News / Species Spotlight / Personifer Angelfish (Chaetodontoplus personifer) (10/31/18)

Personifer Angelfish (Chaetodontoplus personifer)

Species Spotlight - Personifer Angelfish (Chaetodontoplus personifer)
The beautiful black and yellow Personifer Angelfish (Chaetodontoplus personifer) is an impressive centerpiece for any rare fish collectors aquarium. The species hails from the northwestern coast of Australia where, historically, relatively little collection has taken place. And so it has naturally been among the most difficult and expensive pomacanthids to obtain, but that has thankfully changed to some extent with the exciting introduction of aquacultured specimens, which Quality Marine has been fortunate to offer.

The story of the Personifer is an interesting example of the role our planets geologic history has in shaping a species evolution, as well as the confusion that can be brought about by common names. It was first discovered over a century ago at Shark Bay in Western Australia, and, until 1990, this species was considered to range all across the tropical portions of the continent, occurring as far as Sydney and Lord Howe Island in the east.

But it had long been noted that there were some recognizable differences in the appearance of populations of either side of the Torres Strait. Those in the west tended to have a considerable amount of black in their tail and often a darker face, while those in the east mostly had a yellow tail and an undarkened face, revealing the underlying yellow-spotted patterning. Exceptions to these rules do exist, but, on the whole, they are useful characteristics to look for when distinguishing between them.

The Torres Strait was not always a strait. Today, this thin expanse of water serves to divide Australia from its neighbor to the north, New Guinea, but as recently as the last ice age this area would have been well above sea level. This isthmus would have regularly appeared and disappeared during major climatic fluctuations, effectively disconnecting the eastern and western populations, allowing speciation to take place. And so, in 1990, the Australian ichthyologist Rudie Kuiter named those in the east as a distinct species, the False Personifer Angelfish (C. meredithi).

To this day, youll still regularly see confusion within the aquarium trade when it comes to the correct name for these fishes. The eastern C. meredithi is far and away the more commonly seen of this pair, but often posing under the name of its rarer sibling. But accept no substitutes lovely as that species is, the true holy grail has been and always shall be C. personifer, the TRUE Personifer Angelfish.

As an aquarium fish, both species require sizable accommodations, as they are capable of reaching upwards of a foot in length. These are the largest of the Chaetodontoplus angelfishes and are comparable in their dimensions to some of their large cousins in Pomacanthus and Holacanthus. Its this combination of an impressive size and their understated and handsome patterning that has endeared the Personifers, both true and false, to aquarists. Combined with their general heartiness and a relatively non-aggressive disposition, C. personifer and C. meredithi are truly outstanding coral reef fishes.