The Lemonpeel Angelfish is a bright, spunky dwarf angel that loves its vegetables!

The Lemonpeel Angelfish Centropyge flavissima is one of the larger dwarf angels, reaching a length of 5.5″ (14 cm). The popularity of the Lemon Peel Angel is due to its striking coloration. It’s a vibrant yellow fish accented with a light blue trim around the eyes, gill cover, edges of the fins, and sometimes the lips.

There are many yellow dwarf angels that come under the “Lemonpeel” description, but only 2 are most commonly imported. The blue “trim” is what will tell you if you are looking at the “true” Lemonpeel Angel C. flavissima rather than the other common import, the Herald’s AngelfishC. heraldi. The Herald’s Angelfish, also known as the False Lemonpeel Angelfish, looks almost exactly like a Lemonpeel Angelfish but without the blue ring around the eye and gill covers. Also, Herald’s angelfish is not as dependent on algae in it’s diet as the Lemonpeel is.

The Lemon Peel Angel is similar in behavior and hardiness to other large Centropyge angels such as the Bicolor Angelfish Centropyge bicolor. It is very attractive and great for a fish aquarium, but is not always as easy to keep as many other angelfish. Like the Bicolor, the Lemonpeel Angel is a more aggressive pygmy angel and not necessarily a good inhabitant for a reef tank. It tends to feed only on algae and will often nip on corals and other invertebrates, including the mantles of clams. The Lemonpeel is not as hardy starting out in captivity, but sometimes it can actually be more hardy than other dwarf angels once it’s established.

This angel makes up for its lack of coral compatibility with its brilliant coloration. It is a great addition for a “fish only with live rock” aquarium (FOWLR). However, they are aggressive for a dwarf angelfish and may pick on less aggressive and smaller tank mates. They need quite a bit of algae to graze on daily, along with several feedings a day. This shows the need for a larger system that can handle such a bio-load. This dwarf angelfish will spawn in captivity, yet raising the larvae is quite a difficult task. They also like warmer water that ranges from 75 degrees F up to 83 degrees F for spawning.

A decent sized tank, at least 55-60 gallons, with algae growing on live rock is recommended. A tank that is 75 to 100 gallons will be needed for a pair. Within the tank, offer plenty of hiding spaces within the rocks to make them feel secure. It’s best not to house them with corals, clams or any other sessile invertebrates. They do have a taste for the slim that protects corals, yet it has been stated that some will leave cnidarians alone. Even then, keep a close eye on prized specimens. According to one source they control many types of growth including diatom coating, stringy algae growth, Ulva rigida and Lactuca , some species of Derbesia , and some Entermorpha species.

Look for a Lemonpeel Angelfish that is alert and aware of its surroundings. The coloration should be bright, not faded which indicates illness or other issues. It should also look well fed and plump, readily eating when offered food. All Lemon Peel Angels are born female and can be paired according to size. Since the larger fish becomes male, creating a pair may be possible by buying one large and one small Lemonpeel Angelfish. Within a few months they hopefully they will assume their roles as male and female. Spend the extra money on the Indian Ocean species from Christmas Island and Cocos-Keeling Islands, as they have a better chance of surviving in captivity.

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

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacanthidae
  • Genus: Centropyge
  • Species: flavissima
Lemonpeel Angel – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Size of fish – inches: 5.5 inches (13.97 cm)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Range ph: 8.0-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Lemonpeel Angelfish Centropyge flavissima was described by Cuvier in 1831. This pygmy angel is a member of the Pomacanthidae family, of the genus Centropyge, which currently has over 33 species. It is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concerned (LC) with a stable population. Other common names they are know by are Lemonpeel Dwarf Angelfish and Lemon Peel Angel.

They are found throughout the Central Pacific Ocean. In the Indo-Pacific they are found in Cocos-Keeling Islands and the Atoll Islands to the Line Islands, Marquesan Island and Ducie Islands and at times Easter Island, then north to the Ryukyu Island, and south to Rapa and New Caledonia. They are also reported from the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef of Australia, with rare but occasional sighting from the western side of its distribution including Palau, Philippines, New Guinea, Indonesia, and Japan.

The Lemonpeel Angelfish live alone as juveniles, but as adults they are found in pairs or in small harems of one male and three females. They inhabit coral rich areas of exposed seaward reefs from the lower surge zone and also in shallow lagoons at depths of 9 to 164 feet (3 to 50 m). They feed primarily on algae and detritus.

