Klein's Butterflyfish

Sunburst butterflyfish, Blacklip Butterflyfish, Orange Butterflyfish, Bluehead Butterflyfish

Family: Chaetodontidae Klein's Butterflyfish, Chaetodon kleinii, Sunburst butterflyfish, Blacklip ButterflyfishChaetodon kleiniiPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Frank Schneidewind
Latest Reader Comment - See More
I have bought one Klein butterflyfish from the local marine fish shop, and I have to say that I have fallen in love with this fish. It is not only hardy, but also... (more)  Sanchez

The Klein's Butterflyfish is fairly small and durable, making it a great fish for the beginning marine aquarium enthusiasts!

The Klein's Butterflyfish Chaetodon kleinii is not the flashiest or most beautiful butterflyfish, but it is very hardy and inexpensive. It is one of the smaller members of the Chaetodontidae family. It could reach close to 6 inches (15 cm), but will rarely grow over 5 inches (12.5 cm) in the aquarium. This fish exhibits all the grace and beauty of its relatives and has the same characteristic elegant form.

This fish has an oval, disc-like shape with a pretty yellowish brown color. There are one or two broad white bands running vertically down the body and many spotted horizontal stripes on the sides. The body is contrasted with a strong black vertical stripe running across the face that has an almost metallic blue hue just above the eye in the adults. There are many descriptive common names it is known by including Sunburst Butterflyfish, Blacklip Butterflyfish, Orange Butterflyfish, Bluehead Butterflyfish, Whitespotted Butterflyfish, Yellowspot Butterflyfish, and Brown Butterflyfish.

This is one of the few butterflyfish that can be recommended to beginners. It is one of the most durable butterflyfish, but the key to successfully keeping it is getting a strong, healthy specimen. The biggest challenge with these fish seems to be in transportation. So to get the best specimen, make sure sure it has acclimated and is eating before you purchase. Once this fish is acclimated It will take a variety of foods and no special care is needed to maintain it.

It does need a good sized aquarium that is well established. A 55 gallon tank is the minimum size for a single fish, and a much bigger tank will be needed if you want to keep more than one. Decorate the tank with rocks and/or corals with many hiding places along with plenty of swimming space. It swims freely and usually spends a good deal of its time in the open water, traveling along the substrate when looking for items to graze on.

It will work well with a variety of tank mates including moderately aggressive fish. It can also be housed with other butterflyfish, even its own kind, as long as they are all introduced simultaneously. The only caveat here is that two males will fight, and so will have to be separated if that occurs. Many reef-keepers hope to keep it in a mini reef, but like many butterflyfish it can be a coral eater and so is not recommended for a reef tank. Success may be achieved if it is well fed and has carefully selected corals. But it does eat most soft corals as well as sessile invertebrates, and may very well begin to nip on hard coral polyps

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


Geographic Distribution
Chaetodon kleinii
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Chaetodontidae
  • Genus: Chaetodon
  • Species: kleinii
Several Klein's Butterflyfish Cleaning Up Triggerfish Sea Urchin Kill

Report Broken Video
Several Klein's Butterflyfish enjoy a scavenger's feast of sea urchin!

Nice underwater video showing a large group of Klein's butterflyfish enjoying what's left of a sea urchin, likely initially killed by triggerfish. Butterflyfish aren't above scavenging food and sea urchins are normally protected by their long spines, so a full triggerfish provides the best opportunity for the butterflyfish to dig in!

Klein's Butterflyfish - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Size of fish - inches: 5.9 inches (15.01 cm)
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Klein's Butterflyfish Chaetodon kleinii was described by Bloch in 1790. They have a very wide distribution. They are found in the Red Sea, in the Indo-Pacific from eastern coast of Africa and eastward to Hawaii and Samoa, north to southern Japan and south to New South Wales, Australia and New Caledonia as well as in the Eastern Pacific from the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador.

This species is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC). They have a wide distribution and a large population with no major threats identified. Other common names they are known by include Sunburst Butterflyfish, Blacklip Butterflyfish, Orange Butterflyfish, Bluehead Butterflyfish, Brown Butterflyfish, Klein's Coralfish, Kleini Butterflyfish, Black-lipped Butterflyfish, White-spotted Butterflyfish, Whitespotted Butterflyfish, and Yellowspot Butterflyfish.

This species is a member of a group of butterflyfishes that tentatively belong to the subgenus Lepidochaetodon, which may become a distinct genus. This is a small group that consists of 8 species. Also under a junior synonym is the Coral Butterflyfish or Corallicola Butterflyfish Chaetodon corallicola which was described by Snyder in 1904. Later it became known as Chaetodon (Lepidochaetodon) kleinii and was sometimes considered a separate genus, but it is now accepted and recognized as a synonym of C. kleinii. Another easy care member of this group is the Teardrop Butterflyfish Chaetodon unimaculatus.

These butterflyfish are associated with rocky reefs and coral rich areas. They occur in protected lagoons and channels, back reef areas, reef faces and reef slopes. They seem to prefer reefs that have a sandy coral bottom and not much surge. They are found at depths from 13 - 400 feet (4 - 122 m), but are most abundant at depths of less than 33 feet (10 m).

Although they are known to feed primarily on algae and macroalgae they are also known to be facultative corallivores, meaning they will eat a broad range of coral species. They will feed on of soft coral polyps, hard coral polyps, anemones, sponges, and hydroids. They also feed on tiny benthic crustaceans and zooplankton containing copepods, mysid shrimp, crustacean larvae, fish eggs and salps, as well as the tentacles of polychaete worms (tubeworms, spaghetti worms).

