Holacanthus ciliarisBlue angelfish(Also: Golden angelfish; Yellow angelfish)

Geographic Range

Queen angelfish, Holacanthus ciliaris, are tropical fish found in coral reefs in the western Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean as far south as Brazil. They do not migrate, and they are commonly spotted near the Bahamas and Florida. (Pauly and Froese, 2010)


Queen angelfish are primarily found in coral reefs, which provide shelter and abundant food sources. They can be found at depths up to 70 m. Although they are naturally marine fish, queen angelfish can tolerate changes in salinity. As such, they are often placed in marine aquariums. (Pauly and Froese, 2010)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • reef
  • Range depth
    70 (high) m
    229.66 (high) ft

Physical Description

Queen angelfish are easily distinguished by their striking coloration, with vibrant yellow accents and variations of gem-like blues. Their distinctive "crown" is speckled dark blue and surrounded by a ring of bright blue. Their tail is yellow. Juveniles have a markedly different coloration than adults, displaying a striped blue and yellow pattern or a solid yellow pattern.

The body of queen angelfish is very flat, with an elongated, continuous dorsal and anal fin with 9 to 15 spines and 15 to 17 soft rays. They have a strong spine at the angle of the preopercle (cheek bone) and lack a well developed pelvic axillary process (fleshy bump at the base of the pelvic fin). Queen angelfish average 45 cm in length and 1.6 kg in mass. Males are generally larger than females. (Nelson, 1994)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Average mass
    1.6 kg
    3.52 lb
  • Average length
    45 cm
    17.72 in


After fertilized eggs of queen angelfish float in the water column for 15 to 20 hours, they develop into transparent larvae. Larvae then develop into juveniles, which resemble adults. Larvae feed on plankton and grow rapidly, reaching a size of 15 to 20 mm in their juvenile form. (Patton and Bester, 2010)


Queen angelfish are believed to be polygynous, and harems have been observed during courtship and pre-spawning. Harems generally consist of 1 male and up to 4 females. A male courts a female by displaying his pectoral fins, flicking them outward every few seconds. The female then ascends in the water, and the male positions himself below the female. The male touches his snout to her vent (genital) area, rising with the female with his belly close to hers. As the pair rises to about 18 m in depth, they release eggs and sperm. (Colin, 1983; Patton and Bester, 2010)

Queen angelfish spawn seasonally, which occurs during the winter months in Puerto Rico. Spawning peaks once each year, although queen angelfish may spawn more than once during the year. Spawning behavior has been observed within minutes of sunset during the evening. Females can produce 25,000 to 75,000 eggs in one evening. Eggs hatch in 15 to 20 hours, and larvae absorb the yolk sac in the next 48 hours. Larvae feed on plankton and grow rapidly, reaching a size of 15 to 20 mm in their juvenile form. (Colin, 1983; Patton and Bester, 2010)

  • Breeding interval
    Spawning peaks once a year, but queen angelfish may spawn more than once during the year.
  • Breeding season
    Queen angelfish spawn seasonally, which occurs during the winter in Puerto Rico.
  • Range time to hatching
    15 to 20 hours

Once eggs are fertilized, zygotes are left develop into larvae without any parental investment. Juvenile queen angelfish find protection among colonies of finger sponges and corals at the bottom of reefs. (Patton and Bester, 2010)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning


The lifespan of queen angelfish has not been well documented.


Queen angelfish often travel alone or in pairs. Harems have been observed prior to mating, consisting of 1 male and 4 to 5 females. When placed in aquariums, queen angelfish are very aggressive. (Patton and Bester, 2010)

Home Range

Little information is available regarding the home range of queen angelfish.

Communication and Perception

Queen angelfish communicate, particularly during mating, through temporary changes in color. Little information is otherwise available regarding the communication and perception of queen angelfish. (Luiz-Junior, 2003)

  • Communication Channels
  • visual

Food Habits

Queen angelfish primarily feed on sponges and corals. They also eat other marine invertebrates, including tunicates, jellyfish, hydroids, bryozoans. They may also eat plankton and algae. (Patton and Bester, 2010; Pauly and Froese, 2010)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats other marine invertebrates
  • Animal Foods
  • cnidarians
  • other marine invertebrates
  • zooplankton
  • Plant Foods
  • algae


Queen angelfish may be preyed upon by many larger fish that inhabit coral reefs; however, predation has not been well studied.

Ecosystem Roles

Queen angelfishes feed on sponges, corals and other small invertebrates, and are preyed upon by larger animals that inhabit coral reefs.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Queen angelfish are popular additions to saltwater aquariums because of their beautiful coloration as both juveniles and adults. Because new technologies have allowed hobbyists to effectively care for and keep marine fish, queen angelfish are increasing sought after. In Florida, queen angelfish averaged from $11.16 to $17.84 USD per fish between 1990 and 1998. Retail prices vary with size and range between $60 and $130 USD. Adult mating pairs sell at a premium. (Larkin, et al., 2008)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of queen angelfish on humans.

Conservation Status

Queen angelfish are considered a species of least concern by the ICUN. Populations are globally stable, although they are harvested in high numbers near Brazil. (Luiz-Junior, 2003)


O. Omodele Ajagbe (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


having more than one female as a mate at one time


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)


National Geographic Society. 2010. "Queen Angelfish" (On-line). National Geographic. Accessed March 20, 2010 at http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/queen-angelfish.html.

Colin, P. 1983. Courtship, spawning and inferred social organization of American angelfishes (Genera Pomacanthus, Holacanthus and Centropyge; pomacanthidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 9(1): 0378-1909. Accessed March 18, 2010 at http://www.springerlink.com/content/v6u8u5x06rw2g454/.

Feddern, H. 1968. Hybridization Between The Western Atlantic Angelfishes, Holacanthus isabelita and H. ciliaris. Bulletin of Marine Science, 18(2): 351-382. Accessed April 04, 2010 at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/umrsmas/bullmar/1968/00000018/00000002/art00005.

Humann, P. 1997. Reef Fish Indentification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. Jacksonville, Florida: New World Publications.

Larkin, S., C. De Bodisco, R. Degner. 2008. Wholesale and Retail Break-Even Prices for MAC-Certified Queen Angelfish (Holancanthus Ciliaris). Pp. 125-138 in C Brown, J Cato, eds. Marine Ornamental Species: Collection, Culture & Conservation. Online: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. Accessed April 04, 2010 at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/bookhome/117913832.

Luiz-Junior, O. 2003. Colour Morphs in a Queen Angelfish Holacanthus ciliaris (Perciformes: Pomacanthidae) population of St. Paul's Rocks, NE Brazil. Tropical Fish Hobbyist, 51(5): 81-90. Accessed April 04, 2010 at http://www.brasilmergulho.com/port/biologia/documentos/Variacoes_cromaticas_populacao.pdf.

Nelson, J. 1994. Fishes of the World. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, INC..

Patton, C., C. Bester. 2010. "Queen Angelfish" (On-line). Ichthyology at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Accessed April 02, 2010 at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/AngelQueen/AngelQueen.htm.

Pauly, D., R. Froese. 2010. "FishBase" (On-line). Accessed March 18, 2010 at http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?id=3609.