Black Velvet Angelfish
Grey Poma Angelfish, Brown Angelfish, Yellowtail Poma AngelfishFamily: Pomacanthidae Chaetodontoplus melanosomaPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
The Black Velvet Angelfish is a becoming fish with coloration that gives it a smooth and luscious appearance!
The Black Velvet Angelfish Chaetodontoplus melanosoma is a handsome mid-sized angel. It only grows to about 7 3/4 inches (20 cm) in length and is mostly black. But it has a pale gray or brownish tone along the upper half of the body that becomes a bluish gray on its head. This two-toned black and gray effect blends in a smooth and polished beauty that gives it a velvety look, hence its common name. The top of the head is adorned with a stippling effect in oranges and yellowish greens. The rear edges of the dorsal and anal fins are trimmed in yellow and the tail fin is yellow with a large black central blotch. It is also commonly called the Grey Poma Angelfish, Brown Angelfish, and Yellowtail Poma Angelfish.
As juveniles these angelfish are particularly striking being black with bright yellow accents. They start out with a bold curved yellow band at the rear of the head and a yellow stripe right down the front of the face. They also have a broad yellow border edging the upper fin which goes straight down through the tail and along the back of the anal fin. But as they mature they begin the fascinating metamorphosis into adult coloration. At about 2 1/2 inches (6 cm) both the bold yellow band behind the head and the facial stripe are gone, and the yellow border on the fins becomes a thinner accent.
This is one of the easier angelfish to keep especially if a smaller specimen is acquired. They're generally not as fussy about foods as other angelfish, though sometimes a specimen can be a little picky about eating. A juvenile or sub-adult is best to acquire as large adults have a hard time adjusting to captive foods. When purchasing it helps if you can observe it in the dealers tank to see if it's eating, and if it's curious about its environment. Encouraging an initial feeding response may require offering live brine or mysis shrimp, or some sponge covered live rock may be necessary.
Once adjusted it is moderately hardy making it a great choice for the intermediate aquarist. It will need a mature tank of 75 gallons or larger with abundant algae growth on live rock for long term success. This is an active fish and will swim at all levels of the aquarium, but also needs plenty of places to hide in well arranged rockwork. It doesn't need water temperatures much over 79˚F and is more tolerant of a little lower pH than other angelfish. In nature this angelfish is often found in areas with strong tidal currents, and so will enjoy swift water movement in its aquarium.
This angelfish is best kept in a community aquarium with peaceful to semi-aggressive tankmates. It's rather shy at first but will become bolder as it becomes comfortable. It's also not aggressive, rather it is typically the one being bullied in the tank. Only in very large tanks over 180 gallons should it be housed with other angelfish. A male/female pair will need a tank of 180 gallons or more, and with others from the same genus will require a tank over 250 to 300 gallons. Very aggressive larger angelfish are not suggested.
They can be kept in selective reef tanks but corals may not fair so well. There has been some success in keeping it with noxious soft corals, and shrimp, copepods, and bristle worms are not usually bothered. But most corals will be nipped at, as well as invertebrates such as tube worms and clams, oysters, and scallops. Seastars may have their appendages nipped off since to these fish they look like food. Most aquarists agree that a well fed angelfish is a little less destructive.
For more Information on keeping saltwater fish see:
Marine Aquarium Basics: Guide to a Healthy Saltwater Aquarium
- Minimum Tank Size: 75 gal (284 L)
- Size of fish - inches: 7.9 inches (19.99 cm)
- Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive
- Temperature: 66.0 to 79.0° F (18.9 to 26.1° C)
- Range ph: 7.8-8.4
- Diet Type: Omnivore
The Black Velvet Angelfish Chaetodontoplus melanosoma was first described by Bleeker in 1853. It is found in the Indo-West Pacific in the Malayan region, New Guinea and then north to southern Japan The scientific name was originally time Holacanthus melanosoma. There are currently about 13 species in the Chaetodontoplus genus and all of them live in the Eastern Indian and Western Pacific Oceans.
This species is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC) as it has a wide distribution and presumably a large population. Although it is collected for the aquarium trade it is not believed to be impacted and there are no major threats currently identified. Other common names it is known by include Grey Poma Angelfish, Brown Angelfish, and Yellowtail Poma Angelfish.
