By Bob Goemans
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Chaetodon marleyi

Regan, 1921

South African Butterflyfish, Doubledash Butterflyfish

Not Reef Tank Suitable

Likely Fish-Only Tank Suitable

Range: Western Indian Ocean: Cape of Good Hope, north to Delagoa Bay, Mozambique.

Size: 7 inches (18 cm)

Natural Environment: Inhabits rocky and coral covered reefs and local tidepools and estuaries at depths of 3 – 400 feet (1 – 120 m) and feeds on macroalgae and benthic invertebrates.

General Husbandry: Rarely seen in the trade because of its limited area of distribution and the need for cooler water temperatures than what most hobbyist utilize in home aquariums. Nevertheless, an attractive species having a silvery body with three wide golden-brown vertical bands, one through the eyes, a golden-brown peduncle, yellow band on the tail, and yellow dorsal and anal fins.

A hardy species, and would be best maintained in larger peaceful fish-only aquariums, especially those with lots of open swimming space, live rock hiding places, and having micro and macroalgae growths. As to diet, this species is said to be an excellent browser of various forms of algae, therefore flake foods, especially those containing Spirulina and/or Nori should be offered, as should a meaty diet of live fortified brine shrimp, black worms (Lumbriculus variegatus), and/or various frozen meaty foods such as mysis, and overall be offered several times daily.

Even though known for feeding immediately upon entering the aquarium, should there be a problem getting this species to feed, small human consumption clams/black mussels purchased in local grocery stores and placed on the half-shell in the aquarium may help entice it to begin feeding. Over time, frozen foods like mysis and brine shrimp may be more readily accepted.


    Order: Perciformes

    Suborder: Percoidei

    Family: Chaetodontidae

    Genus: Chaetodon

FYI: Juveniles acclimate more easily to aquarium life than do adults.

Must be maintained at temperatures in the mid to high 60’s.

Pressing some soft foods into openings/crevices on a piece of old dead coral skeleton can sometimes encourage finicky eaters to begin feeding.

Experience Level: Intermediate

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Omnivore

Coral Safe: No

Invertebrate Safe: No

Acclimation Time: 30 minutes+

Aquarium Environment: Fish-only aquarium

Tankmates: Peaceful or non-aggressive

Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons

Temperature Range: 64 - 70°F (18 – 21°C)

Specific Gravity: 1.020 -1.026

pH: 8.0 - 8.5

 Chaetodon marleyi (South African Butterflyfish, Doubledash Butterflyfish)
Photo © John Randall
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