I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Learn more.

9 Best African Butterfly Fish Tank Mates (With Pictures!)

The African Butterfly Fish is an impressive, unique-looking species of fish which comes from West Africa.

These fish get their name due to their fins which extend on both sides of its body. These fins give the African Butterfly Fish an appearance resembling a butterfly.

The African Butterfly Fish is about 4 inches in length, and a great hunter and predator.

It is true that African Butterfly Fish can potentially show aggression toward other fish.

As well as that, it even preys on and hunts smaller fish. For this reason, keeping them with little fish is not a good idea.

When considering to keep the African Butterfly Fish, it is important to pair them with the right tank mates.

In this article you will be able to find information regarding the best African Butterfly Fish tank mates.

You will also learn what makes a good tank mate for this predatory fish.

Cory Catfish

There are various species of Cory Catfish, which come in an assortment of colors and patterns. This includes spots, splotches, and stripes.

What makes the Cory Catfish one of the best African Butterfly Fish tank mates?

It is their extremely friendly nature and temperament.

They get along great with other fish and tend to be very social. It is this friendliness toward other fish that makes Cory Catfish ideal tank mates.

Since they are non-aggressive, your Cory Catfish won’t ever have any conflict with African Butterfly Fish.

Additionally, the Cory Catfish is easy to look after and very peaceful in disposition.

On a side note, Cory Catfish have the potential to release toxins which can be dangerous to themselves and other fish.

These toxins are released when a Cory Catfish is attacked by a predator, in defense of itself.

If one of your African Butterfly Fish is an exceptionally aggressive individual, it may be best not to keep him with a Cory Catfish.

Kuhli Loach

Khuli Loach by Rmollik (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Kuhli Loach is a type of fish which looks a lot like an eel in appearance.

These fish come in many colors, with stripes which are darker than their body. They are natural scavengers, and therefore will be good at cleaning your aquarium.

They will gladly eat any leftover food as well as algae.

The Kuhli Loach is another great tank mate you can keep with your African Butterfly Fish. This is due to a number of reasons.

First of all, the Kuhli Loach is a very peaceful fish which will not bother anyone. It is shy and will avoid any confrontation.

As well as that, the Kuhli Loach is a bottom dwelling fish. This means that it will stay at the bottom of the aquarium, feeding off algae and leftovers.

They are not prone to swimming to the surface of the water to scavenge around for food.

This is great news, because an African Butterfly Fish usually rests at the surface of the water.

The top of the aquarium is its territory, and they don’t want to be bothered there.

For that reason, a bottom dwelling fish such as a Kuhli Loach will not interfere with their space.

Congo Tetra

Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus) by Aka (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Congo Tetras are low maintenance fish with beautiful rainbow colored stripes which run across the length of their bodies.

They have a very peaceful temperament as of nature, and for that reason do well as tank mates with other fish.

In fact, the Congo Tetra is a completely non-aggressive species, and will live in peace with your African Butterfly Fish.

If confronted, these fish won’t fight back. Instead, they can get scared easily and will simply hide to avoid danger.

It is this docile temperament which makes them one of the best African Butterfly Fish mates.

Congo Tetras are very social fish, and like to live in schools to stay happy. Apart from that, this fish is easy to take care of, and don’t have many special requirements.

African Knife Fish

The African Knife Fish is a type of fish which comes in a number of species.

African Knife Fish have an elongated body shape, which gives them the appearance of a knife blade, hence the name.

These fish can grow up to 12 inches when living in the wild. However, when kept in captivity, they won’t get any larger than 5 to 8 inches at the most.

The African Knife Fish is a predator and will prey upon and eat other fish that are smaller than them.

Nonetheless, in an aquarium the African Knife Fish is rather similar in size as an African Butterfly Fish.

Therefore, there is no chance of the African Knife Fish preying and hunting on the latter.

As well as that, African Knife Fish are very docile and peaceful in temperament toward other fish.

This makes them good tank mates for the African Butterfly Fish.

On the other hand, they cannot be kept with the same species, or they will fight.

Elephant Nose Fish

The Elephant Nose Fish is a fish which looks very unique in appearance. It can come in colors of grey, brown, black, and any other dark shade.

Usually the Elephant Nose Fish has a few stripes at the lower end of its body.

The Elephant Nose Fish gets its name from its long, trunk-like nose which resembles an elephant trunk.

Their nose is thin and points slightly downward. On the other hand, some Elephant Nose Fish have a nose which looks more like a sword.

Although territorial as of nature, these fish are usually only aggressive when kept with their own species.

On the other hand, they are generally peaceful with other species of fish, and won’t bicker with your African Butterfly Fish.

Another factor which makes Elephant Nose Fish good tank mates for African Butterfly Fish is that they are bottom-dwellers.

For that reason, they will prefer the bottom of the aquarium tank than the top.

This is ideal, as they won’t be occupy the top of the tank, where African Butterfly Fish like to dwell.

Nerite Snails

There is a number of different species of Nerite Snails, and these come in lots of different colors and patterns.

One of the most popular type of Nerite Snail is the Zebra Nerite Snail.

This particular snail is yellow and has black stripes on its shell which look like that of a tiger.

