12 Things Butterflyfish Like to Eat Most (Diet, Care & Feeding Tips)

Butterflyfish are a beautiful species you can keep in your aquarium. It is a harmless wild animal that can sometimes have trouble socializing with other aquatic pets. If you decide to buy one, you should probably learn what does butterfly fish eat beforehand.

Butterflyfish habits and biology

Scientists categorize butterflyfish as tropical marine fish. It belongs to the group Chaetodontidae family. Some other notable species from this family include coralfish and bannerfish. There is a total of 129 butterflyfish species. You can find them on the reefs within the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans.

In many ways, these fishes resemble angelfish. The main difference is that butterflyfish is a bit small in comparison, and it also lacks spines at the point of gill covers. Certain species from this genus look like Moorish idol fish.

Given there are so many different types of butterflyfish, they can vary significantly in terms of size. Most of them are between 3 to 6 inches long, but there are also some species that can go all the way up to 8 inches.

The reason why we call them butterflyfish is because of the amazing colors on their body. The species combines black, yellow, orange, silver, white, and red color. Butterfly fishes’ patterns and colors will vary based on the particular type. In some cases, they will even have stripes across their eyes.

6 Common habits:

  1. This fish is diurnal. It will only move during the day and rest in rocks and corals during the night.
  2. Depending on the type, butterflyfishes usually live alone. Once they find a partner, they start hunting and traveling together. Butterflyfishes stay with the same partner throughout their lives.
  3. Because visibility is low during the night, the species will lay eggs only during this time of the day.
  4. Some species have black spots on their backs. According to experts, this mark is an evolutionary defense helping them distract hunters, thus allowing them to escape from tough situations.
  5. This species has very good eyesight. Butterflyfish uses it as a way of communicating with others but also finding their prey.
  6. When two partners get separated, one fish will swim upwards to reveal its position.

What do butterfly fish eat in the wild?

What do butterfly fish eat in the wild?

Due to its long nose, the fish is able to grab food from beneath rocks and crevasses. It eats both plants and meat, and its diet consists of works, algae, crustaceans, seaweed, and plankton. Most of their food is very soft. Biologists regard butterflyfish as opportunistic eaters.

If you bought the fish as an aquarium pet, you should focus on a vitamin-rich marine diet. This includes various mollusk meat, fish, crustacean, and mysid shrimp. You can also give them frozen foods commonly given to carnivores. Keep in mind that the fish has a very small mouth, so you should buy previously minced food.

Here is the typical butterflyfish food:

While most carnivorous, the species requires all sorts of food. Contrary to popular opinion, this fish doesn’t eat only corals. Butterflyfish need to have a diverse diet so they can introduce all the necessary nutrients.

However, if it has to choose, butterflyfish will opt for meats. This is because they require a large quantity of proteins to function normally. It also scavenges for vitamin-rich substances. Dietary requirements usually vary based on the type of butterflyfish. Some of them will only eat plants by accident while consuming other types of food.

The species eats 3 times a day in the wild if it has the opportunity. Although they are omnivores with a diverse diet, they avoid a lot of things. If they were to eat certain foods, they would likely die. This is especially true of larger species as butterflyfish don’t have the capability to mince this meat and process it.

What do butterfly fish eat as a pet?

What do butterfly fish eat as a pet?

There are only a few types of butterflyfish that you can keep as a pet. Sometimes, they have trouble socializing with other fish. An even bigger problem is their diet so, you can only keep the types that eat diverse food.

Here are the common types of food you can give them:

  1. Prepared foods are great for almost all marine species. For example, most pet owners give fish flakes to their lovelies. Unfortunately, butterflyfish can be picky even with pellet food and flakes. The species that can eat these things are Tinker’s butterflyfish, Klein’s butterflyfish, and blue cheek butterflyfish. However, even these species can sometimes have trouble digesting prepared foods. Ideally, you should give them products that have high nutrient value, such as live foods, frozen fish, and algae.
  2. Live foods are the best type of food for butterflyfish. They simply love small vertebras as they can easily mince them with their teeth. Raccoon butterflyfish, Pacific double-saddle butterflyfish, and dot-dash butterflyfish will thrive if you give them live foods. Perhaps the best foods for them are copepods and baby brine shrimp.
  3. Algae are something that a lot of butterflyfish can eat. Species such as Merten’s butterflyfish, threadfin butterflyfish, and double-saddle butterflyfish are just some of the examples. A pet owner can keep algae in the aquarium allowing the butterflyfish to eat when they want. You can also give it as a veggie clip, a product you can place on the side of the aquarium whenever it’s time to eat. Algae can be bought in almost any pet store. They usually come in the form of dried nori or sheets.
  4. Freeze-dried and frozen food is great for most species that are easy in terms of their diet. These foods commonly have a mixture of organisms. If you visit some of the better-supplied stores, you might find products that were specially made for butterflyfish. The great thing about frozen food is that you don’t have to thaw it. Instead, just break a chunk of it, and place it into the aquarium.

Given that the diet is such a major problem for most butterflyfish species, a lot of owners buy types that are easier to feed.

It is also very important to find other, sociable fish to pair them with. Sometimes, butterfly fish feels like an outcast in an aquarium leading to conflict between individuals. Having female and male together, it might get easier to feed them.

Tips to feed butterflyfish

Although feeding is the biggest hassle with this species, you can do lots of things to address the problem. These are some of the best tips that will surely help you out:

  • First, you should consider which type of butterflyfish you want to purchase. There are lots of different types, and they live in various oceans of the world with completely different biodiversity. Some people even like to buy butterflyfish based on their eating habits.
  • What are the other fishes you have in the tank? Do they have a compatible diet?
  • You can always put algae on the aquarium floor. That way, you won’t have to think a lot about when to feed the fish and whether it has enough to eat.
  • Some pet owners buy butterflyfish according to the local store’s food assortment. Depending on the products that a shop has, it will be easier or harder to feed your fish. Nowadays, it is relatively easy to buy food in bulk online, so that is another option you have.
  • Most butterflyfish can eat flakes and frozen foods. You can find these products in stores such as Fluval Bug Bites Granules, Tetra Pro Energy Tropical Fish Food, and Wardley Tropical Fish Flake Food.
  • Like with all other fishes, you can give food to butterflyfish by placing it in a feeder.
  • It is always best to give your fish small pieces of food. This is because they have small mouths and teeth, and larger chunks can pose a major problem, sometimes leading to choking.
  • Sometimes, the fish won’t eat pellets, so you need to trick it into thinking that it’s eating live food. Whatever you’re using, it needs to move. That way, a fish will think that it’s alive and will gladly eat it. Otherwise, there is a chance that it will even starve if you give it “dead” products.

Butterflyfishes are specific when it comes to their diet. You might even have to adjust them to eating pellets and frozen foods. But, when you do so, it will get much easier.


Butterflyfishes can be nice pets. They love their mates, and they stick with them for their entire life. Because of that, they are very interesting to have around.

Unfortunately, there are various things you need to be mindful of when feeding them. They won’t take just about any food; you need to be very careful regarding their diet. Owners often prefer butterflyfish species that are easier to feed as this can become a real nuisance.

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