African Butterfly Fish In A Aquarium with marbles and plants

Unveiling the Secrets of African Butterfly Fish Care: Tank Setup, Feeding Tricks, and Breeding Hacks

Exotic Aquarium Fish


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Caring for an African Butterfly Fish can be a rewarding yet daunting task, especially if you’re new to the intricate world of aquarium life. An exotic fish known for their unique gliding ability and predatory nature, these aquatic butterflies are treasured additions to any freshwater tank.

This ultimate guide will offer invaluable insights on everything from setting up the perfect habitat to ensuring your fish enjoy a nutritionally rich diet and even tips on successful breeding.

Ready? Let’s dive into the fascinating world of African Butterfly Fish care!

Key Takeaways

  • African Butterfly Fish are freshwater fish native to Africa known for their unique gliding ability and predatory nature.
  • When setting up a tank for African Butterfly Fish, make sure it is at least 30-40 gallons in size and provides suitable water parameters such as temperature between 75-86°F and pH level between 6.0-8.0.
  • Feed African Butterfly Fish a variety of live foods like small insects, worms, and crustaceans at least 2-4 times a day.
  • Choose tank mates carefully, as African Butterfly Fish can be territorial and aggressive towards smaller or similarly-shaped fish. Compatible tank mates include larger tetras, barbs, small bottom-oriented cichlids, catfish, Ctenopoma species, and Mormyrids.

About the African Butterfly Fish

Dark aquarium setting with african butterfly fish is

The African Butterfly Fish, scientifically known as Pantodon buchholzi, is a freshwater species native to Africa.

Species Summary

The African Butterfly Fish is a favorite among fish keepers. It has big eyes on top of its head. This fish likes to eat small water bugs and can jump high out of the water. A lid is needed for their tank so they don’t jump out.

They move fast and are good at getting away from other creatures in the water. They go by another name, Pantodon buchholzi, too!

Natural Habitat

The African Butterfly Fish calls the still, slow water bodies in West Africa home. Often seen in quiet ponds and marshes, they also take to flooded spaces and backwaters of streams.

The Congo Basin is a common spot for them. Their homes are not wild with currents but calm and peaceful waters rich with vegetation.


The African Butterfly Fish is a sight to see. Its body is flat and wide, much like a pancake. It has big eyes on top of its head that look up for food at the water’s surface. This fish also has long pectoral fins that it uses like wings when gliding through the air.

It boasts colors of brown, black, and silver which helps it hide from other fishes while hunting in their freshwater habitat.


The lifespan of the African Butterfly Fish is not mentioned in the available information. However, it is important to note that this species can be quite delicate and requires special care in captivity.

Providing a proper tank setup with suitable water parameters, a balanced diet, and a stress-free environment can help prolong the lifespan of these beautiful fish. It is always recommended to do thorough research and consult with experienced aquarists or experts when caring for this species to ensure their well-being and longevity.

African Butterfly Fish Care and Tank Setup

Pantodon buchholzi is a green aquarium setting

To ensure the well-being of your African Butterfly Fish, you’ll need to provide a suitable tank setup and proper care. Discover all the essential details about tank size, water parameters, and habitat requirements for these fascinating creatures.

Ready to dive in? Read more here!

Tank Size

African Butterfly Fish need a tank that is at least 30-40 gallons in size. This is because they like to have plenty of space to swim around and hide. It’s important to provide them with a spacious environment where they can feel comfortable and safe.

A larger tank will also allow you to add more plants and decorations, creating a natural and enriching habitat for these beautiful fish. So when setting up your aquarium for African Butterfly Fish, make sure it’s big enough to accommodate their needs.

Water Parameters

The African Butterfly Fish is quite particular when it comes to water parameters. The proper maintenance of these parameters is a crucial aspect of their care.

ParameterIdeal Condition
Water Hardness1-10 GH
Temperature75-86°F (23-30°C)
pH Level6.0-8.0
Ammonia Level0 ppm (parts per million)
Nitrate Level<20 ppm
Nitrite Level0 ppm

These parameters should be regularly monitored to ensure a comfortable living environment for your African Butterfly Fish. Deviation from these parameters could potentially harm or stress the fish. Regular water changes and the use of water conditioners can help maintain these parameters.

Habitat Requirements

The African Butterfly Fish has specific requirements for its habitat. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Soft or slightly acidic water is best for the African Butterfly Fish.
  • An ideal tank setup is a long, wide, shallow aquarium with plenty of space.
  • The minimum recommended tank size is 30-40 gallons.
  • Plan the habitat carefully as African Butterfly Fish are active and aggressive.
  • Make sure to meet their specific water parameter requirements.
  • Use a tight – fitting lid as they are powerful jumpers.

Aquarium Conditions

African Butterfly Fish need specific aquarium conditions to thrive. Here are some important factors to consider:

  • Water Movement: African Butterfly Fish prefer aquariums with minimal water movement, so it is advisable to avoid strong filters or air stones.
  • Water Parameters: They can tolerate a wide range of water conditions, but it is recommended to maintain the water temperature between 75-82°F and a pH level around 6.0-7.512.
  • Tank Size: The minimum tank size for African Butterfly Fish is recommended to be 30-40 gallons, with a long, wide, and shallow tank being preferable. A larger tank provides more space for them to swim and explore.
  • Vegetation: Adding floating plants like Amazon frogbit or water lettuce is beneficial, as they create shade and cover for the fish, mimicking their natural habitat.
  • Compatibility: African Butterfly Fish are generally good community fish, but they can be intolerant of other surface-swimming fish and may nip fins. It is best to keep them with fish that primarily inhabit the middle and bottom regions of the tank.

