How to Feed the Copperband Butterfly Fish: A Quick Guide

In spite of being eye-catching and peaceful, some species of fish aren’t meant for beginners to own. One example is the beaked coral fish, a fun-looking, yet shy fellow whose feeding habits are rather complicated to cater to in an aqu​arium setting. In this article, we will provide you with some useful insight into its biology and preferred menu.

Copperband Butterfly Fish Feeding Habits

Known by its binomial nomenclature of Chelmon rostratus in the scientific community, the copperband butterfly is a reef-dwelling species most commonly found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Due to its vivid appearance and serene nature, it became a staple in the aquarium trade. It is easily recognizable through its long snout and yellow banding.

In fact, its unique appearance and preferred place of residence in the deep sea are what earned it its other popular name of beaked coral fish. Even though this little swimmer will look stunning your saltwater aquarium, it is quite a difficult pet to own. The copperband butterfly fish is a creature of habit, and nurturing it takes time.

Animal Planet describes the copperband butterfly fish as a solitary and peaceful species that thrives in nonviolent community tanks. It does not play well with others of its kind, as it has a hard time feeding itself as is. In the wild, it is a carnivorous marine being, but a timid one. Their main prey consists of glass anemones, which they pick out of crevices with their long snouts.

Polychaete tube worms are its second preferred meal in the ocean. Other than that, copperband butterfly fish sometimes gnaw on the meat of small crustaceans, as well as some coral polyps here and there. This makes caring for this species in an aquarium setting a real challenge for many aquarium aficionados, and many end up with withering fish on their hands.

Copperband Butterfly Fish

Training Your Copperband to Eat Properly

One quick search within forums dedicated to fish tank owners and marine life enthusiasts will unveil that many hobbyists have had a hard time with getting their new copperband butterfly fish to eat. It is a well-known fact in the community that this species tends to wither and die in spite of their proprietors’ best efforts.

This has caused many to simply rule out copperband butterfly fish as tank additions that don’t live long and must be replaced every now and then. However, it is important to note at this point that one single aquatic creature of this class has a life span of 10 years out in the wild. So, why can’t we get them to successfully survive in an aquarium?

While it might seem like an issue that is impossible to solve, this question has a simple answer, and it has to do with training. The key to extending the life span of your beaked coral fish inside the tank consists of teaching it how to feed itself successfully. Of course, you will have to do your due diligence and provide it with adequate meals.

The secret behind enforcing this new technique lies in understanding the copperband butterfly fish’s biology beforehand. They are poor hunters whose natural feeding instincts consist of probing into coral crevices and mining out small meaty creatures. Their bristle-like teeth help with the extraction process.

Thus, you should never expect this fish to prey on its meals inside the tank or go into a feeding frenzy and put on a show. Its mealtime performance is meek at best. It prefers to stay hidden while foraging for tidbits, which is something it cannot really do confined between glass walls. So, what is the solution exactly?

The best way to train your copperband butterfly fish to eat while still respecting its primal predispositions is by throwing whole clams still in their shell inside the tank. You can save the shells for later and stuff scallops inside as well. Contrary to popular belief, freshwater shrimp mysis isn’t necessarily a preferred meal for this species.

By offering the beaked coral fish meaty foods it can easily forage itself, you will most definitely notice an improvement in their dietary habits. Furthermore, any leftover clam or scallop bits will definitely be devoured by their saltwater tankmates, as this is a fairly delectable snack. In this way, you will solve food waste issues and keep your butterflyfish fat, healthy, and happy.

The Bottom Line

Caring for a copperband butterfly fish in a saltwater aquarium setting is not a task fit for a beginner hobbyist. However, if you have some experience with marine life and would like to add this peaceful fellow to your collection, there is a simple solution to its feeding time problems. Train the little guy to forage in the tank, and it will prosper.

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Jennifer Wood

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