Angelfish and Corals

In this post, we will understand Angelfish and Corals, all the interaction between these two organisms and some things about their biology.

Angelfish and Corals

In the wild, Angelfish are omnivores. This means they usually feed on algae and animal protein, like clams, corals, and shrimp. Thus, it is expected they feed similarly inside a fish tank. Unless they have a meat-based vitamins and minerals diet, they are highly prone to predate these organisms in the tank. For this reason, coral should be avoided in tanks where there are Angelfish. 


The common name Angelfish is related to a huge variety of fish species that are very popular due to their colouration patterns. Most of these fish live near coral reef areas, from where they get their food.

Angelfish general characteristics

Saltwater Angelfish popular name refers to a variety of species, members of the Pomacanthidae family. They are mainly found in tropical shallow reef areas in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.

They are very popular fish species due to their bright colour patterns. Also, some of them change colours during their lifecycle.

Angelfish feeding habits

Angelfish have very specific feeding habits, which make them difficult to match with other organisms in a fish tank. They are classified as omnivores. In nature, they feed mainly on invertebrates, like jellyfish, tunicates, corals, plankton, algae, and sponges. Thus, in a tank, some of these organisms should be avoided.

Before they reach adulthood they usually act as cleaning fish, removing parasites and dead skin from other organisms, in a commensal relationship.

Angelfish species

Currently, there are around 90 Saltwater Angelfish species. Here are a few of them. 

Regal Angelfish 

The Regal Angelfish or Pygoplites diacanthus is a very beautiful species. Although, it is very complex and difficult to keep in fish tanks. It is very sensitive to water parameters fluctuations and stress. The Regal Angelfish is also susceptible to some diseases.

Regal Angelfish are classified as semi-aggressive fish, and should be housed with peaceful fish to avoid stressful situations. They feed mostly on sponges and in the tank should be fed with frozen prepared diet (with meat and vegetables).

Queen Angelfish 

The Queen Angelfish or Holacanthus ciliaris has completely yellow pectoral fins and tails. Its body is outlined by a striking blue colour. This fish is one of the largest Angelfish (up to 20 inches long) and can be found in the Western Atlantic Ocean. Unlike other Angelfish, they tend to feed mainly on sponges, although they can also feed on jellyfish, corals, and algae.

Due to its body characteristics, this species is very popular. However, their behaviour tends to be aggressive, which usually makes them the single species in the tank. 

Emperor Angelfish

Emperor Angelfish or Pomacanthus imperator is also a very popular Angelfish species. They can be found in the Indo-Pacific region. While young, they have a marbled black and blue pattern. When they reach adulthood and sexual maturity, they become yellow with blue stripes. 

Their diet is based mainly on sponges, although they are classified as omnivores. They accept other sources of food, such as vegetables and carnivorous preparations. Their behaviour is semi-aggressive, which means they can become aggressive under specific contexts only.

French Angelfish or Paru 

The French Angelfish or Paru (Pomacanthus paru) is also a very popular Angelfish species. When juvenile, this fish is black with yellow stripes. When they grow, they become black, grey, and golden.

The French Angelfish is found in the Western Atlantic and is classified as one of the most peaceful Angelfish species.

This species is also an omnivore. However, the individuals prefer feeding on sponges and bryozoans. They also feed on algae and can consume some invertebrates.

5 Reef tank safe Angelfish

There are some dwarf or pygmy species of Angelfish that are less likely to nip and feed on corals. Thus, they are the most recommended species to keep on reef tanks. They are called Reef tank safe species: 

1.   Swallowtail Angelfish – naturally planktivore species – completely coral safe;

2.   Coral Beauty Angelfish – may nip LPS corals;

3.   Fisher’s Angelfish – feed mainly on algae;

4.   Potter’s Angelfish – may nip LPS corals;

5.   Pearlback Angelfish – may nip stony and soft corals;

6.   Cherub Angelfish – usually eats the mucus on the corals;

7.   Lemonpeel Angelfish – may eat soft corals;

8.   Flame Angelfish – adjustable to a captive diet, although may nip corals;

9.   Orangelined or Eibl’s Angelfish – may nip corals;

10.   Masked Angelfish – adjustable to captivity.

Aquarium conditions

In captivity, these animals are quite difficult to be kept and are not recommended for inexperienced aquarists. These species require large aquariums, as the larger species can become quite territorial and can bother other species in the tank, especially smaller fish. 

The water must be natural saltwater or you can opt for pure water mixed with marine salt. It is important to replicate magnesium and calcium levels in the aquarium. These levels are also easy to correct, calcium decorations and crushed seashells can be added to the tank. 

Smaller saltwater Angelfish species will require at least a 20 to 55-gallon tank. Medium-bodied Angelfish should be placed in 55 to 100-gallon tanks, and larger Angelfish should be housed in tanks with a minimum of 100 gallons, however, the recommendation is 300 gallons.


In this post, we learnt about the Angelfish and Corals relationship, all the interactions between these two organisms and also some things about their biology. We also met some of the Reef Tank Safe Angelfish.

If you have any thoughts or doubts, feel free to drop us in a comment below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Angelfish and Corals

Can you keep Angelfish with corals?

Some species of Angelfish are less likely to nip corals. However, in general, they are not recommended to be in the same reef tank.

Do Angelfish eat corals?

In general, as omnivores, Angelfish are likely to eat corals. However, few Angelfish species can be less harmful to your corals in a reef tank.

What corals are safe with Angelfish?

In general, no corals are totally safe in the presence of Angelfish. Although some species of Angelfish do not nip too much on the coral, they are still likely to bite them. Thus, think about avoiding corals with your Angelfish.

Do Angelfish live near coral reefs?

Yes, many Angelfish live near coral reefs. Most of these are distributed in the Caribbean Sea. The Angelfish tend to be closer to these areas to easily find food and safe hiding spots.

Are saltwater Angelfish aggressive?

Small and medium-bodied Angelfish are not classified as aggressive and they can live healthily and in harmony with other fish species. However, larger Angelfish species tend to be aggressive. Some good tankmates for small and medium Angelfish are Anthias, Butterflyfish, and Gobies.

Are Angelfish fresh or saltwater fish?

The freshwater species of Angelfish are the most commonly found in fish tanks. However, there are also saltwater Angelfish species. The fresh and saltwater Angelfish belong to different fish groups and also differ in body shape, colour, and behaviour.


Hauter, S. & Hauter, D. 2020. 10 Best Angelfsih That Are Reef Tank Safe.

Schimer, G. Aquarium Fish: Angelfish In The Reef Aquarium… Again.

Jason, 2020. 15 Awesome Types of Saltwater Angelfish.

Sazima, I., Moura, R. L., & Sazima, C. (1999). Cleaning activity of juvenile angelfish, Pomacanthus paru, on the reefs of the Abrolhos Archipelago, western South Atlantic. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 56(4), 399-407.

Konow, N., Fitzpatrick, R., & Barnett, A. (2006). Adult emperor angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator) clean giant sunfishes (Mola mola) at Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia. Coral Reefs, 25(2), 208-208.