The Latticed Butterflyfish (Chaetodon rafflesi)

Chaetodon rafflesi

Last updated on August 11th, 2022 at 11:35 am

Latticed butterflyfish, also known as Chaetodon rafflesi, is one of the most popular butterflyfish in the hobby due to its striking coloration and its compatibility with other species. It comes from the Indo-Pacific Ocean and can be found in waters ranging from 3 meters to 60 meters deep, though they are usually between 15 meters and 25 meters deep. They are usually found near sand or rocky substrates and rubble.

The latticed butterfly fish is a species of butterflyfish (Chaetodon). Chaetodon rafflesi has been identified as endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1996 and it is listed on Appendix II of CITES. It was first discovered in 1883 by Stuart Baker in the Raffles Bay area of Singapore, hence its common name.

If you’re looking to keep the latticed butterflyfish in your saltwater tank, you’ll need to make sure your tank meets their specific needs and gives them plenty of room to grow into adults. While they are still juveniles, there are plenty of fish that can live with the latticed butterflyfish in the same tank, but when they grow up, you will want to consider moving them into a larger tank on their own.

If you’re thinking about adding a Chaetodon rafflesi to your aquarium but are worried about choosing an improper diet or providing adequate housing conditions, read our guide below so you have all the information you need before purchasing one.

What is the latticed butterflyfish (Chaetodon rafflesi)?

The latticed butterflyfish is a tropical fish found in the Indo-Pacific region. It mainly inhabits reefs and shallow coral bommies, where it hides during the day. At night, it swims around in search of food. It feeds on fish and crustaceans, and has been known to clean parasites off other fish.

Origin and description

Chaetodon rafflesi

Native to parts of Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia, Chaetodon rafflesi is a beautiful species that can be found in many pet stores. Although it is one of many chaetodons available for purchase in fish stores, Chaetodon rafflesi stands out from other latticed butterflyfishes, thanks to its distinct markings on its caudal fin and abdomen.

Like most butterflyfishes, Chaetodon rafflesi prefers aquariums with plenty of plants where they can retreat when frightened or stressed by larger tank mates. If kept properly, it will live for about 10 years.

Another fascinating thing about Chaetodon rafflesi is its method of eating. Due to its relatively large size compared to other chaetodons, they primarily eat benthic invertebrates such as sand dollars and mollusks like snails and clams. However, unlike other butterflyfishes that hunt only during daylight hours, they will feed at night in order to hide from larger fish predators in dimly lit tanks.

ButterflyFish 'Chaetodontidae' Care

Species profile

Chaetodon rafflesi

Chaetodon rafflesi is a species of butterflyfish native to deep waters, off northwestern Australia. The fish has been reported at depths between areas with corals and steep drop-offs on a variety of substrates.

This species grows to about more than twice as large as its congeners. It can be distinguished from Chaetodon lineolatus by color pattern and fewer teeth, while it resembles Chaetodon lineatus but differs in having more vertebrae; both of these have 9 – 10 spines on their first dorsal fin versus 13–14 for Chaetodon rafflesi.

It has also been confused with Chaetodon virgata, which is far larger and lighter in color. Chaetodon rafflesi was named after Australian ichthyologist James Douglas Raffle, who made extensive collections of fishes during exploratory cruises in 1883 and 1895 that resulted in his publication of Catalogue of Fishes Collected by H.M. Ships ‘Investigator’.


The latticed butterflyfish is a relatively large species of butterflyfish native to coral reefs in both Indian and Pacific Ocean waters. The scientific name of rafflesi honors Rudolf Raffel, an ichthyologist from Romania who first described it as a distinct species.

The fish grows to about 7 inches in length and generally does not make for good aquarium specimens. Its appearance is mostly yellow with some distinctive black markings on its body.

Chaetodon rafflesi size

The average size of an adult Chaetodon rafflesi is about 5.9 inches (15 cm). They can, however, grow as big as 7.1 inches (18 cm) if given proper tank space and good care.

Chaetodon rafflesi tank size

In their natural habitat, you’ll find latticed butterflyfish in relatively shallow reefs. As such, they do best in a tank that’s between 100 and 120 gallons, although, larger is always better.

Chaetodon rafflesi tank set up

Chaetodon rafflesi are better suited to a 120-gallon or larger aquarium with plenty of live rock. It’s an aggressive species, so provide a lot of hiding places and keep one male per tank.

These fish can be very territorial, and they’ll constantly be chasing each other around while you’re trying to feed them; if you’ve got multiple males in a large tank, feed them at opposite ends or do several small feedings throughout the day rather than one large meal.

Chaetodontoplus duboulayi - Scribbled Angelfish

Make sure there are no sharp edges on your rocks, as these fish have been known to chew off their own fins when placed into inappropriate tanks. It is also recommended that you place PVC piping into your rockwork for added security for both you and your Chaetodon rafflesi!

They may exhibit smaller territorial tendencies once settled into their new environment, but it’s always wise to think about what could go wrong when choosing which fishes to add.

Chaetodon rafflesi tank mates

Chaetodon rafflesi

The gorgeous latticed butterflyfish, Chaetodon rafflesi, is a very passive fish. While they should be kept in pairs or in a small group of three to four, they are not territorial or aggressive towards other butterflyfishes.

