Auriga Butterflyfish: Diet | Size | Breeding | Lifespan | Care Guide

If you have visited your local aquatic store or pet store lately and looked at all the Saltwater Butterflyfish on sale, you will probably have seen the Auriga Butterflyfish – also known as the Threadfin Butterflyfish.

The Auriga Butterflyfish is one of the most commonly sold saltwater Butterflyfish for a number of reasons. Firstly, this Butterfyfish is one of the more hardy species kept in the home aquarium and that, combined with its striking appearance, makes them a best seller.

Secondly, These fish are one of the easiest Butterflyfish to feed. Feeding certain species of Butterflyfish can be very tricky and often leads to their death.

Let’s have a closer look at the wonderful saltwater aquarium Butterflyfish and see if it’s going to be suitable for your aquarium.

Auriga Butterflyfish: Species Profile

Scientific NameChaetodon auriga
Common NamesThreadfin Butterflyfish
Care LevelEasy
Good First Butterflyfish?Yes
Best FoodsAlgae Strips, Veggie Flakes, Omega One Pellets and Live foods
How often should you feed?3-4 Time a day in small portions. Balanced Diet
ColorWhite, Yellow and Black
Size8-8.5” Max
Best Size To Buy3-4"
Reef SafeNo
Ideal Water Temperature72-78° F
OriginFiji, Hawaii, Indonesia, New Caledonia, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Africa
Tank Size Juveniles 100 Gallon Adults 150+
Tank DecorLive Rocks-They will pick at everything!
Desirability Rating3 out of 5 ( Very Common fish )
A wild pair of Auriga Butterflyfish ( Threadfin Butterflyfish )

Threadfin Butterfly Diet

As mentioned in the introduction the Auriga Butterflyfish is one of the easiest Butterflyfish to feed in a home aquarium. They are Omnivores which technically means they are a fish that will eat a variety of food of both plant and animal origin.

As with all new fish purchases, it’s always best to ask the pet store to show you them feeding before you make your purchase, and then buy some of the same food they are using; this ensures that when you first introduce the fish into their new home, they are not being introduced to new foods as well.

This can be too much for the fish to take and often leads them to becoming stressed and they go into starvation and shutdown mode.

We feed our medium ( 3-4” ) to large Butterflyfish (4-8”) a variety of foods to ensure they receive a balanced diet. Our main source of food is Omega One Marine Pellets With Garlic. They seem to be a favorite with many saltwater fish. We also feed them Algae Seaweed Strips held in place on the glass with Aquatic Food Clips.

Their Main diet should consist of meaty foods like Brine Shrimp, fish, crustaceans, mysis shrimp and a selection of frozen meaty foods along with their usual Marine pellet or flake foods.

Feed often and small portions to ensure they receive their share of the food along with all the other fish in the tank.

How Big Do Threadfin Butterflyfish Grow?

In an average sized home aquarium of around 150-200 Gallon these Butterflyfish can reach an impressive size in the region of 8 inches.

In the wild, several species have been seen to reach 9-10” but that’s rare. The best size to purchase an Auriga Butterflyfish is around 3-4″. At this size, they are hardy enough to cope with traveling and their acclimation into a new home. They will also be able to accept most foods at this size.

What’s the lifespan of a Butterflyfish in a home aquarium?

Believe it or not, the average Butterflyfish in a well-kept home aquarium will outlive a wild fish. This is due to their environment and feeding habits in the wild.

Most Butterflyfish in a home aquarium can live to around 10 years and in the wild, this can be as low as 6-7 years.

In a home aquarium, their water conditions can be carefully monitored and kept within a very small tolerance with their diet being plentiful and varied. In the wild certain areas of the ocean can lack the foods they need to survive. They then have the added risk of attack from predators and even fishermen. In a home aquarium, all these dangers have been avoided.

Are Threadfin Butterflyfish Reef Safe?

No, Bristleworms, tubeworms, corals and coral polyps and other small invertebrates are also a part of the diet for many Butterflyfish and Threadfins are no different.

