The Red Sea Angelfish is a very curious, cheeky fish that will often approach divers in the wild… to within 3 feet!

The Red Sea Angelfish Pomacanthus maculosus is an impressive fish with an agreeable personality. It is unabashed by visiting divers in the wild and very personable in the aquarium. In nature it will often approach divers within a meter, then retreat into the reef to re-emerge periodically to get another look. It makes a a great subject for underwater photography, and is an equallymagnificent attraction enjoyed by marine aquarists.

This is one of the largest species of angelfish reaching almost 20 inches (50 cm) in length. As an adult it has a violet blue body with a large yellow blotch on the side that some say resembles the continent of Africa. As a juvenile it is similar in appearance (and easily confused with) other young Pomacanthus, especially the Blue-ring Angelfish Pomacanthus annularis. Butas its color pattern begins to metamorphosis, the sub-adult begins to look very much like the Arabian Angelfish Pomacanthus asfur. It will havea similar looking vertical yellow bar on its body, but lack the bright yellow tailfin of the Arabian Angel. Its yellow marking develops as a characteristic “yellow band”, finally becoming more prominent and blotch-like as the fish ages. Hence this fish is also known by a number of descriptive common names including Yellowbar Angelfish, Half Moon Angelfish, Map Angelfish, Yellow-Band Angelfish, Yellow-blotch Angelfish, Blue-moon Angelfish, and more.

This angelfish is aggressive and very territorial in nature, always patrolling the reef. It’s generally a solitary fish and usually inhabits crevices in the reef, foraging for food. It is not too bashful when it comes to humans, whetherpeople are diving in its ocean or viewing it in the aquarium, this angelfish will curiously come forward and take a look. In captivity it is an excellent pet for alarge community aquarium. It has a personable demeanor and will spend more time out in the open than many other angelfish. Eventually it will even eat from your hand.

Once it has acclimated this handsome angelfish is quite hardy and easy to care. It can make a great first angelfish for the beginner and is a great choice for the experienced aquarist, but the keeper must be able to provide a very large aquarium. A 200 gal (757 L) tank is minimum, with 300 gallons being ideal. Regular water changes will be needed and it must be kept with the right tank mates. The aquarium should have plenty of open space for swimming, as well as rock work with some large crevices for retreat. It can live up to 20 years or more if properly taken care of.

Thisis not a reef safe fish as it will pick at live corals, but it will do well in acommunity tank with other larger and rather aggressive species. Itcanalsodo well with other Pomacanthus angelfish that are different in color and size. However it can be very aggressive towards other larger angelfish, and especially angels of the same species. Because they are very aggressive toward their own kind, keeping only one per tank is suggested unless it is a known mated pair. Avoid passive tank mates as they will take a brutal beating from this angelfish, especially from a juvenile.

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

Red Sea Angelfish (Pomacanthus maculosus)

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Fish only tank with full grown Red Sea Angelfish

Very interesting grouping of fish with this Red Sea Angelfish. Looks like a fish only with live rock tank. The angelfish is eating well and looks good. This fish will need a tank over 150 gallons once it reaches it almost 20″ size! They are easy to care for as long as the pH is kept at 8.0 and the water quality is high.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Pomacanthidae
  • Genus: Pomacanthus
  • Species: maculosus
Red Sea Angelfish – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 200 gal (757 L)
  • Size of fish – inches: 19.7 inches (50.01 cm)
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 81.0° F (22.2 to 27.2&deg C)
  • Range ph: 8.0-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Red Sea Angelfish Pomacanthus maculosus was described by Forsskal in 1775. They are found in and around the Arabian Peninsula which is bordered by the Red Sea to the west, the Persian Gulf to the northeast, and the Indian Ocean to the southeast. They occur in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, then along the East African coast down to Kenya. It is also found in the eastern tip of Persian Gulf (the other side of Saudi Arabia), the Gulf of Omen, and into the coasts of the Arabian Sea (the northwestern portion of the Indian Ocean).

