Queen Angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)

Queen Angelfish (Holacanthus ciliaris)
The queen angelfish is not widely sought by anglers, although it is an attractive incidental catch and is most popular as an aquarium fish.


The queen angelfish has a moderately large body that is deep and compressed. It can be distinguished from its nearest relatives, butterflyfish, by its stout spines, its blunter snout, and the spines on the gill cover. It has 14 dorsal spines, and the spine at the angle of the preopercle is relatively long.

Most noteworthy about the appearance of the queen angelfish is its coloration. It is speckled yellowish-orange and blue, and the amount of blue varies with the individual and differs in intensity. It has a bright blue border on the soft dorsal and anal fins, with the tips of the fins colored orange and the last few rays of them colored bluish-black. It also has a yellowish-orange tail, as well as a dark bluish-black spot on the forehead, ringed with bright blue, which forms the queen’s “crown.”

The coloring of the young queen angelfish is dark blue and similar to that of young blue angelfish, but the rear edges of the dorsal and the anal fins are not yellow, as they are in the blue angelfish. There are bluish-white bars on the body of the queen angelfish, as with the blue angelfish, but these are curved on the queen angelfish, instead of straight.

Angelfish in the Caribbean are generally brighter in color than those along the coasts of North and South America.


Although reported to reach a length of nearly 2 feet, queen angelfish probably do not exceed 18 inches, and they average 8 to 14 inches.


The queen angelfish is usually found alone or in a pair but not in groups.


Adults feed primarily on sponges but also consume algae and minute organisms.

Other Names

French: demoiselle royale; Spanish: isabelita patale.


Queen angelfish are a common to occasional presence in Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean; they are present in Bermuda and the Gulf of Mexico, and south to Brazil, as well as on coral reefs in the West Indies.


Queen angelfish inhabit coral reefs in shallow water, although juveniles prefer offshore reefs, and mature fish sometimes frequent depths of 20 to 80 feet. They are often indistinguishable from the colorful sea fans, sea whips, and corals they swim among.