The Flame Angel, also known as Flame Angelfish or Centropyge loricula if you like to use scientific names is one of the most loved dwarf angelfish among saltwater aquarists.
Its bold colors and flashy stripes make it the most vibrant feature of anyone’s aquarium. I have loved this fish ever since I got one in my aquarium back in 1985. In fact, it has become the highlight of the aquarium ever since and I have had a few now. The biggest was almost a full-size male at 5.5″.
Contrary to popular beliefs, Flame Angelfish are reef safe and usually safe with your coral polyps. There is no harm in raising them in reef habitat. Even I was afraid of them eating my prize coral polyps before I learned it was all unfounded fears.
This is not to say all Flame Angelfish won’t eat your corals. I had one that liked to nip and them every now and then. But he never really did much damage and the coral soon recovered. I eventually took the risk and now I am happy about it. If you are planning to purchase this fish too, here is a complete Flame Angelfish care and buyers guide for you.
Origin and Habitat of the Flame Angelfish
The scientific name of flame angelfish is Centropyge loriculus and it belongs to the Pomacanthidae family. The Society Islands in the Pacific are said to be the original habitat of the flame angelfish. They were first found in the Indo-Pacific waters in the north of the Hawaiian Islands in the year 1874.
The fish have now found a home in the tropical regions of the Western Pacific and Oceania waters. These areas include Ducie Islands, Marquesas, Hawaiian Islands, Belau and very predominate in The Cook Islands. Flame angelfish prefer the stony coral reef portions of the sea as their habitat.
These fish live in groups of 3-7 and prefer particularly finger coral located in clear lagoons. Groups of flame angelfish are known as harems.
They are usually found in a range of 18 to 82 feet of depth and their eating habits are very similar to the surgeonfish. In their natural habitat, you will find them searching for food in the coral constantly. Flame angelfish are omnivorous. Their diet includes algae and crustaceans which are very small in size. Detritus can also be a part of their diet sometimes.
Flame angelfish possess territorial behavioral traits in their natural habitat. It falls into the Least Concerned (L.C) category of the International-Union for Conservation-of-Nature (IUCN) red list. Flame angelfish have a stable population and now that they are also captive bred means the pressure to capture these from the wild will decrease.
Flame Angelfish Colors and Appearance
Flame angelfish possess typical traits of any dwarf angelfish. They have characteristic elongated and oval-shaped body structure which is accompanied by round shaped fins. Their size ranges up to 5-6″ inches max. Males are larger than females.
Their body color typically ranges from orange to reddish-orange. Usually, they might or might not have a splotch behind their head. The vertical bars on their skin are the most attractive feature of their appearance. These bars can be either thick or thin and they always run together.
Flame angelfish have black eyes that complement the vertical bars on their body. Their anal and dorsal fins have black edges that have bluish and blackish streaks with a hint of purple on them. When it comes to fin appearance, you will notice that pectoral and tail fins are slightly transparent and orange in color. However, their pelvic fins are almost always orange in color. This matches the color of their body. It is the combined effect of the shiny orange color on their pelvic fins and body that make flame angelfish bright and gleaming.
The color and pattern of a flame angelfish differ according to its habitat and if it’s wild caught or captive bred. Those from the Hawaiian Islands have the brightest reddish-orange color as compared to those from any other region. The ones from Marquesas do not have black vertical bars and only have a black splotch behind their heads. Lastly, the ones from Micronesia have a dominating yellow color on their bodies.
Wild Caught v Captive Breed
Back in the 90’s when I first purchased my Flame Angelfish you only had one option and that was to buy a wild caught species. These looked stunning with the bright red appearance but often came with issues into my aquarium store.
First of all, they don’t travel well and often arrived dead from the stress of travel. Secondly, in the wild, their diet is perfect and can feed on a variety of algae and crustaceans. In the home aquarium, they often struggle to feed and shy away and slowly die from starvation.
These days you have another option, and this is to purchase a captive breed Flame Angelfish. Thanks to these being Captive Bred, they are accustomed to living in a home aquarium, and will quickly adapt to their new home and start to feed within hours. Along with their adaptability, these fish also handle shipping and the acclimation process better than their wild-caught counterparts. They have been brought up since birth on copepods and therefore as long as you can give them a supply of copepods which usually grow in most Refugiums then you’ll be fine.
There is a huge difference in color and it’s a personal opinion which one is best. The wild caught Flame Angel is bright red and the captive caught species in Orange. Both, in my opinion, look amazing!
What Water Conditions do Flame Angelfish Need?
It is widely believed that most flame angelfish belong in the Hawaiian Islands. However, a majority of these fish are collected from Christmas Island, Cook Island, and Marshall Island. Almost all these have similar body patterns and are red in color with black stripes.
