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    Japanese Aquarist Has Success with Obligate Corallivore Butterflyfish

    Obligate coral feeding butterflyfish, like Chaetodon larvatus or C. ornatissimus, are a pipe dream for most. Their beautiful patterns and colors scream for attention, but sadly their dietary needs are rarely met. Because of their stony coral diet, the mortality rate of these obligate corallivores in captivity is near 100%. That is why you should […]

    Obligate coral feeding butterflyfish, like Chaetodon larvatus or C. ornatissimus, are a pipe dream for most. Their beautiful patterns and colors scream for attention, but sadly their dietary needs are rarely met. Because of their stony coral diet, the mortality rate of these obligate corallivores in captivity is near 100%. That is why you should know about Shinri Takama.

    Mr. Takama is a legend in Japan. He has kept many rare fish, such as the first Paracentropyge venusta x multifasciata hybrid to enter our trade, but he is ultimately known for his long term care of  corallivore butterflyfish.

    amphichaetodon howensis

    Mr. Takama is one of the few in the world to ever care for Amphichaetodon howensis–This was ~20 yrs ago.

    Arguably Takama’s biggest success is with Chaetodon reticulatus. He has kept a single specimen alive in captivity for 7 years. To our knowledge this is the longest that an obligate coral feeding Chaetodont has been kept in captivity. Here are some of his other achievements with difficult to care for butterflyfish:

    • Chaetodon larvatus – 4 years
    • Chaetodon austriacus × Chaetodon melapterus – 4 years
    • Chaetodon ornatissimus – 2 years
    • Chaetodon reticulatus – 7 years
    • Chaetodon melapterus – 2 years

    What is interesting is that these fish are cared for in aquariums that lack stony corals. In fact the aquariums, which are kept in a green house like space, are more like a refugium than any display tank. There is ample flora and fauna in the aquariums should the fish need to graze–but Takama has trained his fish to eat frozen clams. This is their staple diet.

    Obligate corallivore captivity

    Specifically the clams are Ruditapes philippinarum which can be found for sale throughout Asia.

    chaetodon ornatissimus aquarium

    Because these fed multiple times a day, they are attached to an acrylic strip that keeps the clams open and upright, and easy to remove.

    obligate coral feeder

    Getting these species weaned on to prepared foods is difficult, but not impossible. Sustaining them for longer than 6 months is an entirely new realm.

    chaetodon larvatus

    An Oranate, Melapterus Hybrid and Larvatus Butterfly aggressively feeding on the clams.

    Living in Japan, Mr. Takama is able to collect multiple Chaetodon species close to home. This is a significant advantage as he is able to get extremely small juveniles–similar to some fish that are sold as “tank raised”. Additionally, there is very less travel time from ocean to aquarium.

    There is still much to learn about these fish. I must adamantly state that these are fish best left in the ocean–until we learn more about their long term dietary requirements. Mr. Takama’s success will hopefully pave the way.


    Thank you to our contributor Tetsuo Otake for co-writing this piece. Additional thanks to Japanese Aquaria Writer Takeshi Aoki and Mr. Takama for allowing us to share this story.

    One Trackback

    1. October 19, 2010 at 8:39 AM

      […] Japanese Aquarist Has Success with Obligate Corallivore Butterflyfish __________________ nikkibabee – 03:05 PM : die nikkibabee – 12:19 PM i hate when someone says "we'll see" […]

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