Common name: emperor angelfish
Synonyms and Other Names: imperial angelfish
available through www.itis.gov
Identification: Juvenile emperor angelfish are blue-black with concentric white circles, a white dorsal-fin margin and a transparent caudal fin. Adults have alternating thin yellow and blue stripes along the flanks, a greenish-yellow nape, a dark “mask” over the eyes and a light-blue snout. The dorsal fin is edged in white; caudal fin is yellow; anal fin has light-blue stripes along a dark blue background. Transformation from the juvenile to the adult color-pattern occurs at 8 to 12 cm TL. Grows to 38 cm TL. Also known as the imperial angelfish. Dorsal fin XII-XIV (17-21), anal fin III (18-21); pectoral rays 19 to 20. From Randall (1983 and 2005), Allen et al. (1998 and 2003), Myers (1999) and Pyle (2001).
Similar species: No Atlantic angelfish has horizontal stripes of any color. Juvenile queen angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris) and blue angelfish (Holacanthus bermudensis) have bright blue body bars. Juvenile French angelfish (Holacanthus paru) and gray angelfish (Holacanthus arcuatus) have bright yellow body bars on black body.
Size: to about 40 cm SL (Froese and Pauly 2005)
Native Range: Throughout the Indo-West and Central Pacific region, excluding Easter Island, Rapa, and the Marquesas Islands. Ranges from the East African coast and Red Sea to the Tuamotu, Line and (rarely) Hawaiian Islands southward to New Caledonia and north to southern Japan. From Allen et al. (1998) and Pyle (2001).
In Florida, this species has been observed in the Pompano Beach area (several sighting since 2001 [REEF 2008]), near Hillsboro Beach (in 2001, 2002 and 2004 [REEF 2008]), near North Miami Beach (in 2002 [REEF 2008]), and off Deerfield Beach (in 2004 and 2005 [REEF 2008]). It is unclear whether the three known sightings of the species in Hawaii are the results of aquarium releases or natural recruitment as waifs (Mundy 2005). There is one report of a pair of fish from the northwest coast of Puerto Rico in 2007 (Grana, pers.comm). In 2009 one specimen was collected from the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Isreal (Golani et al. 2010).
Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Pomacanthus imperator are found here.
Table last updated 6/26/2022
† Populations may not be currently present.
Ecology: The emperor angelfish inhabits patch reefs and reef flats (often with rich coral growth) at depths from six to 60 m. When disturbed, the species emits a peculiar knocking sound. Juveniles are solitary, but as adults the species forms harems. Maturity occurs around 25 cm (TL) for females and 28 cm (TL) for males. Average fecundity is 79,353 eggs ranging in size between 0.3-0.8 mm. The species feeds on sponges, algae and tunicates. From Allen et al. (1998 and 2003), Randall et al. (1996), Myers (1999), Obota et al. 2016 and Pyle (2001).
Means of Introduction: Aquarium release.
Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.
References: (click for full references)
Allen, G. R., R. Steene and M. Allen. 1998. A Guide to Angelfishes and Butterflyfishes. Odyssey Publishing/Tropical Reef Research, Perth.
Allen, G., R. Steene, P. Humann and N. Deloach. 2003. Reef Fish Identification. Tropical Pacific. New World Publications, Inc., Jacksonville, Florida and Odyssey Publications, El Cajon, California.
Golani, D., P. Salameh and O. Sonin. 2010. First record of the Emperor angelfish, Pomacanthus imperator (Teleostei: Pomacanthidae) and the second record of the spotbase burrfish Cyclichthys spilostylus (Teleostei: Diodontidae) in the Mediterranean. Aquatic Invasions 5(1): S41-S43.
Mundy, B. C. 2005. Checklist of Fishes of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Bishop Museum Bulletins in Zoology, Number 6.
Myers, R. F. 1999. Micronesian Reef Fishes. A field guide for divers and aquarists. Coral Graphics, Davie, FL.
Obota, C.O., B.M. Fulanda, G.M. Okemwa and E.N. Kimani. 2016. Reproductive biology and body condition of exploited populations of Emperor Angelfish, Pomacanthus imperator (Bloch, 1787) along the Kenyan Coast. Western Indian Journal of Marine Science 15(2):19-30.
Pyle, R. 2001. Pomacanthidae. Angelfishes. pp. 3266-3286 In: Carpenter, K. E. and V. Niem (Eds.) FAO species identification guide for fishery purposes. The living marine resources of the Western Central Pacific. Vo. 5. Bony fishes part 3 (Menidae to Pomacentridae). FAO, Rome.
Randall, J. E. 1983. Red Sea Fishes. IMMEL Publishing, London.
Randall, J. E. 1996. Caribbean Reef Fishes. Third Edition. TFH Publications, Inc., Neptune City, New Jersey.
Randall, J. E. 2005. Reef and Shore Fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.
Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). 2008. Exotic species sighting programs and volunteer database. World wide web electronic publication. www.reef.org, date of download March 10, 2008.
Revision Date: 3/23/2021
Peer Review Date: 4/23/2009
Schofield, P.J., 2022, Pomacanthus imperator (Bloch, 1787): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=2294, Revision Date: 3/23/2021, Peer Review Date: 4/23/2009, Access Date: 6/30/2022
This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.