Golden Butterflyfish

Masked Butterflyfish, Bluecheek Butterflyfish, Blue Mask Butterflyfish

Family: Chaetodontidae Golden Butterflyfish, Chaetodon semilarvatus, Masked Butterflyfish, Bluecheek ButterflyfishChaetodon semilarvatusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Greg Rothschild
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I have a Golden Butterfly and have had him for 6 months. And you are right, he is very beautiful and the showpiece of my 125 gallon aquarium where I have a good... (more)  Bob

The Golden Butterflyfish is a beautiful attraction as a marine pet and is also very popular among divers!

The Golden Butterflyfish Chaetodon semilarvatus is an exceptional beauty hailing from the Red sea. It is often seen among areas of rich coral growth, sometimes just hanging out under the ledges of Acropora plate corals. It is a favorite for scuba divers to observe and photograph, and it is usually fearless making it possible to approach at close range. This pretty fish is also much sought after in the aquarium hobby though it does command a relatively high price.

This is a very popular and widely known butterflyfish. It's an absolutely astounding species with its large size, vibrant colors, and graceful swimming movements. Adults can reach impressive lengths of about 12 inches (30 cm) in the wild, though they are more common at about 9 inches (23 cm). Its color pattern is also striking. There is a bold dark bluish mask contrasting nicely with its bright yellow body and delicate red stripping. These features have influenced a number of other common names by which it is described, including Masked Butterflyfish, Bluecheek Butterflyfish, Blue Mask Butterflyfish, Red-lined Butterflyfish, Addis Butterflyfish, and Blue Cheeked Butterflyfish.

This is one of the easier butterflyfish to keep in a captive environment. It makes a great choice for an intermediate aquarist with some fish keeping experience. Once acclimated it will become a hardy pet that can be kept for several years. No technical care is needed to maintain it. It will take a variety of foods and once it is comfortable it will even go up to the surface to take foods from its keeper. Though not a very quick swimmer, it swims freely and usually spends a good deal of its time in the open water.

This fish does need a spacious aquarium with plenty of hiding places as well as open areas to swim. A 100 gallon tank is the minimum suggested size for a single fish. It will need some rockwork, preferably well developed live rock, that offers caves or overhangs along with plenty of swimming space. Many reef-keepers hope to keep the Golden Butterflyfish in a mini reef, but as it will be a coral eater it is best kept in a fish only community tank.

This is not an aggressive fish and can do well in a fish only community tank kept with a variety of other species that are not overly territorial or aggressive. It can be territorial to its own species and towards similar Butterflyfish, so does best if kept singly. However pairs or small groups can be maintained in a larger aquarium. It can also be kept with some of the larger and rather territorial genera of angelfish like the Pomacanthus and Holacanthus as well the smaller Centropyge genus and a number of others.

For more Information on keeping saltwater fish see:
Marine Aquarium Basics: Guide to a Healthy Saltwater Aquarium


Geographic Distribution
Chaetodon semilarvatus
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Chaetodontidae
  • Genus: Chaetodon
  • Species: semilarvatus
Golden Semilarvatus Butterflyfish

Report Broken Video
Golden Butterflyfish (Chaetodon semilarvatus) at LiveAquaria.com

Nicely shot short video of a Golden Butterflyfish swimming amongst rocks and tankmates in its aquarium. The video has quite a few clear and closeup shots of this very pretty fish.

Golden Butterflyfish - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gal (379 L)
  • Size of fish - inches: 11.8 inches (30.00 cm)
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 79.0° F (23.9 to 26.1° C)
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Golden Butterflyfish Chaetodon semilarvatus was described by Cuvier in 1831, and was first collected in the Red Sea. This species was long regarded as an endemic to the Red Sea but recent diving observations have revealed that it occurs also in Gulf of Aden and also in southern Oman (one record from the latter).

This species is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC). They have a wide distribution and are generally common. Though they associate with corals, there have been no declines in populations recorded from coral depletion. Other common names they are known by include Masked Butterflyfish, Bluecheek Butterflyfish, Blue Mask Butterflyfish, Red-lined Butterflyfish, Addis Butterflyfish, and Blue Cheeked Butterflyfish.

