By Bob Goemans
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Holacanthus ciliaris

(Linnaeus, 1758)

Queen Angelfish, Golden Angelfish, Yellow Angelfish

Not Reef Tank Suitable

Likely Fish-Only Tank Suitable

Range: Western Atlantic Ocean: Gulf of Mexico, and North Carolina south to Florida, Bermuda, and the Bahamas.

Size: 18 inches (45 cm)

Natural Environment: Inhabits boat channels (juveniles) with adults in shallow coastal rocky reefs at depths of 6 to 230 feet (2 – 70 m) and feeds primarily on sponges, yet algae and tunicates are also somewhat on its menu.

General Husbandry: Both the juvenile and adult are quite pretty, with the juvenile having a yellowish frontal body that turns brownish yellow midway to the tail, which is a bright yellow, as are its pectoral fins. There are several white vertical lines on the body, and its dorsal and anal fins are edged in bright blue. As for the adult, it has a bluish yellow body, yellow face, blue highlighted chest and forehead areas, blue lips, yellow pectoral fins, and its tail is completely yellow. It also has blue edged dorsal and anal fins, which have long yellow streamers, yet its most telling difference from that of the Blue Angelfish, H. bermudensis, is that it has a distinctive brilliant blue 'crown' on the forehead. Keep in mind there are other small differences depending upon the area of collection.

When first introduced into the aquarium, preferably a well-established fish-only aquarium with lots of live rock and cave areas, adults or juveniles should be offered several daily feedings so as to quickly acclimate it to its surroundings. Like many others in this genus, their captive diet should consist of a wide variety of frozen foods including fortified brine shrimp, mysis, and especially those containing sponge matter/angelfish food preparations and continued to be offered several times daily after its acclimated to its surroundings. Furthermore, flake foods, and especially those containing Spirulina and/or Nori should be offered occasionally along with fresh broccoli.

Depending upon its tankmates, juveniles may be somewhat shy when first entering the aquarium, and may hide in caves and crevices. But as time passes, will become more outgoing and begin to establish its territory. As for adults, one of the largest in this genus, it all depends on aquarium size and tankmates, but keep in mind, those in this genus are thought of as the feistiest/most aggressive of all angelfishes and therefore, its preferable they be the last angelfish to be added to the aquarium.


    Order: Perciformes

    Suborder: Percoidei

    Family: Pomacanthidae

    Genus: Holacanthus

FYI: The Blue Angel is closely related to the Queen Angelfish as it has the same range and commonly crossbreeds. The blue is somewhat smaller, being about 15 inches when fully grown, with the Queen at about 18 inches. The two main differences are that Queen’s entire tail is yellow, whereas the Blue’s is trimmed in yellow, and the Queen has a quite defined blue and black crown on the forehead, which is not present on the Blue. Juveniles in both species have similar coloration.

Keeping more than one genus of angelfishes in the same aquarium is possible, yet depends upon several aspects. The following suggested circumstances are just that, possibilities that when heeded and adjusted to actual aquarium conditions ‘may’ make multiple angelfish collections feasible.

Aquarium size – the larger the better.

Species from the same genus should not be in the same aquarium.

The smallest and most docile genus species should be the first introduced with the largest and most malicious the last to be added.

Do not place similar coloration species in the same aquarium.

Those already in the aquarium should be well fed before adding a newcomer.

Have sufficient hiding places/rocky caves.

Do not overfeed meaty foods, especially juveniles, as it may lead to a fatty deposit around the liver that could stop production of vitamin A. This could cause blindness, often referred to as nutritional blindness.

Keep in mind all angels have cheekspines at the edge of their gill cover; therefore use caution when handling and also avoid using a net to capture it, as it may become stuck or tangled in the net and become damaged when removed.

Experience Level: Intermediate

Temperament: Semi-aggressive

Diet: Omnivore

Acclimation Time: 30 minutes+

Aquarium Environment: Fish-only and Reef Aquariums (See Below)

Reef Safe: Juveniles – Yes/Adults - No - will nip clam mantles, large and small polyped stony (LPS/SPS) corals, and also some soft corals and tubeworms.

Minimum Tank Size: 180 gallons

Temperature Range: 70 - 82°F (21 – 27°C)

Specific Gravity: 1.020 - 1.026

pH: 8.0 - 8.5

 Holacanthus ciliaris (Queen Angelfish, Golden Angelfish, Yellow Angelfish)
Photo © Bob Fenner
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