Adults are most often seen in pairs, but are also found alone or in loose groups of up to about 30 individuals. Sometimes groups will invade the nests of damselfish to eat the eggs. Adults will also join groups of zooplankton feeding fish that contain some varieties of anthias, damselfish, wrasses, triggerfish, and other butterflyfish. Juveniles will often associate with small surgeonfish (tangs) and other juvenile butterflyfish.

  • Scientific Name: Chaetodon kleinii
  • Social Grouping: Pairs - Adults are usually seen in pairs, though sometimes seen singly or in small groups.
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern

Description

The Klein's Butterflyfish has the typical butterflyfish shape. It has a laterally compressed disc-shaped body with 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 length of about 6 inches (15 cm) in the wild, but most specimens in the aquarium reach about 5 inches (12.5 cm).The lifespan for most of the Chaetodon species is between 5 - 7 years, but these fish can live longer with proper care.

The adult C. kleinii has a yellowish brown color and there are one or two broad white bands running vertically down the body and many spotted horizontal stripes on the sides. There is a strong black vertical stripe running across the face, through the eye, that has an almost metallic blue hue just above the eye and the snout is black. Juveniles are very similar but without the blue coloring to the eyebar.

There are some color variation depending upon where they are from. Those from the western range will usually have a single broad vertical bar that is more beige than white, while the eastern specimen have two white bars. The eastern specimens may also have a darker band between the two lighter bands.

  • Size of fish - inches: 5.9 inches (15.01 cm) - They are usually smaller in the aquarium at about 5" (12.5 cm).
  • Lifespan: 5 years - The average lifespan Chaetodon species is between 5 - 7 years, and possibly longer with proper care.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

This is a durable Butterflyfish that can be suggested for a beginning aquarist. The key to successfully keeping this fish is to get the best possible specimen. To get a strong healthy specimen make sure it has acclimated and is eating before you purchase. This fish will become a hardy pet once it is acclimated and no special care is needed to maintain it. It is not recommended for reef aquariums as it is a coral eater. It will most likely snack on the polyps of stony corals as well as pick at sessile invertebrates.

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

Foods and Feeding

The Klein's Butterflyfish are omnivores, in the wild they feed on algae, macroalgae, a broad range of coral species, and other Cnidarians as well as tiny benthic crustaceans and zooplankton. No special food is needed in the aquarium, they will readily accept a wide variety of foods. Offer Meaty foods, dried flakes, shrimps, and tablets and frozen foods of all kinds including Formula I, Formula II, Angel Formula and spirulina. Several sponge based frozen foods are now available and can also be fed to butterflyfish. Japanese Nori will also be favored. Feed it at least twice a day, and if it is a tiny juvenile feed it 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: Some 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. 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 accommodate their size and to swim, they can reach about 5 inches in length. A 55 gallon 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/or corals with many hiding places, along with open areas fro swimming. This fish is a coral eater, nipping the polyps of hard stony coral species. Consequently it is not recommended for coral-rich reefs

  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places
  • Substrate Type: Mix - Sand + Coral
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting - It can also be kept under very bright light as long as some dark areas are provided.
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° 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 is recommended.
  • Water Region: All - It swims freely and usually spends time in the open water.

Social Behaviors

The Klein's Butterflyfish is best kept in a large fish only live rock (FOLR) community tank. Like many butterflyfish it can be a coral eater and so is not recommended for a reef tank. Success may be achieved if it is well fed and has carefully selected corals. But it does eat most soft corals as well as sessile invertebrates, and may very well begin to nip on hard coral polyps

This is a peaceful fish that can be housed with a variety of tank mates, including moderately aggressive fish. It can also be housed with other butterflyfish, even its own kind, as long as they are all introduced simultaneously. The only caveat here is that two males will fight, and so will have to be separated if that occurs.

Smaller non-aggressive fishes like cardinalfish, gobies, tilefish, fairy basslets, fairy and flasher wrasses are good candidates as tank mates. Larger and rather territorial angelfish like Pomacanthus and Holacanthus can be kept together with this species. Also other angelfish like members of Centropyge, Apolemichthys, Genicanthus, Chaetodontoplus and Pygoplites also can be good tank mates. 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: Yes - Sometimes two males will fight,and then have to be separated.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Safe
    • Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Monitor
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (seahorses, pipefish, mandarins): Monitor
    • Anemones: Monitor
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Monitor
    • LPS corals: Monitor
    • SPS corals: Monitor
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Monitor
    • Leather Corals: Monitor
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Monitor
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Monitor
    • Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Monitor
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe
    • Starfish: Safe
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Monitor
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Safe
    • 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

This species 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

The Klein's Butterflyfish are generally hardy and 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.

This 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.

Availability

This fish is generally readily available in pet stores and online, and is fairly inexpensive.

References

Author: David Brough CFS, Clarice Brough CFS
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Lastest Animal Stories on Klein's Butterflyfish

Sanchez - 2004-09-15
I have bought one Klein butterflyfish from the local marine fish shop, and I have to say that I have fallen in love with this fish.
It is not only hardy, but also clever and cute. I used to put the live Athemias in the strainer and feed my fishes with holding Athemias in the strainer, and suddenly a Klein butterflyfish got into the strainer to eat Athemia, so I could feel his movement, I could really play with him. I recommend beginners to buy this fish. In my opinion, it is fairly pretty. His colour would change to be a bit dull at night time. Now I also have other species of butterflyfish, Angelfish, Clownfish, Wrasses, Tangs, Cardinal, Dottyback as his tankmates, and they can cope well.

  • Anonymous - 2011-02-26
    Mine is eating my corals I hate him for that.
Reply
Adriana - 2004-10-30
This is my favorite butterflyfish. Even though I am an expert marine aquarist, I still like to keep them.

Reply

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