Ornate Angelfish, Genicanthus bellus Randall 1975

Other Names: Bellus Angelfish, Bellus Lyretail Angelfish

A male Ornate Angelfish, Genicanthus bellus, at the Ski Run dive site, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, January 2015. Source: cocos_karen / iNaturalist.org. License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial


Males and females of this small angelfish are strikingly sexually dichromatic. Juveniles and females are greyish to bluish with broad black bands and a blue patch on the lower sides. Males are pale bluish to greyish with a golden mid-lateral stripe and another along the dorsal-fin base.

Ornate Angelfish live in small haremic groups with a male and up to 6 females. If the male disappears the dominant female will change sex and colour pattern over 2-3 weeks.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Genicanthus bellus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 02 Dec 2021, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/4931

Ornate Angelfish, Genicanthus bellus Randall 1975

More Info


Recorded in the Australian region from Holmes Reef in the Coral Sea off the Great Barrier Reef, and also in the Australian territories of Christmas Island and Cocos-Keeling Islands in the Indian Ocean. Elsewhere, the species occurs in the tropical east-Indo-west-central-Pacific: Cocos-Keeling Islands, Indonesia, Philippines, Mariana, Marshall and Society islands.

Usually inhabits deep reefs, often in groups along deep current-swept outer reef drop-offs at depths to 110 m, usually below 50 m.


Dorsal fin XV, 15-16; Anal fin III, 16-17; Longitudinal scale series 46-48.


Sexually dimorphic in colour: Males are pale greyish with a golden mid-lateral stripe, a golden stripe along the dorsal-fin base and blue margins on the fins. Females are greyish to bluish with a broad black diagonal band bounded by white from above the gill cover to the lower caudal lobe, an elongate blue patch on the lower side, a broad black bar through the eye, a black dorsal fin with a red submarginal band and a black outer upper caudal fin lobe giving a scissor-tail appearance.


Planktivore - forms shoals in midwater to feed on zooplankton, including pelagic tunicates. Will also consume benthic invertebrates such as polychaetes and bryozoans and algae


Forms small harems of 3-7 individuals, with a single male and up to six females. If the male disappears, the dominant female gradually changes sex and colour pattern over a period of 2-3 weeks.


Traded in the aquarium industry, although rarely collected due to its deep-water habitat.


The specific name is from the Latin bellus (= beautiful), "as it is the most colorful of all the species of the genus".

Species Citation

Genicanthus bellus Randall 1975, Bulletin of Marine Science 25(3): 402, pl. 1. Type locality: Outside barrier reef off District of Paea, Tahiti, Society Islands, depth 60 m.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Ornate Angelfish, Genicanthus bellus Randall 1975


Allen, G.R. 1980. Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World. New York : John Wiley & Sons Vol. 2 pp. 149-352 figs 214-510.

Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Allen, G.R., Steene, R. & Allen, M. 1998. A Guide to Angelfishes & Butterflyfishes. Cairns : Odyssey Publishing/Tropical Reef Research 250 pp. figs.

Hobbs, J.-P.A., Frisch, A.J. Hender, J. & Gilligan, J.J. 2007. New records of angelfishes (Pomacanthidae) and butterflyfishes (Chaetodontidae) from Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) islands, Indian Ocean. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 90: 107-109.

Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S.J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travers, M.J., Skepper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Choat, H.J. & Ayling, A.M. 2014. Checklist and new records of Christmas Island fishes: the influence of isolation, biogeography and habitat availability on species abundance and community composition. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 30: 184–202 https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/rbz/supplement-no-30/

Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S .J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travers, M.J., Skepper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Choat, H.J. & Ayling, A.M. 2014. Fishes of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands: new records, community composition and biogeographic significance. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 30: 203–219 https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/rbz/supplement-no-30/

Kuiter, R.H., Debelius, H. & Tanaka, H. 2003. Pomacanthidae, a Comprehensive Guide to Angelfishes. Melbourne : Zoonetics 206 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. & Tonozuka, T. 2001. Pictorial guide to Indonesian reef fishes. Part 2. Fusiliers - Dragonets, Caesionidae - Callionymidae. Australia : Zoonetics pp. 304-622.

Myers, R.F. 1999. Micronesian Reef Fishes. A comprehensive guide to the coral reef fishes of Micronesia. Guam : Coral Graphics vi 330 pp. 192 pls.

Pyle, R. 2001. Chaetodontidae, Pomacanthidae. pp. 3224-3286 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 5 2791-3379 pp.

Pyle, R.L. 2003. A systematic treatment of the reef-fish family Pomacanthidae (Pisces: Perciformes). PhD dissertation, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i, 422 pp, http://hdl.handle.net/10125/6906

Pyle, R., Myers, R. & Craig, M.T. 2010. Genicanthus bellus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T165864A6151980. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2010-4.RLTS.T165864A6151980.en. Downloaded on 12 October 2019.

Randall, J.E. 1975. A revision of the Indo-Pacific angelfish genus Genicanthus, with descriptions of three new species. Bulletin of Marine Science 25(3): 393-421 See ref online

Randall, J.E. 2005. Reef and shore fishes of the South Pacific. New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands. Honolulu : University of Hawaii Press 707 pp.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37365090


Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:24-110 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Deep coral reefs

Max Size:18 cm TL

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