Successful Husbandry of Centropyge Aurantia

The Golden Pygmy Angelfish

I have had the opportunity to keep and maintain this beautiful angelfish since October 2002. This particular species is somewhat rare to find in the trade, mainly because of its cryptic nature in the wild. They simply are hard to catch! This has resulted in C. aurantia being one of the most recently described species of angelfish. Also, it is fairly expensive and relatively unknown to many hobbyists, making this a fish that many people aren?t willing to try their hand at maintaining.

In the wild, C. auranita can be found in areas of dense coral and or sponge growth, in varying depths. Its natural range is from eastern Indonesia to Samoa in the southwestern Pacific and is also found on the Great Barrier Reef. It usually reaches a size of about four inches (10 cm), although my specimen is about three inches (7.5 cm)
This species is sometimes misidentified as a true deepwater angelfish. This is due to its somewhat poor survivability in captivity. Also, C. auranita is a rusty-red color, which resembles many other deepwater animals? coloration. I find that its color and sporadic patterning helps to hide the fish within the shadows of the reef and scramble the outline of the fish, even in a mini reef aquarium. C. aurantia does not like to be outside the safety of rocks and coral structures.

Introduction Into Captive Life.

I purchased my specimen from a fish store in my area. Technically, it never touched a drop of water until I acclimated it into my tank. I purchased the fish straight out of the shipping box. I state this fact because I believe part of my success is that I did not purchase a fish that had been acclimated and moved numerous times.
I was very new to keeping marine ornamentals at that time, having only maintained a pair of Solomon Island percula anemone fish (Amphiprion percula) and a six line wrasse (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia) for approximately eight months. The tank specifications were: 30 gallon (120 liter) aquarium (36x12x18 inches, 90x30x45 cm), 20 gallon (80 liter) refugium/sump including 350 g/h return pump with spray bar return line, Berlin Classic skimmer (rated for up to 250 gallons), 70 pounds (32 kg) of mainly Fiji and Tonga live rock, 25 pounds (11kg) of sand, and a 96W power compact Smart Light including 50/50 bulb. The tank inhabitants included the anemone fish, six line wrasse, mushroom anemones, zooanthid polyps, and a fair amount of macroalgae (Caulerpa sp.). This set up was maintained with a five gallon water change with local water every week with Instant Ocean sea salt. I also maintained the pH with Kent Marine?s dKH buffer. This procedure kept everything very stable, with nitrate reading less than 40ppm at all times and a pH within the 8.0 and 8.4 range.

Upon arriving home, I acclimated the angelfish in the somewhat generic method of floating the fish inside the bag for 30 minutes and adding about a tablespoon of water every five minutes thereafter until quadrupling the volume.

After a few days in the tank, the angelfish was not particularly interested in any of the foods I was feeding. This included a few flake foods, but it also refused frozen brine shrimp (enriched with omega 3 fatty acids), mysid shrimp, and mixed frozen foods (Ocean Nutrition?s Formula One and Two). A week passed and the fish was still very much alive, although its head region was somewhat pinched due to lack of nutrition. Of course, as a new hobbyist, I was scrupulous about its health. I worried and fretted a whole day once when it simply had very fine particles of sand adhered to its slime coat that of which resembled Cryptocaryon irritans.

At the end of the first week, the fish came down with an enlarged eye. I called a friend for advice, because like any other worried pet owner, I was not thinking straight and needed to talk to someone about my next course of action. He told me that it was probably an eye parasite, which is common with wild caught angelfish, and to get the fish out of the tank and do a five minute freshwater dip. Catching this cryptic fish was not easy, but believe it or not, no more than three rocks were moved! I dipped it in a freshwater bath for four minutes and returned it to the tank. Within four days, the infection was gone. That was the largest hurdle I had to overcome in keeping this fish.

After two weeks, C. aurantia would eat openly off the rocks, but would not touch any foods I fed the tank. After three weeks, I was tempting it to eat with dried seaweed (red and green) and it would take a few wary nips here and there.

After four weeks, of all the things I was trying to feed, it finally ate flake food and has been eating very well ever since. It will even grovel with the clowns at the top of the water for food.

C. aurantia vs. a Reef Tank.

C. aruantia gets along very well with my fish and coral.
Although many dwarf angels are regarded as a somewhat dangerous fish to keep with most soft corals, the golden angel seems to not be interested in them. I later added some fragments of a Sinularia species, a Sarcophyton toadstool, and a very small Hydnophora. I was extremely interested to see if the fish showed any interest in eating the Hydnophora since experience showed me it was a fairly trustworthy fish with soft coral. A hard coral, especially a small-polyped species, would be a good test. I witnessed a few short nips in passing at the coral, although it was nothing more than it normally would do to a rock, thus no irreparable harm was ever done. The fish may have even kept the coral free of algae build up, thus helping it to grow.

Down the road, I added other fish such as a yellow assessor (Assessor flavissimus), and a pair of yellow watchman gobies (Cryptocentrus cinctus). I started to quarantine my new fish with the gobies, knowing that my success without disease may not be infinite. All of these fish got along very well with the angel.

The angelfish acclimated so well to captivity that she survived the somewhat aggressive six line wrasse. The wrasse did not molest the angelfish much, but it could become so aggressive that it would take nips out of the assessor?s fins and eventually caused it to jump out of the tank.

The angelfish also survived a short stint (approximately two weeks) in a half-filled 46 gallon tank with no real filter besides live rock and good circulation. This was when I was setting up a larger tank in place of the 30 gallon.

C, aurantia also acclimated extremely well into the new, larger environment, including a new water source. It was so hardy that it even survived a few blown heaters, which caused the temperature to increase to 90 F for up to 30 hours. The high heat ended up taking the life of my six line wrasse, which at that time, I regarded as indestructible.

In Conclusion.

Centropyge aurantia, all in all, was not easy to obtain, was a costly addition, and needed a properly maintained environment to survive. Though, after a month of conscientious husbandry, it became one of the hardiest of my fish.

I believe my success with the fish was mainly due to the stability of the environment and the variety of food available through the use of well established live rock. The proper capture and care of the fish from the collector was also important, in my opinion. Although I often wonder if my first month of trouble resulted from the collector?s use of cyanide in the collecting process, I have no doubt that another properly captured specimen, along with the correct environment supplied by the hobbyist, can have the same resounding success as I have had.