Centropyge potteriPotter's angel(Also: Russet angelfish)

Geographic Range

Centropyge potteri is endemic to the Hawaiian islands and Johnston's atoll between 30 and 17 degrees north latitude (Carlson, 2000).


C. potteri inhabits coral reef ecosystems at least 15 feet in depth (Gosline, 1960).

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • reef
  • Range depth
    4.5 (low) m
    14.76 (low) ft

Physical Description

Individuals are orange with narrow, black, vertical stripes and a blue lining of the dorsal, anal and caudal fins. Unlike most other pygmy angelfish, Potter's angelfish has a preopercular spine (Gosline, 1960).

  • Average length
    10 cm
    3.94 in


C. potteri is a protogynous species, which means that most individuals begin their lives as small females, and then change into males when they are large enough to control a harem of two to seven females and breeding territory for reproduction. This sex inversion takes place over two to three weeks (Lutnesky, 1996).


A single male maintains a harem in his territory and will fertilize the eggs of several females within a single spawning season.

Males must be large enough to control a harem and secure breeding rights, as this species is polygynous. Males visit haremic females near their reef and display courtship by swimming around the females in circles and then each individual simultaneously releases its gametes into the water, where fertilization occurs (Lutnesky and Kosaki, 1995).

  • Breeding season
    Mid-December through May, spawns week before full moon at dusk

Adult Potter's angelfish do not care for the eggs or fry.

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


C. potteri is a pygmy angelfish, and does not live as long as its larger relatives. The average lifespan for the Potter's angelfish is six years in the wild (Tinker, 1944).

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    5 to 7 years


C. potteri is a solitary species that only interacts with its consepcifics during courtship. It remains awake but inactive at night, and spends most of its time during the day foraging. Individuals are very territorial, and therefore remain close to their coral crevices. Perhaps the most interesting behavior of this species is its ability to change sex, as described in the development section above (Lutnesky and Kosaki, 1995).

Communication and Perception

Laboratory studies have detected a quiet chirping sound that is emitted during courtship; however its purpose is unclear (Lutnesky and Kosaki, 1995).

Food Habits

Individuals use their many comblike teeth to pull food items off of hard reef surfaces. Their diet consists of benthic algae, cnidarians, and tunicates (Carlson, 2000).

  • Animal Foods
  • cnidarians
  • other marine invertebrates
  • Plant Foods
  • algae


The main anti-predator strategy that the small angelfish uses is to hide within finger coral crevices and remain inactive at night. Its narrow body also allows for fast swimming and darting motions to escape predators (Carlson, 2000).

Ecosystem Roles

C. potteri is an integral part of the biodiversity of the reef ecosystem.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

C. potteri adds to beauty of coral reefs, which are one of the main Hawaiian tourist attractions. This species is also kept as a pet (Carlson, 2000).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Potter's angelfish in no way harms humans, the environment, or the economy.

Conservation Status

C. potteri is part of the already threatened coral reef ecosystems. Therefore, it is important to not take too many individuals for the pet trade.


William Fink (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Anna Frostic (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

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


humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


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).


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.

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

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


condition of hermaphroditic animals (and plants) in which the female organs and their products appear before the male organs and their products


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


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


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


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


Carlson, B. 2000. "Waikiki Aquarium Homepage" (On-line). Accessed November 11, 2002 at http://waquarium.mic.hawaii.edu.

Gosline, W. 1960. Handbook of Hawaiian fishes. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press.

Lutnesky, M. 1996. Size-dependent rate of protogynous sex change in the pomacanthid angelfish, {Centropyge potteri}. Copeia, 1996 (1): 209-212.

Lutnesky, M., R. Kosaki. 1995. Female-female competition in a coral reef fish and a test of the temporal threshold model of polygynous mating. The American Naturalist, 146: 832-847.

Tinker, S. 1944. Hawaiian fishes; a handbook of the fishes found among the islands of the central Pacific ocean. Honolulu, Hawaii: Tongg Publishing.