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French Angelfish : Care Guide On The French Angelfish

Updated on May 12, 2011

French Angelfish Juvenile

French Angelfish Overview

Scientific Name : Pomacanthus Paru
Origin : Caribbean
Difficulty :Medium
Minimum Size Tank : 150 gallons
Temperament : Semi-Aggressive
Temperature : 72 - 82°F
Reef Safe : No
Maximum Size : 16 inches
Diet :Omnivore

The French angelfish is one of three very popular "large angels" among marine aquarium hobbyists. The other two being the Emperor Angelfish (Pomacanthus Imperator) and the Queen Angelfish (Holacanthus Ciliaris).

It is closely related to the Gray Angelfish (Pomacanthus Arcuatus) and to the untrained eye they are very similar in appearance. Adult French Angelfish have flecks off yellow on their scales while Gray angelfish do not.

Adult French Angelfish

Yellow flecks on the body, rounded tail.
Yellow flecks on the body, rounded tail.

As Juveniles they are completely alike except for one very minute difference. Juvenile queens have a rounded tail fin while juvenile grays have tail fins that are cut off straight down.This trait is also seen on adult french and gray angels.

The juvenile form of the french is also one of the most beautiful. A full jet black with bright yellow vertical bars. Like other juveniles in the genus they are cleaners in the wild, actively picking off parasites off other larger fish. These marine angelfish are widespread throughout the Caribbean and are commonly sighted by divers in that area. This is an expensive fish, small specimens usually retail for $80-$90 USD with large adults (Show quality) costing $200 and upwards.

French Angelfish Stamp

French Angelfish : Temperament

Like its larger cousins, the French Angelfish can be aggressive towards other members of the pomacanthidae (Marine angelfish) family. Putting two french angelfish together in a marine aquarium with limited space can be a recipe for disaster.

Despite this, the french angelfish assumes a very friendly disposition towards its keepers. It is generally peaceful with species outside its own family. Clownfish, wrasses, dottybacks are left alone.

A large French Angelfish in a 300 gallon aquarium.

French Angelfish : Tank Size

At 16 inches the French angelfish is a whopper! If you plan on keeping one long-term you should house one in a marine aquarium no less than 150 gallons. Of course it always helps to aim higher, something like a 300 gallon is perfect. Many hobbyists are tricked into getting a small juvenile only to have it outgrow their aquariums in a year. So don't be fooled, juveniles grow very quickly.

French angels are commonly kept in large community aquariums with a very "open" rock scape. This is to ensure they get adequate swimming room. Hobbyists with corals generally avoid keeping this fish, we'll find out why in the next section.

French Angelfish

Whachu lookin at?
Whachu lookin at?

French Angelfish : Diet

Like all larger angelfish, the French Angelfish is not reef safe. Some people have managed to get away with housing a french in a reef aquarium but that's generally not a great idea.

They feed on sponges, polyps, corals and algae in the wild. Most people avoid keeping them in their reef aquariums as they can make short work of their prized corals.

Meaty foods like mysis shrimp or krill should be offered along with a source of algae like nori sheets. Try to get them on a good pellet like those from New Life Spectrum as well.

A pretty good and balanced food to offer would be formula two, it contains seafood and extra algae for herbivorous fishes. Available in, flake, pellet or frozen cube form.

Probably the best food for a French Angelfish is Angel Formula by Ocean Nutrition. Designed to cater to the specific needs of large angelfish, it contains a mix of algae, fresh seafood, vitamins and most importantly, marine sponges. Unfortunately, Angel Formula is only available in frozen cubes.

A bit more about seaweed and nori. You can choose to either purchase branded seaweed sheets from companies catering to herbivorous fish or you can run down to your local supermarket and get some there. Prices vary with market nori, they're either expensive or cheap depending on the brand.

Make sure you buy the plain, unflavoured/unspiced version. Raw dried nori is great.

Get a clip for your nori and stick it on the side of the aquarium glass.

French Angelfish Juveniles

French Angelfish : Breeding

The French and the Gray Angelfish have been bred in captivity. In the 70's, after 4 years of trial and error a gentlemen by the name of Martin Moe Jr. (A very accomplished fish breeder) managed to raise the larvae of both french and gray angels.

It was not without great cost and he found that raising them in captivity was simply too expensive.

Martin Moe Jr. is also the author of "Breeding the Orchid Dottyback". An excellent book that offers readers a peek into the world of a marine fish breeder.



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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I caught a baby French Angel about 2.5 inches long while snorkeling on a jetty on the Texas Coast. It has already adapted to my aquarium within about 3 days of catching it, and it is eating the Omaga One Marine Pellets that I feed my other fish and it also eats some of the Saltwater Multi Pack frozen pellets I put in there after letting them thaw out in a cup of aquarium water. I have natural local live rock in the tank from the jetty where I caught it. Do you have any suggestions on what else I should be doing to keep it healthy?

    • PirateFX profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hi Young, they are a bit hit and miss. The potential for a Frenchie to consume corals is always there.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      are these french angels safe in a reef tank? do they eat corals?

    • PirateFX profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @Miss Atlanta - Thanks for dropping by :)

    • Miss Lil' Atlanta profile image

      Miss Lil' Atlanta 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Wow, I just love angelfish. They're by far one of my favorite types of fish. The French Angelfish seem as though they'de make great pets as well.

      And dang a 16 inch angelfish! That's huge!

      ~ Miss Lil' Atlanta


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