Aiptasia Eating Filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus)

Aiptasia Eating Filefish

Last updated on July 1st, 2022 at 09:46 pm

Aiptasia eating filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus) are some of the most interesting fish available in the aquarium trade today. While they’re fairly straightforward to care for and propagate, there’s still a lot of confusion about how to keep these beautiful creatures healthy and happy in an aquarium environment.

They are by far the best fish to use when it comes to preventing and treating ick in saltwater aquariums.

The aiptasia eating filefish feeds on the invasive pest, glass anemone (Aiptasia pallida), which has made its way into various aquariums as well as saltwater systems throughout the world. The aiptasia eating filefish is also called the armored-tip filefish and can grow up to 4 inches in length. It lives in tropical water environments, primarily in coastal areas around reefs and rocky shores.

Here’s what you need to know to keep your filefish happy and healthy!

Origin and descriptions

Aiptasia Eating Filefish

The filefish, also known as paperfish, is a common schooling fish found in tropical waters throughout the Indo-Pacific. It belongs to several genera of the family Monacanthidae and is closely related to groupers and rockfishes. The filefish can be easily distinguished from other fish by its long, thick body covered with small, hard plates called scutes.

The mouth is small and located on a lower lip that projects beneath. They eat algae on corals, sponges, and rocks. The name for filefish comes from their habit of rubbing against rough surfaces like coral to remove parasites, scrape off dead skin and clean their bodies. During the breeding season, adult males change color from brownish-yellow to white or greyish blue.

Females grow larger than males; some species reach 5over 10 centimetres, while others remain relatively tiny at just 3 cm or 1 inch long. Many are brightly colored when young but lose their flashy colors as they mature.

Black Clownfish 'Amphiprion Ocellaris'

Species profile

Aiptasia Eating Filefish

A filefish is any member of a number of families of fish with elongated bodies and laterally compressed, tubular snouts that resemble a file. More than 120 species are recognized. Most are marine, and a small number inhabit freshwater or brackish water in tropical areas. One family, Chaetodontidae, also includes pelagic species commonly known as butterflyfishes or angelfishes.

While most swim vertically near reefs or other submerged structures during daylight hours, they may hunt actively at night over sandy flats and seagrass beds. Like many other reef fishes, members of most filefish families tend to stay within their home ranges when not breeding. Most filefish diets consist mainly of benthic invertebrates such as crustaceans and worms; some feed more opportunistically on fishes and echinoderms; a few species eat plankton.


Their habitat is Indo-Pacific from South Africa north to the Ryukyu Islands, east through Micronesia and Melanesia as far as Tonga, north to southern Japan; also reported from Taiwan and Hawaii. A reef inhabitant found on coral substrates in areas of strong water movement at depths down to 70 m.

Captive populations are known from temperate locales but adapt easily to tropical aquaria if acclimated slowly. The primary host anemone is Aiptasia diaphana in Fiji, with Amblyeleotris sp., Caryedon serratus, Favia fragum, and Herpolitha Limax recorded elsewhere. At times, it also preys on sea urchins such as Ctenochasma fuscum, Echinometra mathaei, and Toxopneustes pileolus.

Aiptasia eating filefish size

They can grow up to 9 – 10cm (3.5 – 4 inches)

Aiptasia eating filefish tank size

At least 30 gallons. Larger is better. You can house more than one filefish per tank, but make sure you have plenty of hiding places for each fish so they don’t feel threatened by their tank mates.

Aiptasia eating filefish tank mates

Because of its large size, acreichthys tomentosus should not be housed with small fish. In a community tank, larger species such as angelfish or bass are appropriate tank mates. Aggressive species such as triggers and lionfish may be too rough on acreichthys tomentosus.

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Similarly, small shrimp may attempt to snack on acreichthys tomentosus at night while they sleep on the bottom of your aquarium. The best tank mates for an acreichthys tomentosus would be other mid-sized reef-safe fish that won’t feel threatened by their presence. The leopard grouper and butterfly grouper are two examples of species that would work well in a community aquarium with an acreichthys tomentosus.

