Colin's Pygmy Angelfish

Colin’s Pygmy Angelfish, Colin's Angelfish, Cocos-Keeling Angelfish

Family: PomacanthidaeColin's Pygmy Angelfish, Centropyge colini, Colin's Angelfish, Cocos-Keeling AngelfishCentropyge coliniPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Hiroyuki Tanaka

The Colin's Pygmy Angelfish is a wonderful little fish that is now being bred in captivity and becoming more regularly available to the hobby!

The Colin's Pygmy Angelfish Centropyge colini is a very pretty aquarium fish with its bright yellow and blue to purplish coloring. Only reaching 3.5” (9 cm) in length, it is a striking little fish that works well in various aquarium environments. They can be kept in selective reefs as well as fish only aquariums. With their dramatic coloring they make a spectacular show specimen that will elicit some appreciative ooh's and ah's from any spectators. Other common names this fish is known by include Colin's Angelfish and Cocos-Keeling Angelfish.

At first glance this dwarf angel is similar to the Venusta Angelfish or Purplemask Angelfish Centropyge venusta from the West Pacific, but these two can be easily differentiated by their color patterns. Both have a lemon yellow color on the lower half of the body with deep blue to purple up above. On the Colin's Angel the blue band is more of a saddle running across the top. It starts just inside the dorsal fin and dips down over the eye. On the Purplemask there is a lot more blue that includes the tail fin and the yellow extends upward just behind the eye, breaking up the blue with a triangular shaped band. Another fish that was discovered at the same time, by the same people, and at the same place is the Coco's Pygmy Angelfish or Yellowhead Angelfish Centropyge joculator which is yellow in front, blue on the back, and has a yellow caudal fin.

In the wild this dwarf angel often shares a cave with other Colin’s Angelfish, Multibarred Angelfish Paracentropyge multifasciata, and Regal Angelfish Pygoplites diacanthus. These other two angels are fish known to not do too well in captivity. If “birds of a feather flock together” then this grouping of fish may hold a common thread, as all seem to have the same low rating for hardiness.

This is a difficult fish to keep, so is suggested for the advanced aquarist. The first challenge with keeping the Colin's Pygmy Angelfish is getting it acclimated. This is a deep water dwarf angel, so collection needs to be done carefully to prevent decompression related illnesses. When first acquired it will often refuse food and can be difficult to get eating. Best success in keeping this fish will be with tank bred individuals.

These angels have high needs such as good water quality, low light, and plenty of natural foods growing on established rock. Provide a tank that is at least 30 gallons, although a 55 gallon tank is better for keeping the water quality higher. They are somewhat delicate, and being shy this angelfish needs plenty of nooks and crannies to feel secure. It also needs overhangs. They are commonly found in the ocean hanging upside down underneath them. Light should be low initially for these are deeper dwelling fish, and they will need time to adjust to the brighter light of captivity. Keep the tank where there is low activity where nothing can startle this angel into not wanting to come out and feed.

They are relatively peaceful and will get along with very peaceful tank mates. Keeping a known male and female pair in a tank over 55 gallons will work but it may be risky to house them with other dwarf angelfish. They need to be very well established and it will take a larger tank. Other tankmates must be peaceful fish, as more aggressive species may scare the Colin’s into constantly hiding, thus not eating and eventually starving. Using dither fish like Flasher Wrasses or some Chromis species will help this angelfish feel brave enough to explore his new home and emerge to eat. Without these provisions, most will waste away and die in a short time due to stress.

It can be kept in a fish only aquarium and possibly in a reef, but as with most of the pygmy angels it may harm stony coral polyps. This is an individual behavior with each fish having its own tendencies, so keep a close eye on your corals when you first introduce them to see how your fish will behave. Once eating food and adjusted to brighter light, they may not bother noxious soft corals. They should not bother, anemones or mushrooms, and in some cases they gorgonians, polyps, and green star polyps are safe, but they  will nip at zoanthids. Hey, what angelfish in its right mind can resist a zoanthid? Most of the stony corals and clams will not be safe either, still there are exceptions, so monitor your corals closely for signs of snacking.

