African butterflyfish Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: November 27, 2022

The African butterflyfish is a beautiful and unique freshwater fish that is native to Africa.

This fish is not commonly found in the pet trade, but it is becoming more popular as a aquarium fish.

If you are thinking about getting an African butterflyfish, there are a few things you need to know about their care. In this guide, we will teach you everything you need to know about African butterflyfish care.

We will cover topics such as diet, tank mates, tank size, and more.

Species overview

The African butterflyfish (scientific name: Pantodon buchholzi) is a type of freshwater fish that’s native to various parts of Africa. They are most commonly found in the Congo Basin, which covers a large area in the middle of the continent.

They prefer slow-moving waters with a lot of vegetation and hiding places. This is something that’s common to many types of freshwater fish, but it’s especially important for African butterflyfish since they are very timid by nature.

Due to their unique appearance, African butterflyfish are a popular choice for aquariums. They are also relatively easy to care for, which makes them a good option for beginner fishkeepers.

African butterflyfish are very peaceful by nature and get along well with other tank mates. They are also not known to be fin nippers, which is something that can be a problem with other types of fish.


African butterflyfish

The African butterflyfish is one of those fish that is immediately recognizable thanks to their very unique shape. The body is long and slender with a pointed nose and a forked tail.

This fish is laterally compressed, meaning that it is flatter than most other fish. This body shape helps them to maneuver quickly and easily in the water.

They have very large eyes that sit high up on their head. This gives them excellent vision and helps them to spot prey from a distance.

The dorsal and anal fins are both long and thin. The pelvic fins are also quite long and they sit just behind the gill openings.

The pectoral fins are shorter than the pelvic fins, but they are still quite long in comparison to most other fish.

The caudal fin is deeply forked and it has a beautiful yellow margin.

The body of the African butterflyfish is mostly black in color. There is a yellow band that runs along the sides of the fish and there is also a yellow spot on the dorsal fin.

The undersides of the fish are mostly white.


The average lifespan of an African butterflyfish is around 3 years. However, there are a number of factors that can impact their life expectancy.

For starters, if these fish haven’t reproduced then their lifespan will usually be on the higher side of this range. That process can really take a toll on the fish.

The general level of care they receive obviously matters a great deal as well. Even though these are very hardy fish, they’ll obviously live longer in optimal conditions.


The maximum size of the African butterflyfish is about 4 inches.


Tank Size

The minimum tank size for an African butterflyfish is 30 gallons, but we recommend going up to a 50 gallon tank if you can.

The extra space will give the fish room to swim and explore, and it will also help to keep the water quality high.

If you want to keep more than one African butterflyfish in the same tank, you’ll need to add at least another 30 gallons for each fish.

Water Parameters

The African butterflyfish is a freshwater species that is found in the rivers of Africa. In the wild, they prefer slow-moving waters with plenty of vegetation.

To recreate this environment in your aquarium, you’ll need to maintain the following water parameters.

  • Water temperature: 72 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.8 to 7.6
  • Water hardness: 2 to 12 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 4-8 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

The African butterflyfish is a beautiful and relatively peaceful species that does well in both freshwater and brackish tanks.

When it comes to setting up their habitat, you have a few different options.

A lot of aquarists prefer to go with a planted tank for their African butterflyfish. These fish love to swim around in the vegetation and it provides them with a place to hide if needed.

If you do go with plants, we recommend using species that are known to be tough (like Java Fern or Anubias). These will be able to handle the occasional nibble and won’t uproot easily.

Another option is to go with a more traditional setup that includes rocks and driftwood. This can still provide hiding places for your fish while also giving the inside of the tank a bit more character.

The substrate you choose is up to you, but we recommend something that’s on the softer side. These fish like to dig and a sharp substrate can lead to cuts.

Common Diseases

African butterflyfish are pretty hardy fish and don’t seem to fall ill very often. However, when they do get sick it’s usually because of one of two things: ich or bacterial infection.

Ich is a very common freshwater fish disease that is caused by a parasites. It’s pretty easy to spot as it causes white spots to form on the body of your fish.

If you think your fish might have ich, the best thing to do is to consult a vet or someone with more experience. There are a lot of different ways to treat ich, and the wrong treatment could do more harm than good.

Bacterial infection is another common illness in African butterflyfish. This is usually caused by poor water quality and can lead to a lot of different symptoms.

Some of the most common include: red lesions, fraying fins, and a loss of appetite. If you think your fish might have a bacterial infection, the best thing to do is to consult a vet.

They will be able to prescribe the right medication to help your fish recover.

Behavior & Temperament

The African butterflyfish is a beautiful and unique fish that is native to the freshwaters of Africa. These fish are peaceful and relatively easy to care for, making them a popular choice for aquarists of all levels of experience.

One of the most notable things about the African butterflyfish is their appearance. They have a long, slender body that is adorned with black and white stripes. Their fins are also striped, and they have a large mouth that is perfect for eating small insects and crustaceans.

In the wild, African butterflyfish are found in slow-moving rivers and streams. They typically prefer to stay in shallower waters where they can find plenty of food to eat.

In the aquarium, African butterflyfish are relatively peaceful. They can be kept with other peaceful fish, as long as those fish are not too small. These fish are not aggressive, but they may try to eat smaller fish if they are given the opportunity.

African butterflyfish are also known to be jumpers, so it is important to have a tight-fitting lid on your aquarium to prevent them from escaping.

Tank Mates

The best tank mates for African butterflyfish are other peaceful, small fish that occupy different levels of the water column.

Since African butterflyfish are surface dwellers, they do best with fish that stay near the bottom or in the middle of the tank.

Some good African butterflyfish tank mates include:

  • Neon Tetras
  • Cardinal Tetras
  • Ghost Shrimp
  • Guppies
  • Platies
  • Mollies


The African butterflyfish is one of the more challenging species to breed in captivity. They’re not impossible, but it does take some skill and knowledge.

The first thing you need to do is set up a breeding tank. It should be at least 20 gallons and contain plenty of live plants. Driftwood is also a good idea. Keep the water temperature between 75 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

The next step is to find a pair of African butterflyfish. These fish are notoriously difficult to pair off, so it may take some time. Once you have a pair, put them in the breeding tank.

Then, it’s a waiting game. These fish typically spawn in the morning, so check the tank around that time. You’ll know they’re successful when you see the eggs floating on the surface of the water.

The eggs will hatch in about 24 hours. At that point, you can remove the adults and start feeding the fry live foods. Baby brine shrimp is a good option.

As they grow, you can slowly start introducing them to flake food.


The African butterflyfish is a beautiful and unique fish that can make a great addition to your aquarium. They’re not the easiest fish to care for, but with a little knowledge and commitment, you can be successful.

We hope this guide has helped you learn a little bit more about African butterflyfish and that you’ll be able to use this information to make a decision about whether or not they’re the right fish for you.