african butterly fish in a bird's eye view

African Butterfly Fish Male Vs Female: How To Tell The Difference And Understand Their Unique Characteristics

Exotic Aquarium Fish


Updated on:

Determining the sex of an African Butterfly Fish can be puzzling, leaving many enthusiasts scratching their heads. One intriguing fact is that these fish exhibit sexual dimorphism through subtle physical variations.

Our guide will shine a light on identifying male versus female African Butterfly Fish and delve into their unique traits. Keep reading to become a pro at spotting the differences!

SUMMARY: African Butterfly Fish Male Vs Female

  • Male African Butterfly Fish have convex anal fins, while females have straight anal fins, making it easy to tell them apart.
  • Females are generally larger and heavier than males, requiring more space and resources in a home aquarium setting.
  • Both male and female African Butterfly Fish exhibit aggressive behaviors towards same-sex individuals, establishing social hierarchies within their groups.

Identification and Physical Differences between Male and Female African Butterfly Fish

Male African butterfly fish can be identified by their convex anal fins and smaller size, while females have straight anal fins and tend to be larger and heavier.

Sexing based on anal fin shape (convex for males, straight for females)

African Butterfly Fish come in both male and female forms. Each has a unique anal fin shape that tells them apart.

  • Look at the edge of the anal fin. Males have a back edge that curves out (convex), like a little hill.
  • Females show off an anal fin with a straight trailing edge, much simpler than the males’ shape.
  • Check for an indentation. On males, you’ll find the rear of their anal fin dips in, while females lack this feature.
  • Notice tube – like rays. In male African Butterfly Fish, some central rays might stick out at the end of their anal fins, looking like tiny tubes.

Size and weight differences (females tend to be larger and heavier)

Having established how to determine the sex of African Butterfly Fish by the shape of their anal fin, we now turn our focus to another distinguishing characteristic: size and weight differences. Unlike in many species, female African Butterfly Fish typically boast a larger and more robust physique than their male counterparts. Here’s a quick look at how these differences manifest:

CharacteristicMale African Butterfly FishFemale African Butterfly Fish
Size (length)SmallerLarger, can grow significantly bigger than males
WeightLighterHeavier, given their larger size
Physical PresenceLess imposingMore commanding due to size
Breeding ReadinessSmaller size doesn’t equate to less fertilityLarger body may indicate better conditions for carrying eggs

Understanding these differences is crucial for anyone looking to maintain a balanced aquarium or breed these intriguing creatures. With females often out-sizing the males, it’s essential to provide ample space and resources to accommodate their larger stature in a home aquarium setting.

Behavior and Social Interactions of Male and Female African Butterfly Fish

Male and female African Butterfly Fish can exhibit aggression towards same-sex individuals, establishing a social hierarchy within a group.

Aggression towards same-sex individuals

African butterfly fish can be quite aggressive towards others of the same sex. The dominant males show their strength by acting tough towards other males. They want to be in charge and control their space.

This behavior is a way for them to protect their area in the tank or pond. If two males are close, they might fight or try to scare each other away.

Keeping an eye on how African butterfly fish act with each other helps prevent fights. It’s good to give them enough room and hiding spots in the tank so they can stay out of trouble.

If you see them being mean to each other, it might be time to change things around or give them more space.

Social hierarchy within a group

Once the aggression towards same-sex individuals is established, a social hierarchy forms within the African Butterfly Fish group. Dominance is typically exhibited by larger and more aggressive fish, often leading to the establishment of territories within the tank.

This can result in submissive behaviors from smaller or less dominant members of the group. Interestingly, in all-female groups, dominance can lead to physical and hormonal changes similar to those found in male fish.

The social interactions among these fish extend beyond mere territorial behavior, with context-specific sound production playing a significant role. Both male and female African Butterfly Fish engage in sound production during interactions with their counterparts as part of their social structure and communication within the group.

Tank Requirements for Male and Female African Butterfly Fish

When caring African Butterfly Fish, choose a tank size of at least 30-40 gallons to accommodate the swimming and hunting behaviors of African Butterfly Fish, ensuring that water parameters such as pH levels and temperature are suitable for their well-being.

Tank size and water parameters (pH, temperature, etc.)

African Butterfly Fish need at least a 40-gallon tank.

  • pH range should be kept at 6.5–7.0 for optimal health.
  • Water hardness should stay between 8–12 dGH.

Proper tank setup (plants, hiding spots)

Proper tank setup is crucial for creating a suitable environment for African butterfly fish. This includes:

  1. Incorporating floating plants such as water lettuce or Amazon frogbit, which provide cover for the fish and support their natural surface-dwelling behavior.
  2. Adding driftwood, rocks, or artificial structures to create hiding spots and break up sightlines within the tank.
  3. Ensuring the tank has a secure lid to prevent the fish from jumping out, as African butterfly fish are known to be adept jumpers.

Diet and Feeding Habits of Male and Female African Butterfly Fish

African Butterfly Fish are carnivorous and prefer live insects such as spiders, roaches, grasshoppers, and even small fish like guppies. It’s essential to provide a varied diet to meet their nutritional needs.

