Butterfly Fish Species Guide – Care 101

The name ‘Butterfly’ is given to this species of fish for a reason. As you can, the fish itself has ridiculous amounts of color to it. By far one of the most beautiful coral fish seen by swimmers. It’s not news that such a beautiful fish comes from the cousin of the Angel Fish species.


There are over a hundred different species of Butterfly Fish. Though most of them enjoy their time to themselves, some species do form small schools. You will see these guys relentlessly searching for food in coral and rocks. They have a very long like snout that makes it very manageable to get into small crevices to find their prey. Most of their meals consist of small invertebrates and worms. Feeding all day long is not an unusual site for Butterfly fish.

Popularity in Aquarium Fish Tanks

aquarium-300x185Due to how beautiful these fish are, it makes for a very appealing fish for in an aquarium. Because these fish are big time feeders, aquarium owners usually have to have descent size coral reef invested into their tank to keep them hunting live prey. Your most likely going to need one of the best heaters on the market to keep up with a large tank.

The shape of their mouths make it possible for them to fit into small crevices other fish are unable to get at. This species is an incredible hunter that keeps at the hunt all day long.

Tendencies & Characteristics

The Butterfly fish species have a routine of searching out and establishing a home near coral. Water depths of 50-100 feet with lots of coral structure will be its ideal living habitat. The coral reefs are a huge factor to their living style. Not only is the reef constantly dug through looking for food but it is also known as their territory stomping grounds.

Schooling_butterfly-fishThey will school up small groups together and show territorial tendencies to other fish trespassing in their coral. During dark hours of the night, sleeping is done by laying down their bodies in coral structures suitable for hiding.

The vibrant colors the Butterfly fish has during the daylight change a bit at night to help dilute their appearance to predators. A very well needed adaption considering how vibrant colored this fish is. Having a lot of decor and plants in your tank can help to disperse aggression.

Because Butterfly fish are always around their home living structure of coral, they become extremely well at hiding from predators while being chased. This size fish of 4-7 inches is on the feeding menu of lots of larger creatures looking for a tasty meal. Very bright vibrant colors usually put it first on the food schedule to be chased after too.

There is said to be 90+ sub specie types of the butterfly fish. The two main differences between them all is the cosmetic difference and small difference in size. People commonly mistake the freshwater and saltwater to be the same but they are for sure entirely different species.

Mating and Love Partners

Once in love, always in love. Butterfly fish stick with their mates forever and that is a true value to look up to. The two stick together and mate with each other the same time every cycle. The female lays her eggs then the male comes in to fertilize them. They also do not sit and watch over their young but instead move forth onto their next venture.

As far as breeding them in aquariums, it is leveled at an expert status aquarist to act on. Butterfly fish are already difficult fish to keep up with water parameters, but in order to breed them the water needs to be exactly perfect. This is a wry tough fish to breed. Again, expert level aquarist is advised upon this only.

Most Common Questions Asked

What do Butterfly Fish eat in Fish Aquariums?

Most fish that are “able” to live and survive in aquariums, they have designed an enriched vitamin food for them in different forms. Flakes, pellets, and so forth. The importance with most fish is to give them a wide variety of different types of foods so they’re not eating the same food every single day. In natural habitat of marine waters, the butterfly fish is feeding on small crustaceans and invertebrates found in coral. They are constantly digging inside of coral canals for small snakes and hunting 12 hours of the day.


  • Since all of my fish are fairly young, I have decided to go without a substrate on the bottom. I am still providing the necessary hides and a large amount of fake plants for them so they still feel secure. I am hoping this helps with cleaning day. Also I thought about adding a 2 inch deep container full of sand to just sit in a corner so in case they feel like digging, they can have at it there. We shall see how it goes.
  • Tips for resealing? Seems my 2.5 gal has sprung a small leak. Moving all the stock to my 20 gal. I lost a species of blue gourami a couple days ago.. Going to pick up aquarium sealant tomorrow. Or do you think it would not worth the hassle and just replace it since its such a small tank?
  • This is my 4 month old, 200 liter tank, with a rather interesting collection of inhabitants; 10 very well fed Cardinal Tetras, 6 Blue eyed fish, 4 dwarf puffers, 4 Garra’s (Doctor fish; the absolute best algae eaters!) 2 Silver Flying Foxes (also great for beard algae clearance), shrimp of various sizes, and nerite/mystery snails. They all get along just fine, and although the puffers are predatory, they behave.
  • It’s an invasion of MTS! Had one or 2 sneak their way in on some driftwood a few months ago, I kid you not there are hundreds!! HELP! Is there a chemical of some sort that can go in? I don’t even think assassin snails can help me here! However, my Daughter thinks they are ‘cute’ and cried when I told her we had to get rid of some.
  • As of yesterday my stock in my 40 Gal is
    6 gold barbs
    6 Rummynose tetra
    2 Bristlenose plecos,
    1 Adult female swordtail
    (5?) swordtail fry
  • Am i overstocked? The fry will be rehomed when big enough. My LFS wont take them at their current size

    So I’ve been planning on doing an African Cichlid tank finally, but I’ve got a few questions. What are some fish that I could keep in there besides the cichlids? Just looking for a couple little oddballs that would not fit into the crowd of colorful fish to pop out. Alreadt thinking about Synodontis, so anything else? Also, for something along the lines of a 75, what kind of Africans do you suggest? Not really a fan of super unnatural colors so mainly stuff you’d find in the wild. Thanks guys!


  • Angel breeders out there, I have 3 questions:
    1) are the clear eggs fertilized, or the white ones?
    2) I read to put ‘fentelyn blue’ in the water shortly after spawning, is this commonly avaiable or what can I use instead?
    3) this is in a community tank with many other fish, is it okay to move the egg leaf off and put it in a breeder net for protection? (Or will this kill the eggs)
  • best advice is let them learn to be parents on their own. let them fan the eggs and learn to care for them and the fry naturally.. this will be one of many eggs events and the more they learn now the more success youll have later.
  • Thank you everyone for the tips. The last spawn didn’t work out, but I haven’t lost hope!
    I gave away most of the other fish, the angel couple now have the run of the tank. I did leave my 4 green Cory cats and two bristlenose plecco (I hope they won’t suck up the eggs…).
    Did a water change and will feed fresh food until their next spawn.