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Domestic Angelfish

Black Velvet
July 1984: Vol.7, # 7

Published with permission from BowTie Inc., publisher of

The first black angelfish were obtained from black lace parents in the 1950s. These blacks, which I call "true black," have two doses of the genetic factor for dark, whereas black lace have only one dose of dark. True blacks have faint vertical body stripes, which can be seen by shining a flashlight at the fish.

Fig. 1: Juvenile black having one dose of dark and one dose of marble.

It was not until the late 1960s, after the marble angelfish became available, that another type of black angelfish was possible. This black has one dose of dark and one dose of marble (Norton, 1971). The black marbled pattern on a dark gray background is evident in juveniles and can be detected in strongly illuminated adults. The genetic factors for dark and marble are alleles (Norton, 1982a).

The third type of black angelfish to appear is one that has one dose of dark and one dose of "new gold," which is an allele of dark and marble (Norton, 1982a). The genetic factor for "new gold" which I shall refer to as "gold" in the rest of this article, increases the expression of both dark and marble (Norton, 1982a). A black angelfish having the dark-gold genetic makeup has a somewhat brassy body color and fairly obvious vertical stripes on the body.

Fig. 2: Juvenile black velvet (two doses of stripeless, one dose of dark, one dose of gold).
Fig. 3: Adult male blue angelfish (two doses of stripeless, one dose of dark). Black velvet is the same, with the addition of one dose of gold.

The newest and best black angelfish, which I call "black velvet," is the same, genetically, as the dark-gold type, but in addition it is blushing. That is, it has two doses of stripeless (making blushing) along with one dose of dark and one dose of gold. Black velvet is the same genetically as "blue" with the addition of one dose of gold. The black velvet angelfish is a smooth, velvety black with no stripes.

There are two other types of black angelfish without body stripes. One is a true black (two doses of dark) that has been raised in continuous light instead of with the lights turned off at night (Norton, 1982b). The other is a true black with one dose of stripeless. True blacks are low in vigor, slow-growing, and have a high mortality rate of the fry. Therefore, true blacks should be replaced by more vigorous black, which have only a single dose of the genetic factor for dark.

Parents having the dark-marble genetic makeup will produce offspring in the ratio of 1 true black: 2 black (dark-marble genetic makeup): 1 double-dose marble. Thus, only 50% of the offspring will be good blacks. The true blacks and double-dose marbles are slow-growing and have a high mortality rate. There are three kinds of fish to sort. Sorting and slow-growing runts can be avoided by crossing a double-dose marble with a true black. This cross will produce 100% of the desired dark-marble genetic makeup (Norton, 1982a). The disadvantage of this cross is that it requires the maintenance of two low-vigor lines, the true black and the double-dose marble.

Fig. 4: Adult male black velvet angelfish. He is a blushing (two doses of stripeless) with one dose of dark and one dose of gold.

Using parents that have the dark-gold genetic makeup will produce offspring in the ratio of 1 true black: 2 black (dark-gold genetic makeup): 1 gold. There will be three types of fish to sort, including the true black runts. Better results are obtained from a cross of gold and true black, which will produce 100% of the vigorous type of black (one dose each of dark and gold). A ratio of 1 gold: 1 black (dark-gold genetic makeup) can be obtained by crossing a gold with a dark-gold type of black. The disadvantages of the dark-gold type of black are its brassy color instead of deep black and its body stripes.

Adding one dose of stripeless to the dark-gold type of black will eliminate the body stripes. However, in doing this you would have to maintain two separate lines (one blushing, one not blushing) for the breeders.

Fig. 5: Adult male blue angelfish (two doses of stripeless, one dose of dark). Black velvet is the same, with the addition of one dose of gold.

The body stripes of the dark-gold type of black can be eliminated by two doses of stripeless (blushing). The advantage of this method is that only one line of breeders is necessary. Crossing a gold blushing (two doses each of gold and stripeless) with a black velvet (two doses stripeless, one dose of dark, one dose of gold) will produce 50% black velvet and 50% gold blushing. This production of only two types of offspring can continue generation after generation by always crossing a gold blushing with a black velvet.

My original black velvets were obtained from a clown female (clown: see Norton, 1983) that had one blushing parent; therefore, this female had one dose each of dark, zebra and stripeless. This female, crossed with a gold blushing male, produced a spawn containing some black velvets.

To decrease inbreeding in the black velvet line, you could introduce a gold blushing from another source. But, this may not be necessary if you always select the most vigorous and fast-growing young to save for your next breeders. Some commercial producers make the mistake of sorting a spawn, taking the largest individuals to sell, and leaving the smaller ones to grow more for later use. Then slow-growing fish end up as breeders because they are the only ones available.

Comparing the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of black angelfish, I feel that the black velvet is the best for commercial production, the home aquarium, and showing. The true black may have somewhat deeper color than the black velvet, but it is undesirable because of its low vigor and poor reproductive ability. The black-marble type has the disadvantage that it is produced best from two strains that are not robust fish. The dark-gold type of black is produced, if desired, from one strain, but its colot is not very good. Black velvet, produced the same as the dark-gold type of black, has better color.

Although the black velvet angelfish is obtained from mixed spawns of 50% black velvet and 50% gold blushing, at least these two types are easily distinguished at any age and are relatively easy to sort. Also, their sorting is not interrupted by fading of color, making it necessary to stop sorting until the colors come back (as happens with black lace, for example). A distinct advantage of the black velvet is that only one strain is required to produce it. Black velvet crossed with gold blushing will produce black velvet and gold blushing offspring in about equal numbers. The strain "breeds true" in a sense, producing only two types of offspring.

Literature Cited

Norton, Joanne. Angelfish-breeding and genetics.
The Aquarium 6(10):34-41 1971

-------.Angelfish genetics. Part three.
Freshwater and Marine Aquarium 5 (7):8-10 et seq. 1982a.

-------.Angelfish genetics. Part six.
Freshwater and Marine Aquarium 5(10):38-40. 1982b.

-------.Clown angelfish.
Freshwater and Marine Aquarium 6(5):15-17 et seq. 1983.

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