An almost identical species easily confused with this angel is the Phantom Angelfish, or Velvet Angelfish, Chaetodontoplus dimidiatus. It only differs by having an all yellow tail fin with no black blotch in the middle. The Black Velvet Angel was scientifically recognized long ago, described by Bleeker in 1853. The Phantom Angel was also tentatively described by Bleeker a few years later, in 1860 as Holacantus dimidiatus. However it was commonly believed that this fish was just a color morph of the Black Velvet, in fact it was thought to merely represent the female coloration of C. melanosoma. More recently it has been classified as its own distinct species.
These angelfish inhabit coastal reefs, reef faces, and reef drop offs at depth between 13 - 98 feet (4 - 30 m). They occur in areas with strong tidal currents, and some areas where they are found have cold water upwellings. Juveniles are found on deep rubble slopes where there is plentiful invertebrate growth. While juveniles are solitary, adults are found in pairs or small groups. Harems may consist of one male with one or more females, possibly of up to four females as with others of their genus. They typically feed on benthic algae or weeds, sponges, tunicates, and ascidians (sea squirts).
- Scientific Name: Chaetodontoplus melanosoma
- Social Grouping: Varies - Juveniles are solitary, adults are found in pairs or small groups.
- IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern - A stable population.
The Black Velvet Angelfish is a deep bodied, elongated, flat fish with rounded continuous dorsal and anal fins extending along the length of the body, and a rounded caudal fin. It will reach 7.9" (20 cm) in length. Although it is not known how long this marine angelfish lives, others from this genus have been known to live up from 8 - 12 years in captivity.
These angelfish are mostly black, but with a pale gray or brownish color along the upper half of the body, becoming bluish gray on the head. The top of the head, the face, and around the mouth area is stippled with spots and squiggles in oranges and yellowish greens. The pelvic, dorsal, and anal fins are black. The rear edges of the dorsal and anal fin, and back ttwo thirds along the top edge of the dorsal fin are trimmed in bright yellow. The tail fin tail fin is yellow with a large black central blotch.
The adults look very similar to two close relatives that occur in the same regions. An almost identical species is the Phantom Angelfish Chaetodontoplus dimidiatus. For many years it was considered to be a color morph, with suggestions that it representing the Black Velvet adult female. This species only differs by its all yellow tail fin which has no black blotch in the center. Another more recently described similar species is the Vanderloos' Angelfsih Chaetodontoplus vanderloosi, found from Papua New Guinea. It is a bit more distinctive because its body is all black with only the face area being light.
Juveniles are all black with a bold curved yellow band at the rear of the head and a yellow line down the middle front of the face from the forehead to the mouth. On the upper and lower fins there is a yellow edge, it extends from the top of the dorsal around to the base of the tail fin and along the back edge of the anal fin. The tailfin is black with yellow edging as well. It looks much like a yellow boomerang in shape. The pectoral fins are black with yellow edging. Juveniles look almost identical to the Blue Stripe Angelfish Chaetodontoplus septentrionalis, except there is no black in the Blue Stripe's tail fin.
- Size of fish - inches: 7.9 inches (19.99 cm)
- Lifespan: 8 years - Although it is not known how long this marine angelfish lives, others from this genus have been known to live up from 8 - 12 years in captivity.
These angelfish are moderately hardy and and can be suggested for an intermediate aquarist. They are not as fussy about foods and they have a broader pH tolerance than other angelfish. Choosing a smaller specimen who will eat in the dealers tank is suggested. Adults do not adjust as easily. They need a minimum tank size of 75 gallons (283 l) with live rock and a good algae crop. Good quality foods and variety, plenty of room, and non-aggressive tank mates are the keys to their good health.
A protein skimmer is suggested to keep water quality high since they need to be fed fairly often. One thing that sets them apart from other angelfish is that they will tolerate a wider pH range. They can be kept at a pH level between 7.8 to 8.4, though it should be consistent.
- Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
- Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
The Black Velvet Angelfish are omnivores, in the wild they eat primarily sponges and tunicates, but will also feed on weeds and algae, which makes them a little easier to care for. Feed picky new individuals sponge encrusted or algae covered rocks, or even live brine shrimp to encourage initial feeding response.
