So you have a reef tank and you also have an affinity for keeping marine angelfish, a potentially bad combination since many angelfish have a reputation for snacking on and destroying corals. But wait, options do exist!


As I mentioned in a prior blog post, many reef keepers, including myself, have successfully kept Regal Angelfish in reef tanks, although it can be a roll of the dice since some individuals will snack on corals. If you are not the gambling type and want more piece of mind you should consider a Masked Swallowtail Angelfish.


Also known as Japanese Masked Swallowtail Angelfish, this critter is part of the Genicanthus genus, a group that includes Bellus and Watanabei angels. All of these fish feed in the wild above the reef and will typically not graze on rock and coral in a reef tank. I have kept both Masked Swallowtail and Bellus angels in my tanks and they did not pick at all, behaving as advertised.


Masked Swallowtail Angelfish

My Favorite Angelfish

But it is the Masked Swallowtail I crave the most. Why? Well, a lot of it comes down to personal preference and for some reason I am drawn to this fish. Hey, everybody has a favorite fish and this one happens to be near the top of my list.


What I like the most is the different coloration between males and females. Females have a cream/white color chest that morphs into yellow near the dorsal fin, along with distinct black markings around the eyes and tail. They look almost bandit-like with the black around the eyes. Meanwhile, the males are just striking, sporting skinny, vertical bars along the body as well as a mask of vivid yellow around the eyes.


Masked Swallowtail Angelfish


The Elusive Male Masked Swallowtail Angelfish

Masked Swallowtail Angelfish can be kept alone in established tanks over 100 gallons and in pairs or small harems in aquariums over 180 gallons. These can be hard fish to find, especially males. Females will change sex to male so if you really want a male you can add two to three three females and the dominant one will change over to male. The odds of this happening are best when adding three females, particularly if one female is larger then the other two.


I did add three females to my current 187 gallon reef tank but so far none has turned male. Unfortunately, the largest of the three bullied one of the other ones to death, although it is dominating the remaining one so I am holding out hope it will turn male.



Overall, these fish are moderately difficult to keep and will get along just fine with other fish. They are certainly pricey but the beauty of this reef safe angelfish is worth the money, in my humble opinion.


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If you are looking for additional insights and information, please explore my many other reef tank and SPS related articles as well as my book, A ReefBum’s Guide To Keeping an SPS Reef Tank: A Blueprint For Success. And you can see all of my reef tank videos online now as well as my Live HD Webcam.


Happy reef keeping!