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Batfish Care Guide – Feeding, Behaviour, Filtration

This article will serve as your batfish care guide, helping you to understand what you need to know about the batfish by answering series of question on the batfish species. I know we are lovers of fish so it is important for us to acquire knowledge that will us keep safe in our home aquariums.

Are Batfish Saltwater?

We are aware that fishes have different natural habitat, but some people do not know that there are different water types of the water body.

We have the freshwater bodies (lakes as well as streams and small water bodies fall into this category) and the saline water body (the oceans, seas and generally the large water bodies fall into this category). You, as an aquarist, are definitely familiar with this concept, but for those who are just coming in, they need to understand this basic.

If you are used to keeping fishes as a pet, then you probably know that some of the fishes kept as pet thrives in salt water, while others do well in fresh water. The natural habitat of a fish is an important factor to be considered when you seek to domesticate.

Some have ignored this important factor, they ignore all the environmental factor that the fish has been conditioned to thrive in by nature and end up seeing their fishes die after few days of rearing it.

Now to the question, Batfish natural habitat is saline water, so it thrives in saltwater and should be kept in this environment. There are some batfishes that are not saltwater though. But the majority are.

What Does a Batfish Look Like?

There are quite a number of batfish species and each has its own unique look. Looking at the red-lipped batfish, it has a strange morphology.

Just as its name implies, you will be able to recognize it with its oblivious red lips. The body colour is generally light brown and at its back is a greyish colouration.

Batfish generally are not very good swimmer; therefore, they have pectoral fins adapted for walking on the floor of the ocean. On their head is a body structure that is called illicium.

This is used for enticing prey. Red-lipped batfish possess a disk perimeter that is shorter, but its fibber pectoral fin ray count is higher when you compare it to the porrectus.​

All the types of batfish have their bodies consolidated. And they are generally divided into two families: Ogcocephalidae or Ephippidae.

A body that is parallel abridged and a prolonged fin is typically found in Ephippidae family batfish. And for the other family, Ogcocephalidae, they have abnormal fin size and their bodies are transversely compressed. The red-lipped family belongs to this category. They can grow in length as much as 20.3cm.

What Is Its Behaviour Like?

The batfish is a very curious fish. Divers love them so much. They sometimes move close to divers and even follow them at times. In the open sea, they are can be seen in a group, in pairs or in solitary.

In some occasion, you can see them in pair with a turtle. You should note that their juveniles are quite shy. Also, due to their inquisitive nature, batfish are often found around buoy lines and shipwrecks.

The adult batfish work in a group to create a defence for themselves called schools. These schools make them appear as one very big individual, this strategy works well in helping them to scare away the majority of their potential predator.

For the juvenile, they defend themselves by using mimicry. They sometimes camouflage and blend into their immediate surrounding thereby making it very difficult for potential predators to sight them.

Or they mimic an inedible or poisonous creature, thereby turning away the predator. In all these species of fishes are highly lovable and you will definitely enjoy keeping them. You just need to understand their behavioural pattern and you are good to go.

What Do They Eat?

The question of fish food is an important question you need to answer before you venture into keeping one as a pet. Giving your fish the right food will ensure that it grows properly and it is well immune against diseases. Some fishes are very selective in what they eat, and if you don’t give them the right food they will not eat it. This will definitely cause them to die of hunger.

When you are getting a batfish, you should be sure that you can have access to what they feed on. The aquarist is often faced with the challenge of meeting up with the dietary requirement of wild-caught batfish. Although the captive bred can be obtained, they are quite difficult to come by. This is because batfish is quite difficult to breed in confinement.

They feed on algae or plankton depending on species. You can give them mussels as well as brine shrimp, and scallops. You should try to feed them three times in a day. The quantity should not be too much also. It is also important to they have access to seaweeds. The juvenile should be watched closes to ensure they eat. Due to their nature, they can be slow to catch the food while others are eating, this can make them starve.

What Size Tank Should They Have?

You already know that batfish need a saltwater environment to survive. They can be however found in brackish water occasionally.

If you intend to domesticate them, you need to provide for a tank of about 200 gallons of water. This size is important for them so they can have a large swimming space.

Although the initially have a very small size at the juvenile stage, they grow big very fast and can grow as big as 30 inches your aquarium. Due to the fact that they feed on reefs and corals, a reef tank is not suitable for them. They should rather be kept in FOWLR (fish-only-with-live-rock) environment, and the substrate needs to be sandy, according to ​fishkeepingworld.

Your tank needs to have an open water swimming region and also a place where your fish can hide if it feels threatened. Overhangs, live rock and caves are a good dark place that provides your fish security.

As you try to ensure this hiding place, you need to be careful not to include too much such as it would end up limiting the space available to swim freely. As much as the water level is important, your water quality should also be according to standard.

