Queen Angelfish Care Guide

Scientific NameHolacanthus ciliaris
Final Tank Size200+ Gallons
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
The Queen AngelFish is an absolute gem in the home aquarium. They are beautiful fish that act as their name suggests. The Queen AngelFish can frequently be seen overlooking the other fish in the tank and asserting their dominance over the rest of their tank mates. Anything that is more dominant than the queen is typically a threat to them, making them always be the center of any tank they are in.

They are not fragile or hard to keep fish but their diet and personality can make them challenging if your tank was not designed with them in mind. They will destroy coral tanks, deprive themselves of nutrients when fed meat and cause a lot of fighting if there is anything in the tank they do not agree with. If you want to keep the queen you need to be ready to serve.

Is the Queen AngelFish Reef Safe?

These are almost as non reef safe a fish as you can get. They are quick to pick at all except toxic corals that can defend themselves. Even then they will likely do some harassment and inhibit the corals while trying to graze. All other corals will be eaten very quickly no matter how well fed the angel is.

Small inverts vary with the Queen AngelFish. Small crabs and shrimp over an inch and a half are typically safe. Sexy shrimp may be in danger as well as any young shrimp. All worms are under threat when kept with this angelfish and should not be kept in the same tank. This includes feather dusters and tube worms.

Clams, oysters and scallops will be picked at until they starve or are eaten. The same goes for starfish, sponges, anemones and sea fans. The Queen AngelFish should only be kept in tanks without corals, or a FOWLR, fish only with live rock, tank. Do not keep the queen with any corals, soft inverts or worms you are not willing to lose.

Queen AngelFish Diet

The Queen AngelFish shows its difficulty during feeding time. In the wild adults will feed entirely on sponge, rarely picking at tunicates and corals. To replicate this a mostly plant based diet is necessary for them. All prepared foods should either have sponge or spirulina, which is an algae supplement with a lot of nutrition. In the aquarium they will accept just about any foods and love to eat meaty foods. This behavior quickly leads them to illness through nutrition deficiencies.

A good diet for the Queen AngelFish should contain:

  • Seaweed | Nori
  • Pro-V Gelatin food
  • High quality plant based flakes and pellets
  • Foods made with sponge
  • Spirulina
  • Algae flakes, pellets and wafers
  • Occasional meaty foods, such as gut loaded live shrimp

The key to getting the Queen AngelFish to eat a proper diet, especially when housed with carnivorous fish, is to feed them only herbivore and sponge based foods until they are done eating, about five minutes. After that you can feed the rest of the fish their meaty foods. By this time the queen should have had its fill of food and will not eat much if any of the meaty foods. Feeding the foods along side one another will result in a nutritional deficit.

When choosing high quality foods special mixes like the new life spectrum, NLS, marine fish formula are a solid, easy to work with option. They add in a lot of difficult to mix in nutrients. This makes keeping the Queen AngelFish healthy, their main difficulty, much easier. Other foods should still be offered to the queen to help keep their diet varied and well rounded. Sponge based pellets are frequently sold as angelfish food, making it easy to pick out their normal store foods.

In this video a young Queen AngelFish is seen eating seaweed that has been clipped onto the aquariums glass. IT can also be tied to rocks in the tank but should not be allowed to freely float in the tank. As it is torn apart it will quickly dissolve and dirty the tank water. By holding it in place we ensure the fish will eat most of the seaweed while also making it easy to remove the parts they do not eat. All uneaten seaweed should be removed from the tank one hour after it is added. As the seaweed is sold dried it will begin to break down after an hour of being under water, especially when in a high flow area. Red seaweed dissolves faster than green seaweed but offers different nutrients. Try to use both red and green seaweed.

Gut loaded live shrimp are difficult to keep in stock but are great for enticing picky Queen AngelFish into eating. The shrimp can be fed whatever it is you wish to pass onto the queen but will also be eaten by the other fish in the tank. Their primary use is feeding the angelfish when it is kept in a quarantine tank and shows no interest in prepared foods or seaweed. Gelatin like foods serve a similar purpose but are easier to use. The issue with them is they are harder to notice and can dirty the water unlike live shrimp.

Queen AngelFish Tank Requirements

In the wild the Queen AngelFish will spend most of its time at least 7 feet under water. In the home aquarium they are typically at or below the middle of the tank, only going into the top section to feed or when quickly swimming across the tank. To keep more than one angel the tank should be no smaller than 220 gallons and have plenty of open space for the two angels to swim through.

