The Pakistan Butterflyfish is a beauty noted for its pretty red tail, so is also known as the Redtail Butterflyfish!

The Pakistan Butterflyfish Chaetodon collare is a handsome fish widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific seas. It is a joy for both aquarists and divers to observe with its graceful swimming movement and attractive colors. In nature it lives in shallower waters at depths of only 10 to 50 feet (3 – 15 m). It often inhabits coral reefs along the edges and upper slopes. But it also dwells among rocky reefs where corals are in short supply. This fish hangs out relatively stationary above its abode and is not intimidated by the approach of admiring divers.

This is a moderately sized butterflyfish with adults usually growing to about 6 1/2 inches (16 cm) in length. But the coloring and the delicate cross-hatch patterning on the body are incredible. It has a rich chocolate brown body interlaced in a cross-hatch pattern with golden orange spots and has a strong vertical white stripe running down its head across the cheek. Butits most spectacular element is the strong orangish-red tail fin seen on the adult. This color pattern has led to several common names including Red-tailed Butterflyfish, Collare Butterflyfish, Redtail Butterflyfish, Brown Butterflyfish and Collared Butterflyfish, along with Pakistani Butterflyfish and Pakistani Butterfly.

You can often find these handsome butterflyfish available for your marine aquarium, but they can be a difficult fish to keep. In nature it is known to eat coral polyps as well as fanworms, but is also adept at feeding on algae if corals are in short supply. In captivity however, they vary in their willingness to accept food substitutes. Most need a few days to adjust after introduction to the tank. Juveniles around 3 inches (8 cm) in length seem to be the most wiling to eat. Overall they are moderately difficult to maintain and are suggest for aquarists who are more experienced.

Theywill need a good sized aquarium that is well established. 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. Decorate the tank with rocks creating many caves for hiding places along with plenty of swimming space. They will swim freely and usually spends a good deal of its time in the open water.

Keeping this butterflyfish in a reef environment is a judgment call. It is relatively safe with stony corals as long as the reef tank is large, well stocked, and they are provided with a proper and nutritious diet. However it does eat coral polyps in nature and may snack on live polyps, so keep a watchful eye.

These are peaceful fish and suitable for a community tank with other peaceful inhabitants. They shouldn’t be kept with more aggressive fish as they are prone to become shy. They can be territorial and aggressive towards other members of their own kind, and sometimes other butterflyfish. However the success rate in keeping these fish is better when they are kept as a pair. To keep two, it helps to introduce them at the same time and make sure they have plenty of space.

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

Pakistan Butterflyfish, Chaetodon collare

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Butterflyfish in aquarist’s tank

The Pakistan Butterflyfish can be housed with some of the more noxious soft corals; however, none of the stony corals. They will nip on sessile inverts like polyps that grow on live rock, and can be fed any marine flesh including fish and crustacean flesh as well as mysis and frozen prepared foods. Their coloring is very unique making it a sought after butterflyfish, however their care is moderately difficult and should only be attempted by an intermediate to advanced aquarist. Fish under 3″ (8 cm) fail to eat and thrive, so choose larger juveniles for best results. They will not eat for several days when they first arrive, so providing a crop of polyps for them to eat in the beginning may help as they adjust to captivity and new foods. They reach 7″ and need a tank that is 125 gallons or more. If keeping more than one, add them at the same time and in a tank that is at least 250 gallons. These peaceful butterflyfish should be kept with other peaceful, non aggressive fish.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Chaetodontidae
  • Genus: Chaetodon
  • Species: collare
Pakistani Butterflyfish – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Size of fish – inches: 7.9 inches (20.07 cm)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8&deg C)
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Pakistan Butterflyfish Chaetodon collare was described by Bloch in 1787. It is found in the Indonesia-Philippines region and certain places in the Indian Ocean including India, Sri Lanka, the Maldive Islands, Pakistan, the Gulf of Oman, and the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula.

This fish is one of a closely related group of butterflyfishes that belong to the subgenus Rabdophorus, which may eventually become a distinct genus. This is a large group that are being identified as related through modern DNA sequence data.

This species is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC). They have a wide distribution and there are no major threats currently identified. Although they will feed on corals, reductions in their population has not been documented even though some coral reefs are in decline. Other common names they are known by include Red-tailed Butterflyfish, Collare Butterflyfish, Brown butterflyfish, Redtail Butterflyfish, Collared butterflyfish, Pakistani Butterflyfish, and Pakistani Butterfly.

These butterflyfish are found at depths between 10 – 49 feet (3 -15 m). Their natural habitat is most often coral reefs along the edges and upper slopes, but they also inhabit rocky reefs where corals are in short supply. Juveniles will often be found in estuaries. They are relatively stationary and not easily intimidated, allowing divers to approach to a close range. They usually live in pairs or sometimes in groups of up to about 20 individuals. They feed on coral polyps, tubeworms, tunicates, crustaceans, and algae, especially if corals are in short supply.

  • Scientific Name: Chaetodon collare
  • Social Grouping: Pairs – They are usually seen in pairs, though sometimes in groups of up to 20 individuals.
  • IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern


The Pakistan Butterflyfish has a round disc-like body that is laterally compressed and has a protruding snout tipped with a small mouth. The dorsal fin is continuous and it has a truncated tail fin. This species generally reaches a length of almost 6 1/2 inches (16 cm) in the wild, but there are reports of specimens growing to almost 7 3/4 inches (18 cm). The lifespan for most of the Chaetodon species is between 5 – 7 years, but these fish have been said to live up to 10 years with proper care.

The body of the adult C. collare has a chocolate brown in the background interlaced with golden to deep orangish spots, giving it a cross-hatch pattern. It has a vertical white stripe running down its head across the cheek and a orangish-red tail fin. Juveniles are very similar but with green on the tail rather than red.

A similar looking species is the Reticulated Butterflyfish Chaetodon reticulatus from the Western Pacific. But unlike the Pakistani, this relative is lacking the red tail. The vertical band on its face is narrower too, and has a yellow hue to it making it appear paler. The Reticulated is also much harder to keep as it is an obligatory coralfeeder.

  • Size of fish – inches: 7.9 inches (20.07 cm) – Though they reportedly can reach 7.9″, they generally grow to a length of 6.4″ (16 cm).
  • Lifespan: 5 years – Theirverage lifespan is between 5 – 7 years, but have been reported to live up to 10 years with proper care.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

This fish can be difficult to acclimate and some individuals will refuse aquarium foods. They are also generally difficult to keep and need optimal water quality maintained. Consequently they are suggested for the more experienced, intermediate aquarist. It is not suggested for the reef aquarium as corals are part of its natural diet.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate – They are suggested for the more experienced intermediate aquarist.

Foods and Feeding

The Pakistan Butterflyfish are omnivores, in the wild they feed on coral polyps, tubeworms, tunicates, crustaceans, and algae. They need a few days to adjust after they’ve been introduced, but some specimens will simply refuse to eat. Juveniles around 3 inches (8 cm) in length seem to be the most wiling to accept aquarium food. Offer Meaty foods, dried flakes, shrimps, and tablets. Try feeding a good angel or spirulina formula. Japanese Nori will also be favored. They may eat live brine shrimp but will not thrive on that diet alone. 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: 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

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, avoid sudden massive water changes.

Aquarium Setup

These fish need a lot of space to accommodate their size and to swim, they can reach over 6 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, but also have open areas for swimming. In a reef environment this fish is relatively safe with stony corals. The best success is a large reef that is well stocked and a proper and nutritious diet is provided.

  • 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 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: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8&deg 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

The Pakistan Butterflyfish is safest kept in a large fish only live rock (FOLR) community tank. It does well in a coral-rich tank and is relatively safe with stony corals. However it does eat coral polyps in nature and may snack on some polyps in the aquarium. It will also eat on tunicates, worms and crustaceans.

This butterflyfish is prone to being shy if kept with other more aggressive tankmates. Smaller, non-aggressive fishes like cardinalfish, gobies, tilefish, sometimes other species butterflyfish, fairy basslets, fairy and flasher wrasses, etc. also 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 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.

This species should be kept singly unless the tank is very large. It can be territorial and aggressive towards other members of its own kind, however the success rate in keeping these fish is better when they are kept as a pair. To keep two, it helps to introduce them at the same time and make sure they have plenty of space. It is sometimes quarrelsome with other butterflyfish though they generally won’t cause any harm.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – A pair has the greatest chance of being successfully kept. But they are aggressive to their own kind unless the tank is large and they should be introduced at the same time.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor – It is prone to being shy if kept with other more aggressive tankmates.
    • Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat
    • Monitor
    • Anemones: Monitor
    • Mushroom Anemones – Corallimorphs: Monitor
    • LPS corals: Monitor
    • SPS corals: Monitor
    • Leather Corals: Monitor
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Monitor
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Monitor
    • Zoanthids – Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Monitor
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat
    • Starfish: Monitor
    • 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

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

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 Pakistan 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.


The Pakistan Butterflyfish, also called the Redtail Butterflyfish, is readily available online and is often available in pet stores. It is usually moderately expensive in price.