This dwarf angelfish is closely related to the Pearl-Scaled Angelfish or Half Black Angel Centropyge Vroliki and the Eibli Angelfish or Black Tail Angel Centropyge Eibli. It regularly hybridizes with the Pearl-Scaled Angelfish in various parts of Micronesia, and also hybridizes with the Eibli Angelfish at Christmas Island.

Other fish with a very similar appearance to the Lemonpeel Angel are the Herald’s Angelfish or False Lemonpeel Angelfish Centropyge heraldi. The primary difference in their coloration is that the Herald’s Angel lacks the blue accents found on the Lemonpeel. It is also mimicked in the wild by the juvenile Chocolate Tang or Mimic TangAcanthurus pyroferus. But these tangs loose their yellow coloration as they mature.

  • Scientific Name: Centropyge flavissima
  • Social Grouping: Groups – Adults are found in pairs or in harems that usually consist of one male and three females.
  • IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern – Stable population.


The Lemonpeel Angelfish has the typical shape for a dwarf species, having a small elongated oval shaped body with rounded fins. They grow to a maximum length of 5.5″ (14 cm) and have a lifespan of about 11 years in the aquarium with proper care.

Lemonpeel Angelfish, Centropyge flavissimus
Lemonpeel Angelfish Photo © Animal-World

These dwarf angels are typically bright yellow with a blue and black line on the gill cover. Some of their fins are edged with blue as well and there can be some blue on the lips. Specimens originating from the Pacific Ocean also have a blue circle around the eye. This eye ring is missing from those originating Indian Ocean, and there is some speculation that this could indicate a separate species.

The juveniles are the same color as the adults, but they also have an ocellus, or eyespot on each side. These are a large black dot edged with blue located in the middle of the body. Lemonpeel Angelfish often cross breed with C. vroliki (Pearlscale Angelfish) which tend to be more hardy.

  • Size of fish – inches: 5.5 inches (13.97 cm)
  • Lifespan: 11 years – They have a lifespan of 11 years in captivity.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Lemon Peel Angel are moderately hardy to keep, and suggested for an intermediate marine aquarist. They can be easy to moderate to care for if you are careful to get a healthy individual who is alert, eating, and curious.

They need a mature tank that is minimum of 55 gallons (208 l) with plenty of algae growth. Of utmost importance is multiple places to hide, so they will feel secure enough to come out. They also like a bit warmer aquarium than other dwarf angels, preferring over 81 degrees F (27 C). So If you have a finicky eater try increasing the temperature slightly. Do not let pH drop below 8.0 and nitrates need to be very low. Any nitrites can be lethal.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult – They can be a challenge when first acquired, but once established become a very durable dwarf angelfish. A healthy individual who is alert, eating, and curious about its surroundings will stand a better chance at survival. Keeping the temperature at 81˚F minimum to stimulate their appetite has been suggested.
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

The Lemonpeel Angelfish is an omnivore, but their diet mainly consists of algae. They need algae naturally growing in the tank to be healthy. Feeding them 2 to 3 times a day and offering a variety of good foods is important. These include prepared foods with marine algae, spirulina enriched foods, frozen mysid shrimp, shaved shrimp and brine shrimp. There are several good commercial foods available including Formula II and Angel Formula.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore – They are an omnivore, leaning more toward algae consumption. Offer a diet with Spirulina algae and sponge material included.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet – Live brine shrimp (gut loaded) and live black worms have been said to illicit a feeding response to finicky fish.
  • Vegetable Food: Most of Diet – Their diet mainly consists of algae.
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day – Feedings depend on the size of the tank. Generally they should be fed 2 to 3 times a day, with less in a tank with a lot of natural algae sources. However, if it is a larger tank with more algae for them to forage from, then feed 1 to 2 times day.

Aquarium Care

The Lemonpeel Dwarf Angelfish is moderately difficult to keep. Water quality and tank size are important. Keep in mind these angelfish are constant grazers and like tangs, lots of food in equals a lot of bio load, so water quality must be monitored. They need a pH of at least 8.0, and water changes that do not include scrubbing algae off of rock. If the tank is 55 to 60 gallons, a bi-weekly change of 10% to 15% would be good. If your tank is over 100 gallons, maybe every 3 weeks to a month do a 20% change, and so on.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly – A 10% to 15% water change bi-weekly to keep water clean is suggested unless tank is over 100 gallons, then 20% every 3 weeks to a month.

