• GBD videos on vimeo
  • subscribe : rss feed
  • Entry

    Catching up with the Personatus Pair

    A few months ago we shared with you the exciting pair of Genicanthus personatus that were collected and sent to B-Box–a popular and well known aquarium store in Japan. Commonly known as the Masked Angelfish, this species is endemic to the Hawaiian and Northwestern Islands. At the main Hawaiian Islands this species is rarely seen […]


    A few months ago we shared with you the exciting pair of Genicanthus personatus that were collected and sent to B-Box–a popular and well known aquarium store in Japan. Commonly known as the Masked Angelfish, this species is endemic to the Hawaiian and Northwestern Islands. At the main Hawaiian Islands this species is rarely seen by anyone at all, thanks to the >300ft depth it inhabits. Like many deepwater species from Hawaii, it can be found as shallow as 30ft at the Northwestern Islands, but collection here is strictly prohibited. As shown above, sexes are easily distinguished by their facial marking. Males exhibiting a vibrant yellow mask and females a striking black.

    The asking price of USD$30,000 that BBox put on the fish may have garnered the most attention of all. If it was a marketing ploy like some suspected… it worked. The thirty-thousand-dollar-pair-of-fish-story circulated the internet from website to website and forum to forum. Keep in mind this was just the asking price and not what they actually retailed for. Check out the video below of the fish at the shop.

    In Japan and throughout Asia, when such high profile fish are sold it is usually done quietly and with discretion. A fish as high calibre as Genicanthus personatus, let alone a pair, we assumed this would be the case here; after all it’s for good reason. Many make inappropriate “internet comments” about costs, showing off, etc. I always found this odd as most of the truly rare fish are behind closed doors in private collections–and rarely seen by anyone, but the owner. We trust such malicious comments will not be the case here.

    Thanks to some friends in Japan and Hong Kong I was able to track down this deepwater duo and speak with the current owner of these fish–Dr. Wing Hung Chung. It didn’t take much coaxing to get his permission to share these images and videos with you. Turns out he is an avid reader of GBD!



    Dr. Chung is an advanced aquarium enthusiast residing in Hong Kong. He traveled to BBox, in Japan, to observe and purchase the fish and then transported them back to his home. The Masked Angelfish pair are kept in a simple, but large and dimly lit aquarium which they share with cleaner shrimp and a pair of mature Borbonius Anthias (Holanthias borbonius). To eliminate any temperature related stress, the aquarium is kept at 18 – 19C (64-66F).

    The aquarium shares the same filtration and sump as his pair of Leafy Seadragons–which have spawned under his care. The unfortunate part of having the tied system is that he cannot manipulate temperatures to induce spawning in the Personatus Angels.  Some of you may remember Karen Brittain successfully bred a single Genicanthus personatus at the Waikiki Aquarium–unfortunately it became one of the most tragic incidences of carpet surfing in our industry.  This is a viable species for captive breeding experts. However, very few of these fish are in captivity and  Dr. Chung owns what is believed to be the only privately owned pair still alive.

    I had the opportunity to speak with one gentleman at MACNA who had seen these fish and the “Leafies” first hand–it was none other than Mr. Julian Sprung. Julian was at Dr. Chung’s home while the Masked angels first arrived and were acclimating to their new tank.


    The image above shows the male with normal coloration and his aggressive “warning body color”. That is a rough translation of a phrase the Japanese use to describe the dark color change and burst of aggression. Dr. Chung observes this  regularly when the fish gets angry or feels threatened. This occurs when the male grows irritated or upset with the female or one of the Borbonius steals food that the male feels is his. When this happens, the body color quickly (<10 seconds) turns to a charcoal gray color and the male will chase and/or attack. This behavior has been noted by past owners of the species and was included a couple years back in an issue of Kiyoshi Endoh’s Marine Aquarist magazine. It is interesting that only males appear to have this ability.


    The “warning body color” of Genicanthus personatus has been observed in captivity and the wild.

    It is also worth noting that in the presence of the female G. personatus, Dr. Chung’s male has maintained his pure yellow mask. Genicanthus angels are protogynous hermaphrodites–meaning they come into life as females, but should the opportunity arise they can change sex to male. In aquaria, this genus has been noted to regularly switch back forth depending on social and environmental factors. As such, some of the solitary Personatus males develop a muddy mix of yellow and black facial markings, but typically maintain the the “yellow mowhawk” on the dorsal and anal fins–see the androgynous specimen below, which started as a pure yellow male.


    We’d like to thank Dr. Chung for taking the time to take photos and videos of these fish for this article and sharing his experiences. We must also tip our hats to Julian Sprung and John Coppolino for sharing their stories on this species. We hope this pair of Genicanthus personatus will momentarily quench the thirst of angelfish aficionados around the world.


    1. george
      October 12, 2009 at 2:00 PM | Permalink

      WOW, those are awesome.

    2. Susan
      October 12, 2009 at 4:13 PM | Permalink

      Great to see they are doing so well!

    3. October 12, 2009 at 4:41 PM | Permalink

      More info about the seadragons–are they leafies or weedies? They’ve spawned as in held eggs that hatched?

    4. October 12, 2009 at 6:46 PM | Permalink

      One of my all time favorite fish.

    5. JCurry
      October 13, 2009 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

      If I were to spend $30K on a pair of fish I would hope that I would spend more than $100 on the tank they were going to be displayed in. The fish are beautiful, the tank is just pathetic.

    6. Nicholas Sadaka
      October 13, 2009 at 11:42 AM | Permalink

      What a treasure…beautiful, beautiful fish. What a treat it would be to see them in person.

    7. Karen Brittain
      October 13, 2009 at 10:29 PM | Permalink

      I always enjoy seeing photos of lovely angels. I’m just bummed that I’ve gone from being the famous larval rearer of Geni Babe to the person responsible for the “most tragic incidence of carpet surfing in our industry”! I did get a good laugh out of that phrase though. 🙂

      Maybe Dr. Chung would like to share some G. personatus eggs when they do spawn.

      Karen Brittain

    8. October 14, 2009 at 5:47 AM | Permalink

      @Karen, I think famous Geni larval rearer is still fitting 😉

      Should the pair spawn, I gave Dr. Chung three names–yours is certainly one of them.

    One Trackback

    1. December 27, 2009 at 10:36 PM

      […] well here i saw this and this is where i came up with 33grand second paragraph first sentence. Catching up with the Personatus Pair | glassbox-design.com […]

    Post a Comment

    Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *