Pygmy Angelfish - Cherubfish

Cherubfish, Cherub Pygmy Angelfish, Pygmy Dwarf Angelfish

Family: Pomacanthidae Pygmy Angelfish or Cherubfish, Centropyge argi, also called Cherub Pygmy Angelfish and Pygmy Dwarf AngelfishCentropyge argiPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Greg Rothschild
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Getting a pygmy soon.  Jake

The Cherub Pygmy Angelfish is a very dynamic little angel, in both looks and action!

The Cherubfish or Pygmy Angelfish Centropyge argi are beautiful little fish. This wonderful dwarf angel has all the good looks of its larger cousins, making a great substitution for a large angelfish for those who don't have 200 gallons of tank space. With a deep blue body, yellow or orangish face, and blue rings around its eyes, the colors of the Cherub Angelfish are rich and vibrant similar to the Asfur, Maculosus, and even Bluegirdled Angelfish. You can get the same color combo in a "fun size" for your smaller tank.

Cherub Pygmy Angelfish are intelligent, active, and hardy as well. Look for a specimen that will take an aggressive stance, such as a raise dorsal fin, and pay rapt attention as you approach the tank. If it does dart into a cave, it should come right back out to size you up promptly. Their color should be rich, not faded, and they should be very interested in their surroundings and very difficult to catch.

This Atlantic Pygmy Angelfish spends a good amount of time hiding from predators in the wild, so plenty of hiding spaces will make them happy. These fish favor an established reef environment with plenty of nooks and crannies to graze for food. These are very pugnacious little fish, so house Pygmy Angelfish with more aggressive tank mates.

Cherub Pygmy Angelfish will spawn in captivity and they are now being raised in captivity, thus helping to preserve our ocean reefs. Though raising the larvae is quite another task. These dwarf angelfish are paired according to size, not color. All are born female, then the larger fish becomes female. To make a pair is possible by buying a larger Cherub Angel and a smaller Cherub Angel, and within a few months they hopefully will assume their roles as male and female. This spit-fire Cherubfish can be very protective of its territory, so docile fish beware.

In a reef environment, Pygmy Angelfish should avoid noxious soft corals as well as most mushrooms. A tank raised individual that is well fed may not even recognize corals as a snack. It's actually the mucous on the coral that they eat, not the flesh of the coral. Nevertheless, nipping will cause the coral to retract and eventually die from the stress.

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


Geographic Distribution
Centropyge argi
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacanthidae
  • Genus: Centropyge
  • Species: argi
Cherub Pygmy Angelfish (Centropyge argi)

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A Pygmy Angelfish displaying typical behavior in a reef tank.

A very curious Pygmy Angelfish exploring his habitat in a captive reef environment. Pygmy Angelfish come from the Atlantic Ocean in Florida, Bahamas and the Caribbean, making them one of the better fish that have not had to endure to much travel to get to aquarists in the United States. They still need a larger tank, of at least 50 gallons to get the nutrition from the live rock. They can be territorial, so a nano tank is a bad idea! They have the most punch per inch, as far as aggression goes, which also facilitates a larger tank. They can be little monsters, attacking flasher wrasses, gobies, firefish and other docile fish.

Pygmy Angelfish - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 3.2 inches (8.00 cm)
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Cherubfish or Pygmy Angelfish Centropyge argi , is also known as the Cherub Pygmy Angelfish, Pygmy Dwarf Angelfish, and Atlantic Pygmy Angelfish. It is from the Pomacanthidae family, and was described by Woods and Kanazawa in 1951. The genus Centropyge currently has over 33 species, with argi being one of them. They will spawn in captivity and are now being raised in captivity, thus helping to preserve our ocean reefs.

Cherubfish are found in the Western Atlantic from Bermuda to Florida (USA) to French Guiana, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. They prefer areas covered in rubble and feed on different algae, benthic inverts and detritus. The Cherub Pygmy Angelfish prefer to pair up, one male to several females. Being "snack size" they will dart into holes when startled, which is quite often. As adults they are found at depths of 16 to 148 feet (5 to 45 m).