For more Information on keeping saltwater fish see:
Marine Aquarium Basics: Guide to a Healthy Saltwater Aquarium


Geographic Distribution
Centropyge colini
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacanthidae
  • Genus: Centropyge
  • Species: colini
Colin's Pygmy Angelfish - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 3.5 inches (8.99 cm)
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Difficult
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Temperature: 76.0 to 84.0° F (24.4 to 28.9° C)
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Colin's Pygmy Angelfish Centropyge colini was first collected in the Coos-Keeling Islands and were described in 1974 by Smith-Vaniz and Randall. They also described the Yellowhead Angelfish or Coco's Pygmy Angelfish Centropyge joculator from the same area at that time. This species is found in the Eastern Indian Ocean and the West Pacific; the Coos-Keeling Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon, Fiji, Palauan and Ogasawara Islands. Other common names for this fish include Colin’s Angelfish and Cocos-Keeling Angelfish.

This species is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC) as it has a large population and wide distribution. There is a relatively limited collection of specimens for the pet industry, but there are no major threats currently identified. A similar looking species is the Venusta Angelfish or Purplemask Angelfish Centropyge venusta from the West Pacific. It has similar coloring, except much more blue on the back and a blue caudal fin..

This species inhabits deeper waters. They can be found in deep fore-reef areas like drop-offs or steep slopes within the cracks and crevices of the reef. They can also be found in caves and overhangs, hanging upside down. They will gladly share these nooks with other Colin’s Angelfish, Regal Angels, and Multibarred Angelfish. Depending on where they are located, they can be found at depths from 56 to 246+ feet (17 to 75+ m). They occur alone, in pairs or in harems of 3 to 7 members. Their natural diet is unknown, yet some assume sponges are part of their diet. Those fish that adapt to captivity will often take a variety of foods indicating they must not be an obligate feeder relying on just one or two items.

  • Scientific Name: Centropyge colini
  • Social Grouping: Varies - They are found singly, in pairs, or in harems from 3-7 individuals.

  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern - A stable population trend.

Description

The Colin's Pygmy Angelfish has the typical shape for dwarf angels with a small elongated oval form, and has rounded fins. It has a higher body like that found on the Peppermint Angelfish C. boylei, Barred angelfish C. multifasciata, and the Purplemask Angelfish C. venusta.It can reach up to about 3 1/2 inches (9 cm) in length. This Angelfish may live for 5 or more years with good care.

The body of this angelfish is blue on the upper 1/4 area and yellow on the lower area. It has a blue ring around the eye and the caudal, anal, and pelvic fins are yellow. The dorsal fin is blue on the spinous part and yellow posteriorly, and the pectoral fins are yellowish.

  • Size of fish - inches: 3.5 inches (8.99 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 years - May live 5 - 7 years like most dwarf angelfish with proper care.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

This species is more difficult to keep than other dwarf angelfish and should only be attempted by advanced aquarists. Special care is needed to get this fish to eat when you first acquire it and it is sometimes hard to maintain. It is a very shy species and needs many crevices to hide in, even as an adult. Once this angelfish is successfully acclimated it will become fairly hardy pet. It may harm polyps of some stony and soft coral species, so it is not recommended for reef-type aquariums unless closely monitored.

Being a deepwater fish, this species is prone to suffering from decompression maladies. When selecting a specimen make sure you choose one that swims normally and is not having a hard time adjusting its place in the water column. The belly should not be pinched in, as this would indicate it has not been fed in quite a while. The specimen you acquire should meet these basic criteria and should be eating at the store.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Difficult - Most of the Centropyge members are very colorful but unfortunately some, like this species, are rather difficult to keep for a long period.
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

Foods and Feeding

The Colin's Pygmy Angelfish is an omnivore. Feeding them several times a day and offering a variety of good foods is important even with amply algae in the tank. Their diet can include prepared foods with marine algae, spirulina enriched foods, frozen mysid shrimp, brine shrimp, and meaty crustaceans such as shaved shrimp and clams. There are several good commercial foods available including Formula II and Angel Formula.

Feed frequently at first with various foods, including algae. Once it is successfully acclimatized it will become a rather hardy pet. Feed on it at least twice a day; if it is a tiny juvenile provide it with foods three to four times everyday.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore - Feed products that have sponge material and spirulina added.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet Pellet: Occasionally
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet - You can feed live mysis shrimp to illicit a feeding response.
  • Vegetable Food: Half of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Half of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Juveniles need to be fed three to four times a day.