I have two flame angelfish in my aquarium and both of them hail from Cook Island. They are shiny red in color and illuminate my whole aquarium with their unique brightness. My aquarium is 200 Gallons, so I have no issues with territorial behaviors or fighting. However, in smaller aquariums, I would suggest just keeping one Dwarf Flame Angelfish.
|Common Name||Dwarf Flame angel, Japanese pygmy angelfish|
|Scientific Name||Centropyge loricula|
|Origins||Oceania regions, cook Island, Hawaiian Islands|
|Reef Compatible||With Caution-My nip corals|
|Minimum Tank Size||50 gallons|
|Water Conditions||72-78° F, dKH 8-12, pH 8.0-8.5, sg 1.020-1.024|
|Cost||Wild $80 Captive Breed $200|
Flame angelfish are said to be safe for the coral reef and my personal experience has taught me the same. They don’t entirely eat your coral reef, but there is a high possibility that they can nib on the corals. Slight damage can be caused to your aquarium corals and invertebrate due to this but mine never really suffered enough damage to kill them. They usually recovered quickly. If you keep you, Flame Angel, well fed and offer them a constant supply of live foods they will resist nipping at your corals.
Flame angelfish are active swimmers and hence need a lot of space to roam around in the tank. Also, they like to stay in groups if you have a tank large enough to house more than one. Due to all these factors, you have to consider buying a bigger aquarium if you are thinking of purchasing a flame angelfish. The ideal tank interior should consist of coral or rocks and plenty of caves and hiding places.
The minimum size of a tank for a flame angelfish should be 50 gallons. But if you are also planning to have other fish in the tank, you need a lot of space for shelter and habitat. In these cases, the aquarium should be of a size more than 75 gallons. If you are planning to have two male flame angelfish, you should have an aquarium of a size more than 100+ gallons.
Flame angelfish are comfortable with any tank depth. It is the size of the tank and water volume that matters the most. The temperature of the water in the aquarium should range from 72-78F. The pH range should be 8.1- 8.4 and a sg 1.020-1.024.
You should provide flame angelfish with a lot of shelter for hiding in the aquarium. They also need a lot of algae for eating which will help them to stay away from your corals. You should not use decorations made from copper in any circumstances as copper can be harmful to flame angelfish. The aquarium should have moderate to intense lighting which if you’re growing corals will probably what you have anyway. I use LED lights which are a good source of light spectrum for growing corals and invertebrates and also make the color on your fish stand out. Read our review of the Best 7 LED Aquarium Lights.
Flame angelfish should be first kept in quarantine as they might come with parasites from the seller. After releasing them in the aquarium, the angelfish should be monitored carefully for overly aggressive behavior.
Feeding Habits of The Flame Angelfish
Flame angelfish are omnivores. They can survive on both algae and crustaceans. Their eating habits are similar to those of a surgeonfish. But this is only applicable when they are living in their natural habitat. In the aquarium, flame angelfish should have a proper diet to sustain them and help them thrive in your aquarium.
Variety in the food items is an important aspect. If fed a specific food for a long duration, it can be harmful to their health. I prefer giving my fish the food from New-Life Spectrum brand. It consists of both meat and algae. The Pygmy-Angel Formula is also a good option for flame angelfish.
Flame Angelfish can be classed as picky eaters but ours seem to eat this food without any issues and so to do many other fish in our tanks.
Newly hatched brine-shrimp are also considered nutritious for flame angelfish I grow my own. You can also try feeding your fish with frozen mysis shrimp. Also, the fish need plenty of live rock and algae in the aquarium to constantly nib on them. Algae and seaweed stripes are a personal favorite of mine and they love them. They are easy to purchase online and inexpensive.
Sexing & Breeding Flame Angelfish
All the species of flame angelfish are born female. The dominant and the larger ones later become males. If a male in a group dies, a relatively larger in size female then becomes a male. If you put two female flame angelfish in one tank, you will see the larger one of them turning into a male after a month or so. Male fish can be distinguished from female fish from the presence of blue streaks on the anal and dorsal fins.
Breeding flame angelfish in captivity is usually considered very difficult. They release sperm and egg at the same time and the larvae keep drifting in the plankton till they settle in one place. Nowadays, it has become easier to spawn flame angelfish in the aquarium. But raising the larvae is still a daunting task for aquarists and most won’t survive.
Tank Mates suitable for Flame Angelfish
Flame angelfish are popular for adapting well to captive conditions. They possess a semi-aggressive behavior. However, they should be the last ones added to the tank, as they get aggressive against newly-added fish in the aquarium. The aggression further increases when the newly added fish possesses the same eating habits as that of a flame angelfish.
Flame angelfish get along with their other tank mates peacefully only if they are the last ones to be introduced in the tank. Two males of the same species do not get along at all. They can fight fiercely if put together in a tank. If you wish to keep to male species of flame angelfish in the same tank, make sure that the size of the tank is more than 100 gallons.
Here’s a list of suitable tank mates
A flame angelfish can be very shy initially. But once the habitat and conditions get suitable, it will adapt easily to the environment. After a few days, the adaption process usually gets completed and you can see an extremely active and bold flame angelfish. They can be fierce and fast swimmers in the tank.
If a flame angelfish is placed in a comparatively small tank, it may feel defensive. They try to defend their territory, and this can result in them behaving in an extremely aggressive way. You have to keep the aquarium size having all these behavioral factors in mind.
Conclusion: Flame Angelfish Care Guide
Flame angelfish can be a great addition to your aquarium. While first purchasing them, I thought of them to be expensive and over-priced. But now that I see them lightening up my tank with their presence, I don’t regret buying them for my aquarium.
These angelfish are easy to take care of and if nurtured properly, do not cause any hassle and chaos in the aquarium. If you too are thinking of buying one, I would suggest you go ahead right away!