Genicanthus bellus is one of the prettiest species of swallowtail angelfish, and their small adult size also makes them the most suited to aquarium life. Like all Genicanthus, G. bellus has very strong sexual color differences and some would argue that the female bellus angelfish is even prettier than the male.
Of all the angelfish groups and species, the swallowtail angelfish of the Genicanthus genus are the most consistent and uniform. Compared to Centropyge and Pomacanthus, swallowtail angelfish are the least likely to hybridize, and also very rarely do they show any kind of aberration of color or pattern.
Because of the scarcity of aberrant Genicanthus, we were very excited to spend some time photographing the unique aberrant bellus angelfish at Neptune’s Tropical Fish in Englewood Colorado. This beautiful large female Genicanthus bellus has been living in the Neptune Tropical Fish display aquarium since 2009.
We’ve actually met this particular female bellus angelfish on many occasions over time since she lives in the same tank as one of the largest captive grown hammer corals in aquariums that we’ve ever seen. Back in ‘the day’, this bellus angelfish also showed its unusually broken stripe on the side of its body. However back then we just assumed this was a small fish that would grow out of its aberrant color pattern and likely develop into a regularly colored male specimen.
Well it’s been half a decade now and the special Genicanthus bellus has never changed color, and has gotten bigger and more beautiful over time. Since she lives nearly alone in a 200 gallon tank with only a flame wrasse, a sailfin tang and a pair of clownfish, she’s never had the stimulus to develop as a male and has grown up into what we would call a ‘Superfemale’ bellus angelfish.
We call this bellus angelfish a superfemale because her female characteristics have developed to the fullest, with the jet black portions of her body being bordered in a brilliant light blue. Meanwhile the blue swoosh of color on her side is extremely large and prominent, stretching from the upper anterior lateral line all the way to the soft portions of the anal fin.
In her grand old age of seven years old, this bellus angelfish has really developed into the showstopper female specimen for the species, and she has unique broken stripes on both sides of her body as well. If Genicanthus bellus were destined to become this superfemale and not the relatively dimmer male, or if the color pattern was simply inversed for the sexes, there is no doubt that bellus angelfish would be much more popular for saltwater fish and reef aquariums.
The only sign that this show female bellus angelfish has any male hormone in her body is the very slightest hint of yellow eyeliner that has developed just below both eyes and the snout. Hopefully in the absence of any others of her kind, this female Genicanthus bellus will continue on as a female individual and dazzle visitors of her display tank for many more years to come.