The Koran Angelfish (Pomacanthus semicirculatus, Cuvier, 1831)*
By: Norman Ali Khalaf-von Jaffa
*Note: This article was published in: Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. Number 44. August 2005.
The Koran Angelfish is one of the eighty-six described species of the marine angelfish family, Pomacanthidae.
With their vibrant colours and deep, laterally compressed bodies, marine angelfish are some of the more conspicuous residents of the reef. They most closely resemble the butterflyfish, a related family of similarly showy reef fish. Marine angelfish are distinguished from butterflyfish by the presence of strong preopercle spines (part of the gill covers) in the former. This feature also explains the family name Pomacanthidae; from the Greek poma meaning "cover" and akantha meaning "thorn".
As a juvenile the Koran Angelfish is easily confused with a plethora of other blue, black and white banded young angelfish species. Their other common name, Semicircle Angelfish, only applies to specimens of about one to three inches in total length. Older, larger individuals transform their irregular rear semicircles to sweeping lines. At four to seven inches they show what appears as Arabic Islamic script (hence the name Koran) in blue against black between blue lines on the tail fin. In some specimens we can read on one side of the tail "La Ilaha Illa Allah" (There is no God but Allah) and on the other side "Sha'n Allah" (A Matter of Allah). Korans have four or five wider-distinctive white body band-lines that sweep back dorsally and ventrally. Other species of large angelÂ’s young have more striping that is more vertical (or more circular in the case of the imperator) and/or orange colouration which the Koran lacks.
Adult colouration patterns are attained in a few years at a size of six-seven inches plus. The white stripes and blue fade to an overall pattern of dark spots on a yellowish-green background. Three inch juvenile, six, eight inch changelings below.
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes).
Order: Perciformes (perch-like fish).
Family: Pomacanthidae (Angelfishes).
Pomacanthus semicirculatus, Cuvier, 1831.
Other Scientific Names:
Holacanthus semicirculatus, Cuvier in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1831.(valid as).
Holacanthus alternans, Cuvier in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1831.(synonym).
Holacanthus alternans meleagris, Alcock, 1896.(synonym).
Holacanthus lepidolepis, Bleeker, 1853.(synonym).
Holacanthus ignatius, Playfair, 1868.(synonym).
Holacanthus poecilus, Peters, 1868.(synonym).
Holacanthus semicircularis, De Vis, 1884.(synonym).
Holacanthus reginae, Sauvage, 1891.(synonym).
Pomacanthus semicirculatus, Allen, 1980.(valid).
Common Name: Koran Angelfish.
Other Common Names:
English: Semicircle Angelfish, Koran Angel, Half-circled Angelfish, Zebra Angelfish, Blue Angelfish. German: Koran Kaiserfisch, Koranfisch. Arabic: Samak Alqura'n Almalai'ki.
Indo-West Pacific: Red Sea, East Africa and Arab Sea to Fiji and Samoa, north to southern Japan, south to Western Australia and New South Wales, including Lord Howe Island.
Dorsal spines (total): 13-13; Dorsal soft rays (total): 20-23; Anal spines: 3-3; Anal soft rays: 18-22. Juveniles of this species are bluish black with concentric white semi-circles. Adults brownish on anterior and posterior third of the body; middle portion greenish or yellowish; numerous blue spots on the sides; posterior part of dorsal and anal fins prolonged as a filament, the tips bright yellow. Transformation to the adult color pattern occurs over the size range of about 8 - 16 cm. Max. Size: 40.0 cm SL.
There is a possible confusion with the Six-banded Angelfish (Pomacanthus sexstriatus), the latter having clear bands along the sides and no blue edges. The juvenile Korans resembles the Emperor Angelfish (Pomacanthus imperator), but the circular lines are never close, like in the latter.
Juveniles inhabit shallow protected areas, while adults prefer coastal reefs with heavy coral growth providing ample hiding places.
The species is found foraging and hiding around coral and rocky reefs (external and deep reef), not in open, upper waters or over sandy bottoms. They are often found in proximity of caves and shipwrecks.
Generally solitary or in pairs. Feeds on sponges, tunicates, and algae. The young are excellent aquarium fish and suitable for a community tank.
Environment: Reef-associated; non-migratory; marine; depth range 1 - 30 m.
Climate: Tropical; 30°N - 30°S.
Global Importance: Aquarium Fish: commercial.
Threatened: Not in IUCN Red List.