This species is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC) as it is common with a wide distribution and there are no major threats currently identified. There are many common names for this fish which describe either its location, species, or coloring. The common name Red Sea Angelfish describes this fish by its location while Maculosus Angelfish describes the species. The name Map Angelfish refers to the yellow splotch on adults that can often be similar in shape to to the continent of Africa. Other namesdescribe it by coloring including Yellowbar Angelfish, Yellow-band Angelfish, Yellow-blotch Angelfish, Yellow-marked Angelfish, Purple Moon Angelfish, Blue Moon Angelfish, and Half Moon Angelfish.

First described from the Red Sea, this species was later found around northeast coasts of Africa and part of Arabian Gulf. It is thought that this angelfish was also found near Japan, but it is more than likely they are the result of aquarists releasing them into the wild.

Dr. Tanaka shares the curious mystery of this angelfish found in the waters of Japan, “The Red Sea Angelfish is ultimately believed to be restricted to the area described above, and found nowhere else. But one of my friends of Miyazaki, southern Japan photographed an adult at a coast of Miyazaki while he was diving in 2001. It was a kind of big news that the species has been recorded from Japan. He reported it to me again early 2005 and it should have grown up. The coloration was been nearly identical to that of an adult specimen, but because the shapes of the ‘map’ were different I think that this second fish is not the same specimen; it means that he saw the second specimen in the same area.

“Prior to the ‘discovery’ in Miyazaki, two other individuals had been recorded from two different areas of Japan. In December of 1960 the first specimen (184mm TL) was collected in Seto-naikai, and the 2nd (some 150mm TL) was observed in Shizuoka, central-southern Honshu in 1993. A 3rd specimen (250mm TL) was trapped at the depth of 5-7 meters, in Mikawa Bay, Aichi Prefecture and this time the 4th one (and probably also the 5th) was observed in Miyazaki. Another diver-aquarist of Miyazaki City who knows angelfishes well has seen a young specimen with stripes on the sides while diving in a shallow water of southernmost Miyazaki (pers. comm., 2003). He failed to capture it and this may be the 6th specimen from Japan (no photo available). ” …Hiroyuki Tanaka

In some localities of the Arabian Peninsula large adults are sold at fish markets and are considered good-eating. They have been found for sale in the fish markets of Bahrain and Qatar. It is also successfully tank raised in captivity, first reported from Taiwan and now in the United States. The young specimens, 2 1/2 – 3 inches (6 – 8 cm) in length, are extremely hardy and available on a fairly regular basis at an affordable price. In the wild they will hybridize with the Koran Angelfish Pomacanthus semicirculatus, the Arabian Angelfish Pomacanthus asfur, and the Ear-Spot Angelfish Pomacanthus chrysurus, all of which are also inhabitants of the Red Sea.

These angelfish primarily occur at depths from 9 – 98 feet (3 to 30 m). They are most often found in areas abundant with stony and soft coral growth on outer reef drop-offs, reef slopes, and reef faces. Sometimes they are also found in silty harbors and bays near protected coastal reefs and shipwrecks where the water is shallower, with depths between 9 – 49 feet (3 – 15 M). The fish is aggressive and very territorial in nature, always patrolling the reef. Their diet is believed to consist of benthic algae or weeds, sponges, tunicates, and ascidians (sea squirts). Juveniles and sub-adults are found singly. Adults are generally found alone, but sometimes in pairs. There is no significant difference among the specimens from different localities.

  • Scientific Name: Pomacanthus maculosus
  • Social Grouping: Varies – Generally found alone, but sometimes adults occur in pairs.
  • IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern – A stable population.


The adult Red Sea Angelfish has an overall blue to dark blue coloring with some specimens having a purple cast, and the forehead has small black vertical dashes. There is a large yellow splotch on the side which develops into a “map-type†shape in the mature adult that some say resembles the continent of Africa. Individual adults can have a slightly different appearance, so this “mapâ€may or may not resemble that continent. The dorsal and anal fins are sharply pointed posteriorly, forming a filament on each fin. The caudal fin is whitish to yellowish with numerous yellowish fine dots and the margin of the fin is white. The pelvic fins are dark blue.

