Freshwater butterflyfish

Aquarium fish: Freshwater butterflyfish (Pantodon buchholzi)
Size: 12 cm
Origin: Africa
Water temperature: 23-30 ° C
Aquarium volume: 80 l

Freshwater butterflyfish (Pantodon buchholzi ) – an original aquarium fish that, when looking for food, can rise high above the water surface. It is the only representative of the genus Pantodon and the family Pantodontidae, as well as a fairly primitive species belonging to the order Osteoglossiformes, which also includes Arowana .


Africa. It lives in calm waters (slow-flowing rivers, lakes, wetlands) in Nigeria, Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo. Found among dense floating vegetation.

Characteristics and disposition

In nature, it reaches up to 13 cm in length. In an aquarium, it usually does not exceed 10 cm. The pectoral fins resemble wings, the pelvic fins are radially elongated, and the mouth is in the upper position. The gender can be distinguished by looking at the anal fin , the edge of which is deeply indented in males and straight in females. They inhabit the highest parts of the water.

When viewed from above, their pectoral fins resemble the wings of a butterfly – hence the colloquial name of the African Freshwater butterflyfish Fish.. In practice, these fins perform two functions. They help in camouflage, spread out along with the tail fin slightly resemble a leaf floating on the water surface and allow very high jumps and gliding above the water surface. The butterfly uses this ability to catch insects or to escape from predators. The swim bladder of this fish not only helps it to swim, but also takes an active part in gas exchange while breathing the atmospheric air.

This fish spends most of its time in the upper part of the aquarium, usually it floats motionless next to the water surface, waiting for its prey. In the natural environment, it is active in the hours of twilight. Due to its original appearance, interesting behavior and unique character, the butterfly is recommended mainly to experienced aquarists looking for something “different”.

Nutrition and feeding

They eat only foods floating on the surface of the water. In nature, it eats mainly insects.

He only eats larger bites of food, he is not interested in small ones. Its delicacy is spiders, caterpillars, moths, crickets, cockroaches and small fish. You can feed thicker zooplankton, insect larvae and small pieces of meat in the aquarium. Dry foods are not always accepted, and even if so, they should not form the basis of the diet.


They require a minimum aquarium length of 90 cm, preferably with a low (15 – 20 cm) water level and must be covered.

They feel best in soft and sour water, with lots of tannins. Water movement and lighting should be kept to a minimum. The most important decoration are floating plants, the rest below the upper part of the water is practically irrelevant to these fish. They appear less skittish in a tank with a dark substrate. Freshwater butterflyfish moths are generally a peaceful species, but they can eat smaller fish that can fit in their mouths and can be aggressive towards other fish in the upper part of the tank, including their own species.

They should not be kept with fish that are prone to fin-nibbling. Other African species are recommended as residents, such as: Congo tetra, Mruk Petersa ( Gnathonemus petersii ), Synodontis catfish, African knife fish and fish of the genus Ctenopoma and small and medium-sized cichlids from West Africa. In a general aquarium it can be combined with e.g. cuirass , armor and mild cichlids from South America.


Breeding butterflies in captivity is no mean feat .

For this purpose, a tank with a base with dimensions of min. 90 × 30 cm, filled with lots of floating plants. The water should be soft, acidic, in the 6.0-6.5 pH range, and at a temperature of about 26-28 ° C. Spawning can be initiated by gradually lowering the water level by a few centimeters and adding fresh water to the level of about 15 – 20 cm. Fish should be fed with live food more often.

Spawning is preceded by long courtship and may last up to several days. The act takes place among floating vegetation, where the male hugs the female with his fins. The female lays about 100 eggs that float next to the water surface. They should be collected as soon as possible and transferred to a separate aquarium. Parents do not care for their offspring and can eat both eggs and fry.

The eggs are transparent at first but turn brown within hours. Hatching takes place after 3-4 days. Fry are difficult to raise. After hatching, the larvae sink to the bottom, and only after the yolk sac is used up, they swim to the surface, where they passively wait for food to flow to them by itself. During this period, they can be fed with brine shrimp larvae, and later with small springtails, aphids and fruit flies.

The fry are also very sensitive to the deterioration of water parameters. Frequent changes of small amounts of water are essential.


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