Flame Angel, Dwarf Flame AngelfishFamily: Pomacanthidae Centropyge loriculaPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Greg Rothschild
The Flame Angel is one of the most admired and popular of the dwarf angelfishes!
The gorgeous Flame Angelfish Centropyge loricula (Syn: Centropyge loriculus) is one of the most commonly purchased dwarf angelfish for the salt water aquarium. It is one of the most colorful of the pygmy angels. The orangish to red color with strong contrasting black vertical lines, topped with the deep electric blue accents at the back edge of the dorsal and anal fins makes for a striking fish. Even the larger King Angelfish Holacanthus passer which has some similar juvenile coloration, pales in comparison to the vibrancy of the Flame Angelfish.
The Flame Angel is moderately easy to care for, and has been touted as a very good fish for a reef aquarium. This is generally true of most of the pygmy angels although any angelfish in a reef must be observed carefully because they are not completely trustworthy. At times the pygmy angels, including the Flame Angelfish, have been known to destroy corals, sponges, and other reef life. The Flame Angelfish gets along nicely with many invertebrates, but sessile invertebrates have a 50% chance of being nipped at as the angel matures. In a larger reef tank, over 100 gallons, the damage will not be as severe.
When the Flame Angel is kept in a smaller tank, they feel they will have to defend their territory, especially against competing algae eaters. The minimum sized aquarium for a single specimen is 30 gallons. But to provide plenty of natural foods and shelter, and if you want more than just a few fish in your tank, they should really be kept in 75 gallons or more. They can be kept with other similar sized fish with a similar aggression level, and are most aggressive towards newly added fish that are similar in shape or eating behavior. If this dwarf angel is introduced last into a larger tank, they should get along with other peaceful tank mates. Two males of this species will fight to the death. They also do not get along with other dwarf angels unless the tank is well over 100 gallons.
Look for a Dwarf Flame Angelfish that is alert, eagerly looking for food and chubby. They should be hard to catch, yet curious enough that if startled, they will come right back out of their hiding place to see their surroundings. All Flame Angelfish are born female and can be paired according to size. The larger fish becomes male, so making a pair is possible by buying a larger Flame Angel and a smaller Flame Angel, and within a few months hopefully they will assume their roles as male and female. Dwarf angelfish will spawn in captivity and some are now being raised, yet raising the larvae is quite a difficult task.
For more Information on keeping saltwater fish see:
Marine Aquarium Basics: Guide to a Healthy Saltwater Aquarium
Flame Angel Pair (Centropyge loriculus)
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Video of male and female Flame Angelfish pair.
This male and female are quite attached to each other! They will grow to just under 4" and will require a tank of at least 75 gallons for both of them. Although not perfect reef tenants, they are one of the dwarf angelfish that are mostly reef safe and are decent to their tank mates as long as it is not another dwarf angelfish in a tank under 75 gallons and as long as they are not housed in anything under 50 gallons. They tend to be more territorial in tanks under the minimum of 50 gallons, since a smaller tank has less live rock, thus less to forage from, which makes them defensive of the little rock they have. This would end up being the entire tank if it was only 30 gallons!
- Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
- Size of fish - inches: 3.9 inches (9.91 cm)
- Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive
- Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
- Range ph: 8.1-8.4
- Diet Type: Omnivore
The Flame Angelfish Centropyge loricula was described by Gunther in 1874, and this first fish was found in the Society Islands. This little angelfish is from the Pomacanthidae family, of the genus Centropyge , which currently has over 33 species. The Flame Angel has a very wide distribution, it is found in scattered localities of tropical waters across the Western Pacific Ocean from Belau to the Hawaiian, Marquesas, and Ducie Islands, south to the Great Barrier Reef and the Pitcairn group of Islands. It is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concerned (LC) with a stable population. Other common names that they are know by are Flame Angel and Dwarf Flame Angelfish.
The Flame Angelfish are found in harems of 3 to 7 individuals living close to abundant stony coral growth in clear lagoon reef patches, reef faces, and outer reef slopes. They feed primarily on algae, but also consume small animals living among the algae. They are particularly common around dense stands of Finger Coral Porites spp. . They can be found at depths of 1/2 to 197 feet (2 - 60 m), but their preferred habitat is the outer reef slope at 16 to 82 feet (5 - 25 m).
They have been reported to hybridize with the Potter's Angelfish Centropyge potteri and the Shepard's Pygmy Angelfish Centropyge shepardi , and also possibly the Lemonpeel Angelfish Centropyge flavissima . These dwarf angelfish have been bred in captivity.
- Scientific Name: Centropyge loricula
- Social Grouping: Harems - They are found in harems of 3 to 7 individuals.
- IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern - A stable population.
The Flame Angelfish has the typical shape for dwarf angels, having a small elongated oval shape body, with rounded fins. Typically they are an orange to reddish orange, and with or without a wide splotch just behind the head. They also typically have 3 to 7 additional vertical black bars that can be thin, thick and/or run together. The eyes of Flame Angelfish are black. The back edges of the dorsal and anal fins have deep bluish purple and black streaks. The tail fin and pectoral fins are orange, yet slightly transparent. The pelvic fins are solid orangish red in color like the body
Specimens from different geographic locations vary somewhat in coloration and patterning. Those from Hawaii have a much brighter red orange color than those from any other local. Those from the Marquesas have only the black splotch behind the head, but lack the other black bars. Specimens from Micronesia are yellow over much of the body with a red head and fins, and with faded black bars.
The Flame Angels are sexually dichromatic, meaning there is a visual difference between males and females. The blue streaks on the males dorsal and anal fins are more pronounced than on the female, and they are also larger. This angelfish can grow up to 5.9” (15 cm) and in the wild, can 5 - 7 years or longer.
- Size of fish - inches: 3.9 inches (9.91 cm)
- Lifespan: 5 years - In the wild they can 5 - 7 years or longer, and in captivity possibly longer..
The Flame Angelfish is moderately easy to care for and are generally good eaters. They will take all manner of offered foods and graze on hair algae on live rock. Make sure you get a healthy individual who is alert and curious, and keep it with compatible tank mates. Also provide multiple places for this shy fish to hide so it will feel secure enough to come out. Do not let PH drop below 8.0 and the nitrates need to be kept low with regular water changes.
- Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
- Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate - These fish are moderately easy to care for if you get a healthy individual and provide it with plenty of hiding places and frequent feedings.
The Flame Angel is an omnivore. In the wild it feeds primarily on algae, but it will also ingest tiny animals living in the algae. In captivity they are a grazer and their diet will be mostly algae, but also offer some other proteins. Feeding them a variety of good foods is important. Offer various types of fresh and dried marine algae, spirulina enriched foods, mysis shrimp, shaved shrimp and other high-quality meaty foods, angelfish preparations, and flakes or pellets designed for algae eating fish. There are several good commercial foods available including Formula II and Angel Formula. Feed several times a day even if natural foods are present.
They are also a potential controller of many types of algae growth including certain species of diatom algae; Sea Lettuce Ulva spp., and some algae species of Derbesia, Entermorpha , Oscillatoria , and Boodlea .
- Diet Type: Omnivore - Offer a diet with Spirulina algae and sponge material included.
- Flake Food: Yes
- Tablet Pellet: Yes
- Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet - Only necessary to illicit an initial feeding response.
- Vegetable Food: Half of Diet
- Meaty Food: Half of Diet
- Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Feed several times a day even if natural foods are present, but less often in tanks over 75 gallons. Juveniles should be fed up to 4 times a day.
The Flame Angel 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 - Water changes of 30% a month, or 15% every 2 weeks.
The tank for a Flame Angel needs to be at least 30 gallons for a single individual. A smaller tank however, invites a territorial and aggressive behavior. In a smaller tank they feel they have to defend their territory, especially against competing algae eaters. A better tank would be at least 55 gallons (208 l) with plenty of algae growth, and 75 to 100 gallons (283 to 378 l) is need for a pair. Provide water parameters of: 72-82° F, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.020-1.025.
This pygmy angel likes to have lots of rockwork or live rock and rubble type areas to pick natural foods. They need lots of caves and crevices in the rock work to hide in to feel secure. It is best to introduce this dwarf angel as the last inhabitant into the tank.
- Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L) - A 30 gallons tank can house a single specimen, but 55 gallons (208 l) with plenty of algae growth is suggested for stability. A 75 to 100 gallon (283 to 378 l) tank is needed for a pair, and add 20 gallons more for each additional dwarf angelfish.
- Suitable for Nano Tank: No
- Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places - Live rock with plenty of algae growth is recommended.
- Substrate Type: Any - They like areas of rubble to forage for algae and benthic creatures.
- Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting - Lighting that is strong enough to keep algae growth on the live rock is suggested.
- Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C) -
- Breeding Temperature: 80.0° F - To encourage spawning in dwarf angelfish, keep temperature at 80 to 82˚F (27-28˚C). At this temperature, hatching is 16 hours after spawning. Longer if water is cooler.
- Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG - Angelfish do not do well in lower salinity for extended periods of time (several months).
- Range ph: 8.1-8.4 - These angelfish start to deteriorate when pH is lower than 8.1.
