People are often attracted to butterflyfish when they see them swimming in pairs. There is something natural about seeing two of them side by side; the sum is certainly greater than the parts. On paper one would think keeping pairs or groups of butterflies would be easy. Some species are even “monogamous”, but like humans, […]
People are often attracted to butterflyfish when they see them swimming in pairs. There is something natural about seeing two of them side by side; the sum is certainly greater than the parts. On paper one would think keeping pairs or groups of butterflies would be easy. Some species are even “monogamous”, but like humans, I often find Chaetodonts can just get sick of one another.
Prognathodes aya – the peacemaker?
After years of cohabitation and friendliness my two Roaops Butterflies, Chaetodon declivis and hybrid Chaetodon tinkeri x burgessi x ?, could not take any more of one another. Sure there was the occasional chase for food or small spat over an evening ‘sleeping spot’, but the rest of the time they could be seen just inches away grazing on the liverock with one another, or zig-zagging across the front glass begging for food. Sadly, this is no longer the case. When Chaetodons turn against one another, it’s not pretty.
Both fish equipped with strong, large and sharp dorsal spines suddenly decided it was in their best interest to charge each other like throwing knives cutting through the water–and eventually each other. While most people think of this group of fish as fragile, delicate and defenseless, once you observe a Chaetodon fight this impression quickly changes as you realize their evolutionary stabbing prowess!
It was clear this was no squabble, but a war. I was forced last weekend to tear apart the aquascape and remove the instigator–the larger Chaetodon declivis. He has since been relegated to a 20g QT tank where the fish is in “time out”.
This is not the first time I’ve had Chaetodons ‘turn’ against one another. Myself and other seasoned aquarists have seen this behavior occur, even in Chaetodons collected as pairs. Smaller territories and less grazing are in my opinion the largest contributors–but alas it’s a guessing game.
As C. declivis is one of my favorite fish, I didn’t want to throw in the towel. The fish has been removed since Saturday and will be reintroduced in two weeks time. Rockwork has been rearranged and a new fish will be added to mix things up–Prognathodes aya. Commonly referred to as the Banks Butterfly, P. aya is a beautiful deepwater species that packs dorsal spines, rivaled only by the very rare and closely related Prognathodes guyanensis. Roaops and Prognathodes generally mix well–in fact a Prognathodes marcellae has been living with both Roaops for many months know with no altercations.
While P. aya was always on the planned stocking list, the timing of this introduction will aid in distracting both Roaops when the Declivis is reintroduced to the display. There is no guarantee it will work, but the more fish to diffuse the tension–the better.
This fish just arrived yesterday and is undergoing treatment. Time will tell if it will prove to be the peacemaker between the two Roaops, and if it will get along well with the established P. marcellae.
To quote my good friend John Coppolino, “What is recommended and what advanced aquarists do are two different things.” Remember that moving fish around like this can be stressful and/or lethal if not done properly.