Gray angelfish

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Gray angelfish
Pomacanthus arcuatus 109580400.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Pomacanthidae
Genus: Pomacanthus
P. arcuatus
Binomial name
Pomacanthus arcuatus
  • Chaetodon arcuatus Linnaeus, 1758
  • Chaetodon lutescens Bonnaterre, 1788
  • Chaetodon quinquecinctus Cuvier, 1829
  • Pomacanthus balteatus Cuvier, 1831
  • Pomacanthus cingulatus Cuvier, 1831
  • Chaetodon littoricola Poey, 1868

The gray angelfish (Pomacanthus arcuatus), outside American English it is known as the grey angelfish and in Jamaica as the pot cover, is a species of marine ray-finned fish, a marine angelfish belonging to the family Pomacanthidae. It is found in the Western Atlantic Ocean.


The gray angelfish has a disk-shaped, compressed body with a relatively large head and small snout. The snout has a small mouth at its tip which is equipped with small bristle-like teeth. The preoperculum has a sizeable spine at its corner and an unserrated vertical edge.[3] The juveniles have a black body which is marked with five yellow vertical stripes, three on the head and two on the body. The caudal fin has a black blotch which can be elongated or rectangular in shape. The adults are pale greyish in color but spotted with many black spots The head is plain pale gray with a white mouth. The dorsal and anal fins frequently show elongated streamers.[4] The dorsal fin contains 9 spines and 31-33 soft rays while the anal fin contains 3 spines and 23-25 soft rays. This species attains a maximum total length of 60 centimetres (24 in).[2]


The gray angelfish is found in the Western Atlantic Ocean from New York, although it probably does not extend farther north than Florida in the winter, south to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Its range extends to all of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.[1] It has been introduced to Bermuda from the Bahamas.[5]

Habitat and biology[edit]

The gray angelfish is found at depths between 3 and 30 metres (9.8 and 98.4 ft) over coral and rocky reefs.[1] The juveniles occur at shallow depths on patch reefs and in sea grass beds.[6]

It is a diurnal species hiding in the reef during the night. They mainly feed on sponges but have also been recorded feeding on algae, as well as tunicates, zoantharians, gorgonians, hydroids, and bryozoans. The juveniles act as cleaner fish, establishing a cleaning station which is visited by a variety of larger fishes for the juvenile gray angelfish to remove and consume their ectoparasites.[6]

In the northern parts of its range, the spawning season occurs in the summer, from April to September. They have been recorded spawning above deep reefs during the early morning. The fish swim a meter or two above the reef and indulge in brief chases. The pair will chase of conspecific intruders. When they are ready the pair swims upwards, bringing their bellies together to release eggs and milt. Each morning that a female lays on she can release between 25,000 and 75,000 eggs. The fish may repeat this process many times. The eggs are pelagic, and hatch into larvae after around 15-20 hours. The larvae live among the plankton until they attain a length of around 15 mm (0.59 in) when they descend onto the reef where they settle.[6]


The gray angelfish has been recorded as a host for the following endoprasitic trematodes Antorchis urna, Cleptodiscus reticulatus, Hamacreadium mutabile, Hapladena megatyphlon, Hexangitrema pomacanthi, Hexangitrema pricei, Phyllodistomum pomacanthi, Pleurogonius candidulus, Pleurogonius mcintoshi, Pyelosomum erubescens and Theletrum fustiforme. Known ectoparasites include the copepods Caligus atromaculatus, Caligus longipedis, Caligus xystercus, Pseudanuretes parvulus and Thysanote pomacanthi.[7]


The gray angelfish was first formally described in 1758 as Chaetodon arcuatus but Carolus Linnaeus in the 10th Edition of his Systema Naturae with the type locality given as “Indiis”.[8] When Lacépède created the genus Pomacanthus he used Linnaeus’s Chaetodon arcuatus as its type species.[9] When Pomacanthus is subdivided into subgenera, this species is placed in the subgenus Pomacanthus. The specific name arcuatus means “bowed”, referring to the curved lines on the body.[10]


The gray angelfish is a popular fish in the aquarium trade, it has been bred in captivity. Specimens enter the trade from Florida throughout the year, between 1995 and 2000 over 12,000 fishes of this species entered the trade which originated in Brazil. It is also caught in some areas for food.[1] There have been reports of ciguatera poisoning from consumption of this species.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Pyle, R.; Myers, R.; Rocha, L.A. & Craig, M.T. (2010). "Pomacanthus arcuatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2010: e.T165887A6157789. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T165887A6157789.en. Retrieved 28 February 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2019). "Pomacanthus arcuatus" in FishBase. December 2019 version.
  3. ^ "Species: Pomacanthus arcuatus, Grey angelfish". Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Retrieved 28 February 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "Pomacanthus arcuatus". Saltcorner!. Bob Goemans. 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "Pomacanthus arcuatus introduced to Bermuda from Bahamas Date of introduction: 1920s". Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved 28 February 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ a b c Cathleen Bester. "Pomacanthus arcuatus". Discover Fish. Florida Museum. Retrieved 28 February 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Bailly, Nicolas (2008). "Pomacanthus arcuatus (Linnaeus, 1758)". WoRMS. World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  8. ^ Eschmeyer, William N.; Fricke, Ron & van der Laan, Richard (eds.). "Species in the genus Pomacanthus". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  9. ^ Eschmeyer, William N.; Fricke, Ron & van der Laan, Richard (eds.). "Genera in the family Pomacanthidae". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  10. ^ Christopher Scharpf & Kenneth J. Lazara (21 July 2020). "Order ACANTHURIFORMES (part 1): Families LOBOTIDAE, POMACANTHIDAE, DREPANEIDAE and CHAETODONTIDAE". The ETYFish Project Fish Name Etymology Database. Christopher Scharpf and Kenneth J. Lazara. Retrieved 28 February 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]