African Butterflies

LauraFrog

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I've wanted butterflies (Pantodon) for many years and I'm finally getting around to it but I need a bit of advice on tankmates... the minimum size of fish seems to vary from website to website.

Would rosy barbs be too nippy? I have kept them before and not found them to be overly aggressive or nippy.

Would butterflies eat anything on this list?
Platys
Rosy barbs
Larger tetras ie. serpae

I would also love some opinions on a good tank size for two butterflies. I have a 20 gallon and a 38 gallon free. It goes against the grain to put a four inch long fish in the 20, but the thread on butterflies in the fish index of this forum says 10-15 gals.
 

nmonks

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Would butterflies eat anything on this list?
Platys
Average-sized adults are fine, but fry will obviously be eaten.
Rosy barbs
A bad choice for two reasons. Rosy barbs need cooler water to start with, being subtropical fish, but they're also fin-nippers, so in terms of behaviour would be a risky choice.
Larger tetras ie. serpae
No way! Serpae tetras are far, far too nippy. You'd want to stick with a tetra species known to be completely peaceful, such as Congo tetras.
I would also love some opinions on a good tank size for two butterflies. I have a 20 gallon and a 38 gallon free. It goes against the grain to put a four inch long fish in the 20, but the thread on butterflies in the fish index of this forum says 10-15 gals.
Ten gallons would be far too small for a single butterflyfish, and even a 15-gallon tank isn't really appropriate. These are fairly big fish once mature, and while their body length might only be about 10 cm, their fins are comparatively big. These fish are territorial, and each fish claims a patch at the surface. You need to set aside enough space for each one to have a shady, restful area away from the filter outlet. A ballpark figure would be about a 30 cm square patch per adult. Each such patch will need a source of shade, most easily supplied with a clump of floating plants or some sort of tall plant with trailing leaves, like a giant Vallisneria.

Cheers, Neale
 

M.R Otter

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rosy barbs are going to be a problem (very nippy). but the butterfly fish won't allow the barbs to bully it..... it may bite back or jump out!! african butterfly fish will eat a fish that ventures up to the surface.
 

nmonks

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Except it doesn't work this way in real life. Predatory animals rarely use their offensive firepower for defence. Indeed, African butterflyfish will only use their big mouths when food is presented in a very specific way. It's to do with the way their brains are wired. So anyway, they aren't going to think "Sheesh, those annoying barbs, I think I'll bite 'em and teach 'em a lesson."

I've kept predatory fish many, many times and watched them get bullied by omnivorous or herbivorous fish I thought wouldn't cause problems. Most predators want to be left alone. Their jaws and teeth are too fragile for general use, and only get used (i.e., exposed to mechanical stresses) when absolutely essential (i.e., for feeding). If you think about it, most of the most aggressive fish aren't predators but omnivores or herbivores, cichlids being the classic examples.

Cheers, Neale

but the butterfly fish won't allow the barbs to bully it..... it may bite back or jump out!! african butterfly fish will eat a fish that ventures up to the surface.
 
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LauraFrog

LauraFrog

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Okay, thanks for the advice!!

The other thing I was thinking about was gouramis - I'd especially like a leeri. Some people have told me yes, because it's a peaceful and slow moving fish. Others have said no, any other surface dwellers are out.

Also maybe a krib? I wouldn't try to keep a pair (too territorial when breeding, and ATM I can't really deal with the fry) but would I get away with one, or is it going to be a bit tight with three semi-aggressive fish in there? (The ones available where I live are born and raised in soft water for several generations.)

The 20 gallon is a long, it's 2.5 feet long and about 30cm wide. The 38 is not actually much bigger in surface area - it's 3 feet long and getting onto 40cm wide, but it's almost double the volume of the other one and most of the extra water is in height.
 

nmonks

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Kribs are fine in a really big, deep tank. But there does need to be some 45 cm or more depth for kribs to be 100% safe with African butterflies. Anything less and it's just possible they'll view the butterflies as threats.

Pearl gouramis usually work fine, assuming the tank has sufficient surface area for both species.

In smaller tanks, you're better off getting the African butterflies installed first, perhaps with some type of safe catfish (such as Corydoras) and then once you're happy you've got your head around butterflyfish behaviour and feeding requirements, you can then think about adding tankmates. Adding butterflies to established community tanks tends to be a bit hit and miss.

Cheers, Neale
 
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LauraFrog

LauraFrog

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So which tank would you recommend I use? I'd probably prefer the 20 if I can get away with it, I think there would be enough surface area if I lowered the filter outlet a bit (at the moment the surface gets a bit choppy.) It's full of small tetras at the moment, which I would have to move obviously, but they can stay there for the time being because the tank is not properly cycled. It's still spiking away merrily, so I'll have a few more weeks of WC'ing it daily before I can even think about putting butterflies in it. The other tank (the 38) is not even set up at the moment.

I think I could put 2 butterflies in the 20 gallon, it's 2.5' long and about 30cm wide. I'd be just as happy having one butterfly in there, but most of what I've read about them suggests that they shouldn't be kept alone.

The 20 is not particularly deep so I wouldn't put a krib in it, if I was going to use that tank I'd put some corys and some platys in it.

Would plants that form floating leaves (banana lilies, and Nymphaea if I can get one) be acceptable as cover, mixed with a bit of frogbit? I will not put duckweed in there, I just spent six months eradicating it from my growouts.
 

Icthyophile

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I have kept African Butterflyfish with Moonlight and Blue Dwarf Gouramis before with absolutely no problems.
 

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