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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Lately, I've seen something a bit odd. My angelfish will slowly approach one of my sunfish, and the sunfish will respond by tilting itself head-down and going pale. The angelfish will then closely inspect the sunfish's flank, and after a moment of inspection it will either lightly nip at one spot or leave without doing anything.
The posture and pale coloration looks like what's displayed by fish at a cleaner station, and the angel's behavior doesn't seem aggressive- no flaring, no posturing, just an inspection and then maybe one little nip. Could this be a couple different species worth of intimidation attempts that are getting cross-wired and look like cleaner behavior when combined, or is there any this is actual cleaner behavior?
The angel is little, if that makes a difference- under 3" long including the tail.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I suppose it could be just that the warmouth doesn't think dominating the angel is worth the trouble. He'll chase the longear, so he's not submissive, but I guess he might just not care too much since the angel doesn't look anything like a sunfish. He could just be saying "Ugh fine I'm not boss just go away" and waiting for the angel to leave.

I don't think it's cleaning behavior, there's no reason it would develop, that's just what it looks like.

The angel has definitely been trying to claim a spot as the boss, it's just not quite able to. The longear is almost four times its bulk and, although not terribly mean, is stubborn and does not want to give up its spot. Its stance might be a gesture of "No I am not backing down" that the angel is interpreting as submissive, I suppose- they don't seem to have quite the same methods of communication. The angel postures with its fins and darts around when trying to be dominant, the longear postures with colors and holding its ground in its favorite spot, and the warmouth kinda just doesn't care unless someone tries to steal his cave.
I'll try to get a video, but every time I get anywhere near them, the warmouth starts begging for food and the angel just stares at me. I've been watching most of this in the mirrored door of my wardrobe, but I can't film it that way.

The angel was added about two months ago. He was an experimental addition, and so far things seem to be going fairly well. There's still a little bit of posturing, plus whatever this is, but I think that might be due to the fact that the angel is maturing and its position in the hierarchy hasn't yet balanced with its new boldness.
The silver dollars were a bit of a problem at first- they thought the angel's fins were edible. They figured out after a little bit that he wasn't, but he lost the tips of all his fins. I've been closely monitoring his fin length by tracking the number of stripes of each color that are intact, he hasn't lost any fin since a week or so after introduction, and they're regrowing. No further problems on the fin-nibbling front, probably because he just didn't taste all that interesting.

I treated the warmouth with a couple rounds of PraziPro for internal parasites, but he still wouldn't eat afterwards, and he got very thin. I ended up separating him and surrounding him with a lot of live ghost shrimp, and he eventually started eating them. He's still a bit underweight but is doing well, and he's very enthusiastic about food and gladly accepting frozen. He should be fine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I think I've figured this out.
When confronted with aggression that it doesn't want to deal with, the warmouth goes head-down and fades slightly in a gesture of submission. The angel constantly has its fins out in what must look like an aggressive display to the others, even though it's just how angels swim. When the warmouth fades, a bunch of darker little spots show up, and the angel evidently wants to know if those spots are edible. It's basically culture clash, they're both misreading each other's intent. I don't think they need to be separated, the warmouth doesn't appear to care and isn't being injured at all.
 
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