The Multicolor Angelfish is one of the most unique dwarf angels, unusual in both looks and behaviors!

The Multicolor Angelfish Centropyge multicolor is a very attractive small angel, that only grows to 3 1/2 inches (9 cm) in length. Although not as flashy as some of the other dwarf angels, it looks something like a contemporary painting. Splashed with a multitude of colors, this is a durable, good tempered dwarf angelfish. With Its rich color accents It makes an attractive aquarium specimen for both beginners and advanced aquarists alike.

This little angel is creamy on top and yellow towards its belly, but a white back isits signature marking. It is most similar in appearance to the Nahacky’s Angelfish Centropyge nahackyi, with boht having the purple and black striped area on top of the eye and on some of the fins. But the Nahacky differs in being dark on the upper part of body without any of the white. Some other descriptive common names it is known by are Multicolor Pygmy Angelfish, Pastel Pygmy Angelfish, Many-colored Angelfish, and Multicolor Dwarf Angelfish.

This is a more recently discovered dwarf angelfishthat was described by Randall and Wass in 1974. What’s amazing is that this fish went unknown for many years, to then be discovered by three different people all within a few months of each other. It was first collected at Tahiti by an aquarium fish collector, Mr. Clemens Classen. That was followed a couple months later by the well known ichthyologist Dr. John Randall who collected it at the Majuro Atoll in the Marshal Islands. And then it was collected by the Dr. Gerald Allen a few months after that at the Enewetak Atoll also in the Marshal Islands. Interestingly, they have been found to have different social structures that occur at each ofthe different habitats in which they live. In some areas theylive singly while in others theylivein small harems of one male with just a few females. But there are otherareas where they live in small groups having one malewitha number offemales and several juveniles as well.

This is a good angelfish for an intermediate aquarist, and even a beginner if close attention is given to its care. It will need plenty of live rock offering numerous places to hide, an appropriate sized tank, and clean water. if stressed, resulting in illness, they are very sensitive to copper based medications. However this is a fairly hardy aquarium inhabitant once it is acclimated. This dwarf angelfish is regularly available and though usually a bit more expensive than other Centropyge angels, it has been cultivated successfully for the aquarium. It has been bred and raised at Reef Culture Technologies in Hawaii.

These dwarf angelfish are a very active swimmers and need a tank no smaller than 55 gallons (208 l). Typical of dwarf angelfish, they do like to dart into various hiding places when feeling threatened. Being a deeper water dweller they like lower lighting, though overhangs and plenty of sheltered openingsin the rock can work equally well. These deep water fish also need the pH level kept up and consistent at 8.1 to 8.4. If not kept in a reef set up, have enough lighting to promote algae growth for them to consume. An area of rubble for detritus to collect and for algae to grow on, will help provide them with natural foods.

The proper tank mates are important. They will not do well in smaller tanks due to their very active nature and their belligerence toward similar sized and smaller non-aggressive fish. The disposition of the Multicolor Angelfish is almost a reversal from that found in most dwarf angelfish, lending them to a different grouping of tankmates than other Centropyge. As they can be quite aggressive, these are one of the few dwarf angelfish that do better with more aggressive tankmates. The best companions are dottybacks, damsels, tangs, larger angelfish and less aggressive triggerfish like the Niger Trigger. It’s not advisable to keep them with fairy wrasses, anthias, butterflyfish, other angelfish, or any other peaceful fish as they will harass these tankmates constantly.

A reef environment is actually an ideal habitat for it. But as with most of the pygmy angelfish in a reef it may damage some of the stony and soft coral species. This is an individual behavior with each fish having its own tendencies. If you wish to try it in a reef keep, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your corals and see how your fish will behave.

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

Multicolor Angel (Centropyge multicolor)

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Multicolor Angelfish searching for little morsels in a reef tank.

This is a very nice video showing proper tank mates for the Multicolor Angelfish. This is a juvenile, since juveniles have an eye-spot on the top back of their dorsal fin. This one’s looks like it is almost gone. They, like other Centropyge angelfish, need at least 50 gallons with plenty of live rock to hide and forage from. They are more expensive than most dwarf angelfish, but cheaper than some, yet their moderately hardiness makes them worth the money!

