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Main Index > Detailed Fish Profiles > Miscellaneous species > Butterflyfish
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This page will give a completely detailed profile of the selected fish, from A to Z. The profiled fish will be chosen randomly by Badman, and will come from the complete genre of tropical fish. New profiles are added on a regular basis. If you would like to submit a profile for the site please contact me. Don't forget to let us know you experiences with this fish by filling out the



African butterfly

Pantodon Buchholzi



    Floating close to the surface waiting for prey the African Butterfly fish is a lesson in grace. Its' long fins spread out it looks like an angel with her wings spread. Staying close to the surface your aquarium must be well covered as they will jump.
Quick stats:
    Listed tank sizes are the minimum
    Size: Up to 4" (11cm)
    Tank: 24 inches
    Strata: Top
    PH: 6.7 to 7.5
    Hardness: Soft to medium. dH range: 2-10
    Temperature: 75-86°F (24-30°C)


    Order: Osteoglossiformes
    Suborder: Pantodonitidae
    Family: Pantodonitidae
    Genera: Buchholzi
African butterfly
Common name.


Image gallery:
    Additional species photographs


    Badmans' Forum

    From the Congo river basin to the Niger, in tropical West Africa. Occurring mostly in stagnant water, such as rain forest pools, with dense vegetation

General body form.

    The body is shaped like a boat with the top and bottom almost flat, so its profile almost seems rectangular. The sides are convex and the nostrils protrude like little tubes.
    The most distinctive feature of the fish are its fins; the long Pectoral and ventral fins are extended like wings. The Dorsal is small rounded and set back on the body. Both the Anal and Caudal fins are elongated like flags. The Anal fin of the male is notched and the females is rounded. Their mouths are quite large


    They are Drab, Grayish Green with a Brownish tinge. The rays of all the fins have alternate dark and pale rings, the Pectoral fins are Blackish with a White edge. A dark band runs from the top of the head through the eye area to the lower jaw.


    Like a typical surface-hanging fish, the butterflyfish takes its food from the waters surface. Its large Pectoral fins can help it leap out of the water to catch flying insects. Pantodon should be kept in a tank of clear soft and acidic water, with a large surface area and not too deep. The plant material should be more sparse than in its home area, with little or no floating types. The Butterflyfish eats live foods of all kinds and larger specimens will take floating mealworms. They can also learn to accept many of the freeze dried food products now available.
    They are very interesting, but due to their high price and specialized needs, the novice Aquarist should think carefully before buying one.


    They have been bred in the home Aquaria. Lowering the water to only a couple of inches in depth for a few weeks and then refilling the tank with fresh soft acidic water and raising the temperature can stimulate spawning. Spawning is preceded by the male chasing the female and actually raising himself on top of her.
    The eggs when laid are clear and after about ten hours turn very dark and float to the surface. The butterfly fish spawn over many days so the eggs should be removed with a spoon to a separate tank with identical water conditions. They hatch in about two days and the young are difficult to raise excepting only the smallest of live food.

Your comments:


Please remember that the following comments are personal experiences and may or may not apply to your setup. Use them as guide to help better understand your fish, like us all individuals will behave differently under different circumstances.