Once feeding offer small amounts several times a day of finely chopped seafoods, frozen, and some flake foods. Provide a varied diet. Make sure flake and pellet food have sponge material. They can be fed less often if there is plenty of edible algae growing in the tank. Bi-valves, which are alive when cracked open are also appreciated, but removed any uneaten flesh within 15 minutes.
- Diet Type: Omnivore - Feed preparations that have sponge and spirulina algae added, specifically for angelfish.
- Flake Food: Occasionally
- Tablet Pellet: Occasionally
- Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet - Live foods like brine shrimp to help encourage initial feeding response.
- Vegetable Food: Most of Diet
- Meaty Food: Some of Diet
- Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Feed 3 - 5 times a day initially, less once established and if there is plenty of algae growing on the rocks.
Although not as picky as other angelfish, they do require good water quality. Regular water changes that maintain proper water parameters are key in helping to keep this angelfish healthy. Biweekly water changes of 10-15% are suggested. Keep pH at 7.8 to 8.4. They like temperatures between 66˚ and 79˚F (19˚ - 26˚ C) with normal parameters for salinity.
- Water Changes: Bi-weekly - Water changes of 10-15% bi-weekly are suggested.
Black Velvet Angelfish need a minimum tank size of 75 gallons (283 l) so there will be lots of open space for free swimming. The aquarium needs to be mature with plenty of algae growth on live rock, and ideally with some sponge growth. Form several caves and crevices so they feel safe when initially introduced. To keep a pair will take a tank of 180 gallons or more, and with others from the same genus will require a tank over 250 to 300 gallons.
This species dwells in subtropical to temperate areas in nature with temperatures from 66- 79.0° F. In the aquarium however, up to 82° F should be fine. Strong water movement is preferred by these angelfish as that mimics their habitat. Their salinity requirement is in the normal range.
- Minimum Tank Size: 75 gal (284 L)
- Suitable for Nano Tank: No
- Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places
- Substrate Type: Any
- Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting - Helps to encourage natural algae growth for them to feed on.
- Temperature: 66.0 to 79.0° F (18.9 to 26.1° C)
- Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
- Range ph: 7.8-8.4
- Brackish: No
- Water Movement: Strong - They are found in areas with strong tidal currents, so offer areas in the tank with good water flow.
- Water Region: All
This species is one of the less aggressive angelfish and can be kept in a community aquarium. Shy initially, it will become bolder as it acclimates. Smaller and non-aggressive fish like cardinalfish, gobies, tilefish, damselfish, butterflyfish, fairy basslets, wrasses, etc. will be good tank mates. Large basses and larger territorial angelfishes like Pomacanthus are not recommended as tank mates.
Do not house juveniles together since they will fight. Others young fish from this same genus can look very similar, and these juveniles will also fight. You can keep two older Black Velvet Angelfish together, but only in a very large tank, and only if they are a known male and female. Add them to the aquarium at the same time. They can be house with others in their genus in very large systems with plenty of places to hide. The less aggressive species need to be added at the same time and need to be added and acclimated before the more aggressive species of Chaetodontoplus are added.
They are not considered 100% reef safe though may be kept in a selective reef set up. Typically they will nip at corals, so this would not be the best fish for a reef, unless it is a very large tank and fish is very well fed. They will nip at hard corals, tubeworms, and clams. Juveniles are not as destructive as adults, but as they grow corals will be at risk. Even as juveniles however, nipping and picking will be likely.
In a selectively set up reef tank aquarists have had success with noxious soft corals such as those from the Cladiella, Lemnalia, Lobophytum, and Sinularia genera, and mushroom corals are ignored. Some will pick at the oral discs of anemones, but with a very pugnacious clownfish guarding the anemone it may be okay. Invertebrates for the most part are safe, except the possibility of starfish having their appendages nipped at. Do not house with clams, scallops, oysters or tube worms.
- Venomous: No
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive - Though semi-aggressive, they are the most likely to be picked on by other angelfish.
- Compatible with:
- Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes - In a tank over 180 gallons, a mated male/female pair may be kept. To keep with others of the same genus will take a tank of 250 to 300 gallons with plenty of places to hide, and adding the less aggressive species first.
- Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe
- Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Safe
- Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Safe
- Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor - Black Velvet Angelfish are more likely to be the victim of bullying.
- Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat
- Slow Swimmers & Eaters (seahorses, pipefish, mandarins): Monitor - Mandarins should be fine in large tanks as long as they have plenty of copepods to eat.
