African Butterfly Fish
African Butterfly Fish

African Butterfly Fish

Pantodon buchholzi
SynonymsPantodon buchholzi macrolepis, Pantodon buchholzi schizonotus
DistributionWidespread through West & Central Africa.
Sexual DimorphismFemales posses a straighter rear edge to the anal fin and are noticeably plumper when filled with eggs.
Maximum Size15cm (6")
Water ParametersSoft and acidic. pH: 5.5-7.0, dH: up to 12 degrees. Peat filtration is highly recommended.
Temperature23-30 deg C (73-86 deg F)
CompatibilitySpecialist community

The curious-looking African Butterfly Fish originates from the calm waters of creeks, swamps and slow-moving parts of rivers, where they inhabit the area just underneath the water's surface. They are excellent jumpers, so the aquarium MUST have tight fitting coverslides to prevent accidental escape. In the wild, the African Butterfly Fish feeds on small fish, crustaceans, aquatic larvae & nymphs, as well as terrestrial insects (hence it's position in the water column and its ability to jump). The aquarium that houses these fish should not be filled right to the top, instead, it is suggested that the water level is dropped approx 15cm (6") or so from the top of the tank. The aquarium should incorporate a good amount of aquatic plants with an open area in the centre for the fish to freely rest near the surface. Lighting should not be too bright, and the tank should be furnished with dark decor. The footprint of the tank (length and width) is much more important than the height, to give the fish as much surface area as possible. It is also a good idea to install a blue moon light to switch on just before the main lights go off, so that you can spend a few hours observing this crepuscular (active at dusk and at dawn) species when it is at its most active. More than one specimen may be kept in the same aquarium if the tank is spacious enough. Tankmates must be chosen with care, as many will find the long trailing pelvic fin rays of the African Butterfly Fish rather tempting to nibble at. Small fish can also become an easy snack as this species has a deceptively capacious mouth. Many successful aquarists find that keeping their Butterfly Fish with peaceful bottom-dwellers such as Corydoras catfish, works very well. Excellent water quality is essential for this species to thrive.


Frozen foods such as bloodworm, white mosquito larvae, black mosquito larvae, and sometimes brineshrimp, are preferred. Will also take small live insects such as spiders and flies.


Difficult, as the tiny fry tend to only accept miniscule live foods at the water's surface which pass directly over them. African Butterfly Fish form pairs and require very soft, acidic water to breed - peat filtration is considered essential. When spawning commences, the female will lay up to 7 eggs, which the male immediately fertilises and allows to float up to the surface. This process is repeated several times until up to 250 eggs have been expelled/fertilised. The parent fish should be acclimatised back to the main aquarium as soon as spawning has ceased, otherwise they will predate on the eggs. The eggs will turn black within 12 hours and should hatch within 36-48 hours, by which time you should have a good supply of tiny live foods ready to offer.

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