Angelfish – Spectacular Coral Reef Fish

Majestic Angels
A Pair of Majestic Angels

Everyone loves swimming in the tropical ocean. Acres of healthy hard and soft corals and thousands of colorful fish add to the beauty of the ocean. Although everyone loves looking at coral, the fish are the real stars of the show. Big fish like sharks and rays are often on the top of everyone’s “encounter list”, as they are large and charismatic. However, they lack the colors that make fish so fascinating. Angelfish however are both charismatic and colorful. In fact, this family of fish is perhaps the most beautiful species of fish in the ocean.

The Angelfish Family

The angelfish family, Pomacanthidae, consist of 86 different species found throughout the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans. These fish are conspicuous inhabitants of the reef and come in a wide variety of size and colors. They feed on a diet of sponge, tunicates, and algae. They range in size from palm sized to over 60cm (2 feet) in length. With their disc shape and similar size, the smaller angels are often mistaken for the equally spectacular butterflyfish family.

Bicolor Angel
Palm Sized Bicolor Angelfish

There are over 25 different angelfish species in Indonesia. These range from under 10cm in length Golden Angels to over 45cm 6 Banded Angels. Mostly found in pairs, angels inhabit a variety of different habitats. Divers and snorkelers may encounter the vast majority of these fish in the shallows but several species are exclusively found in the depths. The smaller species such as the Flame Angel and Bicolor Angel tend to be shy and quickly seek shelter from any perceived threat. The larger specimens such as the Emperor and the Semicirclular are much more bold and may approach divers.

Juvenile and Adult Angelfish

Juvenile Emperor Angelfish
Juvenile Emperor Angelfish

There is a marked difference in the color and behavior in the juvenile and adult versions of many angelfish. The larger members of the family such as the Semicircle, Emperor, Majestic, Blue Face, Regal, and Six Banded angelfish all look markedly different from juvenile to adult. The spectacular patterns and colors of the juveniles change as they transition to adults. However, this does not mean they look any less spectacular, they are some of the most visually stunning of all marine fish. The juveniles tend to be very shy and remain close to safe shelter. They will also commonly act as cleaner fish, meaning they will eat parasites from the skin of larger fish. Speaking of cleaner behavior, many adult angelfish also act as cleaners to large fish such as sunfish and manta rays.

Angelfish Cleaning Mola
Adult Emperor Angelfish Cleaning a Sunfish

We encounter these beautiful fish on almost every dive or snorkel excursion. The larger species are easy to spot due to their size and coloration. The smaller ones are shy but our talented guides will often point them out before they disappear into the coral. For photographers, these wonderful fish are great subjects for portrait photography. Please let our crew know of your interest in angelfish and they will be very happy to introduce you to the spectacular population found throughout Indonesia.

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