One last thing to note before moving
on. In this article I reference the ranges,
habitats, and maximum reported lengths
for these species, information that can be
found at Fishbase.org. However, individual
specimens are unlikely to grow to their
maximum reported size in an aquarium,
even if well fed and kept in a big tank.
Again, these are record sizes. In other
words, the fish simply have the potential to
reach such a size, although most will likely
stay at two-thirds their maximum reported
length or smaller.
With all of that out of the way, let’s take
a look at a few butterflies that can be good
choices for a fish-only marine aquarium.
The Auriga Butterfly
The auriga or threadfin butterfly
(Chaetodon auriga) is found in the Red Sea,
across the tropical Indian Ocean from East
Africa to the Western and Central Pacific
Ocean as far as Hawaii, and from Japan
down to the Lord Howe and Rapa Islands. It
has a maximum reported length of just over
9 inches ( 23 cm) and lives in a variety of
tropical environments. It is sometimes found
alone but may also live in mated pairs, or
often, in schools. C. auriga feeds on corals,
anemones, other invertebrates, and algae.
In the aquarium, this species is typically
quite peaceful and gets along fine with
other types of fishes that aren’t overly
aggressive. The exception is that it may
bicker with other butterflies of similar size
and appearance, including other aurigas, so
they should be kept one to a tank unless
two can be purchased as a mated pair.
Other than that, this fish is easy to care
for. It typically begins taking a wide range
of aquarium foods without issue and is an
especially good choice.
The Raccoon Butterfly
Like the auriga butterfly, the raccoon
butterfly (C. lunula) is found across the
tropical Indian Ocean from East Africa to
the Western and Central Pacific Ocean as
far as Hawaii, and from Japan down to the
Lord Howe and Rapa Islands. However,
it is also found in the Southeast Atlantic
Ocean around South Africa and is absent
in the Red Sea. It has a maximum reported
length of almost 8 inches ( 20 cm) and lives
in a variety of tropical environments. Mated
pairs and small groups are frequently seen.
This fish also feeds on corals, anemones,
other invertebrates, and algae.
In the aquarium, this species is also
typically peaceful, and multiples have been
kept in the same tank successfully, but they
tend to pester and chase each other. So again,
it is best to keep one to a tank unless a mated
pair can be purchased. However, it may be
more difficult to feed in the beginning. With
time, this fish typically learns to take a wide
variety of aquarium foods, though, and it is
generally quite hardy.
The Red Sea
The Red Sea raccoon butterfly (C.
fasciatus), also called the diagonal butterfly,
is a close cousin of the “regular” raccoon
butterfly but is found only in the Red Sea
and Gulf of Aden. It looks very much like
the other raccoon butterfly except that it
tends to have a brighter, bolder coloration
with heavier dark lines on its body and
lacks a prominent dark spot/patch on its
tail. It’s also slightly larger, with a maximum
reported length of a little more than 8½
inches ( 22 cm). This species is typically
found on reef flats, singly or in pairs, and
feeds on corals and other invertebrates.
When it comes to life in an aquarium, this
species is essentially the same as the regular
raccoon butterfly. It’s typically peaceful and
hardy, and it will learn to eat a variety of
The falcula butterfly (C. falcula) is typically a hardy aquarium fish.