The Chaetodontidae family includes a wide variety of Butterflyfish that come in a range of sizes and shades. In this section, we’ll briefly go over the most popular Butterflyfish species.
1. Copperband Butterflyfish
The Chelmon rostratus is known by many names that are mostly inspired by its appearance. These include Copperband Butterflyfish, Beaked Coralfish, and Beaked Butterfly.
They’ve got prominent orange-vertical bands with a distinct black outline. The rear of the dorsal fin has a false eyespot, making it somewhat unique in any saltwater aquarium.
The Copperband Butterfly is best kept in huge tanks because adults are known to reach a maximum size of 8”, which is significant for the Chaetodontidae family.
In terms of temperament, they’re peaceful and docile. Remember to never keep them in the same tank as their conspecifics or similar-looking fish, nor should they be kept with aggressive tank mates that could elevate their stress levels.
Other than that, they’re not easy to feed. Breeding guidelines are a bit on the tough side, and we generally wouldn’t recommend them to beginners because of their steep care requirements.
If you can commit to the extra level of attention the Copperband Butterfly needs, you will be well rewarded.
2. Threadfin Butterflyfish
As it is known scientifically, the Chaetodon Auriga was first described in 1775 and is widely distributed across the entire Indo-Pacific Ocean among inner and outer reef slopes.
They’re a hardy species that go by several names, such as Auriga Butterflies and Threadfin Butterfly. Their markings vary from place to place and indicate their origin.
In general, the Auriga Butterfly has a petite body with prominent black markings. The body is bright white in the front and becomes more yellowish as you trace it to the rear and onto the anal, tail, and dorsal fins.
They feature many diagonal black bands that run perpendicularly to each other, mimicking a distinct chevron pattern that most people like.
3. Blackwedged Butterflyfish
The Chaetodon falcula, also known as the Falcula Butterflyfish or the Blackwedged Butterfly, is typically found in the Indian Ocean, from Indonesia to Eastern Africa.
They only grow to a size of about 8” and are pretty docile, allowing them to be kept in a community tank without running into too many fights. The care sheet for the Falcula Butterflyfish is regarded as moderately complex so we wouldn’t recommend them to beginners.
The minimum tank size for these fish is 125 gallons – they need the extra space to swim around the tank. These fish are decked with a series of black stripes throughout their body, including a black eye band which is very distinct and visually attractive.
Their diet is primarily carnivorous, and if you want them to maintain their markings, you should provide them with a variety of meaty foods.
4. Fourspot Butterflyfish
The four-spotted Butterfly, scientifically known as Chaetodon quadrimaculatus, is typically found in the Pacific Ocean. It was first described in 1831 and has grown in prominence since.
The unique quality about these fish is their fine hair-like teeth that allow them to efficiently hunt tiny invertebrates that are usually out of reach to other fish for eating.
Their diet includes coral polyps, Christmas-tree worms, and feather duster worms.
They have a pearly white face, yellowish dark bands on their eye, and a body that combines white and bright yellow in equal portions. You will also notice tiny dark spots on their lower half.
5. Millet Butterflyfish
The Chaetodon miliaris is a species of Butterflyfish prominently known for its mainly yellowish body and vertical stripes on the sides.
It goes by various names, including Lemon Butterfly and Millet Butterflyfish, which is an ode to their skin color. These fish are typically regarded as easy for beginners because they don’t have challenging care requirements.
Without going into many details, they need a tank space of at least 70 gallons because they love to swim around. They’re not aggressive and can be kept in pairs if you introduce them into the tank at the same time.
6. Pearlscale Butterflyfish
The Chaetodon xanthurus, or Pearlscale Butterfly as it is commonly known in most areas of the world, is an orange-tailed Butterflyfish with scales that resemble a cross-hatched pattern instead of the usual chevron patterns we’re known for seeing. Their head has a distinct black vertical band that bears a resemblance to their lineage.
In the wild, they’re found at depths of about 50 feet and below. They’re usually peaceful with other fish except for their conspecifics, in which case they will harass them.
The difficulty level is intermediate, and the tank size for the Pearlscale is only 55 gallons, which makes them slightly less difficult than other fish.
7. Lined Butterflyfish
The Chaetodon lineolatus, also known as the Lined Butterfly, is known for growing exceedingly large at 12 inches or more. It is why it is recommended to keep them in a tank that is a minimum of 120 gallons or more.
The Lined Butterfly is not considered reef-safe because they tend to pick on corals and invertebrates, which is why they’re suited to a fish-only aquarium.
