The Coral Beauty Angelfish is one of the most beautiful small fishes on the coral reef, Its purple color ranges from deep blue to magenta, with rippling bars that contrast boldly with its golden orange body color.
These features makes coral beauties one of the most popular fishes for saltwater aquariums. Each year, Thousands of these fish are collected from the wild for home aquariums from the wider Indo-West Pacific,
The Coral Beauty angelfish, varies widely from the Indian Ocean to the South Pacific, but the Palauan Coral Beauty is the perfect, classic color and pattern for the species.
But the coral beauty angelfish you see here are special because they were captive bred by Biota Palau and they have never been in the ocean. Instead, these young coral beauty angelfish were bred just a hundred meters from the shores of an idyllic coral reef, right where the rainforest meets the water’s edge.
Located in the heart of Micronesia, in the western Pacific Ocean, Palau is home to an amazing variety of marine life, with incredible corals and fantastic fish. In this embodiment of a postcard is where Biota Palau set up operations to provide aquarists with a sustainable supply of purely cultured marine creatures.
For decades the captive breeding of marine fish has consisted primarily of clownfish and gobies, but there’s been an acceleration of breakthroughs in the last several years. Biota Palau is at the bleeding edge of this new wave of captive raised fish, and the coral beauty is one of the most exciting cultured animals to be made widely available from Biota Palau.
For a generation of saltwater aquarium hobbyists, the idea of captive bred angelfish was always a far off dream. However, recent advancements in larval rearing have led to many breakthroughs in captive breeding, including Biota Palau’s successes with captive bred Coral Beauty Angelfish.
It all starts with wild collected specimens which have to be found, collected and paired up. Or better yet, a mated pair might eb found in the wild.
The healthiest fish are acclimated to aquarium life, and nurtured to be in prime breeding condition. Several breeding pairs are kept in isolation in a spare but large round tubs of about 100 gallons.
The breeding pairs are fed rich nutritious foods three to four times a day. The water in these breeding tanks is not filtered but instead is lightly aerated, and changed a few times per week, a significant investment of time and energy to keep the spawning coral beauties in the peak of health.
All of this effort is made in the hopes of ending up with good quantities of viable, fertilized eggs, which are continually concentrated by a gentle in-tank egg collector. The number of eggs produced by the breeding coral beauties waxes and wanes on a lunar cycle, with a peak of just three days each month.
Only when the egg quantities are high enough is it feasible for them to be harvested and then raised. The collected eggs are kept in an incubator where they will hatch in 12 to 18 hours, and that’s when the magic really happens.
As newly hatched proto-fishes, the larvae of most marine fish drift in the ocean current where a range of tiny foods are abundant and diverse. Recreating this planktonic condition has been the breakthrough that has afforded Biota Palau success in rearing the Coral Beauty angelfish, and many other species.
In a special plankton culture room, a wide variety of plant and animal plankton is grown. These include several different species of phytoplankton, and rotifers. Together with the filtered seawater, these ingredients provide the microscopic buffet that larval marine fish require to make it through early life.
These open ocean conditions are recreated in large concrete vats where the water is teeming with a planktonic soup. The water is literally alive as the phytoplankton form the foundation of a food chain with tiny larval coral beauty angelfish at the top.
It is a delicate balance to keep food concentration high but nutrient build up low – the larvae are too delicate to allow for water changes, so this stage in the culture of coral beauties is critical to get right.
After about a month of drifting in this inland sea the microscopic larvae grow to a size where they are visible to the naked eye. At this point they look like tiny silver discs with transparent mouths, and the faintest hint of a blue streak along the back, and they start eating baby brine shrimp and tiny food offerings.
Between two and three months of age the very young coral beauties start swimming a little more deliberately, and begin to settle out of the open water and are more associated with the reef and rocks.
It’s at this point where their transformation from a plain silver fish to a colorful little angelfish takes place. Their metamorphosis into into tiny yet recognizable coral beauty marks an important transition of their culture.
The first signs of change appear as purple along the head and back, they eyes and mouths are well formed, and it’s only a matter of time until the color change is mostly complete.
From here on out the fish readily eat fine prepared foods, micro pellets, and now it’s only a matter of time until they grow to a sellable size.
Biota Palau has dozens of large growout vats of around 2000 gallons in volume, each of which is home to between hundreds and thousands of cultured fish each awaiting their turn to be shipped around the world.
As interesting as the larval culture tanks are, I wanted to see where the main stock is kept, and it was a real treat to see the huge collection of cultured fish at Biota Palau.
Despite the huge size of these growout tanks, the coral beauty angelfish cluster all at one end, orbiting around the few natural reef rocks that are placed inside of it.
The coral beauty angelfish is a gorgeous fish in any light, but seeing these flawless cultured angelfish in natural sunlight will just about take your breath away. The color of these fish is extremely well developed in the Biota Coral Beauties, with the purple color bordering on being metallic, while the orange colors are almost neon in real life.
The large scale production of coral beauty angelfish is an important milestone for the aquarium hobby – this kind of sustainable fish culture supports the research and development for culturing other species of marine fish, both for hobby and public aquariums, and for conservation & restoration of wild reefs.
But Biota Palau raises so much more than Coral beauty angelfish, This is a large scale, professional fish hatchery which has a lot of capacity to breed and raise fish, which they are already using to culture a wide variety of ornamental marine life.
The large grout vats appear empty from afar, but they are chock-full of gobies, bennies, and many other species. This is one of Biota Palau;s signature species, the ever popular Rainford’s goby. Wild Rainford’s gobies can have a hard time acclimating to aquariums, but Rainfords Gobies from Biota readily eat prepared foods and are ready to thrive in an aquarium.
The link goby is another exciting species which is ONLY available from Biota. They have a mild appearance when small, but grow to be striking and colorful as they mature.
Biota Palau already has an impressive catalog of cultured marine fish that spans many different fish groups and species. These fish, and a handful of corals, are already available to fish stores through Biota Aquarium, the company’s own distribution center in Ft. Lauderdale Florida.
With so successes in culturing so many different species, captive bred angelfish are just the tip of the iceberg. Biota Palau is in a unique position to shape the landscape of captive bred fish, and I can’t wait to see what captive breeding breakthroughs and successes they have next.