Chaetodontoplus dimidiatus, Rare Phantom Angelfish Spotted in The Wild | Reef Builders

Chaetodontoplus dimidiatus, Rare Phantom Angelfish Spotted in The Wild | Reef Builders

Rare Phantom Angelfish

The adult Chaetodontoplus dimidiatus is an attractive angelfish with a velvety black belly, silver-grey body, bright solid yellow tail, and a distinctive scribbled face. It’s not often I write about fish, but when a stunner like this crosses your lens, the angelfish-loving ReefBuilder audience comes to mind, and documenting and sharing this rare find quickly becomes a top priority.

I will be the first to admit I don’t know much when it comes to rare fish. But like many of you, the ReefBuilders archives has become my go-to source for any and all rare fish and over the years we have covered our fair share of angelfish!

The Dive

We spotted this fish around 75 feet (23m) deep in the Lembeh Strait, Northern Sulawesi. Between 70-100 feet (21-30m) there is an impressive field of soft corals and, our objective was to film these beauties while battling the ripping current.

While filming a large seafan I noticed this unique fish swim into my viewfinder. I  instantly recognized the distinctive squiggly face which reminded me of the rare Black Phantom Angelfish Jake received a few years back. My ReefBuilders senses kicked in excited that I may have spotted something truly unique.

After the dive, I shared the images with Jake who confirm the rarity of this fish Chaetodontoplus dimidiatus, the Phantom Angelfish! It goes to show that you can learn a lot about the world of rare fish just by reading Reefbuilders!! 

Fish Fact From Jake!

Because I know little about this fish I asked Jake to fill us in with some details below.

The Phantom angelfish looks most similar to the Black Velvet, Chaetodontoplus melanosoma , Vanderloo’s angelfish, C. vanderloosi, and Black Phantom angelfish Chaetodontoplus sp .

The phantom angelfish has a large grey patch on the upper half of its side, and melanosoma angelfish is nearly identical to this phantom angelfish, the main difference being the region from which these two species are found. 

Whatever this fish truly is is a mystery, and will remain so until someone dedicates a huge chunk of time to teasing out both the morphology and the genetics of many specimens to determine what’s really going on with so many similar looking fish. 

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