African Butterfly Fish Care Guide: Simple Tips for Healthy Pets

African Butterfly Fish are truly unique additions to any freshwater aquarium. With their distinct appearance and interesting surface-residing behavior, they’ve captured the hearts of many aquarists seeking something special for their aquatic setups.

In this care guide, you’ll learn all about these captivating creatures, including the essentials for maintaining a healthy environment tailored to their needs. Ensuring their comfort in your tank is not only rewarding but brings you closer to the captivating world of the African Butterfly Fish.

Keep reading for a comprehensive exploration of their habitat, diet, and compatibility with tank mates, arming you with the knowledge necessary to provide the best care for this intriguing species.

Species Profile

The African Butterfly Fish, scientifically known as Pantodon buchholzi, is a unique freshwater fish belonging to the Pantodontidae family. Found in the waters of Africa, this fish is known for its distinct appearance and fascinating behavior.

Caring for the African Butterfly Fish may require some experience, as they have specific care requirements. The key to successfully keeping this species is understanding their unique needs and natural habitat.

Property Information
Scientific Name Pantodon buchholzi
Common Names African Butterfly Fish
Distribution Africa
Size Up to 5 inches
Lifespan 5-10 years
Diet Carnivorous
Temperament Semi-aggressive
Minimum Tank Size 30 gallons
Temperature 75-86°F (24-30°C)
pH 6.0-7.5
Water Hardness 5-12 dGH
Care Level Intermediate
Filtration/Water Flow Moderate
Water Type Freshwater
Breeding Egg scatterer
Breeding Difficulty Moderate
Compatibility Careful selection required

Keep in mind that, while this table provides an overview of the African Butterfly Fish’s properties, it’s essential to dive deeper into their care requirements and compatible tank mates to ensure their health and wellbeing in your aquarium. Remember, when choosing tank mates, consider their temperament and compatibility with your African Butterfly Fish.

African Butterfly Fish Basics

Origins and Natural Habitat

African Butterfly Fish originate from the lakes and rivers of West Africa, including the Congo River basin. Their natural habitat consists of calm water bodies with dense vegetation. For a thriving environment, try to replicate these conditions in your tank as much as possible.

Size and Shape

These unique fish have a small size, generally reaching a maximum length of around 5 inches. They have a distinctive appearance with an oval-shaped body and large pectoral fins, which resemble butterfly wings. Additionally, their anal and dorsal fins are relatively short but broad.

Color and Markings

African Butterfly Fish exhibit fascinating colors and patterns on their bodies. Typically, they have a brown base color with intricate markings that may display a range of hues. Their pectoral fins, resembling butterfly wings, are usually adorned with eye-catching patterns giving them that signature look.


With proper care, these fish can live up to 5-7 years in captivity. To ensure a healthy and happy lifespan for your African Butterfly Fish, be sure to maintain optimal water conditions, provide a nutritious diet, and replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible.

Diet and Feeding

African Butterfly Fish are carnivorous and thrive on a diet of live insects, small fish, and shrimp. To keep your fish healthy and happy, it’s essential to offer them a varied diet. Here are some tips for feeding your African Butterfly Fish:

  • Insects: These fish particularly enjoy live food like insects. You can provide them with live insects such as crickets, fruit flies, and mosquito larvae.

  • Fish and shrimp: In addition to insects, African Butterfly Fish also enjoy small fish and brine shrimp. Make sure to choose small-sized fish, as large fish might prove difficult for them to eat.

  • Frequency: Feed your fish once or twice a day, keeping the portions small to avoid overfeeding. A good rule of thumb is to provide enough food for them to eat within a few minutes.

Remember that a diverse and appropriate diet plays a crucial role in maintaining the well-being of your African Butterfly Fish. By following these feeding tips, you’ll be on the right track to keep your fish in prime condition.

Behavior and Temperament

African Butterfly Fish are known for their unique and fascinating behavior. They are surface-dwellers, meaning they spend most of their time near the surface of the water. This allows them to hunt for insects and other small creatures that land on the water.

When it comes to their temperament, they tend to be quite peaceful and can coexist with other fish species in the aquarium as long as they aren’t seen as potential prey. Be mindful of other tank inhabitants, and avoid housing them with aggressive or predatory species.

It’s essential to provide suitable hiding spots, such as floating plants or driftwood, which will help your African Butterfly Fish feel secure and less stressed. Additionally, they are known jumpers, so securing the tank lid will prevent them from jumping out of the aquarium.

In your quest to create a comfortable environment for your African Butterfly Fish, keep in mind water quality factors, like proper filtration and heating, as they play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy habitat.

Care and Tank Requirements

When it comes to proper care and tank requirements for your African Butterfly Fish, there are several crucial aspects to consider. In this section, we’ll discuss the essentials, such as tank size, water parameters, tank setup and decorations, and filtration and aeration.

Tank Size

For your African Butterfly Fish to feel comfortable and thrive, it is recommended to choose a tank size of at least 30 gallons. This provides them with adequate space to swim freely and interact with other fish species. Larger tanks are always favorable, especially if you plan to keep multiple African Butterfly Fish or other species together.

Water Parameters

Maintaining suitable water parameters is key to ensuring the health and well-being of your African Butterfly Fish. Here are the essential water parameters that you should maintain:

  • pH: Keep the pH level between 6.0 and 7.5.
  • Temperature: The ideal water temperature is between 75°F and 86°F.
  • Hardness: Maintain a water hardness range of 5-12 dGH.