From: Ashley
This fish is both amazing, and a great addition to my tank! I have a 55 gallon setup with a female ABF, and she's just amazing to watch. She eats ANYTHING, including flake foods. She prefers her frozen cubs of bloodworms, brine shrimp, and her veggie cubes. She is housed with quite a few other fish, and her best friend happens to be my male Black Shark. They sit together near the surface of the tank and I watch them swim together. In my opinion, its cute! There are a few times where she HAS tried to jump out, most of the time its when she gets spooked. Be sure to not make any sudden or loud movements! But then again, every fish has a different personality. And this may not be the case with yours. Great fish though, and if you want to see something fun, place live crickets in the water and watch your ABF hunt them down one-by-one :]
From: Martin
I have bought this fish twice. The first time I was not prepared and he starved to death. I recommend live foods to get their appetite up in the first few weeks. I also recommend going to the garden for treats, they love all insects I have given so far. Centipedes spiders, crickets. I put a fern next to the tank and its leaves drape over. This was to stop the fish freaking out and it worked perfectly. The problem I think is that these fish are usually wild and need a fair replica of their natural environment in the adjustment period. My tank has no lid!! but they jump to escape predators and he is the largest fish in the tank. My tank is 29 gallon long. I filter through peat and use Indian almond leaves to soften the water but it is still at around 7.2 pH. I have another surface dweller in a female betta and they get along fine. The ABF is a constant point of interest for the betta and a male cacatuoides cichlid who both cannot seem to work this foreigner out.
From: Kyle
I absolutely love this fish. I've had mine for almost 2 months now, this fish is the reason I got a 29 gallon tank. Everyone who sees him just has to stare. I bought him a piece of floating cover and he rarely leaves his fake leafy haven. A voracious eater, I've been feeding mine freeze-dried brine shrimp and bloodworms until he gets big enough to eat crickets. A very relaxed fish, he only gets cranky when someone tries to take his food. I have seen him swimming at all levels of the tank when the lights go out though, its fun to watch him with a dim flashlight because he's as graceful in the middle of the tank as he is at the top. If anyone is looking for a unique top dwelling fish that's enjoyable to watch, not much else can beat the african butterfly fish. However, if you already have or plan on getting other top dwellers, make a decision between the two because the butterfly fish will get feisty with other top dwellers. I wouldn't put it past this fish to eat any top dwellers that'll fit in its mouth.
From: Chris
Recently purchased 4 inch specimen for $12. Beautiful fins and coloration! Does not bother Marble Hatchets or Golden Killie that reside with it at the surface. Does not eat flake; prefers live bugs whole. I buy the 24-packs of live crickets that are sold for reptiles. This fish has a surprising appetite; it will happily eat at least one large cricket per day. I keep it well fed for fear it will swim down and gulp some of my Neon Tetras in its gigantic mouth! Truthfully, this fish is peaceful, beautiful, and exotic. Highly recommended.
From: Ron
I have had 3 butterfly fish for about 2 yrs now. Very easy to care for and accept a wide range of water conditions. Peaceful fish until feeding time, then they attack the food and make one heck of splashing sound on the surface. They will eat flake food and freeze dried bloodworms. Recently I noticed the 2 smaller one doing a dance together like twirling around in a circle while they bite at each other. They even clamp down on each others fins and hang on, but don;t do any damage. Not sure but I think they are doing breeding dance.
From: Hayley F
We have one butterflyfish, appropriately named "Mothra", in our 30 gallon who is doing very well indeed. He's very active and enjoys patrolling the surface and playing in the filter outlet stream. Feeding is too easy, he will gather around your hand with the other fish and takes any food readily (very partial to tetra pro colour enhancing crisps and frozen worms/shrimp, while it's floating). We recently managed to get some live fruit flies, which he absolutely adored. He doesn't bother the other fish, as we were concerned that he might go for the marbled hatchetfish we keep, but they like hanging out under his dangly pelvic fins and he ignores them. A very interesting looking fish, ours has quite lovely mottled markings actually, with quite rich browns compared to some specimens. The price wasn't too bad either, 6.50 pounds sterling I believe. (About 13-14 dollars as far as I'm aware.)
From: Bill
I have three African butterfly fish in my 46 bow front. It is heavily planted with a fair amount of water sprite that has floated to the top from my two other plants. They seem to enjoy the cover and hang out more in the open instead of in a corner or behind the filter. All three eat a diet of "Wardly totally tropical" as well as a mixture of HUFA enriched brine shrimp and mysis. As far as I have found there are no problems with them in groups unless you have all males. However large females can be aggressive too. I am hoping to breed them soon.
From: James
A cool fish to have. Not expensive. and not aggressive grow about 5". great edition to a 20 gallon tank. Tank should be kept at normal tropical temp & pH about 72-82 degrees pH level 6.5-7.0. They don't only eat dead food. Live is good as well and cool to watch them eat. Best live food are crickets small in size to prevent choking. I recommend 2 to a tank any more and they all clump together in the corner of the tank. they do need room too you know.
From: Will
I have recently purchased this fish very cheaply. Only about 7 dollars! very shy, it doesn't like me to look at it. It eats freeze-dried blood worms and nothing else that I've tried. It seems to enjoy my 30 gal tank, and either hangs around my heater or in the top of my tall grass. Average tropical ph of about 7.0, and around 82 degrees. Not a good fish for the inexperienced. I've been in the hobby about 4 or 5 years and just started purchasing rarer fish. Good luck if you ever get one! oh ya, it might not accept freeze-dried food!
From: William
I recently purchased A butterfly fish and I am enjoying the fish. I mainly feed the freeze dried plankton and it enjoys it. The pH is around 6.8 and the temperature is around 76. It is a really a very pretty fish really laid back.

From: Rich
I cannot understand why this species is so expensive here in the USA, I bought one in England and was only a few pounds ( around 10-12 dollars) , They aren't really that attractive, I guess their appeal is because they're different, They are quite inactive, you never really know if its floating on the top because its dead, Unless you have particular interest in this fish, I wouldn't recommend one to your aquarium, there are far far more interesting and prettier fish out there, at a fraction of the cost

From: Christy
Hello, I have recently purchased this fish for my 55 gal. I really like this fish, it will eat right out of my hand, and does swim through my tank quite often. I don't think it's ugly... I think it is a very interesting addition to our community tank, may even go and get another one... only cost me like $8.00 so I don't feel that is too expensive.







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