The Goldflake Angelfish is good looking when young, and becomes a spectacular Golden-spangled Angelfish as an adult!

The Goldflake Angelfish Apolemichthys xanthopunctatus is a sparkling beauty and one of the hardier aquarium angelfish. The adult has a yellow body speckled with golden spots that give it the appearance of being sprinkled with glitter. This glitzy look is further dramatized with purple blue lips, a black spot on the forehead, and black fins edged in blue.

As a juvenile this angelfish is also quite spectacular. Young individuals are bright yellow with black fins as well. But the black of the dorsal fin is almost teardrop shaped and edged in yellow and the black spot on the forehead extends like a band down through the eye. They closely resemble juveniles of their close relative the Flagfin Angelfish or Threespot AngelfishApolemichthys trimaculatus.

This angelfish species is more of a newcomer in both the scientific community and the aquarium hobby. It was only just described as recently as 1973 and has been a very rare sight in the hobby. Recently it has become more available, but it is quite expensive. Several other descriptive common names it is known by include Gold-spangled Angelfish, Goldspotted Angelfish, and Gold-Speckled Angelfish.

The Apolemichthys genus contains only 9 species, but these are some of the hardiest of the angelfishes. Although the Goldflake Angelfish is not the hardiest of this group, it is fairly durable. It will need to be kept in a large aquarium, a minimum of 100 gallons, and have lots of rockwork creating caves for refuge. There also needs to be a lot of open space for swimming. An established tank with live rock and algae growth can help a new specimen acclimate to captivity. Young adults are the easiest to acclimate as they will usually accept food within a couple of days while the smaller juveniles are more reluctant. Once established it will accept a variety of aquarium foods. Be sure the diet includes plenty of plant matter and prepared foods that contain spirulina, as well as sponge material and meaty foods.

This angelfish can be kept in a community aquarium, and even be mixed with other angelfish if the aquarium is large enough. It is a semi-aggressive so the best tank mates are those that are also semi-aggressive, and of a different size and color. This angelfish is considered one of the safer choices for a reef aquarium as they tend not to pick on sessile invertebrates. But as with many of the large angelfish, an older adult can start to reek havoc on the reef, so do be cautious.


Scientific Classification


Goldflake Angelfish – Quick Aquarium Care

Aquarist Experience Level:Intermediate
Aquarium Hardiness:Moderately Difficult
Minimum Tank Size:100 gal (379 L)
Size of fish – inches9.8 inches (24.99 cm)
Temperature:74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8&deg C)
Range ph:8.0-8.4
Diet Type:Omnivore

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Goldflake Angelfish Apolemichthys xanthopunctatus was described by Burgess in 1973. This angelfish is a member of the Pomacanthidae family of the Apolemichthys genus, which currently has only 9 described species. They are found in the Central-Western Pacific Ocean between the Gilbert and Line Islands, as well as from the eastern Caroline Islands, Phoenix Islands, Christmas Island, and Line Islands.

This species is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concerned (LC) with a stable population. Other common names it is know by include Gold-spangled Angelfish, Goldspotted Angelfish, Gold-Speckled Angelfish, Golden Spotted Angelfish, and Golden-spangled Angelfish.

These angelfish are found at depths from 32 to 213 feet (10 – 65 m). They inhabit deep lagoons and channels as well as outer reef slopes and drop offs. Juveniles prefer the deeper waters over 98 feet (30 m) in areas near ledges and fore-reef habitats. They feed on benthic algae and weeds in the wild, along with zoobenthos, sponges and tunicates. They are found alone, in pairs and in small groups.

  • Scientific Name: Apolemichthys xanthopunctatus
  • Social Grouping: Pairs – They are found alone, in pairs, and in small groups.
  • IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern – They have a stable population in the wild.


The Goldflake Angelfish is brownish yellow, with bright lemon yellow spots or flakes speckling the body. The concentration of speckling can increase closer to the head area. The head is yellow with a purplish nose and mouth, as well as a black spot on the forehead above the eye area. The dorsal, anal, and tail fin are black, with some of the edges being light blue. The pectoral and pelvic fins are opaque to light clearish gray. This angelfish grows up to 10? (25 cm). Their lifespan is unknown at this time, but the average lifespan of angelfish is 10 to 15 years.

Juveniles closely resemble a young Flagfin Angelfish or Threespot Angelfish, A. trimaculatus. They are mostly bright yellow and are rounder, less elongate as the adults. The anal fin, tail fin and back section of the dorsal fin are black. Near the back of the dorsal fin, this black area seems like it is tear dropping into the body area, forming an irregular shape. This shape is trimmed in yellow near the bottom and sides, with blue at the top edge of the back of the dorsal fins. An irregular bar that runs between each eye, and rises toward the forehead.

As they metamorphosis into adults they retain the black bar at the forehead area, but loose the black bar that connects to each of the eyes.

  • Size of fish – inches: 9.8 inches (24.99 cm)
  • Lifespan: 10 years – The average lifespan of angelfish is 10 to 15 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Goldflake Angelfish is moderately difficult to care for. It is an intermediate level fish since certain parameters must be met. It is best to acquire a specimen that is a sub-adult since they adapt to captivity faster, accepting a wider variety of foods fairly quickly after being added to the aquarium. Juveniles that are 1.6†(4.5 cm) or less, tend to be reluctant to feed and adults are very picky and tend to waste away. A sub adult would be from 2†to 4.5†(5 to 12 cm), and a better investment.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

The Goldflake Angelfish is an omnivore that feeds on benthic algae and weeds, zoobenthos, sponges and tunicates in the wild. In the aquarium it does best with live rock that has plenty of algae growth. About two thirds of their diet consists of vegetable foods and about a third of sponge, tunicates and meaty foods. It is important that you feed angelfish a variety of good foods; all kinds of live, frozen, and prepared formula foods. Best to feed small amounts 2 to 3 times a day, less in tanks with plenty of natural occurring algae that they can nibble on.

