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  • Copperband Butterfly (Chelmon rostratus)

    Chelmon rostratus (Copperbanded Butterflyfish)

    One of the most exotic looking yet inexpensive and readily available Butterflyfish is the Chelmon rostratus (Copperbanded Butterflyfish). They have a large natural range covering the Indo-west Pacific. Most tank specimens are in the 5-7 range and need a tank of at least 75 gallons with ample liverock, in which they spend most of their time inspecting every nook and cranny with their elongated mouth looking for an easy snack. While they may require special attention in regards to acclimation, diet and water quality their endearing personality makes it well worth the effort. They are fairly well behaved in a reef tank but will usually eat Feather Dusters, and small worms. A few may nip large polyps stony corals or clam mantles. Selecting a healthy specimen and housing it with proper tank mates are two of the most important keys to success with this species. SelectionWhen selecting a specimen look carefully at the mouth and nose for any signs of injury or damage. These delicate areas can be easily injured during capture and shipment and often result in secondary infections or cause the animal not to eat. Make sure the body is full especially in the area just below the dorsal fin. If it is sunken it is a sign of long-term lack of nutrition and few fish recover without special treatment and care (such as housing it its own tank and feeding it 4-5 times a day). When observing the fish it should be on an almost constant hunt of the rocks and/or plants looking for small worms to eat. With the Copperbanded Butterflyfish you will increase your chances of success greatly if it is already eating at the store. I recommend asking to see it eat and note what foods they have been using.

    As the size of their mouth would suggest they can only eat very small particles. I have yet to see one pass up small feather dusters that come as hitch hikers on live rock so if you have a prized colony of them a Copperband will make short work of them. A few foods to have on hand to try are mysis shrimp, raw shrimp, live brine shrimp, frozen brine shrimp. Small steamer clams and mussel still in the shell can also be used but be sure to promptly remove and uneaten portion as they can quickly decay and pollute your aquarium. Freeze dried plankton presoaked in a little tank water is also a good choice. They often become quite tame and will eat from your fingers. They are not aggressive feeders at first and as such should not be housed with aggressive tank mates. Once they are eating well and settle in to your tank they will come to the surface and beg for food with the rest of their tank mates.

    Unless your tank is very large (180+ gal) or the Copperband is established in the tank first, most Tangs and large Angelfish will not tolerate the addition of a Butterflyfish. Pygmy Angelfishes are more accepting but a well-established individual may chase and harass the newcomer. It will usually ignore most invertebrates such as ornamental shrimp, hermit crabs, and starfish. With the proper selection, housing, and diet this is a long-lived species that has quite the personality and well worth the effort required to meet its special needs.

    Kevin Pockell

    Comments 8 Comments
    1. Krish's Avatar
      Krish -
      Very nice article once again Kevin! Thanks for adding these for us.
    1. WABlonde's Avatar
      WABlonde -
      I think you just sold me on adding a CBB to my tank!
    1. NC2WA's Avatar
      NC2WA -
      IMO, I would treat this as a delicate fish as the survivor rate is low.
      Unless, you see this fish eating in front of you at a LFS, I would pass. The majority of deaths are from starvation.

    1. Paul B's Avatar
      Paul B -
      Copperbands are one of my favorite fish although I can't get them to live decades like they should, I usually get quite a few years from them. I have followed them in the sea and their main diet is live worms. They pull them from holes in the rock and that is what they should be fed. Live blackworms will greatly help them stay alive and healthy.
    1. Emerald525's Avatar
      Emerald525 -
      Nice tip about the tangs. I purchased a Klein's butterfly and had to rehome it because my powder brown tang beat up on it.
    1. MY WORLD's Avatar
      MY WORLD -
      My copperband is a aptasia eating monster.. also eats mysis like a pig But make sure u see the fish is eating frozen food.. before you buy
    1. Somethings Fishy's Avatar
      Somethings Fishy -
      agree with last post.
    1. capdippe's Avatar
      capdippe -
      Does it matter if the worms are live or frozen? And I just want to confirm that if the fish is starving I should look just under it's black dot for pinching?
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