The Petite but Somewhat Pugnacious Atlantic Pygmy Angelfish

Atlantic pygmy angelfish (Centropyge argi)

Atlantic pygmy angelfish (Centropyge argi)

Having very recently departed the state of Ohio and resettled his family down in the Florida Keys, Caribbean Chris has had to part with his beloved, long-established Caribbean-biotope tank. He’s also had to come to terms with the reality that the specimens he bequeathed to me are now gracelessly intermingled with my Indo-Pacific species. So, to give CC a little inspiration (or torment his soul, either way), I thought I’d dedicate today’s post to a fish species that might be a welcome addition to his new tank whenever he gets around to setting it up—the Atlantic pygmy angelfish, aka the cherub angelfish (Centropyge argi).

A denizen of the tropical western Atlantic and Caribbean Sea, this dwarf angel is a visual gem and can be a good choice for smaller systems. It is, however, rather feisty for its size, and this trait must be factored in when choosing tankmates, contemplating order of introduction, etc.

Physical traits

C. argi is blue overall with varying (by individual) degrees of orange-yellow coloration on its face and throat. The eyes are ringed with blue, and most of the fins (with the exception of the pectorals, which are yellow) are very dark blue, almost blackish, with lighter blue margins. Typical of marine angels, this species also has sharp, backward-curving spines on its gill covers (which are prone to getting tangled in nets). Maximum size for this diminutive angel is about 3 inches.


This species’ is omnivorous but feeds predominantly on algae, so aquarium specimens should be given plenty of green stuff, such as algae-based foods and frozen formulations for marine angels, along with supplemental offerings of small meaty items such as mysids or finely chopped crustacean or mollusk flesh. Multiple daily feedings are recommended.

Ensure the aquascape in your aquarium provides plenty of hiding places for the cherub angelfish

Ensure the aquascape in your aquarium provides plenty of hiding places for the cherub angelfish


As mentioned, C. argi can be kept in modest-sized aquaria. I would consider somewhere around 30 gallons to be minimum housing. Make sure the tank contains plenty of rockwork to provide not only ample refuge but also plenty of grazing opportunities. Ideally, the system should be well established with a ready crop of microalgae for the angel to feed upon.


Shy, passive tankmates are apt to be tormented by C. argi, especially in smaller systems (remember, everything gets concentrated in small tanks, including aggression), but most moderately assertive fishes should be able to hold their own. As always, pay attention to proper order of introduction—from least aggressive to most aggressive. Also, keeping multiples of this species is not recommended unless you have a known pair in a larger tank.

In reef systems, the usual admonition for this and other Centropyge species holds true—fleshy polyps and clam mantles may be vulnerable to nipping.


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About Jeff Kurtz

Jeff Kurtz is the Co-founder/Editor of Saltwater Smarts, former Senior Consulting Editor for Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, and the aquarist formerly known as “The Salt Creep.” He has been an aquarium hobbyist for over 30 years and is an avid scuba diver.

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