I have kept African Butterfly Fish for about 10 years. I have 2 right now, they are great to watch. Obviously you need a good tank cover, or they will jump out, I lost 3 or 4 that way. They normally ignore the other fish in the tank. I keep them in a 180 liter community tank. They love daddy long leg spiders and crickets from the pet shop. They go absolutely crazy over moths. I put a moth in recently, one grabbed it but before he swallowed it, the other one grabbed on and pulled it out of the first one's mouth. It reminded me of the films of sharks in a feeding frenzy. It is fun to watch them when you put something in the tank, the approach slowly at first and then, when they have a clear shot at the prey, they zoom in quickly and grab it. Their trap door jaw is really something to see at work.
I have had two African Butterflies for about a year now. Talk about love at first sight. Mine are pretty mellow though. They just cruise at the top of the water. Neither have tried to jump, even though the cover is less than adequate. I have plants, though none are used for surface coverage. These provide the fish with oxygen, so I don't have a pump or aerator. I clean their tank about once a week. they are so easy to take care of. The only real activity is at feeding time. They love their flakes! the second the food hits the water the fish attack! Once in a great while they will fight each other, but never for more than five seconds. These two are definitely my favorites.
Though their reputation for aggression is obviously unquestionable, these fish are actually quite vulnerable to attack when housed with more offensive tankmates and will likely prove to be the more fragile species under these circumstances. They are subject to fin-nipping and other such brutality if unequally matched and, in my experience, are inadequately equipped to defend themselves. Needless to say, careful consideration and perhaps some experimentation is necessary before a happy medium is discovered for this star of the tank.
Some of you noticed that the fish will sometimes let food float right by. Well, watch where your fish positions itself in your tank. You'll notice that it's facing into the current at about a 45° angle. You can test this by adding a few drops of some non-toxic food dye into your tank and watching the pattern as it swirls in (your filter carbon will remove it, if it doesn't time to replace the carbon). The fish I've kept would arrange themselves in each corner of the tank, and wait for the food (flake, mini-pellet, or pinhead cricket) to reach them before striking. Talk about one smart, ambush predator! They didn't like to venture far out into the middle of the tank to eat where their more active tankmates were nibbling. So I found it easier to place the food just slightly ahead of their "stake out" in the current, and they seemed most content to munch this room service. Sometimes they don't see it, especially if it's particularly small, and doesn't float by at the right angle to them. Also, if it is too far away from their safety corner, they may pass it up for the sake of staying out of the way of other feeding fish. So if you own this particular fish, a nice thing to do for them is arrange a powerhead so you get a nice, gentle current going around the surface of your tank (you don't want it aggitated and ripply). Oh, and the reason they're jumpers (besides being spooked)? Much like Archerfish, their food is very rarely on the surface of the water. In the wild, launching to snag a flying bug, or insect off a branch is a perfect way to nab lunch. But in captivity, it is the perfect way to end up a fishy dust-bunny. If you've a large enough tank, and I mean large, try putting a pinhead cricket on the end of a stick near the surface, and see if your AB will jump for it.
I have had 3 AB for several weeks now and I believe that they have become accustomed to the setup that I have provided. The 75 liter tank is kept only 2/3 full. This allows me observe them from above without having the lid up. Plastic plants are clipped to the bottom of the filter runoff so that the water cascades down the leaves and into the water, this prevents the filter runoff from disturbing waters surface. They share the tank with a spotted Raphael which lurks on the bottom and seems to go unnoticed. At first flakes were the preferred staple but they quickly became accustomed to bloodworms and more recently small crickets. I initially made the change in diet because smaller pieces of flakes were ignored and eventually settled at the bottom also to be ignored by the Raphael. I started providing frozen bloodworms which instantly initiates a feeding frenzy as soon as the cube hits the water. Any uneaten worms were readily inhaled by the bottom dweller. The largest AB can put away five crickets in one feeding. Sometimes a cricket will kick its way across the surface of the water and activate the stalking instinct in the AB. The largest of the threesome seems to have claimed most of the open surface area of the tank as his territory and is often disputed by the smaller male. The two confront each other with backs arched downward while twitching. These are among the most interesting fish I have ever observed. I am often kept up until the early morning watching them follow and chase each other as if they were performing in a ballet.
I saw one of these in the tropical fish store and immediately decided to purchase this exotic looking fish. Mr. Flippers is the highlight of my 150 liter tank. He lives with bottom dwellers, middle level fish and top feeders, and gets along fine with all of them, even the ones on the top. He's extremely easy to care for, loves an occasional live cricket and has no problem eating flakes, although he would always prefer live food. He stalks the cricket for about a minute, circles it, puts his head directly underneath and SNAPS it up. The whole process is very interesting and fun to watch, reminds me of a shark. I have not found him to be a jumper, but I always keep the lid closed at all times to prevent such a problem. Overall, he's got to be my favorite fish.