African Butterflyfish

Updated August 5, 2019
Author: Mike - FishLore Admin
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The African Butterflyfish is a really odd looking fish but might make an interesting addition to the right tank. When viewed from above the African Butterflyfish's pectoral fins resemble butterfly wings. They come from slow flowing rivers in Africa so it would be good to put them in a tank with slower water movement. They seem to float much of the time, so if you're looking for a really active fish this may not be the one for you. They are predatory and will eat smaller surface dwelling fish.

African Butterflyfish African Butterflyfish top view


These fish are notorious tank jumpers so a good hood with no escape points is needed.

It's always a good idea to keep any new fish in a quarantine tank for a few weeks for monitoring before introducing them into your main tank. The African Butterfly can be sensitive to fluctuations in aquarium pH and temperature. You may also want to take a little longer when acclimating your fish to the tank water. Take an hour (instead of 15 minutes) and slowly add small amounts of tank water to the bag every 10 minutes or so. Or even better, do a slow drip acclimation.

African Butterflyfish closeup African Butterflyfish fins

African Butterflyfish will accept smaller fish food including flakes, frozen, freeze dried and live fish foods (crickets and worms). They may also eat smaller top dwelling fish.

African Butterflyfish African Butterflyfish

African Butterflyfish Care

Scientific Name : Pantodon buchholzi

Common Names : Freshwater Butterfly

Care Level : Easy to Moderate

Potential Adult Size : Up to 4 inches (10 cm)

Tank Conditions : pH: 6 - 7.5, Temperature: 75°F - 82°F (24°C - 28°C)

Lifespan : 5 years or longer

Origin / Habitat : Africa

Temperament / Behavior : May try to eat smaller fish that feed on the surface and smaller fish that hang near the surface, such as hatchet fish.

Breeding : They have been bred in captivity and are egg layers. Eggs will float to the surface and may get eaten by parents and other fish.

Aquarium Size : 20 gallon minimum

Tank Mates : They can be relatively peaceful if kept with similar sized and larger tank mates. Avoid keeping them with smaller top dwelling fish.

Disease : Freshwater Fish Disease

Diet / Foods : An omnivore - provide a varied diet with live food, frozen food and they should accept flake food. They really enjoy small insects such as crickets.

Tank Region : Top

Gender : Difficult to determine

Photo Credit : Photos copyright

References :

Fish Lore Forum : African Butterflyfish Forum

African Butterflyfish Comments

From: Christopher
To determine the gender of this fish you have to look at the anal fin. The females anal fin is strait. But on the male one of the ray's on the anal fin is much longer than the rest. I hope this helps.

From: Chris
The African Butterflyfish is an awesome fish. I keep it with my Black Ghost, Albino Rainbow Shark, and my 2 angelfish. The only time that he really gets aggressive is when the angels go to the surface for food. But aside from that he is very placid and an awesome fish.

From: Bev
I've had my African Butterflyfish for over 2 years. I keep him/her in a 20 gallon long tank along with a breeding population of swordtails and tetras, a pleco, an upsidedown cat and 4 neon tetra all of whom seem very happy together. I've never fed him anything "live" but I do make sure he is watching when small pieces of tubifex worms or other floating food hits the water. He attacks this food rather vigorously (yes, he has jumped right out of the tank on more than one occasion!) But, he has never acted aggressively toward any other fish. Besides being a very unique looking fish, he is graceful and swift, an easy keeper and has been a pleasure to watch.

From: Lisa
These are a favorite spectacle to all who visit. I feed small, live crickets every few days and they will take them out of my hand! Mine have been very hardy in an angelfish and rainbow fish community tank. They actually get nipped on by others once in awhile. Feed them small cichlid pellets every day. The most difficult part is making sure the food flows directly in their path before the angels or rainbows grab it. It must be floating on the surface. Mine would not eat for 1 week until I started the live crickets! Tried all sorts of freeze dried, etc, but they held out for the best! The females have a straight edged anal fin, while the males have a "dent" in the anal fins rear edge. The female is dominant over the male in my tank. Also, they seem to be nocturnal and come out under the "moon light" in search of prey after the main light has shut off. Enjoy!

From: Rob
When keeping this fish make sure that there are no tetras or smaller barbs or even baby corys. Feed them floating food to give them best results.

From: Kenny
You should keep it in a planted aquarium, the best buddies to keep with it are non-aggresive fish that are too large to fit in it's mouth. It also is not always a top level fish as when scared goes to the bottom.