Rock Beauty Angelfish

Scientific NameHolacanthus tricolor
Minimum Tank Size125 Gallons
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
The Rock Beauty Angelfish, which as the name states is a great looking fish with strong coloration, gets a bad reputation from a lot of aquarists. They enjoy swimming between rocks and will follow around their tankmates. When young they can often be seen nipping at other fish, picking off scales, slime and parasites. This act looks extremely aggressive to the uninformed aquarist and keeps many people from ever purchasing one of these great angels.

It is important to note that the Rock Beauty Angelfish is quite timid and can easily be bullied by larger fish. Small fish, like damsels or territorial clownfish can also get the better of the rock beauty. Aggressive tankmates will keep this angel in hiding, leading to poor health and a short tank life. In reality they should mostly be kept with peaceful fish that will not attack fish who wander into their territory.

Is the Rock Beauty Angelfish Reef Safe?

These are not really reef safe fish. Angelfish spend a lot of their time grazing on algae, sponges and corals. The Rock Beauty Angelfish is much more likely to pass over corals in search of sponges, but will turn on corals when they are hungry. As they usually want three to five meals a day they will be hungry at least once before a scheduled meal. In this time they will pick at soft corals and those with large polyps. Noxious corals or very hard corals can be kept with the rock beauty but should still be monitored. For tanks with existing coral it is generally not a good idea to add an angelfish, even one as small as this.

Fish who host corals may defend them from the Rock Beauty Angelfish but they cannot always do this. Overtime the angelfish will eat the coral until it dies from stress or is entirely eaten. Additionally this will create a lot of tension between any hosting fish and the angel.

Unlike some of the larger angelfish the Rock Beauty Angelfish is not as hostile to shrimp, snails or other inverts. They are still likely to hunt worms or pick at feather dusters. Shrimp do well when kept with this angel as long as they are not undersized. Skunk cleaners will clean the rock beauty and crabs will not be harassed.

Rock Beauty Angelfish Diet

Their diet is the hardest part of keeping the rock beauty. Like most angelfish the rock beauty will spend a lot of its time grazing on corals, algae and sponges. This angelfish however needs more sponge than most other angels. So much so that we should be adding in sponge including foods whenever possible. This makes keeping the Rock Beauty Angelfish with carnivorous fish quite difficult as the angel will go for as much meaty food as they can, reducing their over all health by missing out on much needed nutrition.

A good diet for the Rock Beauty Angelfish would contain:

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

Avoid frozen, non enriched foods like mysis or brine shrimp unless you are trying to entice the rocky beauty to eat. They cannot afford to be eating a mostly meaty diet and may become too spoiled by tasty frozen shrimp to eat their sponge based foods.

With foods like panta nouri and frozen angel formula available at aquatic retailers it is not too difficult to get sponge rich foods that the Rock Beauty Angelfish will eat. They will be more costly than normal prepared foods and should be fed as supplements to the tanks normal diet. This will only work if the prepared foods you are using have a decent amount of sponge mixed into them, which is not uncommon in high quality herbivore/omnivore pellets and flakes. Thankfully the rock beauty is not as large as some of its Holacanthus family members, meaning it will not need as much of these more pricey foods.

Even when using specialized foods it is not a good idea to keep angelfish on one or two types of food. Even high quality blended foods such as new life spectrum, NLS, marine fish formula should have other foods mixed and fed to the tank. Using multiple colors of seaweed is an easy way to ensure angelfish get the nutrition they need. The two main colors fed to angels are green and red seaweed, with some specialty shops selling brown seaweed. Green seaweed is stronger than red letting it stay solid in the tank for longer. This makes it more suited to being clipped to the wall or the aquarium rocks. Red seaweed is more dry and brittle making it more suitable to active feeding. Both seaweed types can be soaked in liquid nutrients to enhance the angelfishes diet. Be wary as over soaking foods can add a strong smell to them and may make fish not eat them.

Dried seaweed is easy to find in the Asian food section of supermarkets and keeps well for long periods of time. It may be labeled as nori. Dried seaweed should be stored in dry areas.

It is important to remove any uneaten seaweed after one hour, even if it is secured to the wall or rocks. After awhile the dried seaweed will break down which will cause an excessive amount of waste to be added to the water column. Red seaweed is quicker to dissolve and both will break down quicker when placed in a high flow area.

Take care not to feed the tank too much meaty food. The Rock Beauty Angelfish is quicker to accept meats than plant or sponge based foods. This will lead to deficiencies that can reduce color and shorten their lifespan. On the other hand meaty foods are useful for stubborn angelfish that are refusing to eat. Live, gut loaded feeder shrimp do a great job of enticing hungry angelfish and can be fed highly nutritional foods, passing nutrients along to whatever eats them.

