make sure you inspect it carefully. One of the main signs of illness is the fish not swimming in the correct upright position. This is a sign of internal bladder infection or decompression sickness. If you see any signs of this you should stay well clear.

Never try to catch these fish in a course fishnet, their scales are very susceptible to peeling off. Use a large plastic clear bag to catch these fish to avoid damage.

Final Thoughts

If you have the money to purchase one of these amazing fish and are happy to risk the tricky feeding requirements then go for it!

It will be the main attraction in your tank, that we can assure you. You would be in a very small group of people lucky enough to own one.

You would be even more famous if you could get a pair to breed. Not many people could say they were the first fishkeeper to breed a pair in captivity.

If you already own one of these amazing fish then please comment below and let us know how you get on.

Research References Used & Credits

Photo credits @Frank Baensch