All about Butterflyfish

Butterflyfish care & feeding, mating behavior and temperament

 Feeding your Butterflyfish

I have done over 3000 dives around the world making observations about the behavior, environment and nutrition presented to various reef fish.  We see Butterflyfish  regularly dart and rush towards unseen objects to our vision, leading us to believe they are chasing and eating zooplankton, and that these diverse small creatures are a significant part of their diet. They are also observed eating corals and anemones. 

At the hatchery,  we find they have an appetite for live plankton and have successfully used artemia and aiptasia. 

However,  we find that Butterflyfish can be conditioned to accept SA Hatchery Diet and once conditioned they thrive through adulthood expressing vibrant color and exceptional health. 

Do they get along with other animals?

Yes,!  Butterflyfish get along with other non-coral animals, but as they grow, space is a prerequisite for healthy living.

Care and Aquarium Specs

Care level: moderate to easy! Most important issue is tank size and being careful about similar or same species tank mates. Food and water quality requirements are similar to other marine aquarium fish once acclimated to captivity.

Temperament: Most have a peaceful temperament but will sometimes fight with members of their own genus and species of not mated;

Tank: Generally a 50 to 100 gallon tank with a large amount of circulation is best. As with tangs, butterflies prefer some swimming space.

Temperature: A good bet is to aim for 78-82F for temperature. Salinity should be in the range of 1.023 to 1.025 g/mL. pH should be close to natural seawater at 8.2-8.4.

Mating Behavior and Early Life

It does seem from observations and the literature that butterflyfish mate heterosexually and form long-lasting pair bonds;

They spawn at dusk, rising several to many meters in the water column, the male following the female, whose belly is distended and fertilizing the eggs as the gametes are released, slightly buoyant;

The eggs are spherical and slightly transparent. Hatching happens in about a day and a half. The larvae retain the yolk with a fatty deposit.

The larvae are planktonic for an extended time, thought to be at least 40 days, perhaps much longer, and will settle out on the reef at night, quickly transforming into juveniles;

Often the juveniles, like many reef fishes are quite different in color and patterns from their adult colors and patterns;

During the planktonic stage they are tiny, taking weeks to grow from about 1 mm to 5 mm. During this stage they eat copopods and other similar small zooplankton. 


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