Are They Suitable For Reef Setups?

Batfish are omnivorous. They feed on coral and reefs and on many other invertebrates; they are not suitable for reef tank setups. They are more suitable for a FOLWR (fish-only-with-live-rock) aquarium.

They should be provided with a sand substrate and plenty of live rock for shelter. Batfish are peaceful fish; you should keep them in a peaceful environment, and not keep them with aggressive species.

Most importantly for their tank setup, they are fish that grows up to very large size. Up to 30 inches when they are adult, so you will need a tank not less than 300 gallons, an open space for swimming with enough hiding place for the fish to hide, for they are sometimes scared and tired.

They are very delicate fish; their environment should be properly maintained. Batfish do not really do well in tank setups, so they are difficult to breed. It is most advisable for expert aquarist only. You will need more than enough experience about fishes and aquarium, as well as a little knowledge on batfish before you can be able to provide a good tank environment for them.

Will You Need Any Water Filtration?

The maintenance of good water quality is very important for the survival of your aquarium. Your saltwater aquarium must be well filtered. The water parameters must also be checked regularly.

To keep your batfish in good in health, as they grow up due their large sizes, you will need a strong and efficient biological and mechanical filtration. The addition of a protein skimmer will be needed in order to be able to handle their large biological discharge on the system and maintain a clean water condition.

The most advised filtration for an aquarium with the size of 200 gallons is a sump design with wet/dry filtration. The Sumps are proficient at moving the water in the aquarium through the filter swiftly, ensuring that the water is turned over multiple times. The wet/dry filtration system in sump helps in the breaking down of nitrites at a very large scale.

Chemical filtration is also essential. This can be carried out by inserting a bag of aquarium carbon in an area where the water flow is high inside the sump. The carbon will assist in removing dirt from the water; dirt like acid, fat as well as dissolved wastes. By removing these impurities, the water will look crystal clear.

Roughly How Much Do They Cost?

Just like any exquisite fish, batfish are highly priced in the market. Not only are they expensive, but they are also hard to come by. When going to buy batfish, you can either get the one from the wild or one that has been brought up in confinement.

The difference between the two is that, for the one that is from the wild, it is quite difficult to meet their dietary requirement. While for the one brought up in confinement, you can easily meet its food requirement. And this definitely has a resultant effect on how much you will get to buy it.

Batfish goes for about $70-$200 depending on the species you want to get, according to aquariumcreationsonline. The pinnatus species is said to be the most expensive of all the species of batfish that are usually kept as a pet.

The expensive price of the fish is also due to the fact that the majority of them tend to die during transit on a ship. One thing to note when buying a batfish is to check if what you are buying is not diseased. Some of them tend to come with diseases which shorten their lifespan.

Where Do Batfish Originate From?

Batfishes are bottom dwellers in the ocean. They can be encountered at an approximate depth of 100 feet or greater, according to ​untamedscience

Usually, their juveniles prefer to be in hiding most of the times. The little caves and rocks on the ocean floor tend to offer cover for them from predators. They are associated with reef edge with a depth of about 120 meters.

The ocean bottom not only provides safety for them, but they also get to have access to algae and some other invertebrate animals. The life form at the bottom of the ocean is what makes the location a choice place. As you go deeper into the ocean, the light decreases, making it darker for them to survive. The temperature also decreases while alkalinity reduces and pressure increases.

The specific gravity that they require is between 1.018 to 1.025, pH should be 8.2 to 8.4 and alkalinity should be 3.5 to 4.5 meq/L. Their temperature requirements is usually 77 to 80oF while the ammonia, nitrates and nitrites level needs to be very close to zero.

Is It Easy To Breed Them?

For you to breed a batfish, you need to be an experienced aquarist. They are quite a difficult species of fish to keep. They require proper handling if you want them to have a longer lifespan. If not properly kept, there are diseases that they are susceptible to, that can affect all the other fishes in the tank where they’re kept.

If you don’t know so much about fish handling, it is advisable that you don’t venture into these categories of fish without prior training. Even specialist often get it wrong when handling them, so be very sure of your handling capability before you invest in batfish.

If you finally get a hang of it, you will definitely like them. The juvenile stage is one of the most difficult stages in keeping batfish. At this stage, if you are not very observant, they might not be eating.

Because of their calm and slow nature at this stage, other fishes might override them, causing them to die of starvation. As they grow older, it tends to get easier, but even at this stage, serious caution is still required to avoid mortality.

What Do Orbiculate Batfish Look Like?

The orbiculate batfish is also known as the cooper batfish. Its appearance varies frequently from it juvenile stage to its adult stage. It changes both in colour and body shapes. It’s the smallest among the batfish species.

