Gray Angelfish – Pomacanthus Arcuatus

gray angelfish - pomacanthus arcuatus

Last updated on July 29th, 2022 at 02:34 am

The gray angelfish, also known as the arcuate angelfish, Pomacanthus arcuatus, or grey angelfish, is a species of marine fish in the family Pomacanthidae (order Perciformes). It inhabits coral reefs and lagoons with patchy or rubble areas of seabed and reaches lengths of up to 50 centimetres (20 in). The angelfish is found in the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean, from South Africa north to the Ryukyu Islands and south to Australia, Indonesia, and northern New Caledonia.

Angelfish (Genus Pomacanthus) are very popular saltwater aquarium fish, particularly the larger species such as the Blue and Rosy angelfish, as well as the dwarf angelfish (Cortez angelfish). The gray angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus) is not very well known to some aquarists, but it has many qualities that make it an excellent candidate for the marine aquarium.

Also known as the striated angelfish or arcuatus angelfish, this fish is a species of marine fish belonging to the family Pomacanthidae. It can be found in shallow water and coral reefs in the western Atlantic Ocean, ranging from North Carolina in the north to Brazil in the south, including Bermuda and the Bahamas. The fish grows to an average length of 50 – 60 cm (24 in), although specimens of up to 75 cm (30 in) have been reported.

Origin and descriptions

gray angelfish - pomacanthus arcuatus

The Pomacanthus arcuatus is native to the western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, but it has also been introduced to Hawaii and Bermuda. It inhabits coral reefs at depths of 1 to 35 meters (3 to 115 feet). It grows up to 25 centimeters (10 inches) in length and lives up to 10 years old. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed its conservation status as being of least concern.

Gray angelfish are found throughout the tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, with four distinct subspecies – Pomacanthus arcuatus arcuatus, Pomacanthus arcuatus caudal peduncle, Pomacanthus arcuatus chrysopterus, and Pomacanthus arcuatus dalei.

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The gray angelfish’s native habitat is coral reefs. It is widely dispersed in tropical waters of all oceans at depths down to 30 m. Its range extends from Florida and Bermuda in North America to northern South America, southern Japan, and Australia.

It has colonized Réunion, New Caledonia, and Hawaii, either directly or via introductions by humans. A remarkable feature of their biology is that they sometimes engage in cleaning symbiosis with other fish such as moray eels.

Species profile

gray angelfish - pomacanthus arcuatus

The gray angelfish, also known as false cleanerfish or false scorpionfish, is part of a family known as pomacanthids, which is further divided into four subfamilies: Pseudoplesiopinae, Apogoninae, Pomacanthinae, and Chaetodontinae. There are approximately 20 species in each of these groups. The gray angelfish is found in lagoons and outer reefs around Mexico to Peru.

It is named for its distinctive coloration; its upperparts are slate-gray while its underparts have an iridescent purplish-pink sheen. Its body shape resembles that of other members of its genus. The fish can reach up to 60 cm in length but are usually smaller than that when fully grown. Males typically have more slender bodies than females do, but males also possess longer pelvic fins with white tips that females lack.


The gray angelfish occurs over hard bottoms around coral reefs and rocky areas in shallow water. They are generally found at depths of between 3 to 15 meters (10 to 50 feet) although there have been sightings as deep as 30 meters (100 feet).

The water temperature at these depths can vary from a few degrees above freezing, up to 30 degrees Celsius. The salinity levels range from 32 to 34 parts per thousand. During most of their lives, they will spend time hiding amongst rocks and rubble or amongst live corals, especially elkhorn corals.

They tend to stay deeper than most other species of angelfish and usually only venture out into shallower waters during mating season or when food is more plentiful.

Gray angelfish size

The average size of a gray angelfish is 50 – 60 cm (24 in), although they can grow to a maximum length of up to 75 cm (30 in).

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Gray angelfish tank size

The recommended tank size is 150 gallons for a juvenile, a single adult gray angelfish can be kept in a 250-gallon tank. Provide adequate hiding places (i.e., live rock and caves) and sufficient open swimming space to maintain their low-key, passive personalities.

Gray angelfish tank set up

Gray angelfish can be housed in an aquarium with water temperatures between 72 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit, a pH value between 8.1 and 8.4, and nitrate levels that is not higher than 20 ppm. To create a home for these schooling fish, use a tank that is about 150 gallons or larger, remember to account for growth since young angelfish grow quickly.

