Monday Archives: Underrated fish – Pyramid Butterflyfish (Hemitaurichthys polylepis)

by | Apr 17, 2023 | Fish | 2 comments









Recently, Sanjay Joshi has been posting amazing articles sharing his experience with some very difficult to keep species, like the Bandit Angelfish or the Tuka Anthias, and I´ve learned a lot from them. Having said this, sorry dear readers…. I don´t have any successful stories on maintaining rare fish of any kind, I´m not an expert on fish-keeping.
What I can do is exactly the opposite, I can write about one of most beautiful and easiest fish I ever had – the Pyramid Butterflyfish (Hemitaurichthys polylepis).
Hemitaurichthys polylepis is a  member of the family Chaetodontidae and occurs in large numbers in the Central Pacific and eastern Indian oceans. Its habitat ranges from the Great Barrier Reef north to Japan and east to Hawaii, around outer reef areas near oceanic drop-offs in depths from 10 to 130 feet ( 3 to 40 meters).
Pyramids are considered medium size fish, reaching an adult size of about 7 inches (18 cm) in length.  Usually, the minimum tank size suggested is 100 gallon (400 L).  This fish is easily recognized by its colour pattern, the fins are yellow in colour, and the body is mostly white. The white coloration forms a triangle with the yellow fins, lending it to its common name. The head are tends to turn dark as the fish matures.










Butterflyfish are known to be hard to maintain and unsuitable for reef tanks. The Pyramids falls into neither of these categories. In my opinion and personal experience, Pyramids are easy to moderate to care for and I consider them reef safe as long they are provided an adequate food supply.
In the wild, Pyramids are omnivorous and they are primarily planktonic feeders. In captivity, Pyramids are stress-free eaters and they´ll eat flakes and pellets easily. Your regular diet for most of your fish will be suitable.
One of the most interesting characteristics of these species is that they should not be kept singly. They occur in large shoals in the wild, and therefore it’s recommended to maintain at least two to four in your aquarium. So… if you are looking for a shoal of tangs and don’t want to have the Tang Police chasing you, I think a shoal of Pyramids will be a good option.
Pyramid Butterflyfish have most of the features we are looking for when buying a fish: easy to acclimate, easy to feed, reef-safe, confident and nonaggressive, meaning that they lack the innate aggression present in many butterflyfish but are self-confident enough to be housed with more aggressive tank mates. Additionally, you can do a shoal of these species and they are not overpriced – expected price is 50 to 100$ (40 to 80€), depending on the origin.

For all these reasons, I think this fish is…. Underrated!











Photos: Pedro Conceicao

  • Ricardo Pinto

    I am from Portugal (EU). I am a medical doctor and I also run the European reef blog H2O + Something. I´ve been a hobbyist for the past 15 years. I´ve started with freshwater aquariums - planted aquariums and African cichlids - and I´ve been doing reefkeeping since 2004.


  1. carlos basaloco

    Hi Ricardo,

    I keep a pair of these fish in my tank, for more then a year and I can say I am very happy with them!! Realy mark a presence in my reef tank!

    Thank for the excelent article.


  2. Timothy

    Looking to add this fish to my display someday. At least when I get a bigger display.


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