It can be difficult to find saltwater angelfish that are safe to keep in a reef tank. Not all of them are considered “reef safe”. In fact, only a select few of them are.
With angelfish, it can be hit or miss if they will be safe to have around corals. It’s possible to have a certain angelfish that never touch corals in your tank but in a different tank, that same fish can pick on them. They are really unpredictable. Sometimes it’s not the fish that’s the problem. Certain corals tend to be bothered by angelfish more than others.
For example, LPS corals tend to be picked on by angelfish the most. Brain corals, Acans, Lobo’s, Scoly’s, are types of corals they might pick at.
Corals that are generally not bothered by angelfish include many soft corals like mushrooms. Soft corals should be safe to have in the tank with angelfish.
If you decide to add an angelfish into your reef tank, make sure to do your research ahead of time. Here are 7 of the most common angelfish to keep in a saltwater reef tank.
Coral Beauty – Dwarf Angelfish
The Coral Beauty angel is one of the better choices to keep in a reef tank. Many people will say that they are not ok to keep with corals. I will disagree. They are reef safe with caution and it’s possible that they can nip at fleshy areas of certain corals like Zoanthids.
I have kept the Coral Beauty in many different reef tanks and never had a problem with them picking at corals. It may look like they are nipping at the coral but it’s more likely that it is picking at the rocks around the coral. They are famous for doing that. It’s possible that you end up with a Coral Beauty that decides to pick at some corals, but it’s more likely that they won’t.
Flame Angel – Dwarf Angelfish
The Flame Angelfish is one of the most common dwarf angels kept in saltwater tanks. They have amazing colors and can be a showpiece fish. They are similar in size as the Coral Beauty but they are known to be more aggressive. They are a very active fish and will use up all areas of your tank. They should be kept as a single species unless you have a very large tank.
With respect to keeping them with corals, they are very similar to the Coral Beauty. Some can bother certain corals but many are just fine. The odd time they might pick at coral polyps but chances are they will leave them alone.
Bi-Color Angel – Dwarf Angelfish
Another stunning Dwarf angel is the Bi-Color angelfish. These fish have a mix of yellow and blue bodies and grow to the same size as the other dwarfs. They are a peaceful fish and won’t bother other tankmates unless it is another dwarf angel.
If you have plenty of tank space, they may get along with another dwarf angel but it’s a risk. For the most part, these fish are coral safe. There is a very small chance that they will pick on corals as the others mentioned, but most likely they will be safe in reef tanks.
Cherub Angel – Pygmy angelfish
These small angelfish are suitable to have in reef tanks and can be kept in smaller tanks. The Cherub angel has a dark blue body with orange/yellow face. They will only grow to be around 3” in size. It’s important to only keep 1 of these fish per tank as they will be aggressive towards each other. Even more so in smaller tanks. They are reef safe with caution due to the chance that they may nip at coral mucous.
Regal Angel – Large Angelfish
The Regal Angelfish is a highly sought after fish but it is known to be difficult to keep. I wouldn’t recommend this fish if you are a beginner. They can have a difficult time adapting to an aquarium and they are sensitive to water quality fluctuations. Pristine water is important for them to stay healthy.
They can also be difficult to feed when first introduced to the tank and you should watch them eat before purchasing. The Regal angel has stunning colors and should be kept in a larger aquarium. They need plenty of room and hiding space to feel comfortable. Providing they are healthy and well-fed, they shouldn’t bother your corals.
They are known to pick at a certain coral in your tank and stay attracted to that one. LPS corals and Xenia could be appealing to them. As far as angelfish go, the Regal would be a decent choice to keep in a reef tank.
Masked Angel – Large Angelfish
The Masked angelfish is a rare to find fish that requires a larger saltwater tank. They can grow to around 8” and are semi-aggressive fish. They love to graze on rocks so ensure that you have plenty of live rock in your tank.
These fish will mostly have a uniform body color with a different mask color on the face. The Masked Angel can be expensive to purchase and are not for beginners. Like the Regal angel, they require pristine water conditions to stay healthy. Similar to the Regal angel, they are reef safe and shouldn’t bother a majority of corals but there is always a chance they could pick at a certain coral.
Swallowtail Angel – Large Angelfish
Saving the best for last, the Swallowtail Angel is the one angelfish that is truly reef safe. This is a mid-level fish and doesn’t like being at the top or bottom of your tank. They are not aggressive and won’t bother other tankmates.
They will grow to about 8” and prefer plenty of swimming space. A large tank of at least a 125 gallon is required. They will pick at algae in the tank but won’t bother corals or invertebrates. If you have just a few corals in your tank or even a full reef, you should be safe with a Swallowtail Angel.
Before choosing a saltwater angelfish for your reef tank, remember that with most angels, there is a chance that they could harm your corals. It depends on the type of fish and type of coral. Many angelfish are certainly not reef safe but any of the options on this list are good choices.