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacanthidae
  • Genus: Centropyge
  • Species: multicolor
Multicolor Angelfish – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Size of fish – inches: 3.5 inches (8.99 cm)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 76.0 to 81.0° F (24.4 to 27.2&deg C)
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Multicolor Angelfish Centropyge multicolor was described by Randall & Wass in 1974. They are found in the Central Pacific; Marshall Islands, Marianas, Palau, Society Islands, Fiji, Cook Islands and Hawaiian Islands. Randall and Wass also described the Golden AngelfishCentropyge aurantia at the same time. This species is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC) as this dwarf angelfish has a large population and a wide distribution. There is a limited collection for the pet industry but there are no major threats currently identified. Other common names for it is known by include Multicolor Pygmy Angelfish, Pearlback Angelfish, Pastel Pygmy Angelfish, Many-colored Angelfish, and Multicolor Dwarf Angelfish.

This is a species that went unknown for centuries, but there was quite a surprising turn of events when it was collected by three separate individuals all within just a few months of each other. Dr. Gerald Allen states that he caught it for the first time at the Majuro Atoll in the Marshal Islands. But then he found out that the well known ichthyologist Dr. John Randall had already captured a specimen at the Majuro Atoll in the Marshal Islands, and that a third person, an aquarium fish collector named Mr. Clemens Classen, has collected a specimen at Tahiti a couple months before Randall.

This species of Centropyge is a deep dwelling angelfish found among rocks at depths between 65 – 377 feet (20-115) meters. But they can be found in shallower waters on occasion on reef drop offs at 39 feet (12 m). They inhabit steep outer reef slopes that consist of small areas of rubble that lay between areas where there is abundant coral growth. It is rarely seen in its Hawaiian habitat, where the closely related Nahacky’s Angelfish Centropyge nahackyi is found.

They tend to vary in their social structure, which is dependent on their habitat. On the steep rubble slopes in deeper levels they have loose groupings of four to ten, which includes juveniles. On reef walls they are found by themselves and in other areas there will be one male and three to five females. They feed on plants such as benthic weeds and algae, as well as zoobenthos which include hard coral polyps, sponges, ascidians (sea squirts), and tunicates.

  • Scientific Name: Centropyge multicolor
  • Social Grouping: Varies – Some areas have loose groupings of 4-10, which includes juveniles, in others they are found by singly, and still in others there will be 1 male and 3-5 females.
  • IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern – A stable population.


The Multicolor Angelfish has the typical shape for dwarf angels, with a small elongated oval shaped body and rounded fins. Adults typically reach 3 1/2 inches (9 cm) in length, but most available specimens are around 2 3/4 inches (7 cm) or smaller. This Angelfish may live for about 6 years with good care, and possibly longer.

This is definitely a multicolored fish. It is a creamy white on the upper half of body, with an yellow to orangish on the belly, also with a yellow area that runs from the face to the chin. At the anal area it darkens to a tannish brown. The head has a deep blue mask type marking with vertical black striping just above the eye and it extends back to the area above the gills.The caudal fin is yellow, the dorsal and anal fins bluish black with deep blue margins, and the pectoral and pelvic fins are yellow. Juveniles have similar colors as the adults, except that the very back top of the dorsal fin has an eye spot. The rest of the dorsal fin is more of a dull to dusky tan that turns to purple as the fish ages.

It is very similar to, and closely resembles the Nahacky’s Pygmy Angelfish C. nahackyi. However the Nahacky’s differs in that it has no white area, rather the purple and black striping over the eyes extends back along the sides into the area under the dorsal fin. Also closely related to it is the Blue Mauritius Dwarf Angelfish C. debelius This angelfish looks much different with has an overall deep blue body and a yellow area on the face and chest. It also has numerous black spots in head region.

  • Size of fish – inches: 3.5 inches (8.99 cm)
  • Lifespan: 6 years – It can average a lifespan of 6 years or longer. Centropyge have been known to live over 10 years in captivity.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Once this angelfish is successfully acclimated it will become a hardy fish and can be very rewarding for a dedicated beginning or intermediate aquarist. it takes a variety of foods and is easily kept in a captive environment. Be sure to provide your colorful little fish with a tank that is at least 55 gallons (208 l), since they are very active swimmers, and they can be aggressive so the extra room will benefit all involved!

To acclimate this fish when you first acquire it you need to help it feel secure. Do this by providing multiple hiding places and keep it with a few non-aggressive but active fish such as flasher wrasses or chromis damsels. These active yet types of fish can entice it to come out and explore, also encouraging it to accept food. It may harm the polyps of some stony and soft coral species, so housing in a reef-type aquarium needs to be done with caution.

