Copperband Butterflyfish Care: Diet, Lifespan and Mates

Copperband Butterflyfish Care: Diet, Lifespan and Mates

Hey there, fellow saltwater aquarists! Welcome to our guide on caring for the mesmerizing Copperband Butterflyfish! 

These vibrant and graceful creatures are a delightful addition to any saltwater aquarium, and we’re here to help you give them the love and care they deserve. This fish is recommended for a seasoned hobbyist but if you are a newbie don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with some valuable insights and tips that will make your copperband butterflyfish feel right at home. 

So, let’s dive in together and explore the enchanting world of these beautiful fish!

Species Summary

The Copperband Butterflyfish is native to saltwater coral reefs and rocky shorelines in the Western Pacific Ocean. They’re well-suited to a variety of tropical environments up to 80 feet deep and can be found around Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore. 

The Chelmon rostratus (scientific name), otherwise called the Longnose Butterflyfish, Australian Copperband Butterflyfish or Long-Beaked Coral Fish, is distinguished by its distinctive coloring patterns and lengthy beak. Copperband Butterflyfishes are carnivorous and have been found to show territory aggression. In most cases, it’s often safer to only keep one per tank. 

Author Note: While these fish may catch your eye at the pet store, they’re not recommended for beginner aquarists. Due to their finicky eating habits and strict care needs, they’re best left to experts with established tanks.


This fish is famous for its vivid orange-gold and pearlescent white or copper bands (hence the copperband name) that run along both sides of its body. These thick stripes are outlined with small black streaks. Toward the end of the dorsal fin, there’s a dark spot that resembles the shape of an eye. This feature is thought to be used to confuse and deter potential predators.

This type of butterflyfish has a compressed triangular body with a long, prominent beak. Its disc-like appearance allows it to dart in and out of tight spaces while it’s hunting for food. The lateral sides are rounded like those of an angelfish. There are also several stiff dorsal spines used for defense that may cause harm if the fish is mishandled.


The tank conditions and level of care you provide will largely determine your copperband’s lifespan. On average, they live to be about six years old. If you meet their ideal diet, tank and stress standards, you can expect your Copperband Butterflyfish to have a lifespan of up to 10 years.

Average Size

Out in the wild, Copperband Butterflyfish have an average size of 8 inches while in captivity only 4-6 inches. As far as the size difference between males and females, there is none since they are about the same size. 

Copperband Butterflyfish Care

The Chelmon rostratus will make for an excellent addition to your tank as long as you’re willing to meet their high-care requirements. Copperband Butterflyfish care consists of providing a specific diet as well as particular water parameters that match their original saltwater habitat. These fish should be left to experienced aquarium keepers who have the time and resources to slowly acclimate their butterflyfish to living in captivity.

Tank Size

For one Copperband Butterflyfish, the recommended tank size is at least 75 gallons and if you have the space try to go for 100 gallons. If you have a bonded pair, it’s better to opt for a minimum tank size of around 125 gallons. Putting your butterflyfish small aquarium can worsen their aggressive tendencies and lead to injuries.

Water Parameters

Water temperature: 75°F to 80°F

pH levels: 8.1 to 8.4

Water hardness: 8 to 12 dKH

Specific gravity: 1.020 to 1.025

Tank Setup

Use several layers of crushed coral or sand as your substrate. These fish need plenty of variety and excitement to keep them entertained and satisfied. When crafting your landscape, consider adding several hiding and feeding places where they can hunt. They tend to gravitate toward live rock structures that are most likely to accumulate bits of food.

Their natural reef environments are full of cracks and caves that butterflyfish can claim as their territory. These sensitive fish can easily become stressed or sick if the conditions in the tank fluctuate. It’s vital to keep the temperature, water quality and lighting as consistent as possible.

Author Note: These fish can tolerate fast water movements, but they prefer a slow and steady current. This makes it easier for them to forage and hide quickly. You don’t have to worry about adding a bubbler for this species.


Since Copperband Butterflyfish usually live so close to the surface, they’re accustomed to regular day and night cycles. Feel free to keep your lighting system on between eight to twelve hours a day. There should be a few shaded areas where they’ll feel comfortable hiding.


Your butterflyfish is incredibly sensitive to water changes. Fluctuations in hardness, pH, water quality or specific gravity will quickly impact the fish’s health. For the best results, invest in a strong filter that will keep your water clean, clear and well-oxygenated. Change out about 10% of the volume every two weeks.


A Copperband Butterflyfish shouldn’t be added to a tank that’s less than six months old. New tank syndrome can be a swift and deadly end to your new addition. After buying a new butterflyfish, keep it safe by moving it temporarily into a quarantine tank.

Author Note: This species will refuse to feed if it’s too stressed or nervous. A separate tank gives it a chance to peacefully acclimate without fighting others for food.

Even if you provide the perfect nutrients and water conditions, you should still be prepared for the possibility that your butterflyfish will just not eat. In this situation, you should return the fish before it dies.

