Pygmy Angelfish (Centropyge Argi): Ultimate Care Guide


Pygmy Angelfish definitely have a wow factor to them. Their blue and orange color is highly saturated, giving them a magnificent jewel-like appearance.  The blue can be anywhere on the color spectrum between brilliant sapphire and royal purple.  Pygmy Angelfish heads are orange, but can also be a bright yellow. Their eyes are ringed with blue and a small mark of blue can be seen behind the corner of their mouth.    They have a typical Angelfish shaped body, long and oval with a squared-off tail. The dorsal fin reaches from its forehead to the base of its tail. The anal fin runs from the fish’s mid-abdomen to the base of the tail. Pygmy Angelfish have gill covers with two opercular spines.

Pygmy Angelfish belong to the Pomacanthidae family.  The name is derived from the Greek word poma meaning cover and akantha meaning thorn.  This makes a lot of sense considering the structure of their gill covers.

Other common names for Pygmy Angelfish are Cherub Angelfish, Cherubfish, and Atlantic Pygmy Angelfish.

Pygmy Angelfish call the Caribbean home. Their range stretches from Florida and Bermuda to the French Guiana.  They inhabit the waters of both the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

Pygmy Angelfish prefer to swim below 30 meters but can occasionally be found in shallow waters of just 5 meters. They prefer an environment of coral and rock debris with plenty of hiding places like caves and crevasses. 

Are Pygmy Angelfish Reef Safe?

Pygmy Angelfish are not entirely unsafe for your reef, but they’re not entirely safe either. They like to eat reef slime and may irritate the coral enough to kill them.   

This being said there are plenty of aquarium owners who report their Pygmy Angelfish and their coral thriving as neighbors in their tank.

Pygmy Angelfish (Centropyge Argi)
Pygmy Angelfish (Centropyge Argi)

Pygmy Angelfish Care

Pygmy Angelfish could be labeled as moderate on the scale of difficulty when it comes to their care. They’re not particular about the chemistry of their water, but do require a clean tank for optimal living. 

Their feeding needs are very precise and can be a high maintenance task for aquarium owners. 

If you ever need to remove a Pygmy Angelfish from your tank be prepared to dismantle your setup because they’re very fast and experts at hiding.

Temperature

The recommended temperature for Pygmy Angelfish is 72-78F.

Water PH

The best PH level for Pygmy Angelfish is 8.1-8.4

Pygmy Angelfish Size

Pygmy Angelfish grow to between 1 inch and 2.5 inches.  The largest Pygmy angelfish on record was 3.1 inches.

Food and Diet

Pygmy Angelfish have quite a varied omnivore diet. In nature, they feed primarily on different species of algae. They will also snack on very small sea life.

In captivity, they require many types of food to stay healthy. Feed your Pygmy Angelfish flake food with marine algae, boiled vegetables with a prepared angelfish food, or spirulina algae. Brine shrimp, Mysis, and krill can also be added to the menu.

Feed your Pygmy Angelfish in small amounts several times a day.

Pygmy Angelfish Lifespan

A normal expected lifespan for Pygmy Angelfish is 5 years. This is for fish in a healthy aquarium with an excellent diet and minimal stressors.

Pygmy Angelfish Tank Size

The minimum suggested tank size for Pygmy Angelfish is 55 gallons. If you’re attempting to house multiple Pygmy Angelfish have a tank with more space. Because they are aggressive fish the more room they have to stay away from tankmates the better.   If you plan to have a pair of Pygmy Angelfish, consider using a 200-gallon tank.

Tank Setup

Pygmy Angelfish are skittish and often stressed out. The ideal tank set up for them includes plenty of hiding places.  Think rocks and caves.  FOWLR (fish only with live rock) could be an optimum setup for your Pygmy Angelfish. They’re not considered completely reef safe so using live rock instead of coral that could be damaged by the Pygmy Angelfish’s reef slime eating habits is a really good idea.

Another option for your aquarium scape with Pygmy Angelfish is to use rock and coral rubble. This is the skeletons of dead rock and coral.  Creating an interesting tank environment with lots of caves and holes without risking the health of live coral.