Aquarium Care

The Colin's Angelfish is a more difficult angelfish species to keep and both water quality and tank size are important. Water changes of 10 - 15 % biweekly or 20% monthly are fine, though in larger tanks this much may not be as necessary. Sudden massive water changes can cause trouble. When performing your water changes, clean the one side of the tank by vacuuming the rock and sand, then during the next water change clean the other side the same way. Keep the pH at 8.1 to 8.4 and the salinity should have a minimum specific gravity of 1.023. This is especially important for these deeper dwelling fish as deeper water means a higher salinity level. For them the salinity is closer to a specific gravity of 1.025 in the ocean.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly - Water changes of 10 - 15% every 2 weeks, or 20% a month, is optimal in keeping nitrates lower and the water clean.

Aquarium Setup

Although this fish can be kept in a 30 gallon tank, a 55 gallon is preferable for keeping water parameters stable. If keeping a male and female pair, a tank over 55 gallons is suggested. This is a deep water fish that is used to an ocean environment that is much more stable than an aquarium. In nature the salinity is closer to 1.024 to 1.025 and the pH is higher. The aquarium needs to be at least 6 months old or more to provide the best habitat. Plenty of live rock with naturally encrusting organisms and algae is helpful, so the tank should be mature.

This dwarf angel loves darker areas of the tank and many corals and/or live rocks, and stones are needed for it to be comfortable. Live rock should be set up forming multiple caves and at least one overhang. Make sure the structure is stable when forming overhangs. The tank should be situated in an area without a lot of noise and movement so as not to scare the Colin’s Angelfish into never coming out. Tank mates should be peaceful and lighting should be low at least until they are adjusted.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L) - A 30 gallon (114) aquarium is minimum although 55 gallons (208 liters) would provide a more stable environment, as these fish are sensitive to water quality fluctuations. This is due to their natural habitat in deeper waters where fluctuations are minimal.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Sometimes - They can only be kept in a Nano tank as a tiny juvenile, and should be put in a larger tank by the time they reach 1 1/2" in length.
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places - Form caves, overhangs, and crevices in multiple areas of the tank.
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Low - subdued lighting - This is a deep water dwarf angelfish that prefers a dimly lit aquarium.
  • Temperature: 76.0 to 84.0° F (24.4 to 28.9° C) - 76˚ F (24˚ C) 84˚ F (29˚ C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG - Coming from deeper waters, where salinity is higher, a lower salinity than 1.023 would not be recommended.
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4 - Coming from deeper waters where the pH is higher, lower levels than 8.1 would not be recommended.
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any - Water movement is not a significant factor but slow-moving water is preferable.
  • Water Region: Bottom - Once comfortable, they may also swim in the mid areas of the tank.

Social Behaviors

The Colin's Pygmy Angelfish is peaceful and should be kept with peaceful fish. It can get along with more aggressive species but smaller tank mates and those that are less aggressive are preferable. Many of the semi-aggressive fish may harass this species and prevent it from coming out. Dither fish such as Flasher Wrasses and Chromis species are recommended to help them feel brave enough to come out and feed.

If housing a known male/female pair, the tank should be over 55 gallons (208 liters). A group of several individuals of this angelfish can be kept successfully but they need a very big tank with lots of space for swimming and many hiding places. Housing with other dwarf angelfish that have the same peaceful temperament should only be tried after you have had your Colin’s for a while and it is fat and happy. Add the next dwarf angelfish to a tank after that and make sure to provide lots of hiding places to help both adjust. Have a 75 gallon tank or larger to have the best success.

Smaller cardinalfish, gobies, tilefish, butterflyfish, fairy basslets, fairy and flasher wrasses, etc. are desirable tank mates. Larger peaceful fish that will not consume your Colin’s Angelfish should work, but small and very territorial fishes like dottybacks should be avoided in the same tank. Monitor semi-aggressive fish like anthias, clownfish and fairy wrasses.

This dwarf angel is recommended for fish only community aquariums, and a reef with caution. It is said to be a reef safe fish as it does well in a coral-rich tank with sessile inverts, but it may eat some species of hard and soft corals. Not every fish is going to damage corals, but the behavior of each individual fish will be different.  If you do want to keep it in a reef observe its behavior towards the corals closely, removing it to a fish only tank if it tends to pick at them for any length of time.