  • Scientific Name: Centropyge argi
  • Social Grouping: Harems - A typical harem consists of one adult male, 1 to 3 mature females, and several immature individuals.
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern - A stable population

Description

The Cherubfish or Pygmy Angelfish has the typical shape for dwarf angels, having a small elongated oval shape body, with rounded fins. They have gill covers with two opercular spines. In the wild they can reach up to about 3 inches (8 cm) in length, but in the aquarium they are a bit smaller at about 2 1/2 inches (6.5 cm). This Angelfish can live 5 or more years with good care.

The body of this fish is a blue to deep blue color. The head and chest is an orangish to yellow color which can vary in shade, depending on the location in which the fish was captured. Some specimens may only have a hint of yellow on the snout and slight hints in the chin area. There is a thin blue line encircling the eye. The outer edges of the fins are trimmed in a light blue with the exception of the pectoral fins, which are pale yellow.

  • Size of fish - inches: 3.2 inches (8.00 cm) - The Cherub Pygmy Angelfish can grow up to 3" (8 cm) in the wild, yet in captivity they rarely grow more than 2.5" (6.5 cm).
  • Lifespan: 5 years - Have been reported to live up to 5 years in captivity.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Pygmy Angelfish are easy to care for if you are careful to get a healthy specimen. When purchasing this dwarf angelfish, look for a specimen that is alert, active, and interested in its surroundings. Their color should be rich, not faded, and they should be very difficult to catch. They should not be bloated of have reddened scale areas. Be cautious of dwarf angels from the Philippines. Some collectors are known to have used improper capture techniques, such as not allowing the fish to decompress from deeper waters, as well as other mishandling techniques.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy - Easy to care for if needs are met.
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner - These are a hardy angelfish, but are notorious for becoming aggressive with docile tankmates such as gobies, firefish, and flasher wrasses.

Foods and Feeding

Atlantic Pygmy Angelfish are omnivores, in the wild they feed on different algae, benthic inverts and detritus. This angelfish is very hardy and generally a good eater, taking all manner of offered foods and grazing on hair algae on live rock. They do well on frozen foods with marine or Spirulina algae, mysid shrimp, shaved shrimp, and some micro algae growth in the tank. Feed 3 times a day, and less only if natural foods are present in the aquarium.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet - Brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, as well as other protein sources can be offered occasionally.
  • Vegetable Food: Most of Diet - May get some of their vegetable from algae growth present in tank.
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet - Offer mysid shrimp, shaved shrimp, and other high quality protein fare.
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Minimum 3 times a day in tanks having little natural food.

Aquarium Care

The Cherub Pygmy Angelfish is not as touchy as some of the other species of angelfish, but still needs good water. Water changes of 30% a month, or 15% every 2 weeks is optimal in keeping nitrates lower. If there are corals in the tank, then 20% every month, 10% every 2 weeks or 5% a week works great. Of course, keeping up with your water testing will tell you when your tank needs a water change.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly - Change 10% to 15% of the water bi-weekly for smaller tanks, and monthly water changes for larger tanks, 75 gallons or more.

Aquarium Setup

The tank needs to be at least 30 gallons for a single Cherubfish, and at least 75 gallons to keep a male/female pair or two females. Provide water parameters of: 72-82° F, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.018-1.025. This pygmy angel likes to have lots of rubble type areas to pick natural foods from and with several little caves in the rock work to hide in to feel secure. They are known to become aggressive to docile fish, so it is best to introduce this dwarf angel as the last inhabitant into a suitable, mature tank.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L) - A minimum size of at least 30 gallons (113 l) is needed for a single individual. A male/female pair or two females can be kept if the tank is large enough, at least 75 gallons or more. Males will fight, most often to the death.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Sometimes - May be kept singly in a large nano tank with no other competition for algae or territory.
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Amount - Provide rock to support splenty of algae growth and to create a rubble type bottom along with several little caves formed from the pieces.
  • Substrate Type: Any - They do appreciate areas of rubble rock with algae growth and other edibles to feed on.
  • Lighting Needs: Any - It is best kept under normal lighting, but can also be kept in sunlight conditions and in a dimly lit tank. Having some natural sunlight is suggested for a dim tank to help keep algae growing.
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 77.0° F - At a temperature of 77° F larvae will hatch in 16 hours after spawning, but it will take longer if the water is cooler.
  • Specific gravity: 1.018-1.023 SG - Angelfish in general do not do well under 1.023 for long periods of time.
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4 - Angelfish will deteriorate quickly under 8.1.
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate - They like some areas of strong and weak movement. A weaker movement would be appreciated along the bottom for feeding.
  • Water Region: Middle - They will also inhabit the bottom areas of the tank.