Choose decorations that will allow you to maximize your view of them swimming in unison; live rock is ideal. Add plants such as Java ferns, Anubias barteri, Amazon swords (Echinodorus bleheri), and Java moss to enhance their environment. While they aren’t aggressive toward one another or other reef inhabitants, they do need plenty of space; provide enough room at each level of their habitat so they don’t feel crowded.

Gray angelfish tank mates

Angelfish are typically compatible with a large number of fish in their native range. However, they are territorial and should be kept singly unless you are keeping them in a very large tank. Be sure to select tank mates that are peaceful towards each other. Some examples include danios, corydoras, clown loaches, mollies, and platies. Avoid aggressive fish like barbs or cichlids as they will stress your fish out.


gray angelfish - pomacanthus arcuatus

If a pair bond is formed, spawning can occur after a few days. If not, 2 to 3 weeks may be required. During courtship, it appears that males do not distinguish between their own species eggs and those of other fish; they will guard and defend both. The female may spawn more than once in a season with different partners.

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The male fertilizes the eggs and they are incubated for about 15 days. A newly hatched angelfish may be about 1 centimeter (0.4 inches) long and thus considerably smaller than its parents. It must immediately find food since it does not have a yolk sac from which to draw nutrients as do some related species such as threadfin, rainbowfish, or stone loach; however, food must still pass through its digestive system relatively quickly or its swimming ability will deteriorate rapidly due to buoyancy problems caused by intestinal gas buildup.

For these reasons, its diet changes quickly from small organisms near the surface such as rotifers, crustaceans, and copepods to predominantly larger zooplankton at depths below 20 meters. This allows it to leave behind members of its own species that remain closer to shore where they are able to feed on microorganisms near or on the surface without needing much swimming skill.

Are Gray angelfish aggressive or peaceful?

Gray Angelfish is considered to be peaceful towards other tank mates but can become territorial over time. They will fight with their own kind. Therefore, it is best to keep only one angelfish in a tank.

This fish is generally peaceful, but may fight with others in large numbers or with fish of similar appearance. It should not be kept with species whose finnage is highly fringed, such as coral blennies, unless they are introduced to one another at an early age.

Gray angelfish care

gray angelfish - pomacanthus arcuatus

The gray angelfish is not very demanding. It should be kept in an aquarium with lots of hiding places, such as caves and pipes, to feel safe and protected. Water temperatures of 20 – 25°C (68 – 77°F) are considered optimal. The pH should range from 8 to 8.4 and nitrite levels must be kept below 2 ppm, while nitrate levels may reach 40 ppm or more.

Water changes using a soft water source at a rate of 10% per week are recommended. To keep nitrates low, remove uneaten food and perform regular water changes. Members of the Pterophyllum family feed on brine shrimp and finely chopped meaty foods that sink to the bottom.

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What do gray angelfish eat?

The gray angelfish eats a diet that consists of large numbers of crustaceans and small fish, along with some algae. Their feeding habits are largely dependent on their living conditions.

When they’re young, they feed primarily on copepods (tiny, shrimp-like creatures) and pelagic amphipods (little organisms that have many legs and inhabit marine environments). As they mature, their diet becomes more carnivorous in nature, consisting mostly of various species of small fish.

Water parameters

gray angelfish - pomacanthus arcuatus

Ideal water parameters are a pH of 8.1 – 8.4, temperature around 75 – 81 degrees F (23-27 degrees C), and a specific gravity of 1.020 – 1.025.

Parasites and diseases

There are several protozoan and nematode parasites that infect gray angelfish. These include Amyloodinium ocellatum, Cryptocaryon irritans, Hematodinium sp., Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, Pandorina brevipes, Procerovum coruscantum, and Taeniaea bassiana.


Lionfish are known predators of pomacanthus arcuatus, but rarely attack them unless there is no other food source. Lionfish have a voracious appetite and can consume up to 75% of their body weight each day, so it’s quite likely that they could find something more appetizing to eat than pomacanthus arcuatus if they were not yet full.

Do gray angelfish make good pets?

Yes. The gray angelfish, like most of its Angelfish relatives, make great aquarium pets. They are easy to care for and quite hardy in captivity. However, there are some aspects of their care that must be followed if you wish to keep them alive long term. Their captive lifespan can be upwards of 15 years when cared for properly.