Description & Behavior

French angelfishes, Pomacanthus paru (Bloch, 1787), are common throughout the Caribbean and are often confused with the closely-related gray angelfishes. Like other angelfishes and butterflyfishes, French angelfish have tall, narrow bodies. Because they are so thin, they can turn quickly and maneuver down into narrow cracks between the corals to hunt their prey and avoid predators. They swim by rowing with their pectoral fins. Their long dorsal, anal, and caudal (tail) fins allow them to turn quickly.

Adult French angelfish reach 41.1 cm in length. Their bodies are covered in black scales except those at front from nape to abdomen, which are rimmed with golden yellow. They have a broad orange-yellow bar at the base of their pectoral fins and have a dorsal filament that is yellow. As they become adults their chins become whitish and the outer part of their iris is yellow; eye narrowly rimmed below with blue.

World Range & Habitat

French angelfishes are common in shallow reefs and are usually found in pairs, often near sea fans and sponges. Juveniles are jet black with circular bright yellow bands and they tend cleaning stations where they service a broad range of clients, including jacks, snappers, morays, grunts, surgeonfishes, and wrasses. At the station the cleaner displays a fluttering swimming and when cleaning it touches the clients with its pelvic fins.

Western Atlantic: Florida, USA and Bahamas to Brazil. Also Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, including Antilles. Eastern Atlantic: off Ascension Island and St. Paul’s Rocks.

Feeding Behavior (Ecology)

French angelfishes feed on sponges, algae, bryozoans, zoantharians, gorgonians, and tunicates.


Life History

Spawning pairs are strongly territorial, with usually both members vigorously defend their areas against neighboring pairs.

They are nest nonguarders, reproduce via external fertilization and are open water/substratum egg scatterers.


Conservation Status & Comments

There are reports of ciguatera poisoning from eating French angelfishes. They have been reared in captivity. The juveniles are frequently taken by aquarists. Easily approached and photographed.

References & Further Research

Wilhelm Bögershausen – clownfish underwater picture gallery

Research Pomacanthus paru @
Barcode of Life ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species Database ~ WoRMS

Search for French Angelfishes @
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