African Butterfly Fish Care: Complete Guide for Beginners

Find how to care for the African Butterfly Fish (Pantodon buchholzi), a fascinating and unique fish species, that is an excellent addition to your aquarium, providing an intricately captivating view. In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know to properly care for and maintain these extraordinary aquatic creatures.

african butterfly fish

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African Butterfly Fish Species Profile and Identification

African Butterfly Fish, scientifically known as Pantodon buchholzi, are unique and fascinating freshwater fish native to Africa. They inhabit slow-moving or stagnant waters, such as swamps, ponds, and lake margins, in Central and West Africa.

  • Size: Adult African Butterfly Fish grow to be about 5 inches (12.7 cm) in length
  • Coloration: They possess a brownish color with shades of gold and silver, providing an attractive and distinctive appearance.
  • Shape: Their body shape is flat and triangular with distinctive large pectoral fins resembling butterfly wings, earning them their namesake.

To make identification easy, here are some key features:

  • Mouth: They have an upturned mouth, enabling them to catch prey from the water’s surface.
  • Eyes: African Butterfly Fish have large eyes positioned near the front of the head, giving them an excellent field of vision.
  • Fins: Apart from their signature pectoral fins, they have a small dorsal fin and a curved anal fin, both located closer to the caudal fin.

By observing these features, identifying an African Butterfly Fish should be a straightforward task. Now that we have a better understanding of this species let’s dive further into their care requirements.

African Butterfly Fish Supplies

To care for your African Butterfly Fish, it’s essential to prepare the appropriate supplies to create a comfortable, healthy environment for them. From finding the right tank to selecting the perfect food, having the right items on hand ensures a happy and thriving fish.

First, choose a suitable tank for your African Butterfly Fish. Keep in mind that a 30-gallon tank is the minimum recommended size for a single fish; any additional fish will require larger tanks to give each fish ample space. A tank with a secure lid is a must, as they are known jumpers.

Proper filtration and heating are crucial elements in maintaining a healthy environment for your fish. A good quality filtration system helps keep the water clean, while an adjustable heater ensures the water remains at the optimal temperature range for African Butterfly Fish.

Here’s a helpful table summarizing the main supplies needed for your African Butterfly Fish:

Supply Description
Tank A 30-gallon tank with secure lid as a minimum size
Filtration system A good quality filter to maintain water cleanliness
Heater An adjustable heater to maintain optimal temperature range
Thermometer A tool to accurately monitor the water temperature
Water test kit A kit to check water parameters regularly
Lighting Soft and dim lighting that mimics their natural habitat
Food Proper diet including live and frozen foods
Decorations and plants Items to create hiding spots and cover

Lastly, adding decorations and plants in the tank not only makes it visually appealing but also provides the African Butterfly Fish with hiding spots and cover, contributing to their overall well-being. Remember that a well-prepared tank leads to a happy and healthy fish, setting you on the path to success as a beginner aquarist.

african butterfly fish pantodon buchholzi

African Butterfly Fish Tank Setup

Setting up a proper tank for your African Butterfly Fish is crucial in ensuring a thriving environment for them. These freshwater fish are native to the slow-moving rivers and swampy areas in West Africa, so it’s important to replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible.

To make your African Butterfly Fish feel at home, choose a tank size of at least 30 gallons. This size provides ample space for them to swim freely and for the addition of other fish species. Keep the tank in a location with low lighting, as African Butterfly Fish like dim environments.

Incorporate a variety of floating plants and broad-leafed plants in the aquarium. This will help create shade and shelter, which in turn reduces stress for your fish. Adding driftwood and other decorations will further simulate their natural habitat and provide hiding places.

The substrate in the tank should preferably be dark, to recreate the murky conditions of their native waters. This can be achieved by using dark sand or gravel. A heater is also necessary to maintain water temperature, as these fish thrive in warmer water, ideally between 75 – 82°F (24 – 28°C).

A powerful filtration system is essential, as African Butterfly Fish appreciate clean water. Opt for a filtration system that also delivers a gentle water flow since these fish prefer calm waters.

Lastly, always remember to equip your tank with a secure lid or cover, as African Butterfly Fish are known for their strong leaping abilities and can easily jump out of the aquarium if not properly covered.

By following these simple guidelines, you’ll be able to create a comfortable, stress-free environment for your African Butterfly Fish to thrive.