They can change the intensity of their coloring between darker and lighter, especially notable in the brilliance of the blotch. A lighter purple blue appearance in the front part of the body will be seen when the “map†is turned “off,†making the fish appear two toned. Adults can reach 19.7 inches (50 cm), but most individuals are less than 13.8 inches (35 cm). Similar to other Pomacanthus, this angelfish can live over 20 years under proper conditions.

As juveniles the body is a deep blue, with aslight purple hue in some individuals. There are narrow vertical whitish to light blue thin bars on the side, alternating with thinner lines. The lines are more delicate and thin in-between thelarger white curved bands.A strongyellow band starts to appear when the juvenile reaches 2.3†(6 cm). As the juvenile grows, they lose their rounded dorsal and anal fins, which start to become more pointed, especially the tip of the dorsal fin.

As juveniles all Pomacanthus species have a similar appearance and to the untrained eye can be easily confused. Juveniles species of such as the Koran AngelfishP. semicirculatus and the Emperor angelfishP. imperator also have a blue body with white stripes. Changes in their color pattern depends on age, not on size. Out of the three or four that look similar to this angel, the Blue-ring AngelfishPomacanthus annularis is the most easily confused with its striped patterning. On the Red Sea Angelfish juvenile the lines all seem to join into the other lines in some areas, which creates “free form†pattern unique to this fish. Also the last stripe near the tailfin joins a thinner white band to form an irregular oval near the back of the body. Its tailfin is also clear with some of the fish’s body patterning in the caudal peduncle.

Red Sea Angelfish Pomacanthus maculosus, juvenile changing to an adult
Juvenile changing to adult Photo courtesy: Kurt

On the sub-adult what will become the “map†is just a solid, straight edged, yellow vertical bar with curved edges. They loose their “baby stripes†at 3.9 to 5.9†(10 to 15 cm). It is during this color morph that they are very similar in appearance to the Arabian AngelfishP. asfur, which also occurs in the Red Sea area. This is because the sub-adult Red Sea Angelfish’s blotch or “map†has not yet obtained the characteristic irregular edges of its adult pattern. The Arabian’s yellow blotch does var depending on the individual adult, but will become larger with age. Juveniles differ greatly, they are patterned in a coloration of deep blue with narrow vertical white lines on the side like those of other Pomacanthus members.

  • Size of fish – inches: 19.7 inches (50.01 cm) – Most specimens are less than 13.8 inches (35 cm).
  • Lifespan: 20 years – Life span may be similar to other large Pomacanthus such as the Koran Angelfish that has been reported to live 21 years in captivity. This would be under ideal circumstances.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Red Sea Angelfish is easy to keep in captivity once it has been successfully acclimated. Thejuveniles bred and raised in captivity from Asia are noted for being extremely hardy and are highly recommended. Wild caught specimens can be finicky eaters, though young specimens under 8 inches (20 cm) seem to adapt better to aquarium life than the adults. Juveniles that are 3†do not ship well and have a much lower survival rate. Obtaining captive raised fish, sub-adult sizes of 4 to 6â€, are very hardy and the best choice.

These fishrequire a large show tank of at least 200 gallons (757 liters) to keep them from becoming stressed and to allow them to grow properly. Stunted growth occurs in smaller tanks which can cause a lack of proper organ and muscle development, which in turn will shorten its life. This occurs over several years leading the aquarist to believe the fish is flourishing, only to find the fish has died unexplainably. Plenty of places to hide within the rock work needs to be available whenthey feel the need to retreat, especially as juveniles. Offering a wide variety of foods also helps them to stay healthy. Keeping water well filtered and clean is important to all angelfish.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy – Quite hardy when housed in the appropriate sized tank and fed a variety of foods.
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner – A hardy fish that can be kept by a beginner as long as it is provided with a 200 gallon aquarium.

Foods and Feeding

The Red Sea Angelfish are omnivores. In the wild it is believed they eat mostly sponges, tunicates, and algae. In the aquarium they will readily accept a wide variety of foods. Provide a varied diet that includes substantial vegetable foods as well as sponge foods.

