Pomacanthus paruFrench Angelfish

Geographic Range

Pomacanthus paru are abundant along coral reefs along both sides of the Atlantic. The distribution in the Western Tropical Atlantic ranges from Florida and the Bahamas to Brazil. In the Eastern Atlantic, they are found in West Africa and Cape Verde Island. It also has recently been introduced to Bermuda (Allen 1985, Eli 2000).


They are found in coral reef areas in depths of less than forty meters. At night, P. paru seek cover, usually returning to the same place every night. They are often associated with rocky, broken bottoms, coral reefs, and grassy flats, which provide sufficient hiding places and enough coverage.

Physically, P. paru does well under a broad range of conditions. They are eurayhaline, meaning they tolerate a wide span of salinity. Temperatures in the mid seventy degrees are optimal for this species (Allen 1985, http://www.hood.edu/academic/biology/frenchangelfish.htm).

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • reef

Physical Description

Size: Adults can reach a maximum length of 41.1 cm.

Coloration: The appearance of P. paru differs greatly between juveniles and adults. Young P. paru are a dark brown to black color with thick, curved yellow bands across the head and body. As an adult, the yellow bands fade except for one yellow bar at the outer base of the pectoral fin. The scales turn black with yellow rims and the face becomes light blue with a white chin and mouth region.

Body shape: The disc-shaped Angelfish family is distinguished by a strong, curved, projecting spine on the lower edge of the preopercle bone and the absence of a pelvic axillary process. On juveniles, the spine is serrate and smoothes out in the adult form. The stout spine found on the gill cover gives P. paru its name (Pom= "cover", acanthus= "spine"), and distinguishes them from the closely related butterflyfishes (Allen 1985, Helfman 1997, Nelson 1999).


Maturity is reached at an age of 3.4 years. Reproduction is a pair-spawning, egg-scattering process. The egg-filled female travels with the male to the surface where both the eggs and sperm are released into the water. The eggs develop in beds of floating plankton where the young grow until they can travel down to the coral reef (Allen 1985, http://www.hood.edu/academic/biology/frenchangelfish.htm).


Juvenile P. paru exhibit cleaning behavior. In reef ecosystems, they set up formal cleaning stations to remove ecoparasites from a wide variety of fish clients. The juveniles perform a characteristic fluttering motion, as if wagging their bodies as they swim, at the cleaning stations. During the cleaning, they touch the body of the fish with their pelvic fins. These physical actions and the varied community of clients qualify the young angels as specialized cleaners comparable to cleaner gobies, wrasses, and shrimp as biological controls of parasites. The cleaning activity declines after the fish reaches a size of five to seven centimeters.

Adult P. paru often form pairs, and are thought to remain with the same mate throughout their lives. Together, these mates actively move around the corals during the day, and seek refuge at night. Angelfish are very territorial, yet very curious and inquisitive towards divers (Moura, Sazima, Sazima 1999, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FrAng.htm).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

P. paru are mostly omnivorous. Juveniles feed on a mix of algae and detritus with occasional parasites, acquired from other fish. The diet of adults is made up mostly of sponges. They also consume tunicates, gorgonians, hydroids, zoantharians and coral as alternative sources of food (Allen 1985, Eli 2000).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

P. paru has economic importance in the commercial aquarium trade and is collected by means of non-damaging nets. They are sold for a minimum of fifty-six dollars in the aquarium trade. The high tolerance to physical changes, disease-resistance, and longevity establishes this species as an ideal aquarium specimen. This hardiness enables aquarium owners to enjoy the beauty and elegance of this fish in their homes

There is minor commercial fishery use of P. paru. Their flesh has been marketed and is used for human consumption in Singapore and Thailand (Eli 2000, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FrAng.htm).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

none known

Conservation Status

Other Comments

The Grey Angel, Pomacanthus arcuatus, is often confused as P. paru, being very similar in appearance and having about the same range of habitat and collection. The close relationship between the two term them as "sibling species"

( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FrAng.htm).


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

Stacey Kilarski (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


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

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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.


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.


uses touch to communicate


"Pomacanthus paru" (On-line). Accessed Oct. 24, 2000 at http://www.hood.edu/academic/biology/frenchangelfish.htm.

"The French Angelfish, Pomacanthus paru" (On-line). Accessed Oct. 24, 2000 at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FrAng.htm.

Allen, G. 1985. Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World, vol.2. Melle, Germany: Mergus Publishers.

Eli, A. 2000. "ICLARM - Fish Base Project" (On-line). Accessed Oct. 24, 2000 at http://www.fishbase.org.

Helfman, G., B. Collette, D. Facey. 1997. The Diversity of Fishes. Malden, Massachusettes: Blackwell Science, Inc..

Moura, R., C. Sazima, I. Sazima. Dec., 1999. Cleaning actigity of juvenile angelfish, Pomacanthus paru, on the reefs of the Abrolhos Archipelago, western South Atlantic. Environmental Biology of Fishes, 56(4): 399-407.

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