My Thoughts on Copperbands

Discussion in 'General Discussions and Advice' started by Paul B, 22 Mar 2013.

  1. Paul B

    Paul B

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    I have always been drawn to more odd shaped fish like copperband butterflies, frogfish, pipefish, seahorses etc, but copperbands always keep me facinated. They are not very rare and not real difficult but many people have trouble keeping them, or even getting them to eat.
    In the early 70s I started to write a book (that I will never finish) and I noticed in my notes that copperbands were one of the first fish I used to keep, right after blue devils, clowns and dominoes.
    In those days I didn't have the food choices I have now and I also didn't have the experience, but neither did anyone else so it was trial and error.
    The biggest hurdle in keeping a copperband is getting a healthy one. I know that is a problem with many fish but it seems that copperbands or any very skinny fish have more trouble than most during collection. I have found that many specimins aquire internal injuries either during collection or during transport. This is sometimes noticable as a very faint darker patch on the fishes sides. This discoloration I have found during many autopsies is from internal bleeding. I am not sure if a rib breaks and punctures a blood vessel or just cuts the muscle. This dark patch eventually darkens and the fish dies.
    A fish with this flattened shape is vulnerable to injuries more than say a clownfish which has a much more robust body shape and it's ribs are shielded behind it's powerful tail muscles. There is not much to a copperband and it's ribs are practically at it's skin so there is no cushening. It's snout is also a detriment to the fish when it comes to confinement as it is very delicate as is it's tiny mouth. Don't forget, in that thin snout has to be blood vessels and tendons to operate that jaw along with enough space to allow food to slide through while at the same time admit water to breathe.
    But the good news is that it is "fairly" easy to pick a healthy copperband butterfly. By the way a copperband is a "chelmen" and there are 3 similar shaped chelmen's that I know of. But back to healthy copperbands. I have swam with these on the reefs and they are always on the move. All fish with tiny mouths are always on the move because they can not eat much at one meal so they have to constantly hunt. That tiny mouth is not much good to kill anything much larger than a fraction of an inch and a copperband is not a particularly fast fish but it is smart. How do I know how smart it is? The only reason it doesn't do well on standardised tests is because it doesn't have thumbs to hold the pencil so trust me, it's smart. You just have to look at a tank full of fish and you will see. Most fish, like angels, tangs and manta rays just swim around aimlessly but a copperband seems to have a mission. That is how you can tell it is healthy. Copperbands have a personality and each fish has a different one. Some eat aiptasia, some only eat clams and some only worms. But almost everything they eat is either crawling or sticking out of a rock. That is the purpose of that snout.
    They use it to pull tiny creatures out of their dens. On the reefs copperbands live on aiptasia, tiny shrimp, fish fry and worms. So a healthy copperband should be constantly looking closely at either the substrait or in holes in rocks.
    If it is swimming around looking at you, the ceiling or a picture on the wall of Paris Hilton, it may not be in good shape as they are always hungry. Healthy ones will be constantly staring at something on a rock or the sand that they thought they saw move. If they don't find it, they move on to the next possable snack.
    If you come across a few of them in a tank, you can easily tell the healthy ones and the ones that won't make it a week. They are not like most fish as most fish can eat once and not worry about food for a week, copperbands, due to their tiny mouth, can not.
    So if you find a copperband that looks alert, seems to be searching for food, doesn't have any discolorations or missing scales, is not shaking or starring at pictures of Miss Hilton, then ask the store owner to feed him. If he doesn't eat, don't buy him. The employee will say that they just got him or he was just fed or he is a little stressed from transport, just woke up, has a headache, athletes foot or any number of things, but don't buy it. Of course if it eats, then buy it or don't ask the guy to feed it.
    When you get this fish home, if you quarantine it (and that is up to you) I would be careful not to put it in a tiny tank as some of them do not do well in tight quarters.
    But once you aclimate it to your reef they need some extra care, not like a damsel that you can feed Alpo, Cheerios or crackers. This fish needs worms or something like a worm. They will eat tiny pieces of clam, mysis or the best food, live blackworms. If you can not feed these foods, IMO don't get a copperband. They can live on other things (if they eat it) but if you want to keep it for quite a few years, they need meaty foods like I stated. If you want to feed pellets and flakes, your copperband will not like you and he will almost certainly not eat it.
    Copperbands also eat pods or anything tiny enough for them to see and it is better to feeded this fish a couple of times a day especially if you are one of those people with a sterile tank who goes to church to pray that that tiny bit of hair algae goes away. Copperbands do not always come from pristine reefs as they are also found in silty tidal inlets far from the coral reef. They are constant pickers and a slightly messier tank is better for them as they can hunt and hopefully find something for a snack. Healthy copperbands will constantly hunt even in a bare glass tank with nothing in it, but they won't live long there.
    I don't want to make it sound like a copperband is the easiest fish in the world, where you can keep it in damp sawdust instead of seawater, but they are not as difficult as moorish Idols or whale sharks. I also can't keep one for 10 years even though most of my fish live much longer than that, but I can and have kept many of them over 5 years which is not great but for some reason they seem to be accident prone as I have found mandarins are also. I also discovered many times that they do jump out and if you have any agressive fish, they will jump. They can take care of themselves as their dorsal spines are sharp and their only means of defense.
    Anyway, these are only my opinions so do with this information what you will. I am sure many people know these things already as people have been keeping this beautiful fish for over forty years.
    This first picture shows that dark discoloration I mentioned. It eventually got worse and an autopsy revealed internal bleeding
    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]
     