When purchasing this dwarf angelfish observe it carefully. The breathing should be calm and the fish should be a healthy weight, especially in the head area. It should be eating at the store and appear very curious yet cautious. Also make sure there are no visible sores or lesions. This angelfish should do well with a varied diet, high quality clean water, and parameters with the proper pH levels. Once it is successfully acclimatized it will become a very hardy fish.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner – Most dwarf angelfish are suggested for the intermediate aquarist, but the Multicolor Angelfish may kept by a beginner if a proper tank and good care are provided.

Foods and Feeding

The Multicolor Angelfish is an omnivore. In the wild it feeds on benthic algae, benthic weeds, and zoobenthos such as hard coral polyps. In the aquarium it will do well with spirulina enhanced flakes and will sometimes accept pellets. Include frozen prepared diets for sponge and algae eaters, along with some mysis and brine shrimp. There are several good commercial foods available including Formula II and Angel Formula.

Feed frequently at first with various foods, including frozen mysis and brine shrimp to get them feeding. Then feed at least twice a day in a tank with bountiful natural foods, but more if in a bare tank. Having naturally growing algae crops in the tank is very helpful, as well as sponge and other morsels to help them adjust to prepared foods. If it is a tiny juvenile provide it with foods three to four times everyday.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore – Feed products that have sponge material and spirulina added.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet – Live fortified gut loaded brine or mysis shrimp may be used to help illicit an initial feeding response. It can also be used as a treat.
  • Vegetable Food: Half of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Half of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day – Feed often in the beginning until it starts to eat prepared foods, then feed twice a day or more for adults and up to 4 times a day for a juvenile.

Aquarium Care

The Multicolor Angelfish is not as touchy as some of the other species of angelfish, but still needs good water. Frequent water changes are not necessary, rather normal water changes at 10 – 15% biweekly or 20% monthly are fine. If there are corals in the tank then change 20% every month; 10% every 2 weeks or 5% a week works great too. Keeping up with your water testing will tell you when your tank needs a water change.

Sudden massive water changes can cause trouble. A suggestion when performing your water changes is to clean one side of the tank at one water change, by vacuuming the rock and sand, then then during the next water change clean the other side the same way. Make sure the pH does not drop below 8.1 since they will not do well in lower pH levels for very long.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly – Water changes of 10 – 15% every 2 weeks, or 20% a month is optimal in keeping nitrates lower and the water clean.

Aquarium Setup

Multicolor Angelfish is moderately hardy but will need an established, stable tank that is at least 55 gallons. This is a very active swimmer and it can be aggressive, so anything smaller should be avoided. If keeping a known male/ female pair the tank should be at least 75 gallons (283 l). According to RCT in Hawaii, who have successfully bred them in captivity, they also do best in temperatures from 76 to 81ËšF.

It will need plenty of live rock with multiple hiding places throughout since it spends most of its time swimming between hiding places. Putting an area of rubble for detritus to collect between and algae to grow on is a great plus for this guy. It would also be an ideal candidate for a deep reef tank, with selective corals. But it may harm polyps of some stony and soft coral species, so housing it in a reef-type aquariums needs to be done with care.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L) – A minimum of 75 (283 l) gallons or more will be needed for a male/female pair.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places
  • Substrate Type: Any – They like areas of rubble in which to forage for algae and benthic creatures.
  • Lighting Needs: Any – They are deeper water dwellers, so if acclimating them to higher lighting, provide plenty of places for them to take shelter.
  • Temperature: 76.0 to 81.0° F (24.4 to 27.2&deg C) – 76Ëš F (24Ëš C) 81Ëš F (27Ëš C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG – These deeper water dwellers live in a higher salinity that’s closer to 1.025, so the minimum of 1.023 would be suggested for best results and longer life.
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4 – These angelfish will deteriorate quickly with a ph lower than 8.1.
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any – Water movement is not a significant factor. It can tolerate a bit stronger flow, but slow-moving water is preferable.
  • Water Region: Bottom – Mostly bottom dwellers, but once acclimated they may swim in the mid areas of the tank.

Social Behaviors

The Multicolor Angelfish is one of the more aggressive dwarf angelfish. Thus in a community aquarium its tank mates should not be smaller or less aggressive fish. Do not house with fairy wrasses, gobies, butterfish, other pygmy angelfish and anthias. Some better tankmates fish that they can be kept with include dottybacks, tangs, larger angelfish, less aggressive triggers and damselfish. is recommended for fish only community aquariums.