These fish are constantly in search of food and nip and pick at rocks and corals with their long mouths which are packed with sharp teeth. This is why they are unsuitable for a reef aquarium; they would cause major damage to a thriving reef aquarium within days.

Red Sea species lack the false eye spot on the dorsal fin

Can You Keep Multiple Butterflyfish In The Same Aquarium?

Yes, Auriga Butterflyfish will ignore most other fish and are generally peaceful, therefore multiple Butterflyfish can live together in harmony. You should however, be cautious about keeping similar species together unless they are a matched pair and possibly a breeding pair.

Suitable fish to keep with these amazing Butterflyfish are Dwarf Lionfish, Wrasse, Clownfish, Pajama Cardinals, Diamond Watchman Goby, Sailfin Tangs and Foxfaces.

If you’re lucky enough to own a very large aquarium, you can have a large school of around 10-12 of these as long as you have plenty of rocks and caves. They look incredible in large schools. We visited a public aquarium last year and saw just that. A 10,000 gallon aquarium with around 20-30 of these fish in one big school. WOW! What an amazing sight it was!

However, since most of us only have a 100-200 Gallon aquarium one of these species is usually a good idea.

Breeding Characteristics of the Threadfin Butterflyfish

Threadfin Butterflyfish are an egg-laying species that scatter their eggs. These fish pair for life and will only seek out a new partner if one of them dies.

During spawning, the female will release her eggs in mid-water and the male will fertilize them. Spawning seems to be triggered by tidal movements and the lunar cycle. The larvae of the Threadfin Butterflyfish will go through a stage called “tholichthys where they form a covering to protect them. They hatch in 28-30 hours after drifting around in the ocean as free-floating plankton.

These fish have rarely been seen breeding in captivity and although studies show that they are gonochoristic (they are either male or female and don’t change gender), they are almost impossible to sex from appearance only. So the chance of finding a mating pair in a home aquarium is almost nil.
No sexual difference is noted for this species.

Threadfin Butterfly Facts

  • Species found in the Red Sea lack the distinctive Black Eye Spot on the rear of the dorsal fin
  • It’s sometimes known as Chaetodon Auriga
  • It is impossible to sex them from their looks
  • At night their color darkens
  • They can handle much lower temperatures than other Butterflyfish
  • They form monogamous pairs for life but will find new partners if one of them dies
  • In the wild, their eggs hatch within 30 hours of spawning
  • In the wild, they feed in large schools

Auriga Butterflyfish Appearance

They have an oval body with white and black lines running up through their body away from their head. More markings run down towards the base of the fish.

They have a thicker black bar that runs through their eye and a false eyespot on its dorsal fin. However, Red Sea specimens tend to lose the eyespot (which is there to confuse predators). Overall they have a lovely yellow, white and black color with blue and black edging on their fins. But what makes them so attractive, is their striking black false eyespot on the dorsal fin.

As with many species of fish, the Butterfly’s color and markings can vary with the region of origin, size of fish and even time of day. They go darker at night as a form of camouflage and blend into the rocks to rest or sleep. If you want to know if the Auriga Butterflyfish sleeps, it’s worth reading our article: do fish sleep? Read if they do or not in this article. It’s an interesting topic.

Conclusion: Auriga Butterflyfish Care Guide

These wonderful fish will grace any saltwater aquarium and adapt to their new home better than any other Butterflyfish we know.

Being a hardy fish, the Auriga Butterflyfish is one of the easier of the Butterflyfish species for the beginner aquarist. They tend to acclimate quickly, are generally resistant to disease and happily eat a large variety of foods. Although they need a larger aquarium than other fish, the water temperature is relatively easy to stabilize; preferring a temperature of between 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C), they actually survive in the wild in lower temperatures – one of the factors which make the Auriga Butterflyfish a hardy and sturdy aquarium resident.

Inexpensive, easy to feed and readily available makes them a winner in our book. Don’t confuse this fish with the Saddleback Butterflyfish which looks similar: It has been reported that a hybrid of the two species has been seen, but this has not been confirmed and no hybrid species is yet to be seen for sale to the public.