West African Angelfish (Holacanthus africanus)

Adult West African Angelfish (Holacanthus africanus)

Adult West African Angelfish (Holacanthus africanus)

The West African Angelfish (Holacanthus africanus) known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the African Angelfish or Guinean Angelfish is found in the warmer sections of the eastern Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa.   Its range extends to the Cape Verde and  São Tomé islands, from Senegal to the Congo estuary, and in the Mediterranean in Valletta Harbor, Malta.

West African Angelfish are found alone, in pairs, and in small groups in clear shallow waters over rocky reefs at depths between  3 and 130 feet where they graze on sponges, algae, jellyfish, soft corals, tunicates, and plankton.

Around the Cape Verde islands, West African Angelfish are often found as the dominant species in large, mixed species shoals.

Juvenile West African Angelfish (Holacanthus africanus)

Juvenile West African Angelfish (Holacanthus africanus)

Juvenile West African Angelfish are a beautiful dark blue color with a wide vertical white band in the middle of the body, a yellow to yellow orange face and tail, and thin light blue vertical bars on either side of the eye.    As  they grow to around 2 inches in length they begin to change into their adult colors.

The vibrant dark blue body color gradually turns into a yellow orange to olive green color, the white vertical bar on the flanks widens and turns into a more yellowish color, and the caudal peduncle turns almost black.    Adults often retain the yellow markings on the edges of the dorsal and anal fins and develop a dark ocellus behind the operculum.

Juvenile West African Angelfish are best housed in a FOLR aquarium of at least 150 gallon capacity with plenty of aged live rock for them to graze on, arranged into crevices, overhangs, and caves for hiding.   They can be territorial as they grow but can be housed with other species of the same size and temperament.  They should not be housed with other angelfish in the same genus or with similarly colored species.    Adults require an aquarium of at least 250 gallon capacity when housed with other like sized species.

Because Holacanthus africanus are known to nip at soft and LPS corals, small invertebrates, and tridacnid clam mantles; they are not considered good candidates for reef tanks.

Some tropical fish keeping enthusiasts have reportedly been able to successfully keep them in a large reef tank (over 500 gallons) with with small polyped stony corals and species like Cladiella spp., Lamnalia spp., Litophyton spp., Sinularia spp. that produce a noxious chemical defense.

West African Angelfish have not been bred in an aquarium environment.

Guinean Angelfish primarily omnivores that in their natural habitat feed on marine algae, a variety of sponges, jellyfish, soft corals, tunicates, and plankton.  In an aquarium environment with plenty of mature live rock, their diet should include additional vegetable matter such as Spirulina, marine algae, with meaty items, and high quality angelfish preparations that include sponges. Feed them at least three times daily.

West African Angelfish are a rare find for tropical fish keeping enthusiasts but are occasionally available online from a variety of retail sites at high prices.   They are sold at the following approximate purchase sizes:

Juvenile Blue: 1″ to 2″, Changing: Small 1-3/4″ to 2-1/4″; Medium 2-1/4″ to 3-1/4″; Large 3-1/4″ to 4-1/2″, Adult: Small/Medium 2-1/4″ to 3-1/4″; Medium: 3-1/4″ to 4-1/4″; Medium/Large: 4-1/4″ to 5-1/4″; Large: 5-1/4″ to 6-1/4″.

Prices range from around $ 265.00 to $1,125.00.

Adult West African Angelfish (Holacanthus africanus)

Adult West African Angelfish (Holacanthus africanus)






Minimum Tank Size: 150 gallons
Aquarium Type: FOLR – Mature live rock
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Semi-Aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 72 °F – 78 °F, dKH 8 to 12, pH 8.1 – 8.4, sg 1.020-1.025
Max. Size: 18″
Color Form: Blue, Green, Yellow
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Not reef safe
Origin: Australia, New Guinea, Western Pacific, Indian Ocean
Family: Pomacanthidae
Lifespan: 20 years
Experience Level: Intermediate

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