Many have found that these angelfish will fair well with noxious leather corals and tree corals, and certain individuals will not bother gorgonians and green star polyps. However large polyped stony corals (LPS), small polyped stony corals (SPS), zoanthids, and clams would probably be picked on. (One aquarist states his Euphillia corals were not bothered.) Mushrooms and anemones should be safe. Inverts are usually left alone except possibly a Feather Duster being sampled. To be safe, monitor your corals any time you add a new one. In a larger reef, the damage will be minimum since this is a small fish.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - Male/Female pairs can be kept in tanks over 55 gallons (378 l).
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor
    • Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (seahorses, pipefish, mandarins): Threat - Angelfish will out compete slow moving fish for food.
    • Anemones: Safe - As long as a pugnacious clownfish is guarding the anemone, it should be okay.
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Safe
    • LPS corals: Monitor - Some have had success with Euphillia. They may graze on the slime they exude preventing them from opening fully, which can cause eventual death of the coral.
    • SPS corals: Threat
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Monitor - Some have stated success with gorgonians. They may graze on the slime they exude preventing them from opening fully, which can cause eventual death of the coral.
    • Leather Corals: Monitor - Should be safe with most from the Sinularia, Sarcophytom, Cladiella, and Paralemnalia genera, but still monitor for individual preferences.
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Monitor - Should be safe with most from the Effatounaria genus, but still monitor for individual preferences.
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Monitor - Some have stated success with green star polyps. 
 Careparameter Tank Mates Zoanthids.
    • Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Threat
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - Only the smallest decorative shrimp may be at risk. Large cleaner shrimp should be left alone.
    • Starfish: Monitor - May nip at appendages if the fish is not well fed.
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Monitor - May nip at feather dusters if the fish is not well fed.
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Threat
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

Males are slightly larger than the females. Similar species such as the Herald’s (C. heraldi) and Cocos Pygmy Angelfish (C. joculator) have shown the tips of the dorsal and anal fins on males to be a little more elongated, so it is possible the Colin’s Angelfish male is similar.

Breeding / Reproduction

In their natural habitat, the Colin’s Angelfish will form pairs or harems from 3 to 7 members. Males start grunting as they rush and circle with a female. At dusk the male will conduct an elaborate mating ritual and then spawn with each of the females individually.

They are pelagic spawners, with the male and his selected female rising up several feet above the reef, then the male will nuzzle the females belly to encourage her to release her eggs. He nuzzles her for 2 to 18 seconds, then shoots forward to be belly to belly with the female, at which time both release eggs and sperm into the water column. The eggs are fertilized and continue to rise up to the plankton rich surface. After the whole ordeal, they rush back to the bottom of the reef and the male will chase the female for a short time.

This dwarf angelfish has been successfully cultivated in a laboratory in Hawaii, on Oahu Island. The young are are fed micropellets, artemia nauplii, crushed flake foods rich in marine algae and cyclopeeze. These specimens are less shy than wild caught fish. Several other species of pygmy angelfish have also been successfully cultivated, including the Multicolor Angelfish C. multicolor. For more information see, Marine Fish Breeding: Angelfish.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate - Has been successfully bred in captivity.

Fish Diseases

Providing a dwarf angelfish with plenty of places to hide and clean water is the best way to prevent illness. Calm fish are healthy fish. If not stressed, they will have a stronger immune system to prevent infections. Like other saltwater angelfish, dwarf angelfish can suffer any disease that captive saltwater environments have to offer. Fish problems can be broken into one of (or a combination of) these types: parasites, bacterial and fungal disease, or physical ailments (wounds and injuries). To learn all about fish problems and find specific answers, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

The best and first defense to prevent diseases is a quarantine period before introducing a new fish. Quarantine tanks should be bare with a PVC tube where the fish can hide. Do regular water changes every day or so. Secondly, fresh water dips can also help to kill anything that is on their body that may spread. PH and temperature must be the same (just use baking soda to bring up the PH if you have soft water but use a test). Start with 5 minutes and up to 15 minutes if they are not showing any signs of distress. This is really only needed if you see anything on their body or if the back fin is starting to fray.

