News / Species Spotlight / Highly Underrated Fish - Yellow Zoster Butterflies (08/27/14)

Highly Underrated Fish - Yellow Zoster Butterflies

In The Wild

Hemitaurichthys polylepis Butterflies range all over the tropical and subtropical pacific where they form large schools over steep drop offs and outer reef edges. These areas of high current consolidate the plankton that makes up the vast majority of their diet. They are found over wide variety of depths from the surface down to roughly 150 feet; and occasionally single schools will span a large portion of these depths.

In the wild, they have a max recorded size of just over 7 inches. While there isn't any visual difference between males and females or between adults and juveniles, there is a dramatic color change between day and night. At night the entire white pyramid will turn black leaving only one white spot.

In The Aquarium

Yellow Zoster Butterflies are one of the best butterflies for the marine aquarium. Their wild eating habits mean that they are used to a variety of suspended foods. They very quickly take to just about anything we feed them; everything from a meaty mix to pellets. We suggest maintaining this varied diet as it seems that the fish keep their color much better than on a more mono-culture diet. We also suggest feeding them multiple times a day as they are very active.

Zosters can be kept singly, in pairs or (in large enough aquariums) in groups. They are frequently somewhat timid when introduced, but will become more assertive once acclimated. These are also considered one of the best butterflies for reef aquariums, but this addition should still be done with caution. Feeding well will help prevent them from nibbling on desirable inverts. Some people report perfect success with this animal in regards to reef-safe behavior, others report them nibbling on LPS and soft corals.

They are extremely hardy, strikingly colored and disease resistant. There are reports of them living up to 15 years in captivity. If you haven't already, this a fish you should probably buy.

Scott W. Michael, Angelfishes & Butterlfyfishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2004).
Rudie H. Kuiter, Butterflyfishes, Bannerfishes and their relatives, 1st ed. (TMC Publishing, Chorelywood UK, 2002).
Allen, Steene & Allen, A Guide to Angelfishes & Butterflyfishes, 1st ed. (Odyssey Publishing, Australia, 1998).
Ronald L Shimek, PH.D., Marine Invertebrates, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2004).
Rudie H Kuiter & Helmut Debelius, World Atlas of Marine Fishes, 1st ed. (IKAN-Unterwasserarchiv 2006)
In House Resources: Eli Fleishauer, Adam Mangino