Introducing the Flame Angelfish
The flame angelfish (Centropyge loricula) is also often simply referred to as ‘flame angel’ and is usually found in the Pacific Ocean, particularly in tropical areas around Australia, Samoa and parts of Indonesia. They typically live in lagoons and reefs, and unlike most other types of angelfish, this species does not change its characteristic appearance over the years. It owes its name to the striking red and orange colours as well as the fusion of blue and black marks which truly give the impression of a fish that is on fire.
In its natural habitat, the flame angelfish lives between 2 – 30m below the water surface area and can grow a length of approximately 12cm. It can be difficult to differentiate between male and female because the colour compositions are almost identical - males may be a bit larger and slightly more colourful. As a result of its fairly small size, flame angelfish generally live secluded and in groups of one male and several females. However, this harem-like living arrangement largely depends on the biotope conditions and it is not unusual to encounter a flame angelfish couple or even some loners. They typically nourish on seaweed and small crabs while particularly aquarium hobbyists have often observed them nibbling on corals.
In fact, the flame angelfish is a very popular addition to any aquarium due to its masterful colouration and the fact that it is easy to care for. They usually accept frozen or dried food which is quite remarkable considering that most saltwater fish are rather picky. If no seaweed is available in the tank itself, some sort of dried algae replacement should be purchased as this is their primary source of nutrition. Since they are always seeking food, it is advised to feed them small portions throughout the day rather than having one or two big feeding sessions. The best way to keep them alive in captivity is in an established reef aquarium because this environment resembles the natural surroundings and the fish has a better chance to survive.
As mentioned earlier, flame angelfish prefer to live sheltered and need places to hide. The water temperature should be around 24°C to 28°C while the aquarium itself should not be smaller than 1m in length while holding at least 350 litres of water.
Although they are a calm species and live peacefully in a mixed community with same-sized fish, flame angels may become aggressive when there are too many males in one tank or potential rivals that have a similar appearance such as other dwarf angels. However, it is usually friendly with other types of fish and the safest way to go is to keep only one flame angel at a time. Nevertheless, they can be kept in pairs of male and female, or in the harem arrangement with one male and several females. At the same time, a very busy aquarium may provoke bullying as angelfish can be slightly territorial.
Even if kept in company, it is very difficult to breed a whole community and individual prices for one flame angelfish vary between US$40 and $60 depending on size and location. In addition to the relatively high prices, they are also difficult to ship and require a lot of ‘personal space’ to avoid hostility in the aquarium community. It is strongly advised to keep them in a separate tank before introducing them to the main one as they may carry a disease or illness which is not uncommon in saltwater fish.
If the conditions are right, the flame angelfish can have a long life of several years even if it is very difficult to breed and keep newborn fish alive.