Dwarf angelfish diseases and treatments:

  1. Parasitic and Protozoan diseases
    Dwarf angelfish are prone to parasites like White Spot Disease Cryptocaryon irritans, also known as Marine Ich, Saltwater Ich, or Crypt. Another common disease is Marine Velvet or Velvet Disease Oodinium ocellatum, (syn: Amyloodinium ocellatum or Branchiophilus maris), which is a parasitic skin flagellate. These are two of the most common diseases.
    - Symptoms of White Spot Disease are constant scratching and flashing, culminating with numerous white dots all over the body and fins. These dots disappear for a few days, only to return with double the number. This results in the fish suffocating from these parasites blocking the gills from providing oxygen.
    - Symptoms of Marine Velvet are a peppery coating giving a yellow to light brown "dust" on body, clamped fins, respiratory distress (breathing hard as seen as frequent or quick gill movements), cloudiness of eyes, glancing off decor or substrate, and possible weight loss.
    • Treatment of parasites
      For external parasites you can slowly increasing the temperature of your tank to at least 82° F (28° C). That will prevent the parasite from completing its life cycle which includes the attachment to fish. A further combination of the higher temperatures with medicated food will provide timely relief.

      Parasites on marine fish kept with live rock or in any type of reef environment can be extremely difficult to treat. Typical treatments like copper and formalin solutions, as well as quinine based drugs are harmful to other marine creatures. However drugs such as metronidazole provide an effective and safe treatment for several protozoan and anaerobic bacterial diseases.

      Metronidazole works by ceasing the growth of bacteria and protozoa. Metronidazole is an antibiotic for anaerobic bacteria with anti-protozoal properties. This drug is reef safe, and medications are either added to the water or mixed with the fish food. Some available products that contain metronidazole include Seachem Metronidazole, Seachem AquaZole, Thomas Laboratories' Fish Zole and National Fish Pharmaceutical's Metro-Pro.

      The Seachem Metronidazole medications works well in combination with another Seachem product called Focus, which is a bonding agent. This treatment can be used in a reef aquarium since the medication is bound to the food, which even if the corals eat, will not hurt them. Mix Focus in a ratio of 5 to 1 with their Metronidazole (5 parts Focus to one part Metro), then mix this with 1 tablespoon of food. Feed the medicated food to the fish 3 times a day for at least a week or until symptoms are gone.
       
  2. Bacterial Diseases
    As with all dwarf angels, they are also vulnerable to bacterial and fungal diseases. Bacterial infections are often a secondary infection resulting from damage caused by a parasitic or protozoan disease. One of concern is the Vibrio bacteria, which starts as an internal infection, turns into Dropsy, Popeye, Bleeding or Red Streaks on the skin. It is a very fast acting bacteria that will kill your angelfish in days. One way it typically starts is with an innocently frayed back fin. This disease will quickly spread and kill a fish within 2 days.
    • Treatment of bacterial diseases
      Fresh water dips are an important step to kill anything that is on their body that may spread. PH and temperature must be the same (just use baking soda to bring up the PH if you have soft water but use a test). Start with 5 minutes and up to 15 minutes if they are not showing any signs of distress. This is really only needed if you see anything on their body or if the back fin is starting to fray. Only treat in 1/2 doses any medications containing cleated copper as all angelfish are sensitive to this element in it's free form.

      For dropsy, popeye, fin/tail rot and septicemia, which are at time secondary infections, another product you can use along with Seachems Metronidazole or alone is Seachems Kanaplex. You still need to use Focus to bond the Kanaplex to the food. Kanaplex, when used with Metronidazole in the same food, would be 2 scoops of Focus, 1 scoop of Kanaplex and 1 scoop of Metronidazole, yet this combination should only be fed once a day for 7 days, since Kanaplex should only be used for 7 days maximum. If you need to continue past 7 days, use only Metronidazole in a separate mixture for further treatment. This product can also be added to the water (without focus) if the fish is not eating.
       
  3. Physical Ailments
    Physical Ailments are often the result of the environment, either water conditions or incompatible tankmates. Poor quality water conditions can lead to fish gasping, not eating, jumping out of the tank, and more. Dwarf angelfish when very stressed or being picked on will hover in the upper corner of the tank and should be removed if the fish bullying your angelfish is not. Tank mate problems can result in nipped fins and bite wounds..
    • Treatment for physical ailments
      Look for and remove bully fish.
      Products on the market to help include stress relievers like Melafix, Wound Treat, and Bio Bandage.

Availability

The Colin's Pygmy Angelfish is rarely available at retailers and commands a high price for a Centropyge species. This angelfish has been successfully cultivated in a large laboratory in Oahu Island. These captive raise specimens will be kept with great success in the home aquarium. For the best success in keeping one,obtaining a captive bred specimen would be best.

References

Author: Hiroyuki Tanaka, Clarice Brough CFS, Carrie L McBirney

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