Aquarium Setup

They will do well in a typical reef setting with live rock and plenty of places to hide. The aquarium needs to be at least 6 months old or more to provide all the necessary algae to feed your angelfish. It may be helpful have areas of rubble for the algae to grow on, which will aid in feeding them their needed veggies. A minimum of 55 gallons is needed for one fish and 75 or more for a mated pair. Provide water parameters of: 72-82° F, pH 8.0-8.4, sg 1.020-1.025. Even juveniles need an established tank that is at least 55 gallons. Add dwarf angels to the tank at the same time and as last additions.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L) – A tank of at least 55 gallons with plenty of algae growth for a single specimen, and 75 gallons or more for a pair.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places – Hiding places are key to helping dwarf angelfish feel secure. A good amount of live rock to supply natural foods is also important.
  • Substrate Type: Any – They do well with a “rubble” substrate that facilitates algal growth.
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting – Lighting should be strong enough to support algae growth. If tank has low lighting, making sure direct sunlight hits the tank to support this natural food is suggested
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 82.0° F (23.9 to 27.8&deg C) – This angelfish prefers a slightly warmer aquarium than other dwarf angels.
  • Breeding Temperature: 79.0° F – They need a temperature of 79 to 83 degrees F (26 – 28 C) for 14-16 hours a day for spawning behavior.
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG – Angelfish in general do not do under 1.023 for long periods of time.
  • Range ph: 8.0-8.4 – Angelfish will deteriorate quickly under 8.0.
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any – They like some areas of strong and weak movement. A weaker movement would be appreciated along the bottom for feeding.
  • Water Region: Bottom – They will also inhabit mid level areas of the tank.

Social Behaviors

The Lemonpeel Angelfish, like other members of this genus, is solitary and stays close to shelter. It is aggressive toward other fish in the same genus so should be kept alone in a 55 gallon tank. They can be kept as a male/female pair or small harem in a larger aquarium, one that is 75 to 100 gallons. Two males will fight to the death.

These pygmy angels are territorial and they will pick on less aggressive and smaller tank mates. Dwarf angelfish need to be the last fish added into a tank. They will nip and pick at corals, clams and other sessile invertebrates, so reef tanks are not suggested. It has been stated that Lemon Peel Angels tend to leave cnidarians alone, but even this is a 50/50 shot.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive – This is one of the more aggressive Centropyge angelfish.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Sometimes – A male/Female pair can be kept in a tank over 75 gallons (284 l), a larger tank will be needed for a small harem.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Threat
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor – Will harass smaller fish like clowns and anthias if tank is only 55 gallons. Larger tanks, that are at least 75 gallons, with more hiding places will allow these semi-aggressive smaller fish to fair better.
    • Safe
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Safe
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Monitor – Safe unless the tankmate is large enough to eat the Lemonpeel Angelfish.
    • Threat – Angel fish will out compete slow moving fish for food.
    • 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: Threat – They may graze on the slime they exude preventing them from opening fully, which can cause eventual death of the coral.
    • SPS corals: Threat – 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, but still monitor for individual preferences.
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Monitor – Safe with most from the genus Effatounaria, but still monitor for individual preferences.
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Monitor – May pick at appendages if not well fed.
    • 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 pick at appendages if not well fed.
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Threat
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Threat – Have been known to nip the mantles of clams. They may graze on the slime they exude preventing them from opening fully, which can cause eventual death.
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe – Will not decimate populations as it is not a obligate eater of these foods.

Sex: Sexual differences

All Centropyge are born as female, as they grow, the larger and more dominant fish will become male and if the male dies, the angelfish next in line 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 -3 months time. Of course, watch for aggression during this time.

Breeding / Reproduction

All dwarf angelfish 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.

Lemonpeel Angelfish spawn in the hobbyist’s marine aquariums with regularity, but that’s where the progress usually stops. They are very difficult to successfully breed in captivity. They prefer warmer water, especially when spawning, requiring excellent water quality, and then a good food for the larvae.

A larger deep tank is needed, 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. They need a temperature of 79 to 83 degrees F (26 – 28 C) for 14-16 hours a day and at least a 20” tank height to allow for the rising and spawning behavior.

The planktonic eggs will hatch in just under 24 hours, and after hatching, within 24 to 36 hours they need microscopic algae for their very small mouths. Since raising these babies is difficult, much preparation is needed. The larvae react to only certain kinds of live foods. It has been found that they won’t eat rotifers and baby brine shrimp are simply too big for them, but it is said they will eat copepods.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult

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.


The Lemonpeel Angelfish is usually available online and in stores, and is moderately priced.