The care level for the Lined Butterfly is complex, and only experts with enough experience should handle them.
They have a pearl white body decked with a dark band running over the eyes and distinct vertical dark bands along with yellow-orange tails and fins.
The Lined Butterflyfish gets along with most tank mates. They’re an omnivorous species and will gladly eat both meats and vegetables.
8. Pebbled Butterflyfish
The Chaetodon multicinctus, also known as the Pebbled Butterflyfish, is tiny indeed at only 5” longer than other fish in the Chaetodontidae family.
These petite Butterflyfish prefer to live in areas with extensive coral growth, seaweed reefs, and lagoon reefs. They’re typically found in pairs but may be seen singly.
They are decked with creamy white bands running vertically across their body. The Pebbled Butterflyfish is lined with a dark vertical eyebar and a dark band in the tail fin. Some of their most common names include the Multiband Butterflyfish, the Hawaiian Pebble Butterflyfish, and the Many Banded Butterflyfish.
They’re not overly territorial with tank mates but will get aggressive with similar-looking fish, so keep them singly or use a large tank (several hundreds of gallons).
9. Raccoon Butterflyfish
The Chaetodon lunula, also known as the Raccoon Butterflyfish, Halfmoon Butterflyfish, Lunale Butterflyfish, and the Crescent-masked Butterflyfish inspired by its oblique reddish stripes.
The white band over their eyes and face make them very similar to raccoons, hence the name. These fish are prized after their dramatic black and white markings, which stand out at night, hence the term ‘crescent-marked’.
They are carnivorous and will give their owner a hard time when it comes to feeding. The aquarist level is beginner-friendly, and they don’t have overtly challenging care requirements. The minimum size for the Raccoon Butterflyfish is about 75 gallons or more.
10. Saddle Butterflyfish
The Chaetodon ephippium, or Saddleback Butterfly, has a unique shape, size, and color that makes it a popular choice for fishkeepers. Although you need to follow a few technical requirements, they’re also easy to keep, nothing that should be too difficult to recreate.
The Saddleback Butterfly has a yellowish-grey body decked with a large black area on the back, also known as the ‘saddle’, along with a distinct broad white band.
When fully grown, these creatures become astonishing showpieces in just about any tank. The most prominent feature of the Saddleback Butterfly is a long filament extension that streams from the dorsal fin. Other common names for these fish include Saddled Corafish and Blackblotch Butterflyfish, representing their unique markings.
11. Hawaiian Butterflyfish
The Tinkers Butterfly, also known as the Hawaiian Butterflyfish, has the scientific name Chaetodon tinkeri. It was first described in 1949 and has since enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity. This fish is a real eye-catcher, and once it acclimates to your tank, it becomes exceptionally robust and hardy.
The Hawaiian Butterfly is truly a show stopper, thanks to its attractive visuals. The anterior half is white, featuring dark spots and dramatic diagonal black markings at the posterior. Their face, tail, and dorsal fin are decked with shades of yellow and orange.
They do need a well-lit tank (not too bright) with a capacity of at least 120 gallons or more. These fish are mostly found in the deeper areas of the ocean, where they feed on small invertebrates and plankton. It is why they’re not recommended for reefs because they will eat stony corals, anemones, and invertebrates.
12. Yellow Teardrop Butterflyfish
Their scientific name is Chaetodon interruptus and goes by several common names such as the Indian Teardrop Butterflyfish and the Yellow Teardrop Butterflyfish.
They are mostly native to the Indian Ocean and can be found all across East Africa, Sumatra, and Indonesia. They are attractive, peaceful, and relatively low priced, which makes them accessible to hobbyists.
It has bright yellow colors against the backdrop of a predominantly white body. The most distinguishing feature of the Teardrop Butterflyfish is an eyespot on the upper portion of its body. The tearing begins to fade as juveniles grow into adults, leaving a dark hue.
13. Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish
The Forcipiger flavissimus or the Yellow Longnose or Foreceps fish is a popular saltwater species that is gentle and most curious. They have a very bright yellow body with a dark spot on their back that can confuse predators. Its head is silvery white with a distinctive bar over the eyes, giving a mask-like appearance.
There is no visual difference between juveniles and adults, apart from the size, of course. Adults will typically reach lengths of 8” or 9” max. The Yellow Longnose Butterfly needs a minimum tank size of 75 gallons because they swim a lot.
They are omnivorous but mostly prefer to eat meats. In the wild, their diet includes corals and lots of invertebrates. It means that the Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish is not safe around reefs. Keep them in fish-only tanks, and they’ll do just fine.