News / Species Spotlight / Flameback Angelfish (Centropyge acanthops) (09/13/17)

Flameback Angelfish (Centropyge acanthops)

Species Spotlight - Flameback Angelfish (Centropyge acanthops)
There has been a fair bit of research published in recent years on the evolutionary history of angelfishes. One of the most surprising results from these studies is support for the relatively distant relationship between the various dwarf angelfishes. These are mostly classified in the large genus Centropyge, but, in truth, miniaturization appears to be a phenomenon that has happened on multiple occasions within the family.

For example, the Keyhole Angelfish (C. tibicen), which is thetype species for the genus (i.e. the species which defines what this genus is), and the Flameback Angelfish (C. acanthops) belong to very different lineages, with the latter being more closely related to the Genicanthus swallowtail angelfishes than it is to the true dwarf angelfishes. This likely means that at some point the names for many dwarf angelfishes will be revised and changed. For C. acanthops and its closest relatives, well likely see the subgenus Xiphypops elevated to encompass this taxonomic diversity.

The Xiphypops angels form a cohesive and recognizable group spread across most of the worlds tropical waters (with the exception of the East Pacific). This is noteworthy in itself, as no other lineage of dwarf angelfish has been able cross the barrier separating the Atlantic and Pacific, namely the cold waters off the southern tip of Africa. At some point in the past few million years, some enterprising juveniles managed to make the journey and populate these foreign Atlantic waters, resulting in the familiar Cherub Angelfish (C. argi) and the Brazilian Flameback Angelfish (C. aurantonotus), as well as the far rarer Resplendent Angelfish (C. resplendens), known only from the tiny isolated island of Ascension.

Meanwhile, C. acanthops is known only from the eastern African coastline, as well as neighboring regions like the Seychelles, Madagascar and Mauritius. It shares a very similar look to its Brazilian cousin but can be instantly separated thanks to its yellow (vs. blue) caudal fin. Reports further east from the Maldives have been suggested as possible hybrids, but the accuracy of this is unknown. The vast expanse of the Indo-Australian region is generally treated as having a single species, C. fisheri, though there is every reason to believe that there is more biodiversity here than currently recognized.

Aquarium care for the Flameback Angelfish is typical of the genus. A mix of meaty and algal-based foods is called for, with most types of frozen and prepared foods readily taken. Its possible to keep a harem, either as a wild-collected group or by purchasing several small juveniles at once. Many fleshy LPS corals will be eagerly nipped at by this benthic omnivore, so caution is necessary in many reefscapes, though SPS and soft corals generally fare well.