Gray Angelfish

Gray Angelfish, Pomacanthus arcuatus

The Gray Angelfish, Pomacanthus arcuatus, whose common Spanish name is gallineta café, is a species in the Angelfish or Pomacanthidae Family, known collectively as ángeles in Mexico. Globally, there are fourteen species in the genus Pomacanthus, two of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

The Gray Angelfish are a non-migratory species found at depths up to 100 feet. They have a discus-shaped body that is highly compressed. They are a uniform gray to gray-brown color with scales that have a large dark brown spot in the center and pale gray edges. Their head, chest, caudal fin, pectoral fins, and pelvic fins are dark brown; their caudal fin has a pale gray margin. Their chin and mouth region are white. Juveniles are black with two light yellow bars on their body and three on their head. They have a small mouth which has a protruding lower jaw and comb-like teeth. Their anal fin has 3 spines and 23 to 23 rays and their dorsal fin has 9 spines and 31 to 33 soft rays with extended filaments reaching past their caudal fin which has a straight profile. Their pectoral fins are long.

The Gray Angelfish are found in shallow waters in reef-associated environments. They reach a maximum length of 60 cm (23.6 inches) and weigh up to 1.8 kg (4 pounds) but are more common at lengths of 43 to 48 cm (17 to 19 inches). They are normally solitary but occasionally found in pairs. Juveniles are known to be part-time cleaners of grunts, jacks, morays, snappers, surgeonfish, and wrasses. They primarily consume sponges but are omnivores eating a wide variety of algae and invertebrates. Reproduction is oviparous and monogamous with 25,000 to 75,000 eggs released by each female; the pelagic eggs hatch within fifteen to twenty hours of fertilization and the larvae live in beds of floating plankton before eventually settling out onto the coral reef.

The Gray Angelfish is most likely confused with the French Angelfish, Pomacanthus paru (yellow rimmed eyes; yellow blotch at pectoral fin base).

The Gray Angelfish have a wide range in the tropical waters of the Western Atlantic from the southeast coast of the United States to southern Brazil including the West Indies. In Mexico they are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gray Angelfish are considered an excellent food fish and are marketed fresh and salted, however, they are also known to contain Cigua Toxin. They are caught primarily by net but can be an excellent game fish on light tackle with small hooks. They are friendly towards divers and a popular subject of underwater photographers. They are also widely sold in the aquarium trade.

Gray Angelfish, Pomacanthus arcuatus. Fish caught from coastal waters off  Sugarloaf Key, Florida, August 2014. Length: 41 cm (16 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Dean Kimberly, Atlanta, GA.

Gray Angelfish, Somacanthus arcuatus. Fish caught off the Channel 5 Bridge (MM 71.4), Florida Keys, Florida, December 2015. Length: 38 cm (15 inches). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of Kenneth Tse, Toronto, Canada.