Filefish Care Essentials: Tank Setup, Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases & More!

Caring for filefish can be a rewarding experience for any aquarium enthusiast. These unique and fascinating marine creatures, with their intricate patterns and unusual shapes, can make a stunning addition to your home or office tank.

Filefish require a tank size of at least 30 gallons, with a temperature range of 72-78°F and a pH range of 8.1-8.4. They are omnivores and need a varied diet of high-quality frozen or live foods such as brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, and algae. They also require a well-lit aquarium with plenty of hiding places and live rock.

In my own experience, I’ve grown quite fond of the unique behaviors and striking appearance of my filefish. They truly stand out in the underwater world that I’ve created!

To ensure your filefish thrives, it’s essential to understand their specific care requirements and provide them with an appropriate environment. So, let’s dive in and explore the world of these intriguing fish together!

Filefish Care 2

Species Summary


Filefish are unique aquatic creatures that are native to tropical and subtropical regions in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.


These fish tend to have a captive lifespan of around 7-10 years, with good husbandry attention being crucial.


Filefish exhibit a diverse range of colors and patterns, often with intricate designs that help them blend into the coral environment.


Most species of Filefish grow between 6-11 inches in length, with a few larger varieties reaching up to 18 inches.

Growth Rate

The growth rate of Filefish is generally moderate; it might take them a year or two to reach their full adult size, given optimal conditions.

Behavior & Temperament

Filefish are curious and generally peaceful, being a delight to watch as they explore their habitats. I recall a time when I first introduced a Filefish in my home aquarium, and it quickly became the star of the tank due to its inquisitive nature.

Male Vs Female

Male and female Filefish tend to have minimal distinction, with males often displaying slightly brighter colors during mating seasons.

Tank Setup

Tank Size

When setting up a Filefish tank, ensure it’s at least 45 gallons. Filefish can grow over a foot in length, so they require ample space to swim. I remember when I first started, I underestimated their size, and I quickly had to upgrade my tank.


Filefish do not require specific lighting, but they do appreciate moderate light. Slightly dimmer lighting will help them feel comfortable and secure in their environment.

Filtration & Aeration

Proper filtration is essential to maintain water quality. Use a filter with a flow rate 3-5 times the tank volume per hour. Aerate the water with air stones or air pumps to promote oxygen exchange.


Filefish are tropical fish, so they require a stable temperature of 72-78°F. Use a reliable, adjustable heater to maintain the ideal water temperature.


Opt for sand or crushed coral substrate in a Filefish tank. These types of substrates resemble their natural habitat and help keep the water parameters stable.


Provide plenty of hiding spots like rocks, caves, and PVC pipes. These offer Filefish areas to retreat to and add visual interest to the tank.


Filefish may nibble on plants in the aquarium. Choose hardy, fast-growing plants like Java Fern, Anubias, and Vallisneria so they can withstand occasional nibbling.

Water Quality

Water Temperature

Filefish thrive in water temperatures between 72-78°F (22-26°C). It’s essential to maintain a consistent temperature to avoid stress. I once had a heater malfunction which caused my tank’s temperature to drop – my Filefish became very sluggish and it took quite some time for them to recover.

Water pH

The ideal water pH for Filefish ranges from 8.1-8.4. Maintaining a stable pH in this range is important for their health. You can use buffers and perform regular water tests to keep the pH levels in check.

Water Hardness

Filefish prefer water with a hardness level of 8-12 dKH (degrees of carbonate hardness). It’s essential for supporting their calcium needs for skeletal growth and overall health. To maintain proper hardness levels, you can:

  • Use calcium-rich additives
  • Add crushed coral substrate
  • Include aragonite rocks

Water Changes

Regular water changes are vital for maintaining a thriving Filefish environment. Aim for a 10-20% water change weekly, depending on your tank’s size and the number of inhabitants.

This helps to remove waste, excess nutrients, and maintain optimal water parameters for your Filefish. Remember to use dechlorinated, temperature-matched water during changes.

Tank Maintenance

Keeping a filefish tank clean is essential for their health and well-being. Regular water changes are crucial, which I personally perform every two weeks. To maintain the tank balance, I recommend changing about 25-30% of the water at a time.

