Butterflyfish a good choice for experienced fishkeepers

Butterflyfish, as their name suggests, resemble butterflies as they flitter about, flashing their magnificent colors and intricate designs. Many species have stripes as well as eye spots that are used for camouflage and to confuse predators. It is no wonder that they are sought after by marine aquarists despite their price and demanding care.


These beautiful fish can be found in coral reefs throughout the world, usually in schools or at least pairs. Most grow to no more than 6-8 inches although some types will reach a foot in length. The majority of Butterflyfish feed mainly on coral polyps and sea anemones while others feed on zooplankton.

Butterflyfish should really only be purchased by more experienced fishkeepers. Many species have special dietary requirements and they are delicate fishes that require large aquariums and pristine water quality. They should be provided with lots of rocks and caves to hide in. Preferably live rock should be used so that they have a supply of algae and other flora and fauna to graze on.

Depending on the species, they should be offered a varied diet of both meaty and vegetable products such as shrimp, shellfish, dried seaweed sheets, and specially formulated preparations for Butterflyfish. Compatibility between Butterflyfish varies among species – some types can be quite intolerant towards their own kind and similar looking fishes while others can be kept in a group if enough space is provided.

Successful captive breeding of Butterflyfish is very difficult. Spawning takes place when a male and female release sperm and eggs in the water column above the reef. The fry then go through a very complex larval stage that makes them quite difficult to feed and rear in captivity.

Foureye butterflyfish (Chaetodon capistratus)

Foureye butterflyfish (Chaetodon capistratus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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