Being smaller than a lot of other angels the rock beauty is decently quick and should not have any trouble getting food when the tank is fed. The only fish who may keep the Rock Beauty Angelfish down during feeding would be much larger angelfish like the queen or french angelfish.

Rock Beauty Angelfish Tank Requirements

Being a smaller angel means the Rock Beauty Angelfish does not need a massive tank with rock work centered around their movements. They do well swimming in and out of tight caverns but will also enjoy large open spaces in which they can easily turn. When creating caverns try to avoid using any sharp rocks as they can scratch the angels long fins and tall body.

Traditional mid sized quarantine tanks should be used when bringing in the Rock Beauty Angelfish. They are not too susceptible to transferring stress and should remain healthy while in isolation. The main concern when keeping them in quarantine is getting them to eat, however this is fairly easy by using frozen foods or gut loaded feeder shrimp mixed in with sponge containing pellets. Small pieces of seaweed clipped to the wall also work well as they stay suspended and give the angel plenty of time to decide to eat.

When adding them to the tank be mindful of its tank mates. The Rock Beauty Angelfish will typically seek out an unused area of the tank, often an overhang or large cavern to claim as their home. If there are none unclaimed in the tank they will swim around the lower half of the tank.

Keep in mind that the Rock Beauty Angelfish is often sold at a very small size. It is much more likely to jump than larger angelfish, especially when added later on in the tank. A tight fitting lid with all holes covered is required when first adding the angel. Commonly missed spots are cut outs around the overflow box, filtration and heater power cord. As they grow more accustomed to the tank and aggression subsides they will lose almost all of their jump risk.

Rock Beauty Angelfish Tankmates

These angelfish are a bit more meek but will still defend themselves from most semi aggressive fish. They can be kept with some peaceful community fish as long as they are not too small. Aggressive tank mates should only be kept with caution. Even small damsels can bully them and will do so if there is not adequate space for both of them to form territory.

Inverts will generally be fine when kept with the Rock Beauty Angelfish. They are not likely to nip at anything over an inch in size. The exception would be feather dusters, which the angel may confuse for corals and take bites at. Most other worms should get along just fine with this angel. Keep in mind the larger, more aggressive tank mates you might select may go after exposed worms or small shrimp.

Good tankmates are:

  • Clownfish
  • Peaceful tangs
  • Basslets
  • Butterfly Fish
  • Surgeon Fish
  • Eels
  • Peaceful wrasse

The Rock Beauty Angelfish is not usually aggressive itself and works more as a community fish for semi aggressive fish. They can be seen harassing smaller fish occasionally, which can stem from their desire to clean tankmates by picking of parasites, slime or loose scales. Naturally this will stress much smaller fish. Large fish like tangs, other angels or butterflies will have no issue being cleaned. Eels will also be accepting of excessive slime being removed from them. This picking is what makes many people think they are aggressive fish who continually nip at their tankmates. In reality they are quite meek and can easily be bullied out of their tank. As they age this behavior becomes less common

Aggression in angelfish can be seen when they swim close to another fish and tip over near them. This makes them look especially large and will usually cause the other fish to swim away. While it does not cause any physical harm it can cause a lot of stress for fragile fish like blennies or dragonets. Small aggressive fish are likely to push away the angel or ram them, stopping the Rock Beauty Angelfish from repeating their aggressive displays.

Unlike other angels the rock beauty can spend a lot of time swimming through small holes in the rock work. This makes them a bit less compatible with eels. If you plan to keep them together you should have a lot of rocks with open caverns for both the eel and angel to swim through. Eels should not be a danger to the Rock Beauty Angelfish unless they have a history of hunting fish already established. The angel is no more targetable than any other fish.

Rock Beauty Angelfish Gender & Breeding

Male Rock Beauty Angelfish will have slightly extended tips on their dorsal, anal and pectoral fins. They will also be slightly larger than their female counterparts. Females will have abrupt ends on their fins. As for coloration their is no difference between male and females.

In the wild they will keep a harem of two or three females to one male, with only one of the females breeding with the male. The two Rock Beauty Angelfish will slowly rise in the water column next to one another before releasing their genetic material. A female will typically lay over 25000 eggs per spawning. These eggs will rise to the waters surface and be carried by the waves, hatching in about 15-20 hours.

While we understand how they breed in the wild, breeding the Rock Beauty Angelfish in the home aquarium has not been successful as of yet. They do reach sexual maturity when they are only four inches and size, making them a suitable size for mating in a large tank.

They are one of the easier to pair angelfish. A Rock Beauty Angelfish purchased under three inches in size should still be female. When paired with an established, sexually mature male a female should not begin the transition to male. As they are not an aggressive angel there should be little to no aggression when keeping them in the same tank.

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