Social Behaviors

The Cherub Angelfish are very pugnacious little fish, so house them with more aggressive tank mates. The Pygmy Angelfish is more aggressive in smaller tanks, yet will pick on smaller tank mates no matter what. They will harass docile tank mates, even to death. Two Pygmy Dwarf Angelfish males will also fight to the death. They do not get along with another Centropyge angelfish unless the tank is well over 100 gallons and there are plenty of hiding places for both. Generally a good reef fish.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive - They can become very aggressive towards docile fish, and will not tolerate other angelfish unless the aquarium is very large.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes - A male/female pair or two females can be kept together as long as the tank is at least 75 gallons or more. Males will fight, often to the death.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Threat - Once established they can become terrors to peaceful tank mates, especially in smaller tanks.
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor - Keep an eye out for aggression.
    • Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Safe
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat - Dwarf Angelfish will be eaten by large fish that can fit them into their mouths.
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (seahorses, pipefish, mandarins): Threat - Dwarf Angelfish will out compete slow eaters, possibly leading to them starving to death.
    • Anemones: Monitor - As long as a pugnacious clownfish is guarding the anemone, it should be okay.
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Monitor - May eat waste exuding from mushrooms, which is not harmful, just keep an eye on the fish.
    • LPS corals: Monitor - Occasionally will nip at them, but they are safer with these fish than other dwarf angelfish.
    • SPS corals: Monitor - Occasionally will nip, but are safer than other dwarf angelfish.
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Monitor - Occasionally will nip, but are safer than other dwarf angelfish.
    • Leather Corals: Safe
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Monitor - Some individuals have been known to nip at these corals, but most of the Effatounaria genus are safe, still monitor for individual preferences.
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Monitor - May nip at polyps if the angelfish is not well fed.
    • Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Monitor - May nip at polyps if angelfish is not well fed.
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe
    • Starfish: Safe
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Monitor - May nip at appendages if the angelfish is not well fed.
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Threat - Some individuals have been known to nip clam mantles.
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe - May eat small crustaceans living within the algae on the live rock, but not enough to decimate populations.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive

Sex: Sexual differences

All Centropyge are born female. As they grow, the larger and more dominant fish will become male and the others will remain female. If the male dies, the next in command in the hierarchy will turn to male. Putting a larger and smaller fish together is the best way to get a pair, possibly in about 2 months, give or take. Color is not an indication of sex.

Breeding / Reproduction

Dwarf angelfish are open spawners, releasing eggs and sperm simultaneously at dusk by rising into the water column and releasing the gamates at the top. A taller tank is needed as well as a proper lighting schedule to encourage spawning. You can mimic the proper dusk light cycle of your aquarium by having 1/2 the lights go out (brighter lights) then an hour later the other 1/2 (actinic) go out at a consistent time every day. The eggs hatch in just under a day. After hatching, within 2 to 3 days, they need microscopic algae for their very small mouths. This is where raising the babies becomes difficult.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate - They will spawned in captivity and have been reared in captivity. The young will need special feeding and care to survive.

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 Cherubfish or Cherub Pygmy Angelfish is easy to find online and in stores, and moderately expensive.

References

Author: Carrie McBirney, David Brough CAS
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Lastest Animal Stories on Pygmy Angelfish

Jake - 2010-06-20
Getting a pygmy soon.

  • David Brough - 2012-01-26
    Me too! I would like to get a pair so I guess my best bet would be to get a large one and a small one according to the information above.
Reply
Benjamin - 2005-03-28
Hi, My Pygmy Angelfish is two weeks old. She is a very active swimer as well as a good algae eater. She is about 1.5in. long and very healthy. She eats algea, flakes and pellets. I also want to add that this sight is exceptonaly good.

Reply
James - 2006-01-25
I have a cherub dwarf angel mixed with a variety of fish from long horn cowfish, filefish damsels and maroon clowns. I find it holds its own when it comes to feeding time etc. I have found this specimen very hardy and would highly recommend them.

Reply

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