The Pygmy Angelfish, commonly known as the Cherub Angelfish, Pygmy Dwarf Angelfish, Atlantic Pygmy Angelfish, or simply the Pygmy Angel, is a beautiful saltwater fish that has been gaining increased popularity among fish keepers for some time now.
In a communal saltwater tank, these little angelfish definitely stand out thanks to their vivid blue and orange coloration. For FOWLR (Fish Only with Live Rock) aquariums, Pygmy Angelfish are ideal, but they may also be successfully housed in reef tanks.
In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about caring for tiny pygmy coral beauty angelfish, including how to deal with their aggression, how to set up the ideal environment, and what kind of food they should be fed, and more.
Scientific name: Centropyge argi
Common names: Cherubfish, Pygmy Angelfish, Atlantic Pygmy Angel
Care level: Moderate
Size: Up to 3 inches (8 cm)
Life span: 5 years, or perhaps longer
pH: 8.1 – 8.4
Proper temperature: 72°F – 82°F (22°C – 28°C)
Specific gravity: 1.020 – 1.025
Carbonate Hardness (dKH): 8 – 12°
Origin / Habitat: The deeper waters of the Western Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean are home of this species.
Reef tank compatible: If present at extremely low concentrations, it may be beneficial to algae management; nonetheless, it is known to prey on corals, clams, and other invertebrates.
Tank region: Typically in the center to the bottom and near the live rock.
Gender: There is no foolproof method for distinguishing males and females based on their outward appearance, with the possible exception of the possibility that males are bigger than females. There are no recognized variations in skin color between the sexes.
Pygmy Angelfish are aggressive species that will engage in physical conflict with members of other species as well as with one another. I strongly advise keeping no more than one male in each tank since the presence of numerous males might lead to greater territorialism. On the other hand, accomplishing this purpose may be difficult due to the fact that it is practically hard to determine which angelfish are female and which are male.
If you want to breed them, you should brace yourself for a fight since during mating season, aggression levels may increase.
The provision of a large amount of room, in addition to caves and other places for the Cherub Angelfish to hide, is one method for reducing the aggressive tendencies of these fish. If individual angelfish are given the opportunity to stake their claim to their own region, the chance of conflict between them will be reduced.
This additional space will also effectively lessen their aggression with other species. It is important because one of the reasons Pygmy Angelfish lash out is because they feel threatened. After all, they are only 3 inches (5 cm) in length and could easily serve as the third breakfast for a larger fish that is more aggressive.
Having said that, it would be irresponsible of me not to disclose that when Pygmy Angelfish do display aggressive behavior, they will fight to the death. This might mean murdering an animal of a different species, one of their own species, or even risking their own lives.
Pygmy Angelfish are intelligent, and they can be aware of what is going on in the world outside their aquarium. If you go closer to the tank, you will see that they are paying attention to you, and as you get closer still, you could even see them raising their dorsal fin in preparation for a fight.
Dwarf Pygmy Coral Beauty Angelfish: Appearance
The Pygmy Angelfish has a sapphire blue and orange color pattern with distinctive blue rings around the eyes.
Cherub Angelfish, much like other species of dwarf angelfish, have elongated bodies and rounded fins.
They have the appearance of smaller copies of bigger angelfish, which makes it even more entertaining to watch them swim about the aquarium. The angelfish’s tiny size means that you don’t have to buy a 200-plus gallon tank to appreciate their beauty.
Differentiating between males and females is an important part of gender equality.
There is no certain way to determine the gender of a Pygmy Angelfish, other than the fact that male Pygmy Angelfish may be somewhat bigger than female Pygmy Angelfish. In point of fact, every Pygmy Angelfish is born a female, with the exception of the fish that grows up to be the most dominating.
In the event that the dominant male passes away or is killed, the next male in the pecking order will become dominant.
Because of these above reasons, it’s easy to understand why physical traits alone aren’t reliable indicators of gender.
Male and female Cherub Angelfish have the same color, despite the fact that several fish species’ males have more dramatic coloring than their female counterparts.
Tank Living Conditions
They often experience feelings of tension and peril; therefore, you should be sure to provide them with lots of places to hide, such as caves and living rocks.
For this reason, a FOWLR (Fish Only with Living Rock) aquarium is excellent since there is no coral to damage, and they will eat the accumulated algal growth on the live rock. If you haven’t come across it before, the phrase “live rock” might be somewhat confusing. Live rock is not genuinely alive but rather originates from the skeletons of coral reefs that were once alive.
Using FOWLR aquascapes is an excellent way to keep saltwater fish that aren’t reef-friendly. Because of this, Pygmy Angelfish aren’t completely reef-safe either. They’ll nibble at coral if you put them in an aquarium with a reef.
Pygmy Angelfish are found between the center and the bottom of the aquarium, and if you give live rock, they will settle around it.
Even though Pygmy Angelfish aren’t picky about their water composition, maintaining a clean tank is always a good idea. Do partial water changes of 25 to 30 percent every month or 15 percent every other week. To keep nitrate and ammonia levels low, do frequent water changes.
Temperature, pH, and salinity are ideal for Pygmy Angelfish:
- pH levels: 8.1 to 8.4
- Water hardness: 8 to 12 dKH
- Water temperature: 72°F – 82°F (22°C – 28°C)
If you want to keep pygmy angelfish, you will need a tank that is at least 55 gallons (208 liters) in capacity. Larger is better if you’re seeking to accommodate a big family. When Pygmy Angelfish don’t have a lot of room to move about, they become more aggressive.