As they require large tanks and should be the last fish added to the tank a matured tank should be ready and waiting for the Queen AngelFish. The tank should have a strong beneficial bacteria colony, consistent aeration, no carbon issues and a few caverns created by rocks or decorations. The younger the incoming queen will be the more hiding places the tank should have. As they grow to be highly dominant fish the tankmates the Queen AngelFish will be housed with should be decently sized and aggressive. Small passive fish will be bullied even by a juvenile queen.

Many aquarists will start off the Queen AngelFish in a smaller tank then they end up in. This keeps the queen safe from larger, more threatening fish if they are too small to be paired with them at the time of purchase. These tanks should still be decently sized, at least a 55 gallon for when they are under 5 inches in size. Keep in mind this is not even a third of their maximum size and it is not possible to get away with a smaller tank. When kept in less then a 200 gallon tanks adult Queen AngelFish will almost always harass their tankmates. They need larger tanks to feel comfortable around other fish, especially the larger aggressive ones they are typically kept with.
When they are full sized the Queen AngelFish has no troubles with spares to no rocks in the tank. It is when they are young that they depend on the rocks for protection. Try to make sure there are at least three unclaimed caverns, over hangs or cracks between the rocks when housing a young queen. Adults will still swim between rocks and may enjoy them, but they are not always necessary. Likewise they will do fine in a bare bottom tank with no substrate.

Young queens are very territorial and will chase away other fish. This is especially true when kept in a smaller tank with tankmates they are not expected to stay with such as peaceful wrasse or gobies. When kept with similarly aggressive fish the queen may be scared into jumping while they are still young. These tanks housing juveniles should have tight fitting lids with no holes big enough for the queen angelfish to fit through. Likewise in tanks where they may bully other fish the jump risk will go up. Once they are bigger and have been added to the final tank you can expect to never see any jumping from the queen. They are very dominant fish that are not typically scared or chased by other fish.

Queen AngelFish Tankmates

The Queen AngelFish is quick to harass smaller, weaker fish. They absolutely cannot be kept with anything of peaceful temperament or of significantly smaller size unless you are ok with them being chased on sight. This includes larger fish like peaceful butterfly fish or anthias. Likewise slow moving fish like lions, scorpionfish and frog fish should not be kept with this angelfish. Worms, starfish, anemones, scallops, clams, oysters and sponges are all under threat and should not be housed with this angelfish.

Good tankmates are:

  • Clownfish
  • Tangs
  • Basslets
  • Squirrelfish
  • Snappers
  • Surgeon Fish
  • Eels
  • Large wrasse

Other angelfish can occasionally be kept with the Queen AngelFish but should only be attempted with caution. The two angelfish should have a barrier in between them until they have been observed for a few days. It should be quickly apparent if one is darting at the other and being generally aggressive. If they do not seem too aggressive you can remove the barrier and let the two angelfish meet. You should have a second tank ready to accept an angelfish if the two do not get along. Remember to establish the other angelfish first, as the queen is not tolerant to new angelfishes once it has become established.

Remember that their tankmates will be quite large, taking up the water to fish ratio fairly quickly. There is very little room for extra fish in 200 gallon tanks so only pick out fish you truly want and not just fish that do fine with the queen. Eels are an excellent choice as they will not be harassed and are typically target fed. This allows you to feed both the angel and the eel exactly what you want without the other getting in the way of feeding. Again, be sure the eel is established before adding the angel. Additionally keep in mind that young angelfish will occasionally pick off excessive slime from the eels body. The eel will either accept or be scared by this action, but it should not be harmful to the eel.

Queen AngelFish Gender & Coloration

While it is known that the Queen AngelFish is usually found in pairs in the wild, they do not breed in the home aquarium. The genders are not usually noticeable. In general the males will be larger than the female, but this is not usually accurate as the larger fish could just be older or have had a better diet.

As a juvenile the Queen AngelFish will have a larger blue back half of their body and a dark blue stripe alone their eye with light blue stripes on the end of their eye stripe. Their body will have several more of these thin light blue stripes going across most of their body, stopping just before their fins. Their pectoral fins will always be a bright yellow, as will their tail fins. Their dorsal and anal fin will have a dark blue outline.

As they mature the blue will fade away, only remaining on a few scales giving them a speckled look. A brilliant yellow coat of scales will cover their body, leaving only a blue outline around their body and a few stray marks on their face. Again their pectoral and tail fins will be a solid yellow with no outline or highlights.

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