My experience with Corallivores/ Harlequin Filefish/Current success with melon butterflyfish/other successes angels,cbb and future challenges/trials


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The Beginning
One day when I was 14 (age and time might be a little wrong give or take 1 year) I was browsing YouTube on beginning saltwater Ever since I saw the BRS Nuvo 20 gallon tank video where there was a flash of an orange spotted filefish I knew I had to start my saltwater journey. Come to find out that that was an impossible fish to keep or so I thought. As a life long freshwater fish guy who's father had saltwater tanks (with not too much success) I was devoted to learn and understand the basics of keeping a saltwater tank! And there I started my journey. I got the nuvo 20 and set it up filled with water got a clownfish etc but we can skip to when I had my first experience with a corallivore.

The First Corallivore /HARLEQUIN FILEFISH
A year or two later I finally decide to upgrade to an aquamaxxx22 instead of the nuvo 20 as I much rather enjoyed the dimension and length as the tank. I sold off and gave away all of my fish. I believe it was a clownfish, a porcupine puffer ( I know in a 20 that's crazy but c'mon we all start somewhere and he was 3-4 inches) and something else I don't quite remember and decided it was time to finally try a pair of orange spotted filefish. I read from everywhere people who had success and people who said it was a death trap and that you shouldn't waste your money or time. As much as people give Live aquaria a bad wrap I was thoroughly impressed on how well they had weaned their filefish onto prepared foods I had read somewhere where someone had major success from ordering from diver's den so I waited for the time to strike. I remember everyday at 3 pm PST during school I would check Diver's den to see if a pair made the list after a few months after waiting I finally saw it. I remember telling my tutor " Yo I gotta go home now" and I left without a word and asked my mom if I could use her credit card. Boom I Ordered!
The fish came the next day and I was ever so excited. I also ordered the cheapest sps frag LA had and was ready to go to my lfs and buy the ugliest cheapest sps for them to nom on. However almost immediately they took too prepared foods. Specifically the Frozen fish eggs from san francisco bay brand but also hikari frozen brine shrimp. Was it that easy? Yes! What was the downfall? The pair cost me 150 bucks for the fish alone. Another 100 for the coral sps pack to "feed" which was a lot for me as a highschooler. I would see them pick at the sps whenever I came back from school but on the weekends when I could give them multiple feedings a day the would never touch it. Even though they were basically just normal not hard fish to keep I watched them with intent on what their characteristics and what they did when they were "hunting". I noticed they never picked at any of my softies (leathers, zoas, toadstools, xenia, etc) however they would pick on my euphyillia ONLY IF the tissue was damaged/closing + underfed. Also when you put new frag in they'd give a peck just to never touch them again. Kind of like a "hey is this food ? Nah its not!". THIS IS IMPORTANT.... I see them picking off of stuff off the glass they kinda swim along and if they see an irregularity they kinda hug the class bend into an s shape and pick which at the time was probably copepods or something however THIS HAS HELPED ME TREMEDNOUSLY INTO WEANING OTHER SPECIMENS. I would have decent success with this first pair until I lost the female to a mouth injury and later kept the male for a year later after the female passed. I may have lost him to neglect as high school was very time consuming however I believe it was just his time and I did what I could. LEts move forward to my attempt with a untrained pair. This time I had discovered masstick and let me tell you this is a god send for corallivores. They take to it immediately however. I have personalyl mushed it onto dead sps skeletons for the filefish but have had better time training them sticking it into the open glass. They seem to learn better that, that place on the glass is the food spot. So they start eating the masstick and I feed it as often as I can. Throwing it onto the glass whenever I see them finish the previous tab as I wasn't them to be fat since they often come in a little skinny. I would then mush in frozen brine shrimp + the frozen fish eggs and eventually get them onto that. Later adding more percent of shrimp and egg frozen foods to the masstick. As it kinda breaks off they start to notice and go for the breaking chunks then finally leading to them going for anything that falls. This wild pair I had success with mastick + frozen food for 2 years before my heater exploded nuking my tank! I also had cheap birdsnest colonies to help supplement when I was gone and away from the tank which they'd ignore till I was out of town. I would visually see the birdsnest turn from fluffy to all drawn in in and it would repeat from fluffy to drawn in in when I was gone for multiple days. My most recent pair I did the same however I found that freeze dried brine shrimp is actually very useful as it stays in the water column and on the surface. When they are learning in the "break off" phase from the mass stick they kind of give up if something floats and sinks away to the bottom and go back to the main cluster however since the freeze dried brine shrimp(have a decent but not great video of my big male eating) stays in the water column they kinda keep their attention and go after it. The only con is the particle size can be kinda big so if the filefish are too small they cant go after it. I very sadly lost my most recent pair about 2 months ago because my whole tank crashed, all my corals lived but my fish were all found dead one morning and the tank was a murky white. I personally believe it was a huge bristle worm spawn(I see them spawning a lot) that caused the cascade of tank boom. Since I do feed a lot, I have a lot of them . I keep a 25 gallon mixed reef mostly softy dominated but I do not care for if they touched or messed with any of my corals. I am FIRST AND MFORSURE a fish guy. I am confident that I can almost get any harlequin filefish to eat as long as they don't come in too far gone from where ever I am getting them from. HOWEVER, my lfs that I now work at one time brought in like 4 of them that were I swear to god 5 inches across they were HUGE. I come from the belief it is harder to wean bigger fish. In think anything less then 3-3.5 inches is perfect to try with the harlequin filefish. I also found that the fish personally like the premade masstick tabs better compared to the diy powder one but maybe I just suck at making it. It also doesn't stick to stuff as well especially the glass.