African Butterfly Fish Water Requirements

African Butterfly Fish are highly sensitive to the water quality in their tank environment and maintaining the proper water parameters will play a crucial role in their overall health and well-being. To ensure the best living conditions for your African Butterfly Fish, follow these specific water requirements:

  • Temperature: African Butterfly Fish thrive in water temperatures between 75°F and 86°F (24°C and 30°C). Use a high-quality, fully submersible aquarium heater to maintain consistent temperature levels and have a reliable thermometer for monitoring.
  • pH level: The preferable pH range for African Butterfly Fish is 6.0 to 7.5. To control pH levels, test your water regularly using an aquarium pH test kit; if the pH falls outside the ideal range, consider using a buffer or other adjustments.
  • Hardness: The recommended water hardness range is 5 to 12°dH. Consult with your local fish store for advice on how to properly adjust water hardness if necessary.
  • Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate levels: It is crucial to maintain undetectable levels of ammonia and nitrite, which are toxic to fish. A regular schedule of water changes should also help you maintain low nitrate levels. Test kits should be used to monitor these compounds regularly.
  • Water changes: Regular, partial water changes are essential for keeping your African Butterfly Fish healthy. Aim to change approximately 25% of the water every few weeks. Make sure that the new water added to the tank has similar temperature, pH, and hardness values to the existing water.

Maintaining proper water parameters is vital for African Butterfly Fish to thrive. Regular testing and water changes are your primary tools in achieving this goal. Investing in high-quality equipment and monitoring supplies will ensure a healthy and safe environment for your unique fish.

African Butterfly Fish Diet and Feeding

African Butterfly Fish are carnivorous surface feeders, which means their primary sources of food are insects and small fish. Their diet mainly consists of live or frozen food such as mosquito larvae, daphnia, brine shrimp, bloodworms, and even small fish like guppies.

When feeding your African Butterfly Fish, it is essential to provide them with a varied diet to ensure they receive all necessary nutrients. You can start by offering them live food and then gradually incorporate frozen options, as well as high-quality flakes or pellets specialized for carnivorous fish. Here are some feeding recommendations:

  • Live food: mosquito larvae, daphnia, and brine shrimp
  • Frozen food: bloodworms, brine shrimp, and small fish like guppies
  • Specialized flakes or pellets for carnivorous fish

To avoid overfeeding your fish, offer food twice a day in small portions they can consume in about 2-3 minutes. Be aware that any uneaten food can lead to poor water quality, so ensure you remove leftovers promptly. One important aspect to consider is their natural feeding behavior: they are surface feeders, so it’s best to offer floating food or encourage live prey to stay close to the surface.

Make sure the food you provide is suitable for their narrow and upward-pointing mouths. Small, floating food items are perfect, while sinking or ground-dwelling food may go unnoticed. Moreover, be cautious if adding new fish to the tank, as smaller species may become a meal for your African Butterfly Fish.

Offering a varied diet with live, frozen, and specialized food for carnivorous fish will help maintain the health and well-being of your African Butterfly Fish. Remember always to provide the appropriate food size and type according to their surface-feeding habits.

African Butterfly Fish Care Schedule

A consistent care schedule is crucial to maintaining the health of your African Butterfly Fish. In this section, we’ll outline the practices you need to follow for a thriving, stress-free fish.

  • Water changes: You should replace 25% of your tank’s water once every two weeks. This helps maintain water quality and keeps the living conditions stable for your fish.
  • Feeding: Feed your African Butterfly Fish every day, providing them with a variety of live and frozen foods as described in the previous section.
  • Tank cleaning: Thoroughly clean the tank and change the filter media roughly once a month to promote healthy water conditions.
  • Water testing: Test your tank’s water parameters (pH, nitrite, nitrate and ammonia levels) every two weeks, making necessary adjustments when needed.
  • Tank inspection: Regularly observe the overall health of your fish, paying close attention to any signs of illness or changes in behavior.

Keep track of your care schedule by marking tasks on a calendar or setting reminders on your phone. By consistently maintaining high levels of care, you’ll create an environment in which your African Butterfly Fish can flourish.

Task Frequency
Water changes Every 2 weeks
Feeding Daily
Tank cleaning Monthly
Water testing Every 2 weeks
Tank inspection & fish observation Ongoing (at least weekly)

Setting up a regular care schedule and adhering to it will benefit not only your African Butterfly Fish but also any tank mates they may have. Proper care can help prevent health problems and ensure a long, healthy life for your aquatic pets.

African Butterfly Fish Health Problems

Caring for African Butterfly Fish requires careful attention to their health, as they can be prone to certain diseases and conditions. In this section, we will discuss some common health problems that may occur and how to prevent and treat them effectively.