Aiptasia eating filefish breeding

Aiptasia Eating Filefish

When in captivity, aiptasia eating filefish breed readily. Their reproductive habits are very similar to clown fish and anemone fish, both of which belong to the family Pomacentridae. This is a small fish that grows up to four inches long. The males are slightly larger than females and they can be distinguished by their longer dorsal fins.

Breeding takes place all year round but is more likely to happen during warmer weather. The male builds a nest for the eggs using secretions from his mouth and body. He then places some eggs on top of it, releases sperm over them, and covers them with more sand. He then guards them until they hatch and swim away from his nest.

Are Aiptasia eating filefish aggressive or peaceful?

Acreichthys tomentosus, otherwise known as filefish, are quite peaceful and will only attack when they feel like their territory is being intruded upon. They typically swim near aiptasia colonies and keep other fish away from them; but if other fish get too close, filefish will strike at them. Because of their size and long spines, however, filefish don’t usually cause much damage when they attack.

Aiptasia eating filefish care

Aiptasia Eating Filefish

If you have an aiptasia eating filefish in your aquarium, you’ll need to remove any and all aiptasia anemones before introducing one of these fish. Even then, your aiptasia eating filefish will likely only eat a small percentage of what is available to it; it’s more likely that they’ll just snack on whatever happens by. These fish grow up to 4 inches long, which makes them large enough to be fairly intimidating for most snails and smaller invertebrates.

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What do Aiptasia eating filefish eat in captivity?

They have been found eating a variety of small invertebrates, including bristle worms, flatworms, polychaetes, sponges, and tunicates. The smaller filefish are carnivorous and eat mostly crustaceans and small fish. However, as they mature they begin to consume larger prey.

Water parameters

Aiptasia Eating Filefish

Aiptasia eating filefish can survive in a variety of different saltwater aquariums, as long as their requirements are met. They’re scavengers and eat small organisms that inhabit saltwater tanks, such as brine shrimp and algae. If you have a large tank with lots of corals and invertebrates, it’s possible your water parameters are similar to their natural habitat, in which case, they may do well in captivity.

The aiptasia eating filefish’s natural environment is in marine reef tanks. It lives in sand and gravel substrate which can be mixed with live rock or corals. The ideal pH is 8.1 – 8.4 and salinity should be 1.020-1.025 sg; the temperature range is 72–79 degrees Fahrenheit. An average-sized aquarium should have plenty of hiding places, caves, crevices, and live rock for hunting prey or stashing its food.

Aiptasia eating filefish fifespan

They can typically live for 4 – 6 years.

Parasites and diseases

Some animals, like aiptasia eating filefish, actually eat parasites in an attempt to survive. These fish will eat many different types of parasites including worms, other fish eggs, and more. Although most fish are not predators as adults, some species will go through a cannibalistic phase when they are young. As their parents die off or their environment becomes unsuitable for them to live in anymore, it is often better for them if they attack one another first before looking for other prey.

The same logic applies to these filefish. If there are not enough resources around, such as food or room to grow, then it can be easier for them to just look for something smaller instead of trying to find something bigger.

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But as with all marine fish, they can be affected by marine ich diseases.


A few tropical fish eat aiptasia, including some that you’d be unlikely to see in your average tank. One of these is fish is called Toxotes chatareus. This gorgeous dwarf perch (and yes, it is a perch) is best kept in shoals and fed primarily with live foods such as brine shrimp and various copepods.

Do Aiptasia eating filefish make good pets?

The aiptasia eating filefish, Acreichthys tomentosus, also called a reef burrowing filefish, is an attractive little fish that can make a great addition to your saltwater aquarium. The name burrowing refers to its tendency to burrow into the substrate in search of food and shelter. When it is important that you provide your fish with plenty of hiding places, crevices or empty snail shells make for an ideal hiding place.