Are Copperband Butterflyfish Reef Safe?

Copperband Butterflyfish are generally considered reef-safe. However, even though they won’t seek out your corals, there’s still a chance they’ll lightly damage them when looking for food. They’re also carnivorous, meaning your shrimps, clams and mollusks could be in danger.

Many butterflyfish owners have no issue keeping coral polyps in the tank with these beautiful fish. You should be cautious when adding this fish if you’re not willing to tolerate any nipping to your invertebrate collection.

Common Possible Diseases & Prevention

Buying an infected butterflyfish could quickly put your whole tank at risk. Common conditions to watch out for are as follows:

  • Marine ich, or white spot disease, can cause white spots and lesions on your fish. 
  • Marine velvet will increase their heart rate and create a rust-colored coating. 
  • The viral Lymphocystis is also highly contagious and produces swellings and white growths. 
  • Uronema marinum creates lesions that can be hard to cure.

Since most illnesses require harsh water treatments that Copperband Butterflyfish can’t tolerate, the most effective option is prevention. Avoid overcrowding, hostile tankmates and stressful conditions. 

Author Note: Before you buy one of these fish, thoroughly examine it for any strange marks, spots, infections or other signs of disease. All new additions to your tank should be quarantined until it’s clear they’re healthy and illness-free.

Food & Diet

In the wild, Copperband Butterflyfish eat worms, sea anemones, shrimp, plankton and sponges. The shipping and processing procedure often results in these fish losing weight, but given the right nutrients, they can recover and thrive. Make sure you get a healthy fish by asking to see it eating before purchase.

They’re most likely to be picky eaters when they first arrive. Entice your new Copperband Butterflyfish with foods like live brine shrimp, blackworms or clams. You can also tuck frozen mysis shrimp and worms into nearby rock crevices to mimic their natural feeding behaviors. Supplementary, high-protein flake food or pellets can be added as necessary.

It’s possible they may only accept live foods like mollusks. You may find you need to feed them several times a day until they’re more receptive to other options. Refrain from overfeeding them as this can put stress on their digestive systems. If you’re lucky, your Copperband Butterflyfish may be partial to eating the invasive Aiptasia population in your tank.

Author Note: Aiptasia are tropical sea anemones mostly known as pests in aquariums because they stress coral and injure fish.

Behavior & Temperament

You can expect these fish to be generally peaceful. When they feel threatened, they’re more likely to react aggressively and defend their territory. If they’re not mated, copperband butterflyfish have no problem living solitary lives.

While watching them during the day, you may find them grazing, foraging or hiding under rocky overhangs. They usually stick to the middle and lower areas while searching for meaty bits. These creative fish use their long, agile snouts to poke around in gaps that other tank mates can’t access.

When spooked, they’ll dart to safety into a shadowed area or cave. If they’re too cold, stressed or sick, they may stop feeding and become more listless or aggressive.

Copperband Butterflyfish Tank Mates & Predators

Copperband Butterflyfish don’t mix well with others of the same species. They may violently defend their territories against perceived threats, resulting in excessive stress and damaged scales. You should also steer clear of putting them in a tank with invertebrates, which they’re likely to eat.

Consider choosing small to medium-sized, friendly fish that won’t compete with your butterflyfish for food. Bigger, more predatory fish should be closely monitored.

Some of the best tankmates for your Copperband Butterflyfish include:


Copperband Butterflyfish are famously hard to breed in captivity. In their natural reef environment, they form monogamous breeding pairs. The female will lay eggs on a rocky surface, which the male will then fertilize. When these eggs hatch, the fry have a unique plating that protects them from predators.

Breeding in captivity is not recommended as the Copperband Butterflyfish can fight to the death if housed with other butterflyfish. Since the males and females are essentially identical, it can be impossible to correctly determine their sex. If you attempt to make a match, it’s vital to carefully monitor your butterflyfish to ensure they don’t hurt each other.

Author Note: If the aggression persists, you should move one of the butterflyfish to another tank. Even if you have luck with establishing a pair, it’s rare to have them successfully lay and hatch eggs. Keeping the young fry and juveniles appropriately fed is often more difficult than caring for the adults.

Wrapping Up

We hope this guide has been a helpful companion on your journey to providing the best care for your copperband butterflyfish. Remember, these elegant creatures require a bit of extra attention, but the rewards are truly worth it. 

Watching them gracefully swim through the water, showcasing their vibrant colors, will bring you endless joy and tranquility. By creating a suitable environment, maintaining proper nutrition, and being mindful of their companions, you can ensure a happy and thriving copperband butterflyfish. 

So, keep learning, experimenting, and sharing your experiences with fellow aquarists.  If you want to learn more about other fish try our Saltwater Care Guides and don’t forget to tag us on Facebook when sharing a nice photo of your Copperband!

Source link

Leave a Reply