Angelfish are some of the most sought-after species that enter the ornamental marine fish trade. Of the 83 angelfish species, many get very large and are not well-suited to the confines of the average home aquarium (under 100 gallons). But there is a genus of angelfish, many of which are real “eye candy,” that stay small. One of the most common of these in the aquarium trade is the coral beauty angelfish (Centropyge bispinosus), a variable beauty that is suitable for the new angelkeeper.
Difficulty: The coral beauty angelfish is a wonderful “toy” angelfish that typically does well in the aquariums of fishkeepers of all skill levels. The coral beauty angelfish does especially well in an aquarium full of live rock (e.g., a reef aquarium) or a mature fish-only system with a luxuriant growth of filamentous algae. In these environments, the coral beauty angelfish has plenty of its normal fodder (i.e., detritus, algae). The coral beauty angelfish will accept foods, such as frozen preparations for herbivores, frozen mysids, frozen fish eggs and finely grated frozen seafood.
Physical description: The coral beauty angelfish is purplish blue and orange color, with the proportion of these two colors varying greatly between individuals. There are some specimens of coral beauty angelfish that are almost all blue, while others are mostly orange. There is a rare aberrant color form that has a body that is entirely cream color with blue fins and head (note: these rarer color forms, which command high prices, often change to more readily available “flavors” once they have been in captivity for a while). The coral beauty angelfish reaches a length of about 4 inches.
Range: Centropyge bispinosus occurs from the coast of east Africa east to Tahiti. The coral beauty angelfish tends to be most abundant on shallow, coral-rich reefs, but has been found as deep as 200 feet. Like other members of the genus, it is a harem-forming species, with the territory of a male including the home range of two to up to five females.
Compatibility: The coral beauty angelfish is usually not overly aggressive when compared to some other pygmy angelfish. It will have a difficult time acclimating if added to an aquarium in which it is bullied. But once the coral beauty angelfish is well-established in its new “territory,” it can be a bit pugnacious toward newly added species that are similar in shape or that are smaller. As is always the case, aggression issues are going to be more frequent in a smaller aquarium. If you want to keep more than one Centropyge bispinosus in the same aquarium, add them at the same time. Two male coral beauty angelfish are more likely to fight than a male-female or even a female-female pair. All the Centropyge species are protogynous hermaphrodites. Female coral beauty angelfish change into males, which are typically larger than their feminine partners. You can increase the likelihood that you acquire a male and female by selecting two individuals that vary significantly in size. The coral beauty angelfish is usually well-behaved in a reef aquarium, although the occasional specimen may go off the rails and pick at large-polyped stony corals or soft coral polyps, such as Xenia.
Aquarium conditions: The coral beauty angelfish can be housed in aquariums as small as 55 gallons. Numerous hiding places are essential to keep this or any pygmy angelfish happy. If you keep more than one pygmy angelfish in the same aquarium, create numerous patch reefs, which will serve as the territory focal point for each fish. Acceptable water parameters for the coral beauty angelfish are: pH of 8.1 to 8.4, specific gravity of 1.019 to 1.025 and a water temperature of 74 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Care considerations: When capturing any angelfish, beware of the spine on the gill cover, which can get caught in netting material. Like all angelfish, the coral beauty angelfish will sometimes succumb to parasites such as Cryptocaryon and Amyloodinium.
Breeding: The coral beauty angelfish will reproduce in captivity. Centropyge bispinosus tends to court and spawn later in the day, usually before or just after the lights go off (you should have your lights set up so that you replicate a dawn and dusk part of the diel cycle). A coral beauty angelfish pair can produce from 150 to 2,000 pelagic eggs a day. Wild plankton and enriched brine shrimp are used to feed the larvae.