Many of us who keep marine aquariums were attracted to this hobby because of the exquisite colors exhibited by many coral reef fish. While there are many reef fish that sport stunning colors, few compare to the brilliant colors of the flame angelfish (Centropyge loriculus).
Difficulty: When it comes to its durability, the flame angelfish is a bit of an enigma. For many years, it was thought of as a moderately hardy aquarium fish. But in the last decade, the hardiness of the “breed” has come under scrutiny. Some individuals do well, while others waste away. For those that want to give it a try, Marshall Island flame angelfish and the rare Hawaiianflame angelfish have the best track record.
Physical description: The overall coloration of the flame angelfish is a brilliant orange (the center of the body is yellow-orange) with darker tiger stripes on the body. There are also blue bars at the edge of the dorsal and anal fins. The boldness or even presence of the body bars can vary from one Centropyge loriculus population to the next. The flame angelfish attains a maximum length of 3.5 inches.
Range: The flame angelfish occurs around the islands of Micronesia, east to the Marquesas Islands. The flame angelfish is also known from Hawaii, where it is not common. It is found on lagoon patch reefs, on reef faces and slopes at depths of 7 to 200 feet. The flame angelfish is often associated with branching stony corals. Like other pygmy angelfish, male Centropyge loriculus defend a group of females.
Compatibility: An established flame angelfish can be a curse in a small to moderate-sized aquarium, especially if the fish introduced after it are similar in shape or behavior. On the other hand, in a larger aquarium, replete with hiding places, it rarely bothers its tankmates, with the exception of other Centropyge species. The flame angelfish can be kept with other pygmy angelfish, but it should be one of the last species to be introduced. The flame angelfish is usually able to handle itself with bullies, but it may be chastised by larger dottybacks and nasty damsels. The flame angelfish might be chased by juvenile Holacanthus angelfish, such as the blue angelfish (Holacanthus bermudensis), queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris) and the passer angelfish (Holacanthus passer), all of which are real hellions. Plenty of space is the best way to defuse potential aggression problems. The deeper body and spiny dorsal fin make the flame angelfish less appetizing to potential predators, but do not trust certain piscivores, such as frogfish or scorpionfish, with the flame angelfish unless these predators are appreciably smaller than the angel. The flame angelfish can usually be trusted in the reef aquarium, although it has been known to pick at corals on occasion (usually large-polyped stony varieties). If well fed, it is less likely to go bad!
Aquarium conditions: The flame angelfish is a rather secretive species that will require lots of good hiding places. The flame angelfish will spend most of its time moving from one crevice to another or peering from a shelter site. In a location where there is a lot of human foot traffic, it may take a while before it makes its presence known. Acceptable water parameters for the flame 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: Centropyge loriculus, as well as most angelfish, will do best in a healthy, mature reef aquarium or an aged aquarium that has a good crop of filamentous algae. The flame angelfish will graze on diatoms and algae present in the aquarium, which can help supplement added foods or may even make up the bulk of its captive diet. Like all angelfish, the flame angelfish will sometimes succumb to parasites, such as Cryptocaryon and Amyloodinium.
Breeding: The flame angelfish has been known to spawn in captivity. The flame angelfish is haremic in the wild and can be kept in pairs or trios in an extra-large aquarium. The aquarium should contain only one male — the males have more blue on the outer edge of the dorsal and anal fins, and tend to be larger. The fish will spawn toward the end of the day and release pelagic gametes into the water column. Collecting the eggs and raising the larvae is the biggest challenge.