The Angelfish of Belize
They’re big, beautiful and graceful fish that are popular among private salt water aquarium owners. They’re the classic coral reef fish: Angelfish. They’re also known as the “sea anemone” due to their resemblance to the sea anemone. Angelfish are the most common marine species, preferring tropical and subtropical waters. Globally, there are 74 species of Angelfish, but in the Caribbean, there are only 7 different species. You’re almost guaranteed to see a few during your Belize vacation.
The 3 most commonly seen Angelfish species in Belize are:
- Queen Angelfish
- French Angelfish
- Gray Angelfish
Angelfish Behaviour & Reproduction
Angelfish are a territorial species known for fiercely defending their territory from their neighbours. Some species find and establish a mate for life. While not much is known about Angelfish reproduction, we do know that they reproduce by spawning. Spawning usually happens between April and September, peaking around July. They can lay 25,000-75,000 eggs during each spawning event.
Juvenile Angelfish are cleaner fish – they set up cleaning stations and attract other larger fish which they then clean by eating the ectoparasites off their bodies. Clients of juvenile Angelfish include jacks, snappers, morays, grunts, surgeonfishes, and wrasses.
As adults, Angelfish mostly consume sponges, which is incredible considering they’re made up of indigestible and irritating spicules of calcium or silica. But, Angelfish have evolved to be able to eat sponges through adaptions in their jaw, teeth, and the ability to secrete a coating of mucus around the sponge.
In Belize, Queen Angelfish are known locally as “Pangler”. Many consider the Queen Angelfish (Holacanthus cilaris) the most beautiful of all the Angelfish species. Adult Queen Angelfish are a combination of vibrant blue and yellow, with rainbow colours on the tips of their fins. Due to their colouring, Queen Angelfish are also referred to as Blue Angelfish, Golden Angelfish, or Yellow Angelfish.
Queen angelfish are grazers that eat algae, sponges, and coral, with sponges being their primary food source. They live in coral reefs, preferring soft corals, where they can be found swimming alone or in pairs.
The French Angelfish (Pomacanthus paru) has a thin, black body with yellow-lined scales and yellow rings around its eyes, and they live for about 10-15 years. French angelfish tend to stick to shallow waters with rocky bottoms that provide shelter and protection, though you can spot them at depths of 3-100 meters. You often see them in pairs near sea fans and sponges. French Angelfish are actually quite tough so only large reef predators like sharks and groupers prey on them.
Gray Angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus) are common in Belize as they feed on algae and sponges. As juveniles, Gray Angelfish are nearly totally black with yellow vertical stripes. But, as they mature, Gray Angelfish turn gray and white and grow to about 60 cm in length. You can find Gray Angelfish at depths between 3 and 30 meters around coral and rocky reefs. These flat, oval fish are typically found in pairs, with their mate for life. They’re curious and brave fish that reef divers and photographers love.
The best time to see Angelfish is during the day. Since they can be found easily in both shallow and deeper water, you’ll be able to get a glimpse of them whether you’re snorkelling or scuba diving.
Book your scuba vacation and swim with Angelfish!
Just 30 miles from Belize City, Belize Dive Haven is located in pristine Turneffe Atoll. Consisting of creeks, lagoons, mangrove islands and cays, the atoll is home to over 500 species of fish, 65 different species of stony corals as well as birds, turtles, manatees and dolphins.