Regularly monitor these parameters to ensure a thriving environment for your fish.

Tank Setup and Decorations

To mimic the African Butterfly Fish’s natural habitat, it’s essential to create a dimly lit environment. For this reason, opt for low lighting and consider providing floating plants or tall plants that reach the surface. This will help to create a shaded area for your fish to explore and rest.

Provide a sense of security with hiding spots such as driftwood and rocks, while maintaining open swimming areas to ensure they can swim and hunt freely. Replace sharp decorations with smooth, rounded ones to prevent injuries.

Filtration and Aeration

An efficient filtration system is crucial to maintain water quality. While African Butterfly Fish can tolerate lower oxygen levels, providing proper aeration using an air pump will help prevent potential health issues also ensure better water circulation.

By following these care and tank requirement guidelines, you’ll create a comfortable and thriving environment for your African Butterfly Fish, contributing to their overall well-being and happiness.

Suitable Tank Mates

When choosing tank mates for your African Butterfly Fish, it’s important to consider their predatory nature and their preference for the surface of the tank. Here’s a list of some compatible tank mates:

  • Rope Fish (requires a large tank)
  • Nerite Snails
  • Cory Catfish
  • Bristlenose Pleco
  • Kuhli Loach (if the tank is large enough)
  • Rubber Lip Pleco

Make sure to avoid fish that tend to nip fins, as the long fins of your African Butterfly Fish could become targets. Suitable tank mates should not compete for surface space or pose a threat to the fish’s long fins.

Providing hiding spots and designated areas for each species can help reduce aggression and territorial behavior. Careful consideration of tank size and compatibility is vital to maintain a harmonious community tank. Monitor the behavior of your tank mates closely upon introduction to ensure they coexist peacefully. Keeping everyone well-fed and maintaining a suitable environment will promote the overall well-being of all species in your aquarium.

Breeding Process

Breeding African Butterfly Fish in your home aquarium can be a rewarding experience if you take the proper steps. To begin, ensure your tank has enough surface area and floating plants, as these are essential for their habitat and breeding success. You might want to cool the water temperature slightly, although some aquarists choose to maintain the same temperature throughout the breeding process.

A more significant impact can be made by decreasing the water level, which is also easy to implement for breeding. As the fish lay floating eggs, promptly remove them from the main tank to a separate one, preventing the parents from consuming them. Make sure to include plants near the surface, as these serve as hiding places for the eggs, contributing to the breeding success.

After about a week, the eggs hatch into fry. It is crucial to feed these fry with care; Daphnia is a good food choice instead of brine shrimp. Proper care and dedicated attention are necessary for successful breeding and fry development.

Remember, breeding African Butterfly Fish in a home aquarium requires specific considerations and actions to optimize conditions for successful reproduction. With a friendly approach and dedication, you can help these beautiful fish thrive.

Common Diseases and Treatments

African Butterfly Fish can sometimes suffer from health issues. Here are a few common diseases and their treatments.

Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis): This is a parasitic infection causing white spots on your fish’s body. To treat Ich, gradually increase the water temperature to 86°F (30°C) for about a week and add a medication that contains malachite green or formalin.

Fin Rot: This bacterial infection causes the fish’s fin to become ragged and discolored. Clean your tank and maintain good water quality to prevent Fin Rot. If the infection persists, use an antibiotic treatment specifically designed for Fin Rot.

Water Quality-Related Diseases: Ensure your African Butterfly Fish lives in an optimal environment with proper filtration and heating. Regularly check the water parameters, like ammonia and nitrite levels, to avoid stress-related illnesses.

To keep your African Butterfly Fish healthy, maintain a clean tank, be observant for any symptoms, and act promptly if you notice any issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size tank is suitable for African butterfly fish?

A suitable tank size for African butterfly fish is at least 30 gallons. This will give them enough space to swim and explore while maintaining good water quality. Make sure the tank has a well-fitting lid, as these fish are known to be excellent jumpers.

Which type of food is best for African butterfly fish?

African butterfly fish are carnivorous and thrive on a diet of live foods, like small insects, crustaceans, and fish. You can also feed them frozen or freeze-dried foods, such as brine shrimp or bloodworms. Variety is important to ensure they receive all necessary nutrients.

How do you determine the gender of an African butterfly fish?

It can be quite challenging to determine the gender of an African butterfly fish, as both males and females have similar appearances. However, during the breeding season, the female’s belly becomes more rounded as they fill with eggs. This can be a subtle change, and professional assistance may be required for accurate identification.

Can multiple African butterfly fish coexist in the same tank?

Yes, you can keep multiple African butterfly fish together in the same tank. However, it’s essential to provide enough space for each fish to establish their territory and prevent conflicts. A larger tank with plenty of hiding spots will allow them to coexist more peacefully.

Are African butterfly fish compatible with other fish species in a community tank?

African butterfly fish can be compatible with other fish species in a community tank, but it’s important to choose tank mates carefully. Since they are carnivorous, they are likely to eat smaller fish. Avoid aggressive species and opt for peaceful tank mates that prefer the lower or middle areas of the tank. This will help ensure a harmonious environment for your African butterfly fish and their tank mates.