Butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae)

Butterflyfish Family Characteristics:

Butterflyfish and Angelfish were once classified as one group. Although there are now sufficient differences for them to be considered separately, both families continue to share a great deal of common ground.

Butterflyfish possess an oval body that is extremely laterally compressed. These features, together with the terminal mouth, provide a strong clue as to their natural habitat of coral heads, where their thin-sectioned bodies can easily pass between the branches. Their amazing color patterns camouflage vulnerable parts of their bodies and assist in species identification.

There appear to be no external differences between the sexes, although at breeding times the females may become noticeably swollen with eggs. Some species have been seen to engage in a 'chasing' ritual, whereby the female is pursued by a male around the lower water layers. In response to being nudged by the male, the female releases eggs, which the male fertilizes as they pass by him. In all cases, the eggs then float briefly until they hatch.

Diet And Feeding:

Most members of the Butterflyfish family are grazing fishes that feed on algae, sponges and corals. Some are omnivorous and include small and planktonic animals in their diet. You may need to feed young fishes several times a day with live brineshrimp. Larger fishes should be offered a variety of marine fare, including live brineshrimp and mysis and frozen foods of a suitable size. Sponge based frozen foods may prove very popular with some species. It is a good idea to witness all Butterflyfish feeding confidently before purchasing.

Aquarium Behavior:

Butterflyfish can be difficult to maintain in captivity, particularly the algae and sponge eating species, and some have proved impossible to sustain. These species are easily upset by small changes in water quality, usually showing any dissatisfaction with aquarium life by going on hunger strike; one day they are quite content with the diet you provide and the next day they simply will not touch it.

Juvenile specimens may be far easier to acclimatize to aquarium life and subsequently do much better in the long term. Ensure that the aquarium has sufficient retreats and hideaways to give the fishes some form of security.

Butterflyfish vary tremendously in their level of tolerance of members of their own, or similar species. Most are fairly peaceful, but it is always wise to make sure of this before buying them. Living corals and sea anemones will not last long in the same aquarium with Butterflyfish.

Butterflyfish may undergo color changes at night; the usual transformation is the appearance of darker areas over parts of the body.

List Of Popular Aquarium Butterflyfish:

  • Raccoon Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunula)
  • Threadfin Butterflyfish, Auriga Butterflyfish (Chaetodon auriga)
  • Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish (Forcipiger flavissimus)
  • Tear Drop Butterflyfish (Chaetodon unimaculatus)
  • Heniochus Brown Butterflyfish (Heniochus varius)
  • Lemon Butterflyfish (Chaetodon miliaris)
  • Latticed Butterflyfish (Chaetodon rafflesi)
  • Pearlscale Butterflyfish (Chaetodon chrysurus)
  • Mertensii Butterflyfish (Chaetodon mertensii)
  • Mitratus Butterflyfish (Chaetodon mitratus)
  • Four Eyed Butterflyfish (Chaetodon capistratus)
  • Longnose Atlantic Butterflyfish (Prognathodes aculeatus)
  • Pakistani Butterflyfish (Chaetondon collare)
  • Saddleback Butterflyfish (Chaetodon ephipippium)
  • Double-saddled Butterflyfish, Pig-faced Butterflyfish (Chaetodon falcula)
  • Blue Striped Butterflyfish (Chaetodon frembli)
  • Klein's Butterflyfish, Sunburst Butterflyfish, Orange Butterfly (Chaetodon kleini)
  • Black Backed Butterflyfish (Chaetodon melannotus)
  • Spot Banded Butterflyfish, Dot Dash Butterflyfish (Chaetodon punctofasciatus)
  • Addis Butterflyfish, Lemonpeel Butterfly, Golden Butterfly (Chaetodon semilarvatus)
  • Banded Butterflyfish (Chaetodon striatus)
  • Vagabond Butterflyfish, Criss Cross Butterflyfish (Chaetodon vagabundus)
  • Copper Band Butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus)
  • Wimplefish, Pennant Coralfish Poor Man's Moorish Idol (Heniochus acuminatus)
  • Phantom Bannerfish (Heniochus pleurotaenia)
  • Schooling Bannerfish (Heniochus diphreutes)
  • Yellow Pyramid Butterfly (Hemitaurichthys polylepis)
  • Tahitian Butterflyfish (Chaetodon trichrous)


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