If you go looking for one, however, be
aware that the African flameback angel
(C. acanthops) is practically its twin. It’s
also small but comes from the tropical West
Indian Ocean and is a completely different
fish. In my experience, and others’, it’s one
of the most aggressive pygmy angels, and
it can pester other small fishes to death,
so make sure you look at the tails. The
Brazilian flameback’s is solid blue, but the
African flameback’s is partially translucent
with some yellow and sometimes fringed
with blue along the top and bottom edges.
The cherub angel (C. argi) also looks
somewhat similar to the African flameback.
It’s easy to tell them apart, though, as
the yellow on the face of C. argi doesn’t
extend over the fish’s back and dorsal fin.
This hardy species is found in the tropical
western Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean,
and the Gulf of Mexico, and it reaches a
maximum length of just over 3 inches ( 7. 5
cm), just slightly larger than the African
C. argi will also typically leave everything
else in an aquarium alone, although
the occasional individual can become
aggressive toward other fishes of about the
same size, or even a little bigger. A good
way to try to avoid such issues is to add the
cherub angel last to the aquarium. Or, if a
cherub has been at home in the aquarium
for a while, add only significantly larger
fish that can take care of themselves. In any
case, C. argi rarely becomes a big enough
problem to require removal.
The half-black angel (C. vrolikii), also
known as the pearlscale angel, is a hardy
species that hails from the tropical Indo-
West Pacific. It can reach a maximum size
of 3½ inches ( 9 cm) and at times can be
somewhat aggressive toward other small
Occasionally, individuals may nip at
corals and clam mantles, but this is typically
a result of a poor diet. They should not pose
a threat to any other invertebrates, and they
very rarely need to be removed from a reef
The rusty angel (C. ferrugata) is found in
the tropical West Pacific, and it is slightly
larger than the previous species, reaching
a length of about 4 inches ( 10 cm). In my
experience, this fish is another low-risk
choice for a reef aquarium.
C. ferrugata is typically quite hardy, and
I’ve never seen nor heard of one acting
aggressively toward other fishes, with the
exception of other similar pygmy angels.
Still, as is the case with C. vrolikii, certain
individuals may nip at corals and clam
mantles. If you keep one well fed, it’ll most
likely not cause any problems, nor is it
likely to ever need to be removed.
THE CORAL BEAUTY
The coral beauty angel (C. bispinosa), also
called the two-spined angel, can be found
throughout the tropical Indo-West Pacific. It
can also reach a length of about 4 inches ( 10
cm), and it is the most commonly offered
and purchased of all the pygmy angels.
They are typically as hardy and easy to
care for as they come, and I haven’t had any
troubles keeping them in reef aquariums.
Rare individuals have been known to nip
at corals and clams, but—one more time—
keep them well fed and there will be very
little risk of having to take one out of your
The half-black angelfish (C. vrolikii ).
Rusty angel (C. ferrugata ).