Carnivorous diet

African Butterfly Fish have a carnivorous diet, mainly feeding on insects that fall onto the water’s surface. To stay healthy, they need a high-protein diet consisting of live foods, pellets, and flakes.

These fish are insectivores and depend on eating insects to fulfill their nutritional needs. Their specialized diet leads to distinct physical differences between males and females of African Butterfly Fish.

The next important aspect to understand about these fascinating creatures is their breeding behavior and reproductive tendencies.

Prey preferences

With their carnivorous diet, African butterfly fish have specific prey preferences. These freshwater predators primarily feed on insects such as flies, mosquitoes, and other small flying insects that they catch at the water’s surface.

This specialized feeding behavior makes them unique among aquarium fishes, requiring a diverse diet of live or frozen insect-based food like brine shrimp and wax worms to thrive in a captive environment.

To ensure the proper nutritional intake and replicate their natural feeding habits, it is crucial for aquarists to provide suitable prey options that mimic what these fish would consume in the wild.

Breeding and Reproduction of Male and Female African Butterfly Fish

To breed male and female African Butterfly Fish, it is essential to differentiate between the sexes and create appropriate spawning conditions in a separate breeding tank. Male fish tend to be smaller with longer anal fins, while females are larger and heavier.

When ready to spawn, the male will court the female by displaying his colorful fins. After mating, the female will lay eggs on floating plants or other surfaces near the water’s surface.

Providing sufficient hiding spots and removing adult fish after spawning can help protect the eggs and fry until they hatch and grow independently.

Differentiating between male and female for breeding purposes

To determine the sex of African butterfly fish for breeding purposes, it’s important to observe their physical characteristics and behavior. Here are key points to consider:

  1. Observe the anal fin shape: The anal fin of male African butterfly fish is convex, while the female’s anal fin is straight. This distinction can help in identifying potential breeding pairs.
  2. Look for size and weight differences: Females tend to be larger and heavier than males, especially when they are carrying eggs. This difference in size can aid in selecting compatible breeding partners.
  3. Watch for spawning behaviors: Male African butterfly fish will display courtship behaviors towards females, including chasing and nudging them. Observing these interactions can provide insight into the breeding dynamics within a group.
  4. Consider social hierarchy: In a group of African butterfly fish, dominant males may compete for access to females for breeding. Understanding the social structure can inform decisions on pairing individuals for optimal breeding outcomes.
  5. Pay attention to egg-carrying behavior: Female African butterfly fish will carry eggs in their pelvic fins after spawning. Identifying females with eggs can facilitate the separation of breeding pairs for incubation and fry care.

Spawning behaviors and care for eggs/fry

After identifying the male and female African Butterfly Fish for breeding, it’s important to understand their spawning behaviors and how to care for the eggs and fry.

  1. Spawning occurs after an elaborate courtship ritual where the male chases the female vigorously. This can continue for several days before actual spawning takes place.
  2. Once the female releases her eggs, they float upwards, sticking to plants and other surfaces near the water’s surface due to their adhesive nature.
  3. Remove the eggs promptly to prevent them from being eaten by the parents since they are considered potential food.
  4. The eggs have an incubation period of about 3-4 days before hatching into fry.
  5. Rearing the fry is challenging as they are not very mobile and struggle with hunting for food effectively.
  6. To facilitate successful rearing of the fry, provide appropriate nutrition and ensure a well-prepared environment with floating plants or similar surfaces for the eggs to adhere to.
  7. Look out for signs of aggression towards the fry from adult fish in the tank, as this can impact their survival rate.
  8. Keeping a close watch on water parameters and maintaining optimal conditions will greatly contribute to the healthy development of both eggs and fry.


Understanding the physical and behavioral differences between male and female African Butterfly Fish is crucial for their proper care and breeding. Male butterfly fish can be identified by their convex anal fin, while females have a straight edge to their anal fin.

In addition to physical features, males tend to be slightly slimmer than females. Being insectivores with keen water surface sensors, these fish require specific tank conditions and diet.

By recognizing the unique traits of each sex, hobbyists can provide optimal care for these fascinating freshwater species.


1. What is an African butterfly fish?

The African butterfly fish, known as Pantodon buchholzi, is a freshwater fish from West Africa. It’s a surface feeder and looks like flying fishes.

2. How can you tell male and female African butterfly fish apart?

Male African butterflyfish often have longer pectoral fins than females, making it easier to spot the difference.

3. Can African butterfly fish live with other tank mates?

Yes, but be careful! These carnivorous fish are ambush predators that might try to eat smaller fishes like guppies in your tank.

4. What do I need in my fish tank for an African butterflyfish?

African butterflyfish like tanks with space at the top because they’re surface feeders. Make sure there’s no disease and that your other fishes won’t fight with them or get eaten!

5. Do these fishes need saltwater or fresh water?

These members of the Pantodontidae family live happily in freshwater only—saltwater is not suitable for them.

6. Are there special breeding conditions for the Pantodon buchholzi?

Yes! To breed these creatures in captivity, provide a calm setting similar to their natural home so they will want to create baby fishes.