Dot Dash Butterfly



Dot Dash Butterfly, Chaetodon punctatofasciatus

  • Common Name: Dot Dash Butterfly
  • Latin name: Chaetodon punctatofasciatus
  • Synonyms: None
  • Distribution: naturally occurring in the Indo-Pacific region, including the Red Sea, the Maldives, and the Andaman Sea. It can be found in the waters around Indonesia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and northern Australia.
  • Max size: about 6 inches (15 centimetres) in length.
  • Temperature range: The ideal temperature range for the Dot Dash Butterfly is between 75°F and 82°F (24°C and 28°C).
  • pH Range: 8.1 to 8.4.
  • KH Range: maintained between 8 and 12 dKH.
  • Care level: moderate to difficult. It requires specific water conditions and a well-established aquarium.
  • Lighting Preference: prefers moderate to high lighting in the aquarium.
  • Preferred food: The Dot Dash Butterfly is primarily a herbivorous fish that feeds on various types of algae, including filamentous and macroalgae. It also consumes small invertebrates and zooplankton.
  • Behaviour: The Dot Dash Butterfly is generally peaceful but can become territorial towards other butterflyfish or similarly shaped fish. It is known to be a bit on the delicate side and may be prone to stress and disease if not provided with proper care.
  • Suitable for reef tanks: The Dot Dash Butterfly can be kept in a reef tank, but caution should be exercised when choosing tank mates, as it may nip at or eat certain types of corals, especially soft and stony corals.
  • Interesting Facts:
  • the Dot Dash Butterfly has a long snout that allows it to reach into crevices and feed on coral polyps and other food sources.

The Dot Dash Butterfly, scientifically known as Chaetodon punctatofasciatus, showcases a striking and vibrant colouration. It has a maximum size of around 6 inches (15 cm) in length. The body of this butterflyfish is elongated and laterally compressed, with a rounded dorsal and anal fin. Its body is predominantly white, adorned with a pattern of irregular black dots and dashes across the entire body, giving it its distinctive appearance. The fins are generally translucent, with delicate markings.

Natural Habitat:

The Dot Dash Butterfly is native to the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region. It inhabits coral reefs, lagoons, and outer reef slopes, typically found in areas with abundant coral growth. These fish are most commonly seen in depths ranging from 10 to 50 feet (3 to 15 meters). They prefer areas with moderate water flow and ample hiding spots among coral formations.

Keeping Dot Dash Butterfly Healthy:

The Dot Dash Butterfly requires proper care to ensure its health and well-being. It is considered moderately difficult to keep, requiring a well-established and mature aquarium with stable water conditions. A tank size of at least 50 gallons (190 litres) is recommended to provide ample swimming space. The water temperature should be maintained between 75°F and 82°F (24°C and 28°C), with a pH range of 8.1 to 8.4 and a carbonate hardness (KH) of 8 to 12 dKH. Regular monitoring of water parameters and routine water changes are crucial for maintaining optimal conditions.

Special Requirements and Feeding:

The Dot Dash Butterfly has a specialized diet consisting mainly of coral polyps and other small invertebrates found in the wild. In captivity, it can be challenging to replicate their natural diet. Offering a varied diet is essential, including a mix of high-quality marine-based flakes, pellets, frozen foods such as brine shrimp and mysis shrimp, and live or frozen coral polyps if available. It is recommended to feed small portions multiple times a day to mimic their natural feeding behaviour.

How Many Should I Keep?

It is generally recommended to keep the Dot Dash Butterfly as a solitary fish or in a mated pair. They can become territorial, especially in smaller tanks, so providing ample swimming space and hiding spots is crucial.

Lighting Preference:

Dot Dash Butterflies thrive in aquariums with moderate to high lighting. Proper lighting helps enhance their vibrant colours and promotes the growth of symbiotic zooxanthellae within their bodies.

Suitable Tank Mates:

When selecting tank mates for the Dot Dash Butterfly, it is important to consider their compatibility. They may exhibit aggression towards other butterflyfish or similar-shaped fish. Suitable tank mates include peaceful reef fish, such as small tangs, anthias, gobies, and other non-aggressive species. Care should be taken to avoid aggressive or territorial fish that may intimidate or harass the butterflyfish.

Reproduction in the Wild:

The reproductive process of the Dot Dash Butterfly begins with the formation of pairs or small groups during the breeding season. These pairs or groups engage in courtship rituals that involve intricate swimming patterns, fin displays, and other visual cues to attract potential mates. These displays not only serve to signal reproductive readiness but also help establish dominance hierarchies among individuals.

Once a suitable partner is chosen, the courtship behaviour intensifies, with increased chasing, nipping, and fin touching. This behaviour helps strengthen the bond between the pair and prepares them for spawning. Spawning usually occurs in open water above the reef or near coral heads.

During spawning, the male and female Dot Dash Butterflies release their eggs and sperm into the water column simultaneously. This synchronized release increases the chances of successful fertilization. The buoyant eggs are then carried away by the ocean currents, drifting freely in the water.

The fertilized eggs hatch into larvae known as “planktonic fry.” These larvae possess a long, extended dorsal fin and large pectoral fins, which aid in their dispersal and survival in the open water. The fry go through several developmental stages, gradually transforming into juvenile fish.

Breeding Chaetodon punctatofasciatus:

  1. Set up:

Breeding the Dot Dash Butterfly in a home aquarium is a challenging task and is typically not common. To encourage breeding, a well-maintained and spacious aquarium with suitable hiding spots and live rock is necessary. The water parameters should be consistent with the species’ requirements, including a temperature range of 75°F to 82°F (24°C to 28°C), a pH range of 8.1 to 8.4, and a carbonate hardness (KH) of 8 to 12 dKH.

  1. Courtship/Spawning:

Courtship and spawning behaviours of the Dot Dash Butterfly in captivity are not extensively documented. In the wild, these fish engage in elaborate courtship rituals, involving chasing, fin displays, and other behaviours to attract a mate. Once a suitable partner is chosen, they engage in spawning, releasing eggs and sperm into the water column.

  1. Rearing:

Rearing Dot Dash Butterfly larvae in a home aquarium is highly challenging and requires specialized equipment and knowledge. The eggs are typically buoyant and pelagic, drifting with the ocean currents. Providing a dedicated rearing tank with appropriate water flow, filtration, and food sources such as phytoplankton and zooplankton is crucial for the survival and development of the larvae. Continuous monitoring and maintenance of water parameters are essential for their successful rearing.

Sexual Dimorphism:

The Dot Dash Butterfly does not exhibit significant sexual dimorphism, meaning there are no distinct visual differences between males and females in terms of coloration or size.


The Dot Dash Butterfly, Chaetodon punctatofasciatus, is naturally distributed in the Indo-Pacific region, including areas such as the Red Sea, the Maldives, Indonesia, and the Philippines. It is not typically available as a captive-bred or line-bred strain. The original wild fish can be found in various coral reef habitats within its natural range.


The Dot Dash Butterfly, Chaetodon punctatofasciatus, is a captivating and colourful species that requires specific care and conditions to thrive in a home aquarium. With its striking appearance and unique behaviours, it can be a rewarding addition to a well-maintained reef tank. However, their delicate nature and specialized feeding requirements make them a challenging species to care for, requiring an experienced aquarist’s attention and dedication. By providing suitable habitat, proper nutrition, and stable water conditions, enthusiasts can enjoy the beauty and grace of the Dot Dash Butterfly in their own aquarium.


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