They will readily take frozen, tablet, and flake foods formulated for angelfish that have spirulina and sponge material in them. Some meaty foods like mysis shrimp and finely chopped fish or shrimp flesh on occasion can be given as a treat. Various blanched vegetables (you will have to try different items like spinach, broccoli, etc to see which ones your fish likes) and seaweed strips like Japanese Nori are also a good source of vitamins. Juveniles should be fed up to 4 times a day, but adults can be fed twice a day.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore – Feed preparations that have sponge and spirulina algae added, specifically for angelfish.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet – Small live mysis or brine shrimp that are gut loaded can be offered as a treat once in a while. Also may be used to illicit a feeding response when first introduced.
  • Vegetable Food: Most of Diet – Offer various blanched vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and other similar dark greens. You may have to experiment for your fish’s preferences.
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day – Feed adults twice a day, and up to 4 times a day for juveniles.

Aquarium Care

A large tank is important for this fish. Water changes are dependent on the size of the tank and stocking. As a rule, change 10% bi-weekly for a properly sized tank, with good filtration that is not overstocked. More frequent changes are best since they are sensitive to water quality. If the tank is 300 gallons, 20% every month may suffice, but ultimately watching water quality is very important. Keep pH levels at 8.0 minimum and up to 8.4, anything below that will cause health problems in your angelfish.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly – 10% Bi-weekly for 200 gallon tank. 20% monthly for 300 gallon tank if not over crowded.

Aquarium Setup

These fish are large and fairly active. A minimum tank size of 200 gallons (757 liters) is necessary, though a tank closer to 300 gallons or more would be ideal for a long healthy life and to avoid stress. A juvenile can be easily stressed out in a smaller tank and should be put in the minimum tank size for adults right at the beginning. It is not advisable to have a “grow out tank†for angelfish. A mated pair will need at least 250 to 300 gallons, and at least 300 gallons wil be needed if kept with other large angelfish.

The tank should have plenty of open swimming space and be well decorated with rocks. Provide areas in the rock work when they can hide. It will usually swim actively in the open space and move in and out of crevices. It will venture to the surface for foods when it is well acclimated. There are no specifics requirements on water movement and light, though moderate light to provide natural algae growth is not a bad idea.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 200 gal (757 L) – 200 gallons (757 liters) minimum, with 300 gallons being ideal. A known mated pair will need 250 to 300 gallons, and over 300 gallons will be needed if housing with other large angelfish.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No – Never, no, not even as a juvenile.
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Any – It is best kept under normal lighting, but can also be kept in sunlight conditions and in a dimly lit tank.
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 81.0° F (22.2 to 27.2&deg C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.019-1.025 SG
  • Range ph: 8.0-8.4 – A pH lower than 8.0 will cause health problems in angelfish.
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Any – No special requirements, it can tolerate a rather stronger flow or even still water.
  • Water Region: All – They are open swimmers but tend to stay in the middle or bottom area of the aquarium, and will spend time in crevices as well.

Social Behaviors

The Red Sea Angelfish in nature is generally a solitary fish, aggressive and very territorial. As juveniles they will patrol an area of 10 feet in diameter and will go after other angels that are the same color, as well as peaceful fish. As they get older they calm down a little, but are still aggressive. Once angelfish are established, it is very hard to add other fish to the tank, especially other angelfish. Keep an eye on each addition and remove fish that they attack.

This angelfish can be kept in a community tank housed with aggressive and semi-aggressive fish, but make sure the other fish have places to hide if this angelfish decides to harasses them. Passive tank mates will take a brutal beating from this angelfish, especially a juvenile. It will do well with triggers, hawkfish, groupers, eels, damsels, tangs or surgeonfish, and aggressive smaller fish. Smaller non-aggressive that are quick and readily retreat such as cardinalfish, gobies, tilefish, damselfish, butterflyfish, fairy basslets, wrasses, etc. can be good candidates as well. Do not house with sharks, rays, trunkfish or other slow moving or sessile animals as they will pick at them and cause harm just out of curiosity.

