News / Species Spotlight / Look-A-Likes: Fireball or Flameback (02/18/16)

Look-A-Likes: Fireball or Flameback

The Fireball Angel and the Flameback Angel come from different depth ranges, and have different geographic distributions, but other than that they are extremely similar. They have similar spawning behaviors, similar sizes and similar eating habits. So are these two the same fish or not? While genetic testing hasn't been done to verify it, as of now, science says no, they are not the same fish.
The Flameback Angel (Centropyge acanthops)

Adding to the confusion about these fish is that their common names are commonly flip flopped. This fish has been called the Dwarf Flameback Angel, but is also called the African Pygmy Angel and the Orangeback Angel.

The Flameback Angel can be found on the Eastern Coast of Africa, from 26 to 131 feet deep.

The major physical difference between this and the C. aurantonotus is that they caudal fin (tail fin) is usually a pale yellow color, as are the pectoral fins. They also have a very slightly larger max size at 3 inches.

This is very good angelfish for the aquarium environment. It adapts well to prepared foods, is very hardy, and doesn't need a large territory. It will get a long with most fish but may be aggressive with fish that look or act similar.

The Fireball Angel (Centropyge aurantonotus)

This fish is also very frequently called the Flameback Angel, as well as Brazilian or Caribbean Flameback.

The range of this fish is Caribbean and extends down to Brazil. While most often observed between 50 and 80 feet, it has been seen as deep as 650+ feet down. It has a slightly smaller max reported size than the Flameback Angel at 2.25 inches.

This is also an excellent aquarium fish for all of the same reasons that the Flameback is. Because these fish are so close in both appearance and behavior, if one is not available, the other would make a great substitute for all but the most accurate of location-specific displays.

Gerald R Allen & Roger Steene & Mark Allen, Angelfishes & Butterflyfishes, 1st ed. (Odyssey Publishing 1998)
Scott W. Michael, Angelfishes & Butterflyfishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications 2004)
Rudie H Kuiter & Helmut Debelius, World Atlas of Marine Fishes, 1st ed. (IKAN-Unterwasserarchiv 2006)
QM Internal Sources: Adam Mangino, Eli Fleishauer, Jessica Nishimoto