Chelmon rostratus - Copperband Butterflyfish - Net Caught- Approx. 2.5"


Butterflyfishes are a diverse and highly interesting group of fishes. They vary significantly in their degree of aquarium suitability and hardiness, which is why we will only offer hand caught specimens of species that have a reputation for doing well in captivity. Many of the popular Butterflyfishes found in the hobby are quite hardy, sociable, and active. Others are obligate corallivores, which will only consume live coral polyps and will starve in captivity in most instances, and we will not stock these species.


In general, most of the popular Butterflyfishes in the hobby appear to do better in conditions commonly provided for reef aquariums, particularly in regard to specific gravity, temperature, and overall water quality. These fishes are potentially more sensitive to declining water quality than many other families of fishes, and good overall husbandry is recommended to keep their water quality as high as possible. The biggest challenge to keeping Butterflyfish is getting them to feed on prepared foods. Once these fishes are eating prepared foods regularly, the odds of success increase significantly. Good handling of the fish along the chain of custody from reef to retailer goes a long way to reduce stress on the animal, increasing its chances of adapting to captivity and consuming prepared foods. They may often be tempted into eating by providing a cut open clam or other seafood. Enriched brine shrimp, mysis, and chopped clams are great foods for Butterflyfishes.


An aquarium for Butterflyfishes should have ample open swimming space, yet still have abundant rockwork for the fish to forage among and retreat to should the need arise. Categorically, larger aquariums are almost mandatory for Butterflyfishes, as they need the physical space and environmental stability that a larger aquarium can provide. Tankmates should be peaceful, non-aggressive fish that will not intimidate the easygoing and rather timid Butterflyfishes. Although many make great fish-only aquarium subjects, the vast majority of Butterflyfishes may fall into the classification of “not reef aquarium friendly”, as they may pick at, or even consume, tubeworms, coral polyps, and zoanthids.


However, many aquarists have kept some “borderline” species, such as Long Nose Butterflyfish (Forcipiger flavissimus), Klein’s Butterflyfish (Chaetodon kleinii) and the Double Saddle Butterflyfish (Chaetodon falcula) in reef systems with mixed results. It is not uncommon to see Copperband Butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus) in reef systems for control of Aiptasia anemones. On the whole, it is a calculated risk to keep any Butterflyfish, with the possible exception of the planktivore Pyramid Butterflyfish, (Hemitaurichthys polylepis), in most reef aquariums, so do keep this in mind if you want to experiment.