One fun and budget-friendly idea is to create various arches from terracotta plant pots on their side with the bottom filled with substrate.

Breeding

Pygmy Angelfish are successfully bred in captivity. Make sure if you’re taking on breeding Pygmy Angelfish, you’re ready to referee a fight. Pygmy Angelfish are very territorial and can be quite aggressive at the expense of their mate.

Pygmy Angelfish are protogynous hermaphrodites.  This means they are all born female and the largest of the group becomes male. They opt for a harem mating style in the wild, and this is an option for tank breeding if you’re willing to sacrifice some of your Pygmy Angelfish to turf wars.  Harem breeding in a tank can be an alarming blood bath.

If you want to breed Pygmy Angelfish, try partnering a larger fish with a smaller one with the goal of the larger one becoming a male fish within a few months. Be watchful over the smaller fish to be sure it is safe during this process.

Once you make it past the initial lover’s quarrels and territorial battles of the Pygmy Angelfish you may notice fertilized eggs in your tank.  Pygmy Angelfish release their eggs and sperm into the water current so be sure you have a tall enough tank.

Eggs hatch in 1 day and the teeny larvae will stay inside their yolk sac for 2-3 days. During this time they require meals of micro-size algae, which is a difficult job to perform.

Pygmy Angelfish Male or Female

The way to tell a male from a female is generally size.  A male will be bigger than a female.  However, if your Pygmy Angelfish are showing frequent aggression toward each other you may have two males in your tank. 

Common Diseases

Pygmy Angelfish are prone to the same diseases as most saltwater aquarium animals. Parasites like Saltwater Ich and velvet are the most common infestations to watch for with Pygmy Angelfish.

Marine Ich (also called white spot disease) is caused by Cryptocaryon irritans.  It is characterized by white spots on the body as well as twitching, lethargy, heavy breathing, and rubbing up against decorations in the tank to relieve itching. 

In the early stages of Ich external parasite treatments can be very effective. Isolate the affected fish in a barebones tank and treat the water with a top commercial Ich medication. Beware of using treatments containing copper as Pygmy Angelfish are highly sensitive to copper and overdose can happen easily.

Freshwater dips are another possible treatment for Ich.  The parasites infecting the fins and skin may burst when exposed to a freshwater environment momentarily.

Marine Velvet disease is caused by the parasite  Amyloodinium ocellatum.  Velvet heads right for the soft tissue of the gills.  Because the parasite itself is usually feasting on the nutrients of the fish out of sight, the first signs of velvet are lethargy, rubbing up against aquarium features, rapid breathing, and a mucus discharge around the gills.

To treat Marine Velvet, remove all of the fish from the main tank, give them a freshwater dip and transfer them to a new quarantine tank. The tank you’re transferring to should have vigorous aeration.  Treat the fish with commercial medication being careful about using a copper treatment as described above.  To prevent secondary infections, use an antibiotic as part of your regimen. The fish should be treated until all symptoms are gone, plus one week.

Pygmy Angelfish Tank Mates

Pygmy Angelfish are aggressive fish and anyone who is their opposite is automatically their enemy. Serene, peaceful, small fish should be avoided when choosing tank mates for your Pygmy Angelfish.   They will be bullied and probably killed and eaten.

The rule of thumb is one Pygmy Angelfish per tank unless you’re breeding your fish. You can attempt two Pygmy Angelfish in a tank if the tank is very large.

Large invertebrates should be safe in a tank with Pygmy Angelfish.

Other reef fish such as firefish, clownfish, damsels, gobies, and blennies are compatible tankmates for Pygmy Angelfish.

Where can I find Pygmy Angelfish for sale?

Pygmy Angelfish have pretty high availability because of being successfully bred in captivity. They can be purchased at many pet stores as well as online.

Pygmy Angelfish Price

Pygmy Angelfish cost USD 59.00 to USD 88.00 depending on their size and the retailer you purchase from.

Although they require a somewhat specialized environment, and they’re not the friendliest of fish, Pygmy Angelfish may make up for it when their sheer beauty. They are positively a stunning addition to the aesthetic of saltwater aquariums for intermediate enthusiasts.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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