Feed them prepared frozen foods with spirulina, foods with sponge material and algae sheets as well. Chopped fish and shrimp, along with enriched mysis and brine shrimp should also should be provided. A good formula that can be made at home consists of mussels, shrimp, squid, and spinach. There are also several good commercial foods available including Formula II and Angel Formula.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore – Feed preparations that have sponge and spirulina algae added, specifically for angelfish.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Occasionally
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Most of Diet – 60% to 70% of their diet is vegetable matter.
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet – 30% to 40% of their diet is proteins.
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day – They need several feedings a day that includes vegetable matter, sponge material, and meaty foods.

Aquarium Care

These angelfish are quite durable when good water conditions and several feedings a day are provided. Typical care would be water changes of 10 – 15% every two weeks in a 100 gallon tank or 20% in a tank over 175 gallons. Using testing equipment is suggested to tell you when to do a water change. As with all angelfish, keeping the pH at 8.0 to 8.4 is ideal.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly – Suggested water changes of 10-15% bi-weekly for a 100 gallon tank, and 20% for larger aquariums or 175 gallons or more..

Aquarium Setup

They will do well in a typical reef setting with live rock and places to hide, but also make sure there is open area for the Goldflake Angelfish to swim. A mature tank of at least 100 gallons (378.5 l) minimum is needed, though 125 gallons (473 l) is best. Provide water parameters of: 74-82° F, pH 8.0-8.4, sg 1.023-1.025.Live rock that has plenty of algae crops growing on it is ideal. Form several hiding places within the rock work towill help your angelfish feel secure.

The Goldflake Angelfish need large amounts of vegetable foods to stay healthy and its best if they do not have to compete with other fish for naturally growing algae. They should also be the only angelfish in the tank unless it is over 150 gallons. If including other large angelfish in the tank, the Goldflake Angelfish should be one of the first of the larger angelfish added to the tank.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gal (379 L) – A tank that is 100 gallons is the absolute minimum, and 125 gallons (473 l) is best. Keep a male/female pair in tanks over 150 gallons.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places – Hiding places are needed to help the angelfish adapt to captivity and feel secure.
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting – Lighting is needed to provide algal crops on the live rock.
  • Temperature: 74.0 to 82.0° F (23.3 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Range ph: 8.0-8.4
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any
  • Water Region: All

Social Behaviors

The Goldflake Angelfish is semi-aggressive, and will go after peaceful tank mates. They will fight with their own conspecifics unless a mated pair. If adding an additional fish after this fish is established, re-arranging rock work may help. They will be picked on by more aggressive angelfish if added after them, and in tanks under 135 gallons. Otherwise, they get along with most semi-aggressive fish. Although juveniles are okay in a reef, adults will pick on soft corals and stony corals, so they are not the best reef resident.

If you want to keep them with other angelfish, the tank should be at least 150 gallons with the following guidelines:

  • The tank should be mature, over 6 months.
  • There should be many hiding places, several for each angelfish. Having lots of places to hide and plenty of room to swim will help the more docile angelfish avoid the “higher ups†in the tank.
  • When introducing the first angelfish, they should be the most peaceful of the different genera, such as this angelfish.
  • Introduce the more aggressive angels last, like those in the Holacanthus group.
  • You may place juveniles of two different species, and two different sizes. Make sure you do not put them with other juveniles that are of the same coloration.
  • Before adding a new angelfish to a tank with an existing angelfish, feed the tank first.
  • If the new fish is harassed, rearrange the rock work and turn the lights off for the rest of the day.
  • Remove any angelfish that are constantly fighting and which is resulting in physical injury to each other.

These guidelines can also apply in general when adding other types of fish.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Sometimes – Only in a large tank over 150 gallons, and add at the same time.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Monitor – Can be aggressive towards peaceful tank mates.
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Safe
    • Safe
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Safe
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Monitor – As long as your angelfish cannot fit into their mouths.
    • Threat – Will out compete slow eaters for food.
    • Anemones: Threat
    • Mushroom Anemones – Corallimorphs: Threat
    • LPS corals: Threat
    • SPS corals: Monitor – A well fed angelfish may leave small polyp stony corals alone, although there is no guarantee.
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Threat
    • Leather Corals: Threat
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Threat
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Threat
    • Zoanthids – Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Threat
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat
    • Starfish: Threat
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Threat
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Threat
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe – Will eat small amounts living within the algae, but this is not enough to impact the copepod population, and it is a good source of meat for them.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive

Sex: Sexual differences

These angelfish do not display sexual dimorphism. Sexual differences are unknown though males may be larger.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Goldflake Angelfish may spawnin a larger public aquarium. Successful breeding most likely can only be accomplished in a very large display aquarium. Most home aquarists will not have a tank large enough to encourage spawning with this angelfish.

Angelfishgenerally are broadcast spawners, releasing eggs and sperm simultaneously at dusk. They dance then rise into the water column and release their eggs and sperm near the top of the water. Spawning starts before sunset with females extending all her fins as she swims next to the male. The male will go under the female and nuzzle her belly, then darts down about 2.3†to 3.9†(6 to 10 cm). The female then turns to her side and both release a white cloud of gametes containing sperm and eggs. Both males and females may mate with several others on the same evening.

  • Ease of Breeding: Unknown

Fish Diseases

Goldflake Angelfish 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.


Goldflake Angelfish are relatively easy to obtain, especially during the winter months, but they are fairly expensive.



Featured Image Credit: Dennis-Jacobsen, Shutterstock