Keep Pygmy Angelfish away from peaceful, calm, and small fish because they will bully and will destroy these fish. While they aren’t likely to affect huge invertebrates, they do prey on the smaller ones. Pygmy Angelfish are neither suggested nor forbidden for reef tanks. Nevertheless, if you have a reef aquascape, you should prepare for your Pygmy Angelfish to nibble on corals.
Maintaining a community of pygmy angelfish
Pygmy Angelfish fight a lot, as I’ve indicated, especially between the sexes. Therefore, if you can identify the difference between the sexes, just keep one male. Having more than one means you’re more than likely to end up with a single one in the end.
It’s best to keep only one in a tank if you’re not planning on reproducing it. And if you want to maintain multiples, make sure they have enough space to establish their own territories.
As omnivores, Pygmy Angelfish require a varied diet that includes both protein and vegetables in order to thrive. Most of their nutritional requirements will come from marine algae, but they will also eat prepared angelfish food, as well as frozen meaty proteins such as brine shrimp and mysis shrimp. Spirulina algae and nori lettuce clips are two options to consider.
If you keep your Pygmy Angelfish in an aquarium with a FOWLR aquascape, they will graze on live rocks in between their regular meals.
Feed them three times a day in small amounts. ‘ If you give them too much at once, you will end up with excess food waste, which will put the cleanliness of their tank. Therefore, take care not to overfeed your Pygmy Angelfish.
The Pygmy Angelfish is vulnerable to illnesses that affect the majority of other marine species. Infections such as marine ich (or ick) and velvet may cause Pygmy Angelfish to develop white, yellow, or grey patches and intense itching. Thus, they should be isolated and treated quickly once you realize these symptoms.
Both ich and velvet are very infectious diseases that, if left untreated for an extended period of time, may cause your fish to die. It’s advisable that you should use therapy medications that are devoid of copper.
Aside from parasites, Pygmy Angelfish are prone to bacterial infections because of their propensity to engage in combat. Hence, it is important to keep an eye on them if they get into a fight with other species or other Pygmy Angelfish.
As a matter of fact, bacterial infections can also occur when the integrity of the skin is compromised by parasites like ich and velvet.
As a last note, parasitic diseases are often accompanied by fungal infections as unintended consequences. A clean tank is the greatest way to avoid all of these illnesses. Regularly check the water and make partial adjustments as necessary. If you see your fish getting into a fight or being bullied, try to break them up or remove one of the aggressors.
Breeding Pygmy Angelfish is possible if you’re prepared for a challenge. Pygmy Angelfish may be successfully produced in captivity, as shown by the fact that they are widely accessible in the aquarium trade. In addition, growing the larvae might be a difficult task.
Pygmy Angelfish are hermaphrodites, which means they are all born female, and the dominant fish becomes a male at some point in their lives. You may attempt breeding Pygmy Angelfish by pairing up a bigger one with a smaller one and then waiting a few months to see which one becomes the dominant male. If you decide to go this route, keep a watch on the smaller fish to ensure they don’t get eaten by the bigger ones.
You also have the option of placing a smaller group of Pygmy Angelfish in your aquarium and allowing them to compete with one another for the position of male dominant. It’s going to be a brutal fight. Because Pygmy Angelfish reproduce in harems, this latter approach is the better choice.
If you successfully overcome the competition between males and females and infighting, you will probably be able to see fertilized eggs. Then, the males and females will release the eggs into the water current, so you will need a higher tank to house them.
The eggs will hatch in about a day, and the larvae will stay in the yolk sac for two or three days. During this period, you’ll have to feed them tiny algae, which is a difficult task to do.
Pro tip: If the fighting between two of the Pygmy Angelfish is very fierce, there is a significant likelihood that you really have two males in the tank.
Video: All About The Cherub Angelfish or Pygmy Angelfish
How many pygmy angelfish can be kept together in one tank?
They should ideally be housed in groups consisting of three males and five to six females. However, if you do not want them to reproduce, you should maintain them in a group of at least six individuals of the same sex. Males that are isolated from females may display some hostility towards one another, although in most cases, this hostility is quite mild.
Would pygmy angelfish suit your aquarium?
Pygmy Angelfish are one of the most eye-catching and brilliantly colorful species of fish that you’ll come across in saltwater environments. They might be a fantastic addition to your saltwater community if you are willing to take on the job of taming their sometimes aggressive behaviors.
Pygmy angelfish are well-suited to the habitat of a FOWLR aquascape, which you may already have or intend to set up. If you decide to keep a Pygmy Angelfish in an environment with coral reefs, you should be aware that these fish are not totally reef safe and may nibble on the coral if given the opportunity. However, they are not absolutely reef unsafe either.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to ignore the stunning colors that they have.
How to choose a healthy dwarf pygmy coral beauty angelfish?
If you buy a healthy Pygmy Angelfish, you’ll have little trouble caring for it. Look for a specimen of this dwarf angelfish that is attentive, energetic, and interested in its environment when you are shopping for one. They should have a vibrant color that hasn’t faded at all, and it should be exceedingly difficult to capture them. A swollen or reddish scale region is not acceptable. Be careful of the pygmy angels that originate from the Philippines.
Annette M. Chaney is an experienced marine biologist with over 20 years of experience as an aquarist and fishkeeper. She started her first aquarium at a young age, filling it with frogs and goldfish obtained from the ten-cent pet store.
Annette grew up caring for and breeding African Cichlids, which led to a hobby in high school that doubled as a profitable means. Attending Reed College gave her time to solidify herself as an accomplished aquarium caretaker with an eye for sales. After that, from 2009 – 2013, she studied at Roger Williams University – one of the most prestigious universities for Aquaculture and Aquarium in USA. She is the founder of AquariumCircle since 2010