- Anemones: Monitor - May be okay if there is a pugnacious clownfish guarding the anemone.
- Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Monitor - Does not typically bother mushroom corals.
- LPS corals: Threat
- SPS corals: Threat
- Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Threat
- Leather Corals: Monitor - May not bother the Lobophytum genus.
- Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Threat - Should not bother corals from the Lobophytum, Cladilla, Lemnalia, and Sinularia genera.
- Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Threat
- Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Threat
- Sponges, Tunicates: Threat
- Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe
- Starfish: Monitor - May nip at appendages
- Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Threat
- Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Threat
- Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe
Females are smaller than males. All Black Velvet Angelfish are born female and change to male as needed.
Not yet bred in captivity. Although this particular species has not been reported on as far as spawning, another Chaetodontoplus, the The Vermiculated Angelfish Chaetodontoplus mesoleucus has been observed and the Black Velvet Angelfish behavior may be similar. C mesoleucus start courtship about an hour before sunset. The male will soar or swim above the female, stop, then hangs out with his fins extended and body tilted. The female, when ready will swim to an area of the males territory that he has designated as the spawning site. They will both soar up into the water column, as the male nuzzles the female belly. They then will release their gametes at the same time once they reach about 6.6 feet (2 m) above the site. The male then chases the female back to the reef.
- Ease of Breeding: Unknown
Although the Black Velvet Angelfish is quite hardy, like other saltwater angelfish they are prone to any disease that captive saltwater environments have to offer. They are most likely to be affected if they are stressed from inappropriate housing or tank mates. Providing an angelfish with clean water, a proper decor with places to hide, and regular feeding is the best way to prevent illness. Calm angelfish are healthy fish. If not stressed, they will have a stronger immune system to prevent infections. To avoid a condition called nutritional blindness in angelfish, which can occur around 6 to 8 months after taken into captivity, feed green leafy food that have Vitamin A, as well as making sure there is plenty of natural occurring algae in the tank.
White Spot Disease Cryptocaryon irritans, also known as Marine Ich, Saltwater Ich, or Crypt is the most common disease that is generally associated with marine tangs and angelfish. Symptoms of Marine Ick are constant scratching, culminating with lots of white dots. 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.
Another common disease is Marine Velvet or Velvet Disease Oodinium ocellatum, (syn: Amyloodinium ocellatum or Branchiophilus maris), which is a parasitic skin flagellate. 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.
A viral infection, Lymphocystis, looks like small cauliflower-shaped nodules on the fins and mouth. These nodules are not harmful and come and go. The only time action may be needed is if they were on the mouth area of the fish, preventing it from eating for a prolonged period of time. It's best to do water changes to help the fish's natural immune system kick in.
Monogenetic flukes are the most common parasitic infections angelfish are prone to contracting. 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.
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. 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.
Fish problems can be broken into one of (or a combination of) these types: parasites, bacterial disease, fungal disease, or physical ailments caused from deficiencies in diet as well as wounds and injuries. For more information on diseases that saltwater angelfish are susceptible to, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.
The Black Velvet Angelfish is occasionally available in stores and online. These angelfish are seasonal, so they can be hard to find at certain times of the year and range in price from moderate to expensive.
- Animal-World References: Marine and Reef
- Chaetodontoplus melanosoma (Bleeker, 1853) Black-velvet angelfish, Fishbase
- Chaetodontoplus melanosoma, IUNC Red List, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
- Helmut Debelius, Rudie H. Kuiter, World Atlas of Marine Fishes, Hollywood Import & Export, Inc., 2006
- Scott W. Michael, Marine Fishes: 500+ Essential-To-Know Aquarium Species, T.F.H Publications inc., 2005
- Scott W. Michael, Angelfishes & Butterflyfishes: Reef Fishes Series , Microcosm Ltd, 2004
- Mark Allen, Roger Steene, Gerald R. Allen, A Guide to Angelfishes and Butterflyfishes , Odyssey Publishing, 1998
- Dr. Warren E. Burgess, Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod, Raymond E. Hunziker III, Dr. Burgess's Atlas of Marine Aquarium Fishes, T.F.H Publications inc., 1990
- Roger Steene, Gerald R. Allen, Hans A. Baensch, Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World, Volume 1, John Wiley & Sons, 1980