Emperor Angelfish Breeding Finally Unlocked by Bali Aquarich
23 Mar, 2023
Reviewing the exhaustive list of Angelfish and angelfish hybrids bred by Mr. Wen-Ping Su’s Bali Aquarich, we would have thought that breeding the Emperor Angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator) was already way back in history. But surprisingly, this ship has just sailed!
You would think that breeding a fish that naturally occurs in the waters right in front of Bali Aquarich’s oceanside aquaculture facility would have been one of the first to be crossed off the list. Well, it was not. The fact is that breeding the Emperor Angelfish proved to be significantly more challenging than everyone guessed.
The breeding of the Emperor Angelfish comes with an interestesting footnote. In an ironic twist, Mr. Su succeeded at creating some hybrids between Emperor Angel and Blue Ring Angel (Pomacanthus annularis), many years before the pure-bred Emperor.
Pomacanthus imperator is arguably the most popular angelfish:
The Emperor Angelfish has to be the epicenter of marine fish beauty. It is wrapped in a unique robe, patterned with rings and lines in a broad range of flashy colors ranging from vibrant yellows to pale and deep blues, all while wearing a black mask. When you think of a beautiful marine angelfish, this may well be the first fish that comes to mind.
Given how popular and string it is, you might think that this fish would have been the first-ever marine angelfish attempted for captive breeding. It’s hard to say, but probably many people have tried and failed with it (Editor’s note: At least one other marine fish breeder that was actively striving to produce this fish, and no doubt it has enticed many others given its stable demand, consistently decent pricing, and bread and butter role in the marine aquarium trade. And Martin Moe was also attempting to culture Queen, French, and Grey Angelfish decades ago in Florida.)
Bad Tempered Adults Make Breeding Difficult:
The real challenge that Bali Aquarich faces when working with the Emperor Angelfish is actually forming long-term, viable and compatible pairs. This angelfish seems to have a particularly strong and lousy temper when it comes to potential mates.
It took 11 years, and hundreds of attempts, to finally get a few lasting, compatible, productive pairs. On many occasions, even after the pair had been together for a few months, or even a couple of years, everything would fall apart. Out of nowhere, one partner would beat the other one to death. Mr. Su experimented with many different variables; diet, pond size, pond height, fish sizes at forming pairs, and introduction methods, all in an effort to avoid these seemingly inevitable breakdowns in cohabitating pairs.
In addition to the difficulties in establishing broodstock pairs of Emperor Angelfish, Bali Aquarich was faced with other setbacks, including flooding, disease, and technical failure of equipment such as pumps. Certainly, marine fish aquaculture is not a straight line, and there are always some new challenges to overcome.
The Cutest Angelfish:
One exciting thing about Emperor Angel larvae is that they metamorphose at a very early age and obtain their juvenile coloration at an tiny size. A barely 1 cm fish (1/4 inch) is already white-ringed on a dark blue background.
Once the secret of forming a pair was unlocked, the next challenge came in getting high-quality eggs. Thankfully, Mr. Su has a lot of experience when it comes to feeding angelfish broodstock. Keeping them in outside ponds, with freshly pumped natural seawater and all the naturally growing inverts inside the ponds, helps a lot.
Once the eggs were collected, the larval stages didn’t seem to pose any problem to Mr. Su. From the looks of this initial success, the future is promising that Bali Aquarich and Mr. Su will be able to stabilize the production of captive-bred Emperor Angelfish. It’s quite possible that the Emperor Angelfish could one day become a routinely offered aquacultured marine angelfish.