News / Species Spotlight / Armitage Angelfish (Apolemichthys trimaculatus X A. xanthurus) (05/11/17)

Armitage Angelfish (Apolemichthys trimaculatus X A. xanthurus)

Armitage Angelfish (Apolemichthys trimaculatus X A. xanthurus)
There are only two species of Apolemichthys angelfish that occur across the entirety of the Indian Oceanthe Flagfin Angelfish (A. trimaculatus) and the Cream or Yellowtail Angelfish (A. xanthurus). Both of these are commonly available to aquarists and are generally quite affordable; however, every once in awhile these two interbreed to produce a particularly rare and desirable creature the Armitage Angelfish.

The first specimens of this elusive fish were collected in the 1950s from the Seychelles and eventually described as a new species, Apolemichthys armitagei. Since then, it has been found in other areas where the two parent species overlap, including the Maldives, the Andaman Sea and around Java, where aquarium species occasionally originate. For decades this was one of the most mysterious members of the angelfish family, known from very few specimens, but eventually scientists began to piece together its true nature.

In hindsight, the Armitage Angelfish is a perfect blend of its parent species, and it probably should have been more obvious all along that this was just a hybrid. In most aspects, it looks like a duskier version of A. trimaculatus, even going so far as to have the same black and white anal fin patterning. Where it differs most noticeably is in the dark marking present on the dorsal fin (which tends to vary in its scope between specimens), as well as the dingier coloration of the head. This latter trait is likely derived from A. xanthurus, though little else from this species is readily apparent in its hybrid offspring.

While A. armitagei is no longer thought to represent a true species, its continued rarity still makes it one of the more expensive angelfishes. No two specimens are ever quite the same, which makes owning this fish a truly unique pleasure. Like other large pomacanthids, the Armitage Angelfish (whose maximum size is probably around ten inches) is not the safest choice to mix with certain types of soft and stony corals, but, in general, this is a hearty and robust creature that will thrive in a wide variety of aquariums.