Most butterfly fish are very hard to keep alive in aquariums. Of the 120 or so species that show up in fish stores, only a handful fare well in the home aquarium. Diet is the limiting factor. However, the few that thrive in aquariums will eat a number of foods.
Only the least-picky saltwater aquarium fish will eat prepared foods like fish flakes. Surprisingly, a few types of butterfly fish will take marine flake and pellet foods. These butterfly fish include Klein’s butterfly (Chaetodon kleinii), Tinker’s butterfly (C. tinkeri) and the bluecheek butterfly (C. semilarvatus). However, even in species that accept dry food, you should include richer sources such as frozen fish, live foods and algae to make sure they get all of the nutrition they need.
Some of the less finicky species of butterfly fish will readily eat algae. These include butterfly fish like the Indian Ocean double-saddle butterfly (C. falcula), Merten’s butterfly (C. mertensii) and the threadfin butterfly (C. auriga). You can feed algae either by allowing it to grow on live rock, where butterfly fish will graze on it, or with a veggie clip. Veggie clips are spring-loaded clips you can mount on the inside of your aquarium. You can pick up algae at high-end pet shops and specialized grocery stores, usually in the form of sheets of dried nori.
Frozen And Freeze-Dried Foods
Many of the easier butterfly fish readily take frozen and freeze-dried foods. These foods consist of frozen organisms, or mixtures of organisms for fish. Some pet shops carry special blends of frozen food intended specifically for butterfly fish. You should not thaw frozen foods; simply break off a chunk and feed it directly to your butterfly fish. Klein’s butterfly fish, Indian Ocean double-saddle butterfly and Tinker’s butterfly will all readily accept frozen and freeze-dried foods.
Many of the butterfly fish that thrive in aquariums will readily eat small invertebrates. This includes species like the Pacific double-saddle butterfly (C. ulietensis), raccoon butterfly (C. lunula) and the dot-dash butterfly fish (C. punctatofasciatus). You can feed these butterfly fish foods like baby brine shrimp and copepods. You can either learn how to culture these foods at home or purchase them online.
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