These butterflyfish are found at reef slopes or over hanging reef plate corals at depths between 10 - 66 feet (3 - 20 meters). They are sometimes seen in great aggregations of about 20 individuals and sometimes up to 50-60 or more, but usually mated pairs are encountered in their natural habitat. They can be observed resting almost motionless under large Acropora table corals usually in the morning, and become more active in the late afternoon.

  • Scientific Name: Chaetodon semilarvatus
  • Social Grouping: Pairs - They are usually seen in pairs, but sometimes will be part seen in moderate to large groups.
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern

Description

The adult Golden Butterflyfish is very distinctly shaped and colored. The body is disc-like and laterally compressed and it has a protruding snout tipped with a small mouth. The dorsal fin is continuous and it has a rounded tail fin. This species can reach a total length of about reach 12 inches (30 cm) in the wild, though are more common at about 9 inches (23 cm). Their average lifespan is between 5 - 7 years but could live much longer, up to 12 years, with proper care.

The body of an adult C. semilarvatus is entirely bright yellow. It has about 13 vertical narrow orangish lines, broadening slightly in the abdominal area. There is a triangular black patch just behind its black eye, covering the gill opening and reaching the chest area. The fins are yellow except the pectoral ones which are translucent, the dorsal and anal fins have a narrow blue submarginal line, and the caudal fin is translucent posteriorly. Juveniles very similar but with a black band through the eye instead of triangular patch.

  • Size of fish - inches: 11.8 inches (30.00 cm) - They are more common at about 9 inches (23 cm) and most available specimens are around 5 1/2 inches (14 cm).
  • Lifespan: 5 years - The average lifespan is between 5 - 7 years, but could live as much as 12 years with proper care.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Golden Butterflyfish is one of the easier butterflyfish to keep in a captive environment. No technical care is needed to maintain it, it will take a variety of foods and can be kept for several years. As it will harm polyps of some stony and soft coral species, it is not recommended for reef-type aquariums.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

The Golden Butterflyfish are omnivores, in the wild these butterflyfish are known to primarily eat live coral polyps, but also feed on sessile invertebrates and zooplankton. Provide Meaty foods, dried flakes, shrimps, and tablets. Japanese Nori (Asakusa-nori) will also be favored. Offer various foods quite frequently at first. Once it is successfully acclimated it will become a very hardy and long lived fish. Feed it at least twice a day, and if it is a tiny juvenile feeding should be tried three to four times everyday.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Most of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Offer various foods quite frequently at first. Once acclimated adults need at least 2 feedings a day and juveniles need 3 to 4.

Aquarium Care

No special care or technique is needed to maintain this fish in the aquarium and it will become a fairly hardy pet. Though not a very quick swimmer it swims freely, usually spending a good deal of its time in the open water and moving in and out of crevices. Frequent water changes are not necessary, rather normal water changes at 10% biweekly or 20% monthly are fine. Sudden massive water changes can cause trouble.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly - Change 10% biweekly or 20% monthly and avoid sudden massive water changes.

Aquarium Setup

These fish need a lot of space to swim as they can reach up to a whopping 12 inches in length. A 100 gallon (380 liters) tank is the minimum size for a single fish, and a bigger tank will be needed if you want to keep more than one. The tank should be well decorated with rocks and corals with many hiding places, even for adults. But they also need plenty of open space for swimming. This fish is a coral eater, nipping the polyps of hard stony coral species. It will also feed on other sessile invertebrates. Consequently it is not recommended for coral-rich reefs.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gal (379 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places
  • Substrate Type: Mix - Sand + Coral
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting - It is best kept under the normal lighting conditions, but can also be kept under very bright light as long as some dimly lit spaces are provided.
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 79.0° F (23.9 to 26.1° C) - This species lives in tropical areas. Temperatures of 75 -79° F (24 - 26° C) will serve them well, avoid temperatures higher than 86° F (30° C) or below 72 ° F (22° C).
  • Specific gravity: 1.020-1.025 SG
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Weak - Water movement is not a significant factor. It can tolerate a rather strong flow but slow-moving water will be more favorable
  • Water Region: All - It swims freely and usually spends time in the open water.

Social Behaviors

This butterflyfish will do well in a fish only community tank that is well decorated with rocks and corals providing many hiding places. It is a non-reef safe fish. Although it does well in a coral-rich tank, it will nip some species of hard and soft corals.