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  3. cswhitehead

    cswhitehead

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    Thanks for sharing your experience. Always enjoy reading your posts
     
    Last edited: 22 Mar 2013
  4. Irma

    Irma

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    Very interesting read. Thanks for the information.
    I do not think that we get live blackworms here. I guess that normal earthworms will not work??
     
  5. carlosdeandrade

    carlosdeandrade

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    Great read, @Paul B again, your knowledge has excited me.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 26 Nov 2015
  6. Paul B

    Paul B Thread Starter

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    I forget that you guys are a few miles or kilometers away. Blackworms come from California but yes, earthworms do work.

    OK, but don't get to excited, it will ruin my reputation
     
  7. Paul B

    Paul B Thread Starter

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    I took this in Tahiti, yes I know it is not a copperband but humor me and make believe, I didn't take any copperband pictures. Long Nose butterflies are a different species and look and act very similar.
    Look how long the snouts are on these butterflies. Some copperbands have long snouts also depending on where they come from
    [​IMG]
     
  8. seank

    seank

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    Excellent post Paul
     
  9. Paul B

    Paul B Thread Starter

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    Thank you fish hook avatar person :blush:
     
  10. pkc

    pkc

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    It’s a good read Paul and all quite true, we have them in extremely bountiful amounts just down the road from me at our bayside, the guys are just finding the new season ones now of around 20 mill in length. There are three common types of damage we use to observe amongst commercial collection when I did that back then and all normally kill them down the track.
    There is a combination mix they will eat that we make and they do really well on, plus there is a reply to your post saying a butterfly fish, the forcepiger and the chelmonops family are not chaetodons and I wish people wouldn’t call them that as it creates confusion with actual butterfly fish that are on average no good for reef tanks where as the long nose species of fish are fine normally for reef tanks.
    The areas of mass colonizing of these is as you say, in estuaries and protected reefs in bays. So far this season, from there beginning of life in the plankton from September to November and from late February, now that they are big enough to be seen while fossicking, I have been seeing one fish per meter of area on average of the juvenile chelmons. Roughly each three years there is a mass repopulation of them along our shoreline. The heavy rains have certainly helped the phytoplankton no end and have increased the food source for them and the multitude of other marine life while amongst the plankton at their planktonic stage,so this year of the estuaries that were not wiped out by the rains are going to be bursting with them as usual for this cycle.
    Oh and with a mix of de husked peas,limpit meat and cunjivoe meat,its very hard to kill moorish idols.
     
  11. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    So the copper bands have different length snouts depending where they come from?

    Do the longer snouts eat aiptaiser or the shorter snout ones?;)
     
  12. ShaunSwindon

    ShaunSwindon

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    Good question sir :thumbup:
     
  13. Yuri

    Yuri

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    I also think thy are better in a tank with slow feeders
     
  14. EFJ

    EFJ MASA Contributor

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    So normal garden earthworms will work or does it have to be a specific worm?
     
  15. dallasg

    dallasg Moderator MASA Contributor

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    Great article Paul, is this going in that book you writing , nudge nudge
     
  16. seank

    seank

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    Jip, I am hooked on reefing and fishing...:thumbup:
     
  17. Paul B

    Paul B Thread Starter

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    Of course being from New York, I don't know what most of those things are. When I dove with Moorish idols in Tahiti all I saw them eat was sponges and here in NY I can harvest a sponge that they love. I had my last idol for 5 years which stinks but for a moorish Idol, it is pretty good.

    I don't think so or know why they have different snout lengths.
    Look at the snouts on these long nose butterflies that I took in Tahiti.
    [​IMG]

    And compared to the one I have. The wild ones have much longer snouts.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 23 Mar 2013
  18. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    Paul, banter aside, are they not two different species. The one has a black spot just below the caudal the other not.
     
  19. Paul B

    Paul B Thread Starter

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    Are you talking copperbands or long nose butterflies?

    I know the copperbands are at least 2 types and you can see from the pictures that long nose butterflies also have at least two different types as you noticed the spot.
     
  20. dallasg

    dallasg Moderator MASA Contributor

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    Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish (Forcipiger flavissimus) with spot
    Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish (Forcipiger Longirostris) no spot
    longirostris is 100% safe, flavissimus is less, but also almost 100%
     
  21. Paul B

    Paul B Thread Starter

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    Dallasg, thank you, I didn't know that.
     
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