Which fish would best suit my FOWLR set-up?

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Fishkeeping Answers -

I re­cently set up my first marine tank — a FOWLR sys­tem. It holds around 400l/88 gal af­ter the ad­di­tion of the rock, has a pro­tein skim­mer and lots of wa­ter move­ment. I am cur­rently keep­ing a Flame an­gel and a Valen­tini puffer and I will be adding ei­ther a Kole or Pur­ple tang in due course.

I am putting in new fish at the rate of one a month and would like to in­clude a but­ter­fly­fish and a larger An­gel in this mix. Any tips on the best choices here? THOMAS KIRBY, BY EMAIL

DAVE SAYS: A FOWLR set-up is ideal for the types of fish you are choos­ing, as it en­ables you to keep va­ri­eties that you wouldn’t oth­er­wise be able to keep in a reef due to their habit of eat­ing corals and other in­ver­te­brates.

For but­ter­flies, the Red Sea-en­demic Ad­dis but­ter­fly­fish (Chaetodon

semi­lar­va­tus) is a su­perb, if ex­pen­sive, choice for a FOWLR as it’s very hardy and doesn’t fall into the ob­li­gate coral­li­vore (feed only on co­ral) cat­e­gory of many of its rel­a­tives. It’s a stun­ning fish but does get quite large, reach­ing 20cm in length. You’re prob­a­bly safe keep­ing a sin­gle spec­i­men in 400l, but a pair would need more room.

Klein’s but­ter­fly­fish, C. kleinii, an Indo-pa­cific species reach­ing 15cm in length, could be a more af­ford­able choice – and you could cer­tainly try to es­tab­lish a pair in this size of tank. Klein’s are very hardy, too, and adapt well to cap­tive di­ets.

Which­ever species you de­cide on, avoid any which rely ei­ther en­tirely or par­tially on a diet of co­ral polyps. The larger an­gels from the gen­era

Po­macan­thus and Ho­la­can­thus need hun­dreds of litres of wa­ter as adults, and even the medium-sized

Apolemichthys and Chaetodon­to­plus species will be quite cramped in 400l, which could cre­ate prob­lems. Per­haps con­sider a Swal­low­tail an­gel,

Geni­can­thus spp. A male-fe­male pair of Or­nate an­gelfish (Geni­can­thus bel­lus) could be an op­tion. They are at­trac­tive fish which grow to around 15cm in length and feed from the wa­ter col­umn. They’re def­i­nitely not as com­monly seen as they de­serve to be, and are some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent to the norm.

Es­tab­lish­ing a pair is easy as they are ob­vi­ously sex­u­ally di­mor­phic; males have a yel­low stripe run­ning down the grey body, whereas fe­males have black and blue stripes. If given a ma­ture tank and plenty of open swim­ming space, while still hav­ing ac­cess to rocky out­crops to make them feel se­cure, these should do well.

Ad­dis but­ter­flys need ex­cel­lent wa­ter qual­ity.

A Swal­low­tail but­terfy fe­male.

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