It has been awhile since any fish from Guam has made its way into the trade. Sans the small collection made by Joe Russo last year, this is the first time in a long hiatus that we’re seeing the reappearance of Centropyge shepardi, otherwise known as the mango angelfish. It has been speculated that C. shepardi from Guam came into existance from viable fertile hybrids of the somewhat similar Rusty x Flame angelfish, or the false shepardi. This hybrid turn species theory may not seem all that impossible considering that the Rusty x Flame hybrids are capable of breeding with each other, and over time, cementing a population which is genetically distinct in itself.
A total of thirty nine specimens were offered for sale, and each one of them showing wildly variable patterns from each other. Although sticking to a somewhat general template, each fish is unique and no two are identical. It’s unusual for a species to show this much variation, and there are some with very strong characteristics of C. ferrugata, while others lean more towards C. loricula. This questions the true origin of the mango angelfish. Yet we note that there are some that showed the incredible blue patch behind the gill cover, which is not seen in the Philippine caught Rusty x Flame hybrids.
A DNA study is probably required to see if C. shepardi and Rusty x Flame hybrids are the same. To the casual aquarist, this does not matter as long as the fish is gorgeous and hardy, which C. shepardi is. The vibrant chrome orange is simply stunning and the variability between each specimen gives the buyer and infinite myriad of choices.
Besides the beautiful mango angelfish, Guam also offers some exclusive fish like Cirrhilabrus katherinae, Pomachromis guamensis, and the highly sought after Chaetodon flavocoronatus. We really hope that future imports from Guam will continue and eventually the yellow-crowned butterflyfish will make itself known to the world again. For now, the world can probably expect some mango angelfish to start trickling back into the scene to curb the hunger of angelfish fans. A big thanks to Iwarna Aquafarm for allowing us to see first hand and photograph these Guam beauties.