Filefish thrive in well-filtered tanks, so invest in a high-quality filtration system. Mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration will ensure a clean and healthy environment. Good filtration also helps maintain stable water parameters.

Water parameters are equally important for the health and happiness of filefish. The following table shows the ideal parameters:

Temperature72-78°F (22-26°C)
Ammonia0 ppm
Nitrite0 ppm
Nitrate<10 ppm

To control the growth of algae, invest in algae-eating organisms such as snails and hermit crabs. In my own tank, I’ve added a few Astrea snails, which help keep the algae in check without disturbing the filefish.

Lighting is another important aspect of maintaining a filefish tank. Use LED lights appropriate for marine tanks, keeping the lights on for 10-12 hours a day. I personally use a timer to ensure consistent lighting cycles.

Proper feeding is crucial to filefish health; overfeeding can lead to water quality issues. Offer your filefish small amounts of food two to three times daily, which they can consume in a few minutes. Don’t forget to remove any uneaten food to keep the water clean.

In conclusion, consistent and regular tank maintenance plays a crucial role in your filefish’s well-being.

Tank Mates

Compatible Fish Species

Filefish are relatively peaceful and can coexist with many other species. Some great tank mates include:

  • Clownfish: Both species have similar temperaments and share many of the same requirements.
  • Gobies: Their smaller size and non-aggressive nature make them suitable companions for the filefish.

In fact, I once had a tank with a mix of filefish and gobies, and they got along quite well.

Incompatible Fish Species

However, not all fish are suitable companions for filefish. Some incompatible species include:

  • Large or aggressive fish: Due to their peaceful nature, filefish can become stressed or injured in the presence of aggressive tank mates, such as large angelfish or triggerfish.
  • Small invertebrates: Filefish may potentially prey on smaller invertebrates in your aquarium, such as shrimps or crabs. To ensure their safety, it’s best not to house them together.

As always, proper research and consultation with an aquatic specialist can help guide you in selecting the best tank mates for your filefish.


What To Feed

Filefish are known to eat a variety of food in the wild. In captivity, it’s essential to provide them with a diverse diet to mimic their natural eating habits. I remember when I first got my Filefish, I made sure to provide a combination of foods that included:

  • Meaty foods: Such as mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and chopped seafood like squid and shrimp.
  • Algae and seaweed: They enjoy nibbling on macroalgae, which helps with their digestion. I like to offer them dried seaweed sheets or fresh macroalgae.
  • Pellets and flakes: High-quality pellets and flakes made specifically for marine fish can provide essential nutrients to their diet.


I’ve found that feeding my Filefish 2-3 times a day works best, as it helps maintain their health and promotes growth. It’s also essential to monitor their behavior and adjust the feeding frequency and quantity accordingly.


Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful for feeding my Filefish:

  1. Soak the food: Before feeding, it’s a good idea to soften dry foods in a small cup of tank water.
  2. Introduce variety: Rotating between different types of food reduces the risk of nutritional deficiencies and keeps them interested in their meals.
  3. Clean leftovers: Promptly remove any uneaten food to maintain good water quality and prevent pollution in the tank.
  4. Observe: Watch your Filefish during the feeding process to ensure they’re eating properly and to identify any potential health issues early on.

Common Diseases


Filefish are susceptible to common aquarium diseases such as:

  • Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis)
  • Velvet (Oodinium)


Aquarium-kept filefish often exhibit the following symptoms:

  • White spots on the body and fins
  • Rapid breathing
  • Loss of appetite

For example, I once noticed my filefish rapidly gasping for air and exhibiting a loss of appetite, which indicated an underlying issue that required immediate attention.


When treating filefish for common diseases, consider the following:

  • Ich: Increase water temperature to 82°F (28°C) and use a copper-based medication.
  • Velvet: Lower salinity and administer appropriate medications.

Note: Always quarantine newly acquired fish before introducing them to your main aquarium to prevent the spread of diseases.


To minimize the risk of diseases in your filefish, follow these preventive measures:

  • Maintain water quality
  • Provide a nutrient-rich diet
  • Avoid sudden changes in water temperature and parameters

By following these preventive measures, I have maintained a healthy environment for my filefish over time.

