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Larval rearing of the Fisher's angel, Centropyge fisheri

December 01, 2013

Family: Pomacanthidae > Genus: Centropyge > Species: C. fisheri

Marine angelfishes (Pomacanthidae) are colorful, small to moderate sized reef fishes with a strongly deep and compressed body. The family comprises 7 genera and about 86 species. All members have preopecle spines for which the family is named (from the Greek poma meaning "cover" and akantha meaning "thorn“) and which distinguish them from their closest relatives, the butterflyfishes. Larger angelfish species are usually solitary in nature and form highly territorial mated pairs. Smaller species commonly form harems with a single male dominant over several females. All pomacanthid species are known to be protogynous hermaphrodites that produce pelagic eggs. The intense color patterns and majestic appearance of marine angelfishes arguably make them the most beautiful fishes in the ocean. For this reason they are highly prized by aquarists worldwide and command the highest prices in the marine ornamental fish trade. Large angelfishes species are also sometimes used for food.

The diminutive and brilliantly colored pygmy or dwarf angels (genus Centropyge) are the most heavily traded angelfishes in the aquarium hobby, largely due to their size, hardiness and stunning coloration. The genus is the largest within the Pomacanthid family, comprising a total of 28 described species. While small-scale breeding has been accomplished for a number of Centropge species, the complicated rearing phase of the larvae still impedes pygmy angelfish from being mass cultured. To date, the large demand for these popular reef fishes is met solely by wild collection.

The Fisher’s Angel (Centropyge fisheri) was captive-bred at the Reef Culture Technologies hatchery on numerous occasions since 2001. This small, brown colored species (up to 3”) was once thought to be endemic to the Hawaiian Islands but is now considered by many synonymous with C. flavicauda, a species that occurs throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific. C. fisheri is usually found on rubble bottoms on outer reef slopes at depths of 50-150 feet. The eggs were collected from hatchery conditioned broodstock and, more recently, from the ocean with a neuston net. The eggs are spherical, colorless, contain a single oil globule and measure about 0.65 mm in diameter. Features of the larvae include conspicuous body spinules and head spination. Preflexion larvae are moderate bodied with reddish pigmentation. Postflexion larvae develop a deeper and more laterally compressed, silver colored body with brown pigmentation on the dorsal area. The larvae are difficult to raise but will feed on copepods throughout the rearing phase. They start to settle near 40 dph (days post hatch) and complete metamorphosis in about 10-15 days. The resulting larval period is about 55 days.  C. fisheri is not a popular Centropyge due to its relative drab coloration. But the adults are hardy and easy to spawn in captivity and the larvae settle faster with less complications than many other Centropyge species cultured to date.  These attributes make C. fisheri is a good model species for the experimental rearing of more difficult to rear marine fishes.