The Ballina Angelfish (Chaetodontoplus ballinae) is among the rarest pomacanthids on the planet and one of the last true “book fishes” in the family. It’s presently known from just two subtropical reef systems—Ballina, New South Wales (after which it is named) and Lord Howe Island, an isolated speck of land in the middle of the Coral Sea that’s renowned for its highly endemic fauna.
The Halfbanded Angelfish (Genicanthus semicinctus) is another exquisitely uncommon species from these cool South Pacific waters, recorded from Lord Howe, as well as the little-known Kermadec Islands found further east. These are unquestionably two of Australia’s most spectacular piscine treasures, and, for the first time, video has surfaced of them swimming happily together.
This short clip was filmed in 2016 at Ball’s Pyramid, a barren and virtually lifeless volcanic remnant that protrudes from the water like Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead. It lies just a few miles to the southeast of Lord Howe, and, until now, the greatest (only?) claim to fame for this land has been the sensational rediscovery of an immense stick insect which had previously been extirpated from Lord Howe (owing to the unfortunate introduction of rats).
But maybe Ball’s Pyramid ought to be lauded just as much for its incredible marinelife. For all its formidable austerity, the waters which surround it abound with an exceptionally unique and vibrant fauna. In addition to the aforementioned angelfishes, you’ll also find everyone’s favorite aquarium trophy fish, Chaetodontoplus conspicillatus. Keeping this trio together in a Ball’s Pyramid biotope would make for a legendary aquarium, no? But don’t expect to be seeing these available on LiveAquaria anytime soon… at least, not until Australia starts allowing some broodstock to be collected. If we can breed the Conspicuous Angelfish, surely we can do the same with its classier cousin, the Ballina.