Black and White Bandit Angelfish Profile

The Black & White Bandit Angelfish (Holacanthus arcuatus) is a beautiful fish which is found in the deeper waters outside of the reef in most locations. It is difficult to decompress so be careful when purchasing this fish.

Guide Care Rating

4 Stars (Advanced)


  • Family: Pomacanthidae
  • Scientific Name: Holacanthus arcuatus (Gray, 1831), or Desmoholacanthus arcuatus.
  • Other Common Names: Bandit Angelfish, Black and White Banded Angelfish, Black Banded Angelfish.
  • Size Category: A large species angelfish that grows to 7 inches, which is best kept in no less than a 100-gallon aquarium.


Endemic to the Hawaiian Islands region.


A shy angelfish that should be provided lots of places to hide, and best kept in a well-established aquarium with ample live rock growth to graze on.

Characteristics and Compatibility

Due to inhabiting deep ocean waters, when this fish is collected it may encounter decompression sickness.  Some fish collectors use a procedure called “needling”, which is a process of piercing a small hole in the fish’s air bladder with a syringe needle to release the trapped nitrogen gas. Unless a person is well experienced in this procedure, it can lead to complications of internal infections. Since the Black and White Bandit Angelfish is normally only found at a depth below 50′, proper decompression (bringing the fish up from depth at intervals) to avoid the “bends”, decompressing can take over 4 hours.

Many collectors prefer to save the time and just needle the fish on the way up to the surface. While needs can be a great time saver for the collector, the risk of the fish developing an internal infection from a dirty needle (the ocean is teeming with some very nasty bacteria) can be quite high. The takeaway here is to make sure that you inspect this fish very carefully before purchasing it.

Also make sure that the person you are buying this fish from can show you that the fish is, indeed, eating and, for that matter, exactly what it is eating. The Black & White Banded Angelfish is already difficult to get to eat in a tank and if it is suffering from an infection, it will be even more difficult to get it to take hand-fed foods.

If you buy these fish be sure to check it out thoroughly. It should be flying level, not struggling at a vertical position, and its abdomen should is not puffed out. These are usually signs of a possible internal bladder infection or residual effects of decompression sickness. Bandit Angels are quite aggressive and territorial. In the wild, you will find this fish swimming singly or in small groups of three or four, which most likely is a male with several females. The terrain that we used to find this Angelfish when we were collecting in Hawaii was at about 70′ in sparse Staghorn Coral fields. Since these fish had seldom, if ever seen a human in the past, they were actually quite easy to capture.

Diet and Feeding

Relying on sponges as its sole source of food in the wild, this fish can easily starve in captivity. If you are interested in keeping one, it wise to wait for a larger juvenile or sub-adult specimen.

In most cases, these specimens will adapt to tank fed foods more readily than very small juveniles or large adults. Should be fed frozen preparations especially for angels that contains sponge as the main ingredient, such as Ocean Nutrition and San Francisco Bay Brand frozen formulas.

Notes From Your Guides

The Black and White Bandit is a spectacular, rare, and very distinctive angelfish. When seeing this species in person, the white areas of the body have a somewhat reflective pearlescent appearance, which truly makes it an eye-catching aquarium fish.

It is best to avoid using a net on this fish due to the rough texture of its scales. The fish will get stuck in the net material, and once snagged the only way to separate the fish from the net is to pull it off, which is much like peeling velcro apart.

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