Feeding Recommendations

The African Butterfly Fish has an insectivorous diet, so it is important to provide a variety of live foods such as small insects, worms, and crustaceans.

Diet and Food

African butterfly fish have a carnivorous diet, which means they eat other animals. They like to eat aquatic insects, larvae, and nymphs. These fish can also eat spiders, flies, crickets, mealworms, and frozen/live foods.

It’s best to feed them 2-4 times a day to keep them healthy and satisfied. Providing a variety of food options will ensure they get all the nutrients they need. Live crickets are especially good for conditioning the fish to spawn.

So make sure you offer these tasty treats to your African butterfly fish!


African Butterfly Fish should be fed 2-4 times a day. It’s best to aim for the higher end of that range because these fish can eat a lot. They have big appetites! So make sure to feed them multiple times throughout the day to keep them happy and satisfied.

The more food they get, the better their chances of staying healthy and thriving in your aquarium.

Tank Mates

The African Butterfly Fish can be kept with peaceful, slow-moving fish species such as gouramis, tetras and rasboras.

Compatibility with Other Fish

The African Butterfly Fish is notorious for its territorial nature and possible aggression towards smaller or similarly-shaped fish, thus selecting the right tank mates is essential.

Tank MatesSafety
Small or similarly-shaped fishNot Safe – The African Butterfly Fish can exhibit aggression towards these types of fish.
Fish that swim at the bottom or in the middle of the tankSafe – These fish are less likely to encounter the territorial Butterfly Fish.
Aggressive fishNot Safe – They may clash with the territorial nature of the Butterfly Fish.

It’s essential to take these factors into account when establishing your African Butterfly Fish’s habitat to ensure a harmonious and safe aquarium environment for all inhabitants.

Best Tank Mates

If you’re looking for the best tank mates for African Butterfly Fish, here are some great options:

  • Larger tetras
  • Barbs
  • Small bottom – oriented cichlids
  • Catfish
  • Ctenopoma species
  • Mormyrids

Breeding Tips

To breed African Butterfly Fish, provide them with a separate breeding tank filled with soft water and dense vegetation. The male will construct a bubble nest at the water surface to hold the eggs, which can then be carefully removed and placed in a separate container.

Monitor water conditions closely during this process to ensure optimal conditions for successful breeding.

Breeding Process

Breeding African butterfly fish is a bit tricky. To breed them successfully, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Trigger spawning by inducing a cool water change.
  2. Provide the female butterfly fish with floating plants for egg laying.
  3. The eggs, which are opaque white, will immediately rise to the surface.
  4. Remove the adult fish from the tank as they may eat the eggs or fry.
  5. After about three days, the fry will hatch and start swimming near the surface.
  6. Feed them very small live food as they are not skilled hunters yet.

To breed African Butterfly Fish, it’s essential to understand the differences between males and females, as their roles in reproduction are distinct. Males are responsible for constructing bubble nests for the eggs, a fascinating behavior that highlights the differences between the sexes. For more detailed information on distinguishing between male and female African Butterfly Fish and their unique breeding roles, explore our guide on African Butterfly Fish Male Vs Female. This knowledge is crucial for setting up a successful breeding environment in a separate tank with soft water and dense vegetation.

Rearing Fry

Rearing fry associated with breeding African Butterfly Fish is difficult and challenging. Here are some important tips to help you successfully raise the fry:

  • Use a separate tank or breeding net: Transfer the eggs to a separate tank or use a breeding net to protect them from being eaten by the adult fish.
  • Provide suitable food for fry: The fry require very small live food, such as newly hatched brine shrimp. Their mouths are tiny, so they need food that is small enough for them to eat.
  • Ensure proper nutrition: It’s important to provide a varied diet for the fry to ensure they get all the necessary nutrients. You can supplement their diet with micro worms or infusoria.
  • Maintain good water quality: Clean water is crucial for the health and development of the fry. Regular water changes and monitoring of water parameters are essential.
  • Offer hiding places: Adding plants or floating vegetation in the rearing tank will provide hiding places for the fry, helping them feel secure and reducing stress.
  • Monitor their progress: Keep an eye on the fry and observe their behavior. If you notice any issues, such as lethargy or poor appetite, take action promptly to address any potential problems.


Taking care of African Butterfly Fish can be a rewarding experience. By providing them with the right tank setup, feeding them a varied diet, and understanding their unique breeding process, you can ensure their health and happiness.

Remember to create a natural habitat with floating plants and plenty of hiding spots. With proper care, these captivating fish will thrive in your aquarium. Happy fish keeping!


1. What are the tank requirements for an African Butterfly Fish?

The tank requirements include a large surface area due to their surface dwelling and jumping behavior, and proper pH levels as they are freshwater butterfly fish.

2. How do I set up my aquarium for an African Butterfly Fish?

To set up your aquarium, you need to understand their nature of surface dwelling. Create a nice open space at the top of the tank given their jumping behavior.

3. What should I feed my African Butterfly Fish?

African butterfly fish eat small fishes and insects. Make sure you provide them with food that floats on water’s surface where they dwell.

4. Can I breed African Butterfly Fish in my home aquarium?

Yes! With right care such as maintaining suitable pH levels and providing enough food, you can successfully breed your African butterfly fish at home.