Koran Angelfish: The Aquarium Fish:
Min. Tank Size: 70 - 100 gallons.
Temperature: 72 - 82 Â°F.
pH: 8.1 - 8.4.
sg: 1.018 - 1.025.
dKH: 8 - 12.
Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 - 4.4 years (Preliminary K or Fecundity.)
Omnivorous. Meaty foods such as small pieces of shellfish, plus Mysis and brine shrimp; also takes algae.
This fish will compete strenuously with all others to establish and maintain its territory. Keep this species in a tank that is sufficiently large to offer copious swimming space, and be sure to furnish the aquarium with plenty of shelters, created by using piled rocks. This aggressive fish is not suitable to be kept in an invertebrate aquarium.
Selection as Aquarium fish: General to Specific:
For most circumstances, Korans, like other large angelfishes, should be purchased as juveniles, but not babies. Very small individuals (less than two inches) should be avoided as they usually adapt poorly. Get at least a three inch specimen; and not one over six inches. Larger specimens often time are problematical in terms of foods/feeding and behavior. Also of note, larger specimens (upwards of 16 inches) require systems of a few to several hundred-gallon capacities.
There are a handful of important observational criteria to consider in picking out a good specimen. A prime one is apparent health as gauged by gill movement. A healthy individual displays regular, steady "breathing" of about once per second. Gill flukes, common and species-specific on these wild-caught fish, the effects of "gill-burn" from shipment/handling, poor present water quality, all can speed up the rate of gill movement. Avoid such angels.
Instead choose one with full finnage and a full-body appearance, not thin in the head or stomach. Only buy angels that are alert interested in their environment, not skulking in a corner. These pomacanthids have a curious nature that mirrors their intelligence.
The fishÂ’s colour should be bright and uniform, showing no light spots, blemishes or pitting. Eyes must be clear and shiny.
Ask to see the prospective purchase eat what you intend to feed it at home. Though most Korans that eat will live on, itÂ’s best to leave the specimen for weeks stay at the dealers holding it on deposit.
Environmental Conditions; Chemical, Physical, Biological:
Koran angels are more sensitive to poor water quality as marine aquarium species go. Excess organics often show as blotchy white-marked areas, and are directly positively correlated with ease of infectious and parasitic susceptibility.
Temperatures in the low to upper seventy degrees Fahrenheit, lower to "normal" specific gravity (1.018-1.025), of natural or synthetic saltwater are fine. Effective protein skimming is a must have.
All members of medium and large angelfish species are aggressive toward their own kind, other angels and similar-appearing fishes and are ideally kept one specimen to a tank. Sometimes adding them at the same time, moving around parts of the habitat, disrupting territories, or bringing in ever-larger specimens can successfully mix these angels. This practice is not encouraged unless you have other facilities for separating them, should relations sour.
In most cases other non-angel species are generally ignored; occasionally a Koran angel will become a bully, and require "rehabilitation" through removal or temporary isolation. Provide adequate hiding and escape spaces for tank-mates and observe your charges, as you should, daily.
This is the most critical area in keeping most angels and many other saltwater species. KoranÂ’s should be offered live and fresh foods and weaned from natural foodstuffs ASAP to survive and thrive. In the wild, Korans feed on algae and associated fauna primarily as juveniles; adults eat copious amounts of sponges, corals, and algae with the remaining bulk made up mostly of worms of all sorts, crustaceans and mollusks. They supplement this diet well in captivity with crustacean and other fresh and frozen animal foods.
Opened, whole shellfish, squid, frozen and fresh crustaceans should be offered occasionally. Plant material/algae materials should be fed daily. Algae (Caulerpa), Ulva (sea lettuce), nori and kombu from an oriental food supplier, and plant matter (spinach, zucchini, chard etc.) should make up a substantial part of their diet. Feed frequently, small amounts.
Infectious, parasitic, nutritional and social diseases are a significant problem with this species. Beyond details already listed, careful handling, quarantine and freshwater dipping with or without admixtures are recommended. If necessary, copper treatments (best chelated types) are suggested for ridding pathogens.
The Koran Angelfish or Semicircle Angelfish (Pomacanthus semicirculatus) makes an excellent first or beginner angel for aquarists with an adequately large system. It's easy to find, reasonably inexpensive; simple to maintain when purchased at the right size and fed properly, intelligent and long-lived.
References and Internet Websites:
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Author & Webmaster: Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa. (2005).