They are best kept with slow-moving fish that won’t eat their fins and will leave them alone. Good tank mates include similarly sized gobies like banded pipefish, skunk cleaners, clown gobies, shrimp gobies, and dragonets. Avoid keeping them with larger fish as there may be aggression from larger species trying to take their food or nip at their fins.

This beautiful species makes for an excellent addition to your reef aquarium!

Some good tank mates are dragonets, pipefish, shrimp gobies, and clown gobies. The Latticed Butterflyfish is compatible with other butterflyfishes and may be kept in groups. They can also be housed with large fish that would not see them as a food source or threaten their fins.

Avoid housing them with other territorial species or those who prey on smaller fish such as larger surgeonfishes, groupers, and wrasses.

It is hard to sex a Chaetodon by its coloration alone. They are not mature until they are about six months old, so there is no way to tell if a fish is male or female before that. Once they reach maturity, female Chaetodons will become noticeably rounder and more full-bodied than males.

In captivity, Chaetodons can be bred during any month of the year when water temperatures remain above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A typical pair may lay up to four clutches per season, but two should be considered average. The eggs incubate for between 36 and 44 days with a water temperature in excess of 79 degrees F; excessive fluctuations in temperature should be avoided as they can damage developing fry.

Larvae have been observed feeding on rotifers within 24 hours after hatching; within 72 hours post-hatching, they begin nibbling on egg yolk sacs as well.

Emperor Angelfish (Pomacanthus Imperator)

Are Chaetodon rafflesi aggressive or peaceful?

Although they are very peaceful, the latticed butterflyfish can be aggressive. They are also territorial, so adding them to an aquarium where there is already a fish with similar coloring should be avoided. If you have a male and female in your tank, it’s possible they will pair off.

This can cause problems if they don’t get along after they are paired up. It’s best to add them to a reef tank or other community tank with other bottom dwellers that won’t bother them.

Chaetodon rafflesi care

Chaetodon rafflesi

The Latticed Butterflyfish is a hardy animal and should be kept in an aquarium of at least 40 gallons with live rock, sand, and good water quality. While they are reef safe they are known to nip at most sessile invertebrates, it may be necessary to remove any corals or anemones from your tank if you have one.

They can tolerate lower lighting levels but will show their best colors under high-intensity lights. Keep these fish well-fed as they can become aggressive toward other fish. If keeping multiple butterflyfish together make sure there is plenty of room for them to spread out and that each has its own territory.

If kept with other non-aggressive fish, they should get along well. However, due to their territorial nature only keep 1 per tank.

What do Chaetodon rafflesi eat?

The latticed butterflyfish diet consists of algae, invertebrates, and fish. They are often found in large schools near reefs or in lagoons. They have been known to eat dead corals as well as coral larvae to help keep healthy coral reef systems running smoothly. As juveniles, they will also eat zooplankton such as amphipods and copepods. It is not rare for them to change their diet slightly based on what is available in their habitat at that time.

It may also accept meaty foods such as chopped shrimp and Mysis shrimp. In an aquarium environment, Chaetodon rafflesi prefers to spend time around a variety of objects, including rockwork and coral skeletons.

Water parameters

Chaetodon rafflesi

A pH of 8.1 – 8.4, conductivity of 15-25 μS/cm, and a temperature of 23-28 °C are considered optimal for keeping Chaetodon rafflesi in captivity. They need hard water with moderately high levels of dissolved minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and especially carbonate.

Soft water is unsuitable as it will dissolve many aquarium corals’ calcium carbonate skeletons and lead to disease outbreaks in reef tanks that house butterflyfishes. In addition to these parameters, they also prefer live rock with lots of algae growth on it; algae is a vital part of their diet, which they scrape off rocks using their teeth during feeding.

Flame Angelfish (Centropyge loricula)

Chaetodon rafflesi lifespan

The Latticed Butterflyfish can live for up to 10 years.

Parasites and diseases

Chaetodon rafflesi is very resistant to diseases and parasites that affect other butterflyfishes. It has been suggested that it achieves a level of resistance through its shallow-water habitat, which provides fewer opportunities for disease transmission.

In addition, they have relatively few parasites in their home range, including only a few species of copepods, monogeneans, and fish lice. Certain chemicals emitted by their host anemones may also deter external parasites from attaching themselves to these fishes. The skin also contains some antifungal compounds with similar activity against pathogens.

The disease is often a serious threat to marine organisms. It can affect fish directly or indirectly, for example through declining populations of fish hosts that serve as an intermediate host for parasitic stages of multi-host parasites. One such parasite infecting Chaeotdons butterflies is Monogenes dermatophilus. This monogenean parasite penetrates dermal and epidermal tissues of butterflyfishes in Indonesia, New Guinea, and Micronesia, where it causes anemia by sucking blood from its host.


While adult latticed butterflyfish are prey for larger fish such as sharks, their predators as fry and juveniles include other small fish like damselfish and surgeonfishes. To escape from predators, they hide in rocks or coral crevices during the daytime, while they feed at night.

Do Chaetodon rafflesi make good pets?

Yes, but they are not recommended for beginners. This is because it will eat non-living things such as tubes and plastic bags and therefore requires a large tank with plenty of live rock that it can feed on. They are also known to jump out of their tanks, so a tight-fitting lid is necessary. These fish can be aggressive towards other butterflyfishes but may coexist with other species that do not share their feeding habits, such as tangs, angels, and puffers.