Pitcairn Island is one of the most pristine and remote marine environments and while it may be the namesake of Genicanthus spinus, thankfully this fish has been found somewhere a little more accessible. The single Pitcairn Angelfish specimen was collected at Cook Islands, a staggering 2,000 miles from its type locality of Pitcairn Islands in the south Pacific Ocean. The large female specimen was encountered at a depth of around 60 meters, or a meager 200 feet compared to the much deeper mesophotic fish treasures found in the region.
It was just a couple months ago that Quality Marine showed off the first Pitcairn angelfish in America, and certainly one of the very few to be looked after in an aquarium environment. There’s very few marine life dealers with the experience and resources to acquire and condition the rare Pitcairn angelfish. That’s why a few weeks ago we traveled to liveAquaria for a beyond-rare, one on one experience with Genicanthus spinus, the first time we’ve ever even had the opportunity to see such a rare and exotic fish.
Like all swallowtail angelfish, the juveniles and females of G. spinus are relatively unmarked in their coloration and pattern only showing a mature adult male color and pattern with the right stimulus. By keeping multiple juveniles or female Genicanthus together in a group, the largest and most dominant individual will often change color and pattern over a period lasting a few days to a few months. Since the Pitcairn angelfish is the only one of its kind currently in captivity, it is likely possible to stimulate a sex change and subsequent new color and pattern by keeping it with a group of similar smaller female species, which in this case the best candidate would be female Watanabe angelfish.
At this point in its life cycle, the Pitcairn Angelfish at LiveAquaria is a haunting ghostly white with a very subtle blue glow in daylight spectrum, which tends to look very blue under normal aquarium lighting. It’s not as pearly white as a masked angelfish, but it does sport a small number of dark markings around the fins, and a unique blueish crown which glows under the right angle and lighting.
Should its future owner succeed in triggering the Pitcairn angelfish to become male it will develop a series of widely spaced vertical black bars, with a yellow crown on the head and small black spots on the chest. Honestly though, there are so few images of male Pitcairn angelfish that we don’t even fully know or understand what a fully grown and mature male Pitcairn angelfish might look like when it’s reached full stud status.
But what is for sure is that whoever invests in the first Pitcairn angelfish in the modern aquarium hobby, when it goes for sale in the Diver’s Den, will have an uber rare and exotic fish which is truly deserving of being described as one of a kind.