As this species is not an aggressive fish so it is best to select tank mates that are not overly territorial or aggressive. As it can be territorial to its own species and towards similar Butterflyfish, it does best if kept singly. However pairs or small groups can be maintained in a larger aquarium. It can be kept with some of the larger and rather territorial angelfishes like members of the Pomacanthus and Holacanthus genera. Centropyge along with other angelfish members of Apolemichthys, Genicanthus, Chaetodontoplus and Pygoplites can also be good tank mates.

Smaller non-aggressive fishes like cardinalfish, gobies, tilefish, fairy basslets, fairy and flasher wrasses are also good candidates as tank mates. But small but very territorial fishes like dottybacks should be avoided. Such fish as Basses or scorpionfish, even if they are small enough, should also be avoided.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes - Pairs or small groups can be maintained in a larger aquarium.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor
    • Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (seahorses, pipefish, mandarins): Monitor
    • Anemones: Threat
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Threat
    • LPS corals: Threat
    • SPS corals: Threat
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Threat
    • Leather Corals: Threat
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Threat
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Threat
    • Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Threat
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Monitor
    • Starfish: Threat
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Threat
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Threat
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Threat

Sex: Sexual differences

No sexual difference is noted for this species. Butterflyfish species studied up to this time indicate that these fish are gonochoristic, meaning that each fish is either a male or a female and they do not change sex.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Golden Butterflyfish has not been cultivated in captivity. In the wild butterflyfish are pelagic spawners that release many tiny eggs into the planktonic water column where they float with the currents until they hatch. Once hatched the fry are in a post-larval where their body, extending from the head, is covered with large bony plates.

Marine butterflyfish have not reportedly been spawned successfully in captivity. There are, however, reports of some success in rearing wild collected larvae of some of the corallivorous butterflyfish. It is hoped these captive reared fish will be adapted to accept aquarium foods, and thus broaden the species selections that can be sustained in captivity. For more information see, Marine Fish Breeding: Butterflyfish.

  • Ease of Breeding: Unknown

Fish Diseases

Many of the Chaetodon members are often very colorful and attractive to aquarists. Unfortunately some of them are rather difficult to keep for a long period. Some are exclusively coral eaters, and sometimes they suffer from "ich" (white spot disease) and other infectious diseases. Problems with disease are reduced in a well maintained aquarium. Any additions to a tank can introduce disease, so it's advisable to properly clean or quarantine anything that you want add to an established tank prior to introduction.

Diseases that marine Butterflyfish are susceptible to include Marine Ich(white spot disease), Marine Velvet, Uronema marinum, and Lymphocystis. Some can be treated successfully with medical care or copper drugs, but some species hate sudden changes of water including pH, temperature, or any drug treatment. In the wild a cleaner wrasse (Labroides sp.) will help them by taking parasites from their bodies, however these wrasses are extremely difficult to sustain in captivity. Alternative fish such as Neon Gobies (Gobiosoma spp.) can help them by providing this cleaning service in the home aquarium.

The Golden Butterflyfish is a stony coral eater and it can also be sensitive to some drugs. Be sure to observe this fish closely when medicating it, so you can remove it if it shows signs of stress. For information about saltwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

"I have kept some seven specimens ranging from 7-13 cm in a community fish tank. They showed a great display without any trouble. White spot disease attacked them on occasion. Generally they were infected from other new comers, but they successfully recovered by using only an appropriate copper sulfate." ...Hiroyuki Tanaka

Availability

The Golden Butterflyfish or Mask Butterflyfish is commonly seen at retailers. Most available specimens are around 4 inches (10 cm) long, juveniles less than 2 inches (5 cm), though possibly obtainable, are more scarce.
This fish commands a fairly high price at about $120.00 to $250.00 USD, but this is much lower than in the past. Some twenty years ago they cost well over $450.00 - $500.00 USD.

References

Author: Hiroyuki Tanaka, Clarice Brough CFS
Lastest Animal Stories on Golden Butterflyfish

Bob - 2011-09-12
I have a Golden Butterfly and have had him for 6 months. And you are right, he is very beautiful and the showpiece of my 125 gallon aquarium where I have a good size butterfly collection.

    Reply
    Richelle - 2010-03-15
    I think the golden butterfly fish is very pretty. It has a wonderful bright color. I think that it should be my pet someday but my parents will never approve.

    Reply
    Valerie - 2009-04-16
    I think the golden butterflyfish is very very pretty and I am writing an essay on it!

    Reply

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