Despite the Peppermint Angelfish’s (Paracentropyge boylei) recent meteoric debut in the mainstream aquarium trade, it’s status as an iconic book fish has hardly been relinquished. Familiarity has not made us jaded with the clinquant beauty of this incredible species. In fact, it’s a nostalgic experience that reminds us why this Angelfish is truly the crème de la crème of Pomacanthids, deserving of a place in the pantheon of reef fish pop culture.
For many reef enthusiasts, the first encounter with this species has to be from Kiyoshi Endoh’s Angelfishes Of The World book. The livid red and chantilly white striped cover page beckons for attention unparalleled to any other. Indeed, the Peppermint Angelfish is iconic in its existence and needs no introduction.
In the Japanese leg of our piscine world tour, we stopped by Nagoya to pay a visit to a Peppermint Angelfish. Except this isn’t just a Peppermint Angelfish; it’s THE Peppermint Angelfish. I’ve had the fortune of seeing this species in person a couple of times, and believe me when I say this; It never fails to send chills down my spine. This time, however, we weren’t looking at any run of the mill Peppermint Angelfish. This particular fish belongs to Mr. Tomoyuki Urakami, and it is the legendary pioneer that won the world over with its barbershop pole motif and mystic charm.
This specimen was collected by Chip Boyle himself in 2001, making this one of the first and also the oldest known Peppermint Angelfish alive anywhere today. Many of you may be familiar with Mr. Urakami’s tank, which has been featured extensively in books, magazines, blogs and videos on almost every available platform. He has woven a dingy, depressing looking catacomb replete with an almost impenetrable fortress of rock that is home to a single Peppermint Angelfish and two Lysmata amboinensis cleaner shrimp. The tank is weakly lit by an eerie blue glow from a single LED fixture.
It has been that way for nearly 15 years, and it will remain that way for hopefully many more years to come. Sadly, this tank has come under fire from ignoramus comments, lamenting and harping between the juxtaposition of a prized fish and a dilapidated looking set up. The biology and habitat of this fish has been extensively broadcasted by Richard Pyle et al during a Moorea deep dive survey, and in it features a calcareous fortress very similar to this set up, with both Centropyge narcosis and Paracentropyge boylei perusing about nonchalantly.
I personally am a huge fan of biotope replicas, and I have huge admiration for Mr. Urakami for having the foresight and wit to recreate the habitat necessary for this fish to thrive. For over a decade. Too many Peppermint Angelfish from the recent years have been kept in an unnecessary amount of coral and light; two things that this species will hardly ever see in its entire life.
It’s quite clear in the video above that despite being alive in captivity for longer than half my age, the fish still looks to be in fine fettle. Perhaps the only evidence of its age catching up with it is its slightly thin physique. But, other than that, the fish is eating well and will hopefully carry on its celebrity status for at least until the end of this decade.
A huge thanks to Mr. Urakami and Koji Wada for the hospitality and time. Enjoy the photos and videos of this epochal icon, and stay tuned for more Angelfish goodies.