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Pyramid Butterflyfish
(Hemitaurichthys polylepis)


pyramid butterflyfish, Hemitaurichthys polylepis

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Pyramid butterflyfish (Hemitaurichthys polylepis) are members of the family Chaetodontidae.  This family consists of over 120 species in 10 genera. Pyramids make their home in the Central Pacific and eastern Indian Oceans. Their habitat ranges form the Great Barrier Reef north to Japan and east to Hawaii. Large shoals of this species congregate around outer reef areas near oceanic drops-offs in depths from 10 to 200.

Pyramids are medium size fish. They can reach an adult length of up to 7 inches. They are narrow in width with a roughly triangularly shaped profile. This fish’s name derives from the white pyramid that begins on the underbellies on both side of their bodies and terminates just below their dorsal fin. They have a white and yellow color palette with white caudal fins. Juveniles have yellow heads. As the fish mature this yellow will darken to a brown or a deep purplish brown in color. Pyramid Butterflyfish are frequently sold by retailers under the name Yellow Zoster Butterfly.

Butterflyfish are reputed to be hard to maintain. They are notoriously unsuitable for marine reef tanks. The pyramid falls into neither of these categories. Pyramids have a moderate rather than difficult care level and are considered reef safe provided they have an adequate food supply. This is a superbly adaptable species. These fish will acclimate quickly to their new surroundings and will thrive under a variety of conditions. This is not a quarrelsome species. They lack the innate aggression present in many butterflyfish but are assertive enough to be housed with semi-aggressive tank mates. They are not prone to hunger strikes when first introduced to a new aquarium and will readily accept common variety fish foods. Pyramids have been reported to live up to 12 years in captivity.

This is a shoaling species and should not be kept as a solitary specimen. A group of no less than four is recommended. They will not squabble amongst themselves or with other members of the community if they are housed in spacious surroundings with adequate hiding places. A 100 gallon or larger tank will provide them with the room they need to feel at home.

Pyramid butterflies are omnivorous. In their natural habitat they are primarily planktonic feeders. The water columns they derive their nutrition from in the wild are comprised of miniscule and microscopic crustaceans, plants, algae, archaea and bacteria.

In captivity pyramids are not finicky eaters. They will eat flake food and pellets. As with any marine specimen a varied diet will maintain general health, color and vigor. Frozen and freeze dried food preparations that contain a good percentage of algae are adequate supplements. Vitamin enriched brine and mysis shrimp should also be on the menu. Dried algae sheets will help insure that these fish do not suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Pyramids should be fed 2-3 times daily. An adequate supply of well established living rock will provide them with healthy snack food between feedings. An underfed pyramid may resort to nibbling on Xenia and other soft corals.

Environmental Parameters

Temperature

pH Level Specific Gravity
72-78  °F 8.2-8.4 1.020-1.025

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