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Common Name/s: Flame or Flaming Dwarf/Pygmy Angelfish
Maximum Adult Size: 15cm
Natural Distribution: Pacific Ocean: mainly in tropical waters
Depth Range: 15 – 60m
Species Notes & Captive Care Notes: Of the 30 plus described species in the Centropyge genus, the Flame Angel is perhaps one of the most attractive species on offer to the marine aquarist for several reasons.
Firstly of course, its famed Ferrari-red colouration, sported against variable amounts of golden orange, black body bars and electric blue and black finage, make it a real eye-catcher in a reef tank. Secondly, reaching a maximum size of around 15cm, it doesn’t require a particularly large aquarium to call home indeed it is possible to maintain long-term in a tank from around just 130 litres and upward, providing care is taken with tank-mates. Thirdly, it is one of the hardiest of the Dwarf Angels and therefore stands a good chance of surviving the process of introduction to a new home. Finally, it is one of the most commonly imported dwarf angel species and therefore, although the price may be relatively high, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding one in your local fish store (update: as of late 2020 we are aware that supply of this species seems to have been impacted by ongoing issues with Hawaiian exports, and as such the species seems to have become somewhat harder to obtain, and more expensive).
It’s not all roses though. Like virtually all dwarf angel species, C. loriculus is a risk to sessile invertebrates in a mixed reef setting, with clams, SPS and LPS corals all being common targets for incessant nipping. Certain specimens may be well behaved for months or even years but they are always a risk, and especially so if not fed well consistently. It is perhaps better to keep this species in a FOWLR (fish-only-with-live-rock) system, or better still, a live rock based system that also contains some noxious corals (for example mushroom anemones, or soft corals like Cladiella or Alcyonium sp.). Here, its pecking habits should not stress sensitive corals or inverts, but it will still have the natural occurring food and cover it requires to feel confident enough to remain relaxed, in the open and ‘on show’. Whatever the situation, feed a varied diet of frozen and enriched meaty foods, dried foods if desired, and sheets of dried algae on a clip. Keep water quality high and stable, and provide good in-tank water circulation. Generally territorial in behaviour and prone to dominating passive species, usually just one Flame Angel should be kept per tank (unless the tank is large, contains many hiding spaces and is stocked with specimens of suitable sex). Mixing with other dwarf or larger Angelfishes is possible, but the considerable number of variables involved make it a risky plan overall unless the tank is very large (900 litres or more).
In the wild, this species is distributed widely and frequents clear lagoon and seaward reefs from the lower surge zone. It is a protygynous hermaphrodite which means that each individual starts life as a female, and turns male if the opportunity arises. Dominant males control harems of females (which have their own hierarchy) and chase away competitor males. If the male is removed, the most dominant female usually becomes male (if a new male doesn’t move in first). Interestingly, this species has been spawned and raised in captivity but, as far as we know, captive-bred stock is not currently widely or regularly available. This seems a shame as captive-bred fish are said to be less aggressive than their wild caught counterparts, less likely to carry disease into your tank and, of course, have not had to be removed from wild habitats.
Image below shows an unusual variant with pale body postulated to be a Micronesian variant or possible hybrid species (ref. Michael, S – Reef Fishes Vol 3, 2004)