They are very aggressive toward their own species, so one per tank is suggested unless it is a known mated pair. A pair will need a tank that is over 200 gallons. If trying to keep with other large angelfish, the tank will need to be closer to a minimum of 300 gallons. Do not house with similar colored angelfish such as the Koran Angelfish and the Arabian Angelfish. This angelfish should be one of the last fish, if not the last fish, added to the tank. Add with similar size angelfish that are a different species at the same time, or add more peaceful angelfish first and let them adapt before adding aggressive specimens like the Red Sea Angelfish.

This angelfish is not a 100% reef safe as it will pick at live corals. It is not generally kept in a full blown reef, but with careful selection and observation, it may be keep with some. Corals should be put in first so the angelfish will not think you are feeding it. It may be kept with noxious soft corals like those from the Sinularia, Cladiella, Lemnalia, and Litophyton genera, as well as mushroom corals. An anemone that’s well guarded by a clownfish should be left alone. Angelfish at times may nip at the oral disc, butthey typically do not eat anemones. They will pick at tridacnid clam mantles and other slow-moving or sessile inverts like cucumbers. Most other invertebrates are usually fine except for clams, oysters, scallops and feather dusters. Very small shrimp like Sexy Shrimp may be nipped at, but larger cleaner shrimp should be fine. Unfortunately, some invertebrates not bothered by a juvenile can later become the victim of an adult angel.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Sometimes – Only as a known male/female pair in 250 gallons or more.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Monitor – May harass smaller peaceful fish.
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor – Monitor for aggression and provide plenty of places for these fish to hide.
    • Safe
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Safe – If you house with angelfish of a different coloration and size, the system should be very large, minimum 300 gallons (1,135 liters).
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Monitor – Sharks and stingrays may be picked on by large angelfish.
    • Threat – Angelfish will out compete them for food and may pick at them due to their slow movements.
    • Anemones: Safe – May nip at oral disk, but a resident Maroon Clownfish or other aggressive clownfish may solve the problem.
    • Mushroom Anemones – Corallimorphs: Safe
    • LPS corals: Threat
    • SPS corals: Threat – Some have had success with SPS, but monitor yours.
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Threat
    • Leather Corals: Monitor
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Monitor – Many have success with those from the Sinularia, Cladiella, Lemnalia, and Litophyton genera, but keep an eye on them.
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Threat
    • Zoanthids – Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Threat
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Monitor – Smaller shrimp like Sexy Shrimp may be at risk.
    • Starfish: Monitor – May nip at appendages if not well fed.
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Monitor – Should not bother bristle worms, but may pick at feather dusters if not well fed.
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Threat – Picks at slime and can cause them to stay closed and eventually starve.
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

There are no physical characteristics differentiating male from female.

Breeding / Reproduction

This species is now regularly raised in captivity in Asia and the United States and the offspring are extremely hardy. In the wild, the type of mating system employed by Pomacanthus is dependent on the density of the population at a particular location. In one area they may form permanent pairs while in other areas, where the species is more common, they may form harems. Each harem consists of a male defending several females in a small area. In all systems however, these fish spawn in pairs.

Pairs congregate at the edge of the reef at sunset. They often engage in a courtship display where the male and female swim in a brisk head to tail circling motion. Each pair will spawn and ascend into the water column. Swimming together in an arc up to about 7 – 10 feet (2 – 3 meters) above the substrate, they expel pelagic eggs at the summit.
For more information see, Marine Fish Breeding for a description of how angelfish reproduce in the wild.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

Red Sea Angelfish, like other saltwater 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. This angelfish may suffer from Saltwater Ich or White Spot Disease (Crypt) and other infectious diseases.

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.

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.

For more information on diseases that saltwater angelfish are susceptible to, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The Red Sea Angelfish or Yellowbar Angelfish is regularly available at retailers, both in stores and online, and is moderately priced. Captive bred, tank-raised specimens are also moderately priced, but cost varies depending on size.


 Pomacanthus maculosus – Wilhelma (Image Credit: H. Zell, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)