They can be kept in a fish only tank as well as a reef tank. It is said to be a reef safe fish as it does well in a coral-rich tank with sessile inverts, but it may eat some species of hard and soft corals. However not every fish is going to damage corals, the behavior of each individual fish will be different. If you do want to keep it in a reef observe its behavior towards the corals closely, removing it to a fish only tank if it tends to pick at them for any length of time.

They will pick at select stony and soft corals, so a good test is trying a coral in the tank to see how the angelfish reacts, just don’t glue it down until you are sure. Generally dwarf angelfish will stay away from the more toxic and distasteful soft corals of the Lemnalia, Sinularia, Sarcophytom, Cladiella, Paralemnalia, and Effatounaria genera. They also tend to avoid mushroom corals, but will try to eat their waste. The same may go for anemones, and if the anemone is guarded by a clownfish it should be fine.

Invertebrates may be picked on if this angelfish is not well fed. They will not bother shrimp, snails, usually not most starfish unless it has something yummy in its tentacles and the angelfish wants it. For the most part though, they will not eat the starfish. They may pick at tubeworms, including feather dusters, and should not be kept with clams, scallops, and oysters since they eat the slime they exude, thus making the animal stay closed which will eventually cause it to starve to death.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive – This is one of the more aggressive dwarf angelfish.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Sometimes – A Male/Female pair can be kept in a tank of 75 gallons or more.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Threat – This dwarf angelfish is belligerent toward peaceful fish.
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor – Most anthias will be picked on. Only other aggressive dwarf angelfish in a large tank, and only very aggressive clownfish like Maroon Clowns, can be kept with the Multicolor Angelfish.
    • Safe
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Safe – This is not typical for dwarf angelfish, but it is true for the Multicolor Angelfish.
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Monitor – Do not house with fish large enough to eat your dwarf angelfish.
    • Threat – The Multicolor Angelfish is a threat to these slow moving and feeding animals.
    • Anemones: Safe – As long as a pugnacious clownfish is guarding the anemone, it should be okay though the angelfish may try to eat the waste the anemone expels.
    • Mushroom Anemones – Corallimorphs: Safe – They may eat the waste that the mushroom expels.
    • LPS corals: Monitor – They may feed of the slime or mucous that these corals expel, which will cause corals to close and eventually die.
    • SPS corals: Monitor – They may feed of the slime or mucous that these corals expel, which will cause corals to close and eventually die.
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Monitor – They may feed of the slime or mucous that these corals expel, which will cause corals to close and eventually die.
    • Leather Corals: Safe – Safe with most noxious corals from the Sinularia, Sarcophytom, Cladiella, and Paralemnalia genera.
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Monitor – Safe with most Xenia from the Effatounaria genus.
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Threat
    • Zoanthids – Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Threat
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe – May pick on very tiny shrimp but ornamental shrimp should be left alone.
    • Starfish: Monitor – May try to take the food from the starfish’ tentacles if not well fed.
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Monitor – Will not bother Bristle Worms, but will nip at the feathery appendages of Feather Dusters and Christmas tree worms.
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Threat – They may graze on the slime they exude preventing them from opening fully, which can cause eventual death of the coral.
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

Males are typically larger than females.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Multicolor Angelfish is being successfully bred and cultivated in Hawaii, along with several other species of Centropyge. These fish are hardy, adapt well to captivity, and will often spawn in the aquarium even without any special provisions. However egg production can be poor and random when their diet and the subsequent care of the young is not given due consideration.

It has a courtship that is not typical for dwarf angelfish. Their courtship is quickly over. They do not look for special places to spawn off like coral outcrops, but they stay low in the reef, close to the substrate. Spawning commences with some nuzzling and then a slow rise to just under 3†(7 cm) where they release their sperm and eggs. Unlike most other dwarf angelfish, the male does not chase the female after they spawn. Reef Culture Technologies (RCT) from Hawaii mentions that the larvae’s complete metamorphosis can take up to 55 days in unfavorable conditions.

  • Ease of Breeding: Difficult – Has been cultivated by Reef Culture Technologies (RCT) in Hawaii.

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 Multicolor Angelfish is available fairly regularly at retailers, but does command a higher price than many of the other dwarf angelfish. In Hawaii the species has been cultivated successfully for the aquarium trade. They ship well and these hardier juvenile and young specimens are becoming popular. Most of the available specimens do not exceed a length of 2 3/4 inches (7cm).