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5 Interesting Facts About Angelfish

Angelfish have a reputation for their beauty and grace, for good reason! These brightly colored tropical fish can be found in nearly any color, and their unique shape moves like a piece of art. But like all of the amazing creatures in our waters, there is a lot more than meets the eye. Check out these fun facts about angelfish:

1. Angelfish aren’t actually angels.

Ok, maybe this isn’t all that shocking, but their name does have an interesting backstory! People began calling them angelfish due to their elegant movements, shimmering scales and shape of their fins that look almost like angel wings. It is this shape that allows them to sneak through coral reefs while appearing larger to predators.

While they are known as “angelfish” to most people, their scientific name Pomacanthidae actually translates to “covered in thorns.” Angelfish have a hard, spiny growth that they use for protection. Not many species have scientific names and nicknames that are completely opposite of each other!

2. They can be found in many parts of the world.

Most people only ever experienced angelfish behind the glass of an aquarium, but there are actually both freshwater and marine angelfish around the world. The freshwater angelfish can be found in the quiet and slow waters of the river basins in South America. Their marine counterparts live in shallow saltwater habitats, such as coral reefs, across the Indian, Atlantic and western Pacific oceans.

3. Angelfish are omnivores, technically.

When kept in captivity, angelfish thrive off a diet of both plants and animals. However, in the wild, they aren’t eating much plant matter or algae. Instead, they consume invertebrates, larvae, small insects and crustaceans, worms and a great deal of sponges.

4. Some angelfish can change their gender.

There are some animals that are known for being able to change their gender based on their environment or other circumstances. When it comes to angelfish, the rules are far less universal. There are only certain species of angelfish that have been observed to do so, and only in unique circumstances of survival.

Scientists have only observed the rusty angelfish (Centropyge ferrugata) and the blackspot angelfish (Genicanthus melanospilos), both marine species of angelfish, change their gender. It was believed that they do so only when the final male protector of the angelfish dies. Then the largest and strongest female angelfish will slowly change their gender to fulfill the role of guardian.

5. There are a lot of different angelfish.

In addition to the seemingly infinite colors and patterns of angelfish, their differences extend even further. We have already talked about the two types of angelfish – marine and freshwater – but there are also many species within these families. The freshwater angelfish are comprised of three species often referred to as teardrop, deep and common freshwater angelfish. These are the ones most likely to be found in aquariums. However, there are 85 different species of marine angelfish that are found in our natural waters, most of which are not kept in tanks. They range in even more sizes and colors and unique differences!

The angelfish, like so many other animals, are valued members of our ocean ecosystems. Next time you spot an angelfish, you’ll know a little more about these beautiful creatures and distinctive inhabitants of our oceans!