Auriga Butterflyfish

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Chaetodon auriga - Forsskål, 1775
Auriga Butterflyfish

The Auriga, or Threadfin Butterfly, is a hardy and handsome species that can thrive in the aquarium. Scott W. Michael


Here is one of the best all-around butterflyfishes for the fish-only marine community aquarium. It is a handsome fish that exhibits many of the stereotypic behavioral and chromatic characteristics of its large and fascinating family. It differs in being much hardier than most other butterflyfish species and can be recommended to both expert and relatively inexperienced aquarists.

The Auriga Butterflyfish will swim boldly about the tank, regularly stopping to inspect the aquascape for food. If you can acquire a female-male pair, they will swim in close proximity to each other and occasionally perform a “greeting display” upon reuniting after a short time of foraging apart.

Red Sea Auriga Butterflyfish without ocellus.

The Threadfin Butterfly is one of the more aggressive members of its family, but generally directs its attention to conspecifics and those species with similar color patterns. Keep singly unless the aquarium is large. If you wish to keep more than one, it is best to introduce them at the same time.

At full size, this species will require a larger-than-average aquarium.

Family: Chaetodontidae

Other common name(s):

  • Threadfin Butterflyfish

Native range:

Habitat: Reef or reef-sand interface. Provide plenty of swimming room for this species.

Maximum length: 23 cm (9 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 380 L (100 gal)

Water: Marine 21 °C (70 °F) - 28 °C (82 °F)

General swimming level: All levels


Carnivore. It will accept a wide variety of aquarium foods. Offer Mysis shrimp, enriched brine shrimp or high-quality reef fish rations at least three times a day. Regular supplementation of its diet with color-enhancing foods will help maintain its beautiful pigmentation.

Aquarium Compatibility

Not a candidate for most reef aquariums. It can be employed to clean live rock of Aiptasia or glass anemones, but it will not hesitate to nip the polyps of desirable corals and anemones.

The Auriga Butterflyfish is a good community fish, but will exhibit hostility toward members of its own kind and other butterflyfishes with similar color patterns. It tends to ignore unrelated species.


Egg scatterers that produce pelagic eggs, often in midwater mating rituals. Both eggs and larvae drift with plankton in the water column and settle back onto a reef at about the time of metamorphosis. These are among the most challenging types of marine fishes to propagate in captivity.


The colors of Chaetodon auriga from the Red Sea differ from those found in other areas: in the Red Sea this species has no ocellus on the posterior part of the dorsal fin. Allen (1979) recognizes the two as subspecies: C. auriga auriga (Red Sea) and C. auriga setifer (all the rest of the range).

This species will crossbreed with the Raccoon Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunula).

Reference: Reef Fishes Volume 3
Image credit: SWM
Text credit: SWM