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Queen Angelfish
(Holacanthus ciliaris)

Queen, angelfish, Holacanthus ciliaris

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Queen angelfish or Holacanthus ciliaris are members the family Pomacanthidae. In Greek poma means cover and akantha means thorn. Marine angelfish are comprised of seven genera and approximately 86 species. Queen angelfish populate the shallow water reef systems of the Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. They are well established off the coastlines of Florida and the Bahamas. Smaller populations exist in the Bermuda triangle and along the eastern shores of South America as far south as Brazil.

Queen angelfish received their royal title from the blue rimmed black speckling found on their heads. This trademark insignia bears a vague resemblance to the shape of a crown. Like all angelfish, the queen has a flat disc shaped body. Juveniles have predominantly dark blue bodies with yellow highlights and vertical striping ranging from light blue to white. Their lips, gill covers and caudal fins are yellow. As the young fish matures its body color will become lighter and the striping will fade away. Adults are blue or bluish green with yellow rimmed scales. Their ventral and pectoral fins are yellow trimmed in and powder neon blue. They have dark blue lips and yellow caudal fins. Queen Angelfish can grow up to 18 inches in length may weight as much as 4 lbs.

This is a large species and will require a large tank.  The general rule of thumb is 5 gallons of water for every one inch of fish. In a community environment you will require a minimum 150-200 gallon aquarium. This is a moderately aggressive animal. You will want to house it with similarly larges species who will not tolerate being bullied. This species exhibits territorial behavior toward its own kind in the confines of an aquarium. You can successfully keep and male and female together in the same tank. They are not suitable for marine reef aquariums. Many of the inhabitants typical of reef aquariums are what these fish would consume in their natural habitat.

Queen angels are rated at a moderate to expert saltwater aquarist care level. They are sensitive to anything less than ideal water conditions. They frequently refuse to feed in their new surroundings. Their somewhat specialized diet in nature often leads to illnesses relate to nutritional deficiencies. Queens who make the transition into a life in captivity can easily live for 15 to 20 years. 

Queens are omnivorous. Juveniles are cleaner fish whose nutritional intake consists largely of the parasites found on larger fish they tend to in “cleaning stations.” An adult’s diet consists primarily of sponges and algae. They will also nibble on sea fans, soft coral, and an occasional jellyfish.  You may find that you need to purchase live sponges to persuade them to start eating.  An abundance of living rock will help in the acclimation process. Aquarists have successfully raised queens on a combination of protein and algae based foods. There are commercially available food products specifically formulated for marine angelfish.

Queen angelfish are closely related to the Bermuda blue angelfish, Holacanthus bermudensis. These species have been known to cross inter-species barriers and mate with one another. The natural hybrids produced by this coupling are rarities in the world of saltwater aquatic life.

Environmental Parameters


pH Level Specific Gravity
72-78  °F 8.1-8.4 1.020-1.025

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