As an adult, it grows up to 20 inches. It has a flat body shape and it looks oval in nature. The orbiculate batfish varies in yellow and silver in colour, with two stripes. One across its eye and the other across its side fin.

As a juvenile, it has a reddish brown colour with black spots around its body. It sometimes has black spots scattered around its body.

The orbiculate batfish has been well known to live more than the 5- 12 years estimated for a batfish. The batfish is a peaceful and friendly fish; it should not be placed with aggressive fish.

It cannot defend itself. Also it is not reef safe; it will feed on small fishes and invertebrates such as coral and anemones. They should be stored in a FOWLR environment.

What Do Teira Batfish Look Like?

The teira batfish is also known as the longfin spadefish, the round-faced batfish, and longfin batfish. As a juvenile, it has a brown colour body. Also, it has very long dorsal and anal fins that become shorter as the fish grows. As an adult, it varies from silver to grey and brown body colour.

It changes colour from silver-white to brown and back to silver across its lifespan. It has two stripes across its body, one across the eye and the other across the pectoral fin. This batfish looks like a triangle shape with it fins spread out. It grows up to 60cm in length and is not suitable for a reef tank habitat.

The Teira Batfish will eat coral, small invertebrate and sessile invertebrate. They are peaceful species; they should not be placed with aggressive species. They will form a school with other fishes of the same species.

Just like their orbiculate counterparts, they should be kept in a FOWLR environment. Their natural habitat is the Indo-west Pacific Ocean. Teira should be provided with a large amount of swimming space, nothing less than a 240-gallon aquarium.

They should be provided with an environment with sandy substrate and enough overhangs for shelter, according to saltwaterfish.

What Do Pinnatus Batfish Look Like?

The Pinnatus batfish is also known as the Dusky batfish and the red-faced batfish. It has a dark brown body colour that is outlined with orange stripes. It is usually found in protected shallow waters.

It is a very sensitive fish and gets accustomed to the environment of the tank slowly. The Pinnatus batfish grows very fast. It is a very delicate fish; a good water quality must be maintained for the survival of the fish. These batfish are usually found in small groups or alone.

They grow up to 18 inches and are not fit for a reef aquarium. They need a tank not less 240 gallons. As a juvenile, it has a black body colour with bright orange stripes on its body. The Pinnatus batfish loses it beauty as it grows and become a silver fish with black stripes.

Pinnatus batfish are omnivores, they feed on invertebrates. It looks like a flying eagle when its fins are spread while swimming. This way, the fish adds a stunning appearance to your aquarium. It is a very peaceful fish and should not be kept with aggressive fishes.

What Do Captive Bred Pinattus Batfish Look Like?

Tank raised Pinnatus batfish do not look different from a Pinnatus batfish from the wild. The only difference you get is that your batfish is already accustomed to the environment. And it can tolerate more tank mates and freely relate with other fishes. Do you have Tang fish? Then maybe they could be a consideration.

A tank raised Pinnatus batfish saves you from the stress of watching over the batfish with extreme caution as they seem to die after a few day or hours of capture. It is an interesting fish to watch while swimming.

The Pinnatus batfish do much better when is feed rightly. It is an omnivorous fish so its diet consists of Shrimp and Crustacean flesh, including Seaweed. Also, they need Algae for them to be really active.

The Pinnatus batfish is extremely difficult to care for. It can only be properly cared for by special aquarist.

They do not do well in reef aquariums, you will need to keep them in a FOWLR aquarium not less than 240 gallons due to the size grow to. They need a free large space for them to freely move.

Is Batfish A Good Choice For Beginners?

I will totally advise beginners to go for an easier fish to breed. The batfish require a level of expert care for it to survive outside the wide. The fish often die after a few days of capture.

Beginners will end up losing all their precious fish. Beginners do not have the required equipment to properly take care of a batfish. Therefore, in no uncertain terms, the batfish is a wrong choice for beginners. It requires a high level of attention.

As a beginner, you need to be patient. First, learn and understand how to take of fishes in an aquarium at the minimal level. Batfish are costly, and when they die, it’s not only a pet lost but also money wasted.

You should avoid batfish as a beginner, except if you’re experimenting on them. It is therefore important that when thinking of breeding these fishes, you should arm yourself with few basic information before taking the plunge.


Batfish are a wonderful breed of fish to have as a pet. Although it is quite difficult to breed them in confinement, it is still possible.

You definitely can't help falling in love with a pinnatus batfish in a transparent fish tank. The sight is marvelling.

As technology continues to advance and innovations are brought to home aquarium, it is believed that very soon, we will be able to breed this awesome creature in our home as it really beautifies wherever it is kept.


Hey, thanks for passing by, welcome to the blog for Pet Fish fans. This is me, Wayne, and my son Theo. I started this journey after we bought him hist first Fish Tank of fish. Follow my site for my research and info on Pet Fish.