The Griffis Angelfish, Apolemichthys griffisi, is one of the most unusual looking members of the angelfish family. Compared to the carnival colored large angelfish species, the Griffis Angelfish has a wardrobe that borders on gothic, an outfit that takes a lot of conditioning to really make it look healthy and beautiful.
The first time I ever saw an Apolemichthys griffisi was in the late nineties, right when I was getting ‘into’ marine angelfish, but before I’d thoroughly studied and reviewed the different species in the book. I didn’t even know this fish existed when a customer brought one into the store I was working at to trade in, and I didn’t even know such an unusual fish existed.
Since then sightings of Griffis Angelfish have still been few and far between, but not for some real real scarcity of this species in the wild. It takes a special kind of taste to really appreciate Apolemicthys griffis and therefore few of them are imported into the marine aquarium hobby. Of these, even fewer acclimate well to captivity, and when they do they rarely hit their peak of health wherein they show a high contrast of the black and white coloration.
Perhaps the closest relative of the Griffis’ angelfish, and the only other angelfish with the bold black and white patterning is the much more coveted and well known bandit angelfish, Apolemichthys arcuatus from Hawaii. Griffis’ angelfish is also most often found in deepwater habitats throughout the central Pacific ocean. Since it lives deeper, it is less often collected than the goldflake angelfish with which it very rarely hybridizes.
While the Griffis Angelfish is infrequently encountered in marine aquariums, it is even more seldom to see a beautiful, well-conditioned specimen in the peak of health, and flaunting its bold and subtle colors. On the body the black can be so deep and the white stripe can be so bold as to catch your attention from across the room.
Under ideal conditions, the face and head of the Griffis angelfish can be a lovely lavender to lilac color but what makes this fish truly ‘gothic’ is that wedged, tapering eyestripe. It starts out wide above the eye and tapers to a narrow streak below it giving us the impression that Apolemichthys griffisi is ‘The Crow’ of the angelfish family.
Today’s quasi-perfect specimen of the Griffis Angelfish comes to us from an unlikely place, Reef Raft in Canada. This shop is best known for some outlandish corals, and has introduced quite a number of novel strains over the past decade.
Reef Raft doesn’t have many fish, just a few pet specimens, but it is quite fitting that they would have an Apolemichthys griffisi as an unofficial mascott. We’ve met and photographed only a few Griffisi angelfish in our day but this Canadian specimen is hands down the boldest, liveliest and most inquisitive we’ve ever encountered.
Some fish species will display their best to any decent aquarist providing them with great, balanced fish foods and a clean healthy environment. But just like corals, even in the best of care not all Griffis Angelfish manage to thrive in captivity so it was a real treat to visit Reef Raft and see that they’d nurtured a specimen of Apolemchthys griffisi that we’ll never forget.