Nerite Snails are extremely peaceful, which makes them one of the best African Butterfly Fish mates.

They are very mellow and don’t bother other fish or creatures living in your tank. In fact, they don’t interact much with others but prefer doing their own thing.

As well as that, these snails are hardy, and very easy to keep and to take care of. They are also great cleaners, which is a bonus.

Nerite Snails are always happy to eat up all the algae growing at the bottom of your aquarium tank.


The Ropefish is often mistaken for an eel or a snake, because of their exceptionally similar appearance.

This species is easy to take care of, and completely non-aggressive. They will live at peace in your aquarium tank with African Butterfly Fish without any problem.

In fact, the gentle, docile Ropefish prefers to mind their own business than to bother other fish.

However, you should never keep very small fish in an aquarium with the Ropefish. This is because small fish may be mistaken for food.

Aggressive species also don’t do well with Ropefish, due to the fact that they can attack the non-threatening Ropefish.

Bristlenose Pleco

bristle nose pleco

The Bristlenose Pleco is a green, brown, or gray catfish with lighter spots than their body, usually yellow or white. This catfish measures at around 3 to 5 inches in length.

This makes them the smallest species of Catfish. Bristlenose Pleco are very peaceful and calm fish, with a friendly disposition toward other tank mates.

They even remain peaceful toward semi-aggressive species. The Bristlenose Pleco will never confront other fish, including the territorial African Butterfly Fish.

The Bristlenose Pleco is very social, and can be kept with almost every species of fish. As well as that, they don’t prey upon or eat other fish in the aquarium.

In fact, the diet of the Bristlenose Pleco consists mostly of vegetation and plants.

For that reason, they will eat the algae that grows in your aquarium, which in turn makes them great cleaners.

Since the Bristlenose Pleco is so docile, it is another perfect tank mate to keep with your African Butterfly Fish.

Rainbow Kribs

Rainbow Kribs, also called Kribensis, are beautiful, small fish which come in an array of shimmering colors.

They usually grow to around 3 to 4 inches. Rainbow Kribs are peaceful and friendly fish, and do well with a range of different species in the aquarium.

Their good nature makes them another one of the best tank mates for the African Butterfly Fish.

However, one thing to note is that Rainbow Kribs can be prone to aggression during breeding time. They may fight when they are protecting their young.

Due to that fact, you should not keep Rainbow Kribs during that time with any aggressive fish.

Can African Butterfly Fish Live Together?

Pantodon buchholzi by Toniher (CC BY-SA 3.0)

African Butterfly Fish can live together in groups, but only if the aquarium tank is large enough.

Why is this so important?

It is because this semi-aggressive fish may otherwise fight over territory.

Apart from that, the only time African Butterfly Fish may show aggression toward each other is during courtship and spawning season.

They will also show aggression, naturally, when protecting their young.

In general, African Butterfly Fish do well with both their own, and other species of fish. This is as long as the other fish are not aggressive.

If any of your African Butterfly Fish is a very aggressive individual, it may not be best to keep them with other African Butterfly Fish.

It could result in confrontation, and therefore ensue in constant bickering and fighting.

What Tank Size Does A Butterfly Fish Need?

An African Butterfly Fish will need a 40 gallon tank size. They are territorial fish and need to have plenty of space, or conflict may otherwise unfold.

As well as that, the African Butterfly Fish likes to spend their time at the surface of the water in their tank. It is there that they will consider their territory.

They prefer to stay at the top of the aquarium than to swim around the rest of the tank. For this reason, a tank must be long to give them plenty of space at the surface.

A tank should also be reasonably tall, because African Butterfly Fish can jump through the air.

If a tank is not tall enough, it is possible that they could jump over the edge.

An aquarium tank for an African Butterfly Fish should be at least 6 to 8 inches deep.

The African Butterfly Fish also likes to have some coverage in the aquarium tank. This is why you will need to include some plants that reach to the surface.

This way, these surface-dwelling fish will have somewhere to hide and be kept happy.


In conclusion, what are some of the best African Butterfly Fish tank mates?

African Butterfly Fish do best with species such as Cory Catfish, Kuhli Loach, and Congo Tetras.

They can also co-exist with Elephant Nose Fish, Ropefish, Bristlenose Plecos, and Rainbow Kribs.

Nerite Snails, although not fish, are also a great tank mate for your African Butterfly Fish.

What is it that makes these particular species the best African Butterfly Fish tank mates?

For the most part, it is their friendly, peaceful, non-aggressive nature.

These chosen species will not be prone to bothering or confronting the semi-aggressive African Butterfly Fish.

As well as that, some fish, such as the Kuhli Loach, are bottom dwellers.

This is even better, as they won’t roam around the surface, where African Butterfly Fish keep their territory.

African Butterfly Fish can also be kept with members of their own kind, but only if their tank is large enough.

The tank must be 40 gallons in size, and greater in length and width than in height. African Butterfly Fish must have plenty of space at the top of the tank.

Aaron Boyd
Aaron Boyd

Hello, I’m Aaron Boyd, the proud owner and author behind Aqua Movement. I hope my article was able to answer your questions. If you want to learn more about me, click the home icon above.

Aqua Movement