News / Species Spotlight / Similar Sounding - Teardrop Butterflies (04/01/14)

Similar Sounding - Teardrop Butterflies

Teardrop Butterflies

There are currently two species of Butterflies that are called "Teardrop Butterflies." These two species were once considered to be regional variants (or subspecies) or the same species (both being Chaetodon unimaculatus.) They are now considered to be separate species. There is no overlap in their range and they have some pretty distinct color differences. However, they both do well in aquarium environments, both get to be about 7.5" as adults in the wild and both will readily take a variety of foods.

The real question is, which one(s) do you want?

Chaetodon unimaculatus - Teardrop Butterfly

Teardrop Butterflies are generally found all over the tropical Pacific ocean, absent from the Indian Ocean, and are reef associated. They are usually seen in small groups between 60 and 200 feet down. During mating season they will form monogamous pairs. They occasionally pair and hybridize with Klein's Butterfly (Chaetodon kleini)

There is very little they won't eat which makes them very likely to take just about any food you offer them, but it also makes them a total liability in a reef aquarium. They have been known to eat some very challenging foods like anemones and Leather Corals. Adults develop a very strong jaw structure than can crush stony coral skeletons allowing the butterfly to consume the polyp inside.

These are available from MAC and SSC sources. They can be kept in groups, and are good choices for aquariums with other "rambunctious" tankmates. If you are looking for a great butterfly to add as a group to a Fish Only Aquarium, this is a great choice.

Chaetodon interruptus

These are frequently called "Yellow" or "Indian Ocean Teardrop Butterflies." Appropriately, they are only found in the tropical Indian Ocean, with the densest populations on the African Coast. Adults are usually found in pairs at depths between 30 and 150 feet. They are also reef associated.

This fish has eating habits that are are the mirror image of the other Teardop Butterfly, eating just about everything in site. As a result, it is also a recommended Butterflyfish, just not recommended for any type of captive reef scenario. Of the two fish, this one is reported to be more reclusive, but can acclimate to very busy aquariums pretty well. If you are looking for a "feature fish" to add to your aquarium, this is an excellent fish to add singly to a Fish Only Aquarium.

Gerald R Allen & Roger Steene & Mark Allen, Angelfishes & Butterflyfishes, 1st ed. (Odyssey Publishing 1998)
Scott W. Michael, Angelfishes & Butterflyfishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications 2004)
Rudie H Kuiter & Helmut Debelius, World Atlas of Marine Fishes, 1st ed. (IKAN-Unterwasserarchiv 2006)
QM Internal Sources: Adam Mangino, Eli Fleishauer