  • Fin rot: This condition is characterized by the decay and fraying of the fins. It is usually caused by poor water quality or stress. To prevent fin rot, maintain proper water quality and cleanliness. If your fish is affected, treat the tank with antibiotics specifically designed for fin rot.
  • Fungal infections: Fungal infections may affect the skin and gills of your African Butterfly Fish. To avoid this, keep the tank clean and well-maintained. If you suspect a fungal infection, use antifungal treatments, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
  • Ich: Ich, also known as white spot disease, is a common parasite that affects many fish species. It is characterized by small, white dots on the skin and gills. Prevent Ich by ensuring good water quality and avoiding stress in the tank. In case of an outbreak, treat the entire tank with medication designed for Ich.
  • Gill flukes: These parasites can cause respiratory distress in your African Butterfly Fish. The signs include rapid breathing, excess mucus production, and visible flukes. To prevent gill flukes, quarantine new additions to your tank and treat any infected fish with an anti-fluke medication.

To maintain your African Butterfly Fish’s well-being, keep a close eye on their behavior for any signs of illness. A healthy fish will be active, have a good appetite, and display vibrant colors. In any case of suspected illness, consult an aquatic veterinarian or a knowledgeable pet store employee for advice on treatments specific to your fish’s needs.

African Butterfly Fish Tank Mates

The African Butterfly Fish, also known as the Pantodon buchholzi, is a unique and fascinating freshwater fish that can make an interesting addition to your aquarium. However, it’s important to note that not all tank mates are suitable for this species. Due to their temperament and feeding habits, it’s essential to choose the right tank mates to ensure a harmonious aquarium environment.

African Butterfly Fish are known to be peaceful but can be predatory towards smaller tank mates. Therefore, it’s crucial to avoid housing them with smaller or slow-moving fish, as these may end up becoming a meal for your Butterfly Fish. To avoid this, choose tank mates that are of a similar size or larger than the Butterfly Fish.

Some suitable tank mates for the African Butterfly Fish include:

  • Congo Tetras
  • Larger barbs
  • Cichlids (non-aggressive species)
  • Catfish (like Synodontis or Corydoras)
  • Rainbowfish

These species are generally more resistant to the predatory tendencies of the African Butterfly Fish, leading to a better chance of coexistence within the tank.

Keep in mind that while the African Butterfly Fish may be compatible with these tank mates based on size and temperament, it’s still important to monitor their behavior to make sure no aggression or other issues arise. It’s always recommended to research individual species in detail and consult with your local aquarium expert before introducing new tank mates to ensure compatibility and a stress-free environment for all your aquatic pets.

Finally, remember to limit the number of tank mates to avoid overcrowding and added stress to all inhabitants. Overcrowding may result in various health problems and can negatively impact the water quality of your aquarium.

African Butterfly Fish Breeding

Breeding African Butterfly Fish can be a challenging task, especially considering their unique mating and breeding behaviors. However, with proper preparation and understanding, a dedicated aquarium hobbyist can successfully breed these fascinating fish in a home aquarium setting.

To begin, set up a separate breeding tank with slightly acidic water (pH 6.5-6.8) and a temperature around 77°F (25°C). Introduce a male and a female African Butterfly Fish, ensuring they are healthy and well-fed. You can provide floating plants or breeding mops, which will act as a suitable place for the female to lay eggs, ensuring their safety from potential predators.

During their courtship period, you may observe a unique fluttering behavior, where the male will display his fins and make rapid, erratic movements to impress the female. This behavior may last for a few days, culminating in the female releasing her eggs into the water. The male will then follow, fertilizing the eggs.

After spawning, it’s essential to remove the adult fish from the breeding tank, as they will often consume their own eggs or newly hatched fry. The eggs will hatch within 2-3 days, revealing minuscule fish fry that must be fed specialized food, such as infusoria or baby brine shrimp, ensuring proper nutrition and growth.

Remember these key factors when attempting to breed African Butterfly Fish:

  • Set up a separate breeding tank
  • Maintain water quality and temperature
  • Provide ample hiding spaces for eggs
  • Observe courtship behavior
  • Remove adult fish after spawning
  • Feed fry specialized food

Breeding African Butterfly Fish can be a rewarding experience that allows aquarium enthusiasts to witness their fascinating courtship behavior and contribute to the conservation efforts of this exquisite species. With patience and perseverance, you too can have the satisfaction of breeding these extraordinary fish in your own aquarium.


In summary, taking care of African Butterfly Fish can be a rewarding experience for both beginners and seasoned aquarium enthusiasts. By following the advice provided in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to creating an environment for these unique fish to thrive in. If you have any questions or personal experience to share, feel free to leave a comment below!

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