Species NameChaetodontidae (Family that includes all butterflyfish)
Common NameButterflyfish
Care LevelModerate to Difficult
Lifespan5-7 years
Adult Size4-8 inches depending on species
DietOmnivore (mainly coral polyps, invertebrates, and algae)
Minimum Tank Size75 gallons
Temperature72°F – 82°F (22°C – 28°C)
Water ConditionspH 8.1-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025, dKH 8-12

About the Butterflyfish – Species Summary

Butterflyfish are perhaps some of the most iconic and visually stunning inhabitants of coral reefs around the world. They are primarily recognized for their vibrant colors and intricate patterns, designed not just for beauty but also as a mechanism to ward off potential predators. Native mainly to the tropical and subtropical oceans, especially in the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic regions, these fish play a significant role in the health and vitality of their ecosystems. While they are a joy to behold in captivity, Butterflyfish, with their specialized diets and requirements, present both challenges and rewards to the aquarist.

Butterflyfish Lifespan

In a well-maintained marine environment, Butterflyfish typically live between 5 to 7 years. The key to maximizing their lifespan in captivity revolves around providing a stress-free environment, a balanced diet, and maintaining optimal water conditions.


The appearance of Butterflyfish is nothing short of mesmerizing. Most species are characterized by their disk-shaped bodies, which allow for agile maneuvering among coral and rocks. Their colorations range from bright yellows, oranges, and blacks to even iridescent blues, often combined in intricate patterns and stripes. Many also have a dark band running vertically across their eyes, believed to be a method to confuse predators.

Average Size

Most Butterflyfish species, when fully grown, range between 4 to 8 inches in size. Their compact size combined with their striking appearance makes them an alluring option for marine aquarists.

Butterflyfish Care

Tank Size

A minimum tank size of 75 gallons is recommended for Butterflyfish. Given their active nature and territorial tendencies, providing ample space is essential to minimize stress and encourage natural behavior.

How To Set Up Their Tank

Recreating a natural reef-like environment is vital for Butterflyfish. Incorporate plenty of live rock structures, crevices, and hiding spaces. These not only serve as retreats for the fish but also promote the growth of algae and small invertebrates, essential to the Butterflyfish’s diet.

Lighting Requirements

Moderate to high lighting conditions is recommended for tanks housing Butterflyfish. This helps promote the growth of essential algae and corals, which contribute to the fish’s diet.


A stable pH level between 8.1 and 8.4 ensures an optimal environment for Butterflyfish.


Maintaining a consistent temperature between 72°F and 82°F (22°C to 28°C) is crucial for the well-being of Butterflyfish.

Water Parameters

Consistent water quality is paramount. Maintain a salinity level between 1.020 and 1.025, with dKH levels between 8-12. Regular water testing is necessary to keep these parameters in check.

Disease Potential

Butterflyfish can be susceptible to various marine diseases, such as marine ich and flukes. Regular observation, quarantine practices for new additions, and maintaining optimal water conditions are preventive measures to keep diseases at bay.

Food & Diet

In the wild, Butterflyfish predominantly feed on coral polyps, making them challenging to care for in captivity. A diet of high-quality marine pellets, live and frozen foods like mysis shrimp, and marine algae should be provided. Some species can adapt to non-coral foods more quickly than others, making it essential to research the specific dietary requirements of the species you wish to keep.

Behavior and Temperament

By nature, Butterflyfish are peaceful but can be territorial, especially towards their own kind or similarly shaped fish. They’re active during the day, often seen patrolling their territories or searching for food.

Tank Mates

Choosing the right tank mates for Butterflyfish is crucial. Avoid housing them with aggressive species or those that might compete for the same food sources. Suitable tank mates include other peaceful reef fish like gobies, wrasses, and some species of tangs.


Breeding Butterflyfish in captivity is a complex endeavor and is rarely achieved. They are known to scatter their eggs in the open water, where they are fertilized. Given the specialized requirements and the pelagic nature of their larvae, replicating the necessary conditions for successful breeding in captivity remains a challenge for even the most experienced aquarists.

Butterflyfish FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)