- Brackish: No
- Water Movement: Any - They like some areas of faster water movement.
- Water Region: Bottom - They will also inhabit mid level areas of the tank.
When the Flame Angel is kept in a smaller tank, they feel they will have to defend their territory, especially against competing algae eaters. The minimum sized aquarium for a single specimen is 30 gallons. But to provide plenty of natural foods and shelter, and if you want more than just a few fish in your tank, they should really be kept in 75 gallons or more. They can be kept with other similar sized fish with a similar aggression level. They are most aggressive towards newly added fish that are similar in shape or eating behavior. If this dwarf angel is introduced last into a larger tank, they should get along with other peaceful tank mates. Two males of this species will fight to the death. They also do not get along with other dwarf angels unless the tank is well over 100 gallons.
- Venomous: No
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive
- Compatible with:
- Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes - A male/female pair can be kept in a 75 gallons (284 l) tank or larger, two males will fight.
- Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Monitor - As long as the tank over 55 gallons and the other fish can hide.
- Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Safe - A tank over 55 gallons is suggested, as it provides places where these other fish can hide if bothered.
- Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Safe
- Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Safe
- Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Monitor - Safe unless the fish is large enough to eat the Flame Angelfish.
- Slow Swimmers & Eaters (seahorses, pipefish, mandarins): Threat - Slow eaters will be out-competed for food.
- Anemones: Monitor - May be safe if the anemone has a clownfish, or pair of clowns. to protect it.
- Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Monitor - May attempt to eat waste extruded from mushroom corals.
- LPS corals: Monitor - They may graze on the slime they exude preventing them from opening fully, which can cause eventual death of the coral.
- SPS corals: Monitor - They may graze on the slime they exude preventing them from opening fully, which can cause eventual death of the coral.
- Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Monitor - They may graze on the slime they exude preventing them from opening fully, which can cause eventual death of the coral.
- Leather Corals: Monitor - Safe with most from the Sinularia, Sarcophytom, Cladiella, and Paralemnalia genera.
- Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Monitor - Safe with most from the Effatounaria genus.
- Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Monitor - May pick at the polyps if the fish is not well fed.
- Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Monitor - May pick at the polyps if the fish is not well fed.
- Sponges, Tunicates: Monitor
- Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - Not aggressive, though it may go after very small shrimp such as sexy shrimp.
- Starfish: Monitor - May pick at appendages if the fish is not well fed.
- Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Monitor - Will pick at feathery appendages of worms such as feather and Christmas tree worms.
- Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Monitor - They may graze on the slime they exude preventing them from opening fully, which can cause eventual death of the clam.
- Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe - Although they will ingest them inadvertently, it should not decimate the population.
The male is generally larger than female, and the blue streaks on the males dorsal and anal fins are more pronounced than on the female. Like all Centropyge , these fish are born as female. As they grow in a group, the larger and more dominant fish will become male and the others will remain female. If the male dies, the next dominant female 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 two months.
Spawning of Flame Angelfish have occurred in captivity, and there have been successes in rearing the young, but it is difficult. The Flame Angel spawns similarly to other dwarf angelfish. They are broadcast spawners, releasing eggs and sperm simultaneously at dusk. They rise into the water column and release their eggs and sperm at the top.
A deeper tank is best to spawn them in captivity, as well as a stable lighting schedule to encourage spawning. You can copy nature’s 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 will hatch in just under 24 hours, and after hatching, within 2 to 3 days they need microscopic algae for their very small mouths. Raising the babies becomes difficult at this point, so much preparation is needed.
- Ease of Breeding: Difficult
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:
- 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.
- Treatment of parasites
- 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.
- Treatment of bacterial diseases
- 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.
- Treatment for physical ailments
The Flame Angelfish are usually easy to find online and in stores, ane are more expensive than other types of dwarf angels.
- Animal-World References: Marine and Reef
- Centropyge loriculus (Günther, 1874) Flame angel, Fishbase
- Centropyge loricula, IUNC Red List, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
- Scott W. Michael, Angelfishes & Butterflyfishes: Reef Fishes Series , Microcosm Ltd, 2004
- Scott W. Michael, Marine Fishes: 500+ Essential-To-Know Aquarium Species, T.F.H Publications inc., 1999
- Mark Allen, Roger Steene and Gerald R. Allen, A Guide to Angelfishes and Butterflyfishes , Odyssey Publishing, 1998
- Bob Goemans, Centropyge loricula Flame Angelfish, Aquarium Library, Saltcorner.com
- Flame Angel fish - Centropyge loricula, FishLore, Aquarium Fish Information
- Roger Steene, Gerald R. Allen, Hans A. Baensch, Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World, Volume 1, John Wiley & Sons, 1980