Part 3: Genicanthus Angel Species Details – The Fish That Angel Lovers Dream of.

In the previous two articles, I talked about Genicanthus angels in general, and what distinguishes them from other angelfish in the Pomacanthidae family. In addition, I discussed the six species that are available for sale in the marine fish hobby. And in this third and final part, I’ll talk about the remaining four species that are very hard to acquire because of some challenges like rarity, remote geographical location, depth, and the fact that these fish are only found in protected areas where collecting is banned.

Genicanthus personatus (Randall, 1975)
Masked angelfish

This large mature pair of masked angelfish clearly shows the differences in appearance between the male and female. The male is on the right.
3-1-Chung Wing Hung-reefs com-Genicanthus personatus pair.jpg

Photo is by Chung Wing Hung, courtesy of ©2018, All Rights Reserved.

Captive-bred Genicanthus personatus feeding.
3-2-Leighton Lum-Reefs com - G personatus.jpg

Photo is by Leighton Lum, courtesy of ©2018, All Rights Reserved.

Max Size: 8 inches

Distribution: Eastern central Pacific: endemic to the Hawaiian Islands and Midway Atoll.

The fish is pearly white, and juveniles and females have black masks. Males have a yellow orange mask, and the males' dorsal and anal fins are white with a broad orange band. The pectoral and pelvic fins are orange. For both males and females, the anterior half of the caudal fin is black.

Genicanthus personatus is one of the rarest of the Genicanthus species; it inhabits the northwestern Hawaiian reefs at a depth of 230 feet and more. On the other hand, they can be also be found at the Midway Atoll at about 65 feet depth. This fish likes cooler water, and around the Midway Atoll temperatures are lower than in Hawaii. That’s why they can be found in shallower water. Going to the Midway Atoll is not easy, as it is a military territory. In Hawaii this fish is located inside a National park, and that’s why it very hard to get.

The best place to see G. personatus is in the Waikiki aquarium in Hawaii, where they have raised fish in captivity from spawning.

In MACNA 2014, captive-bred masked angelfish were announced. This was the first time that a large enough number was available for sale and distribution. The previous time the captive-bred of this fish were sold was for $19,500 USD per fish, and $30,000 for a pair. I hope that with more captive-breeding efforts we can see more of this beautiful fish.

Genicanthus semicinctus (Waite, 1900)
Halfbanded angelfish

Male Genicanthus semicinctus
3-3-Reefs com Genicanthus semicinctus male  .jpg

This photo is courtesy of ©2018, All Rights Reserved.

Female Genicanthus semicinctus

Photo is by John Turnbull (Flickr) courtesy of Fishes of Australia
via Creative Commons License 2.0, ©2018,
All Rights Reserved.

Max Size: 11 inches

Distribution: Southwest Pacific: Lord Howe Island, Raoul Island, Kermadec Islands.

The Halfbanded angelfish is named for vertical bands that extend to the middle of the body on the male. Males have a beige body with yellow bellies, a blue mouth, and black dots on the tail. The female's upper half of the body is charcoal gray, while the bottom half is white, with a bright blue eye highlight.

This fish is endemic to Lord Howe Island, near Queensland, Australia. It can be found in the offshore rocky reefs at the depth of 65 feet, rather than the rich coral reefs located in the bays of Lord Howe Island.

Lord Howe Island is a UNESCO world heritage site. All animals in and around Lord Howe Island are protected by the Australian government. So if you want to see this fish you can go diving around Lord Howe Island to see it in its natural environment along with many other beautiful and rare angelfish species, like Chaetodontoplus ballinae and Chaetodontoplus conspicillatus.

Genicanthus spinus (Randall, 1975)
Pitcairn angelfish

Pitcairn Angelfish (Genicanthus spinus) from Rarotonga.
3-5-Association For MArine Exploration- Reefs com - genicanthus spinus.jpg

The photo credit belongs to the Association for Marine Exploration,
courtesy of ©2018, All Rights Reserved.

Max Size: 13 inches

Distribution: Eastern Pacific: Cook Islands to Ducie Island (Pitcairn).

Genicanthus spinus, the largest of the Genicanthus angels, can be found only in a limited area of the southern Pacific Ocean. G. spinus inhabits rock and coral reef at depths of 100 feet to at least 200 feet. Females have only basic metallic blue coloration. Males have a metallic blue body with vertical black bands. This fish is not common in the marine aquarium fish trade because of its remote location and depth of collection. G. spinus prefers colder water under 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and home aquariums tend to run at the higher temperature rage of 77-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Genicanthus takeuchii Pyle, 1997
Spotted Angel

G. takeuchii development. Male on the left. Right side female from juvenile to full grown top to bottom.
3-6-Reefs com - takeuchii.jpg

Photos are by kiss2sea, Koba-Tan, kaz_shimoi, and Tetsuya, courtesy of ©2018, All Rights Reserved.
Max Size: 9 inches

Distribution: Northwest Pacific: Ogasawara Islands in Japan.

Takeuchii’s swallowtail angelfish (Genicanthus takeuchii) is a very rare fish that can only be found in Ogasawara Islands in Japan. It has an even more limited track record than the peppermint angelfish, Paracentropyge boylei, second in rarity only to the Ballina angelfish, Chaetodontoplus ballinae.

It is larger than most of swallowtail Angels but not the largest. Males have six black horizontal bands and black spots on the caudal fin. Juveniles and females have distinct body colors and patterns like leopard spots. It was named a spotted angel because of the spots on the male caudal fin.

This fish is the latest member of Genicanthus angelfish to be discovered and described. The marine photographer, Hiroshi Takeuchi, discovered it near Marcus Island. Hence, it was named after him.

This fish occurs at a depth greater than 130 feet and likes to swim near scroll coral.


Genicanthus or swallowtail angelfish are beautiful fish. Some of them are available and can make an excellent home reef aquarium fish, keeping in mind that purchasing healthy specimens and giving them proper acclimation is critical. If you have a reef tank larger than 125 gallons I strongly recommend starting with 1 or 2 of these beautiful fish.


Kiyoshi Endoh. 2007, Angelfishes of the World, Ricordea Publishing, Two Little Fishies

Randall, J.E., 1997. Randall's underwater photos. Collection of almost 2,000 underwater photos (slides). Unpublished.

Mundy, B.C., 2005. Checklist of the fishes of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Bishop Mus. Bull. Zool.

Lieske, E. and R. Myers, 1994. Collins Pocket Guide. Coral reef fishes. Indo-Pacific & Caribbean including the Red Sea. Haper Collins Publishers

Allen, G.R., 1985. Butterfly and angelfishes of the world. Vol. 2. 3rd edit. in English. Mergus Publishers, Melle, Germany.

Photo Sources:







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Fadi is an advanced reefer and software engineer from Jordan currently living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Keeping a reef in the Middle East is not an easy task for him. Most of his equipment is bought and shipped from the USA. He is helping local fish stores to order livestock from well-known coral and fish exporters in Indonesia and the Philippines .

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