I am hooked onto difficult fish to feed and The Melon Butterfly

Ever since I discovered the harlequin filefish I dove into the world of obligate corallivores. Shout out to Matt Pederson this guy is my idol. I read and watch all about butterflies, angels even the leopard blenny and decide in my lifetime, I want to have and create success for these fish. The lfs I now work at brought in a tiny melon butterfly and the price was too good for me to not try and trial with it. My tank is full of live good stuff for this fish to pick on for a little while so I decide to take him home. I had sps skeletons and a meat coral skeleton ( WHICH IS ESSENTIAL TO DO FOR ALL CORALLIVORES DO IT IN UNISON WHEN TRYING TO WEAN) ready to mush frozen food and masstick onto it which I was planning to do however I noticed one thing again. This specific melon butterfly after 1 day was acclimated and kinda picking at stuff on my glass again. I thought no way will this work. I stuck on half a tab and boom, he takes a nibble. Ever since that day he has gotten more bold and knows once again that food is at the "spot". I have been throwing 3 half tabs of masstick a day on the glass and he has been getting fatter. I am on about 1.5 months with this guy and he has definitely grown and gotten way fatter since I got him. Sometime you get lucky, however I wonder if its just getting a good specimen and the right conditions. Would also like to say, if you haven't watched the BRS video with elliot of marine collectors. GO watch them now. This will help you understand what you need to do for success and it can come down with finding a very good specimen to start off with. FOr the reason of wow the small melon butterfly looks great and right sized I Pounced. I have not introduced other foods into his diet yet, however I will soon. To be honest I am kinda coasting with it and a little lazy but soon I won't be. I know viking reefing just made a video, I haven't watched it however I have seen his instagram posts and I bet you that he has a lot of useful information. I see that repashy is also a really good food to use when weaning however, I have not used it due to the fact I am broke and have had success without it HOWEVER It is always good to diversify and feed different foods. The rest of what I will be saying will be just fast things with what I have noticed working at my lfs.

Copperband Butterflies

DO NOT! I REPEAT DO NOT grab one that is kinda looking up. I personally think that's doomed or semi doomed. Their is levels to it and I wish I could explain in greater detail but if It kind of looks like its having a hard time balancing and looking up, don't try. They come in rough sometimes especially larger ones I see have mouth injuries since the bags aren't big enough. However, if it is healthy and good, I believe if you put it into a not bare bone system that is too small to the size it will do fine. I have seen times of monkey see monkey do but it doesn't always work out. I do think they do better for sure with other bigger peaceful fish in the tank to kinda show them the ropes. I haven't tried too many times with them. I have had success with a small one before I gave it to a friend of mine. Throw a plethora of foods, make sure its looking good and make sure nothing is bullying it too strong,

Centropyge Aurantia/ Golden Angelfish
Just put it in a tank with rocks and caves for it to weave in and out of. Not too many but like branching rock is perfect since you can still kinda see where it is. Throw in food and as long as it makes it to the cave I usually find that it eats. We have a tank with branching rock and good flow to distribute the food, I have seen 3 of them eat on different occasions. We put one in a bare empty system. He hid behind the overflow and was never comfortable enough.

Arabian Butterflyfish
This is one of my holy grails, have never tried it however with the success of the melon that may cause me to try however I have seen it at my lfs. It was there for like 1 month but never ate, I tried however I only work part time on the weekends to help out but no success with monkey see monkey do. It swam around and sometimes picked at the rocks however it looked healthy and cruised around perfectly until the tank got wiped from ich.

Paracentropyge Angels
Similar to what I said about the golden angel. I have gotten a purple masked angel eating but that was only a 1 time experience as I haven't dealt with the fish before but I have replicated the success kind of, with the multibar angel fish with a lot of feeding with a plethora of food. But "dirty rocks" filled with sponges and other random stuff for them to pick at helps for sure. Multibars are still hit or miss but this is with not too much effort as I am not there every day.

Leopard Blenny
This is one cool fish however, I don't think I can get it to eat in my tank now. I believe I need like a 120 full of sps as a customer had an experience where another shop sold it to him as like a cool looking lawnmower but he saw it take huge chunks out of sps at the time. Just don't think I can supplement but I bet for this fish, if you use ***** skeletons with a bunch of mushed food it will be the case or something along those lines.

End Goal
My end goal is to be able to keep these alive all well and healthy and help others with it too. My real end goal is to get captive breeding done for rare and difficult species, matter of fact all species. Let me know if you have any experiences with somewhat difficult fish or any questions or just anything. Thank you for reading!


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Jay Hemdal

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Getting good quality fish to start with is vital to the process. IIRC , Matt had a number of early failures until he located better quality, short supply chain fish.

Here is a link to my article on "fish to avoid":

How much do you care about having a display FREE of wires, pumps and equipment?

  • Want it squeaky clean! Wires be danged!

    Votes: 38 43.7%
  • A few things are ok with me!

    Votes: 43 49.4%
  • No care at all! Bring it on!

    Votes: 6 6.9%