Signs Of A Healthy Filefish

A healthy filefish displays bright and consistent coloring. Their fins should be fully extended without clamped edges. It’s important for their eyes to be clear and not cloudy or swollen

Filefish Care

Aside from physical appearances, behaviors can indicate wellness too. Eager feeding habits and active swimming show that the fish is feeling well.

While observing my filefish, I’ve noticed that when they interact positively with tank mates, it’s a sign of emotional health. Similarly, hiding or aggressive behavior might indicate stress.

Keep an eye on their breathing. Rapid or labored respiration may be a sign of health issues.

Lastly, ensure your filefish:

  • Displays consistent growth – Regularly measure your fish to make sure they’re developing properly.
  • Maintains a clean body – Ensure the aquarium setup and water parameters are appropriate for your species to ensure they remain optimally healthy.

Signs Your Fish Is Sick

One day, I noticed that my filefish was behaving unusually. It was an early sign that something was wrong. Here are some key indicators that your fish might be sick:

  • Loss of appetite: If your filefish isn’t eating as much, or at all, it might be feeling unwell.
  • Lethargy: A healthy filefish is usually active, so if it’s resting at the bottom or staying in one spot, that’s a warning sign.

Some other symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Discolored spots or patches: This could indicate a skin infection or other health issue.
  • Rapid or labored breathing: Difficulty breathing or rapid gill movement can be a sign of illness.

In my case, I discovered my fish had a bacterial infection. With the right treatment, it recovered quickly. Remember, if you spot any of these symptoms, it’s essential to act quickly and consult with an aquatic veterinarian or specialist.


Breeding Setup

To breed Filefish, set up a separate tank with stable water parameters. I remember when I first set up my breeding tank, I kept its water temperature at a consistent 77°F (25°C) and pH around 8.2.

  • Tank Size: Use a minimum 20-gallon (76 liters) aquarium.
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting is preferable.
  • Substrate: Add a mix of sand and crushed corals.
  • Caves and hiding spots: Provide PVC pipes and pieces of live rock.

How To Breed

In my experience, Filefish pairs form naturally in a breeding tank. Feed them high-quality live or frozen foods to stimulate breeding.

  1. Courtship: The male will perform a courtship display, swimming in a spectacular pattern to woo the female.
  2. Mating: The female releases her eggs, and the male fertilizes them in mid-water.
  3. Egg Care: The fertilized eggs will float and attach to nearby surfaces.
Food for Breeding Pairs
Live FoodMysis shrimp, brine shrimp, copepods
Frozen FoodSpirulina-enriched brine shrimp, krill, mysis shrimp


Caring for Filefish fry is time-consuming, but rewarding. I used to spend hours observing their growth.

  • Feeding Fry: Start with rotifers, then progress to baby brine shrimp as they mature.
  • Water Quality: Maintain pristine water conditions and conduct regular water changes.
  • Monitoring: Keep a close eye on the fry and adjust the tank conditions as needed.

By diligently tending to their needs, you can successfully breed and raise healthy Filefish.

Product recommendations for Filefish:

  1. Tetra Whisper Bio-Bag Cartridge: These filter cartridges can help keep the water clean and clear in your Filefish tank.
  2. Seachem Prime: This water conditioner can help remove harmful chemicals from tap water and make it safe for your Filefish.
  3. API Aquarium Test Kit: Regular water testing is crucial for maintaining a healthy environment for your Filefish, and this test kit can help you monitor the levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in your tank.
  4. CaribSea Arag-Alive Bahamas Oolite Sand: This sand substrate is perfect for creating a natural-looking environment for your Filefish.
  5. Hikari Marine S Pellets: These pellets are specially formulated for marine fish like Filefish and contain high levels of protein and other essential nutrients for healthy growth and vibrant coloration.
  6. Hydor Koralia Nano Aquarium Circulation Pump: This compact and efficient pump can help improve water circulation in your aquarium and provide your Filefish with a more natural environment.
  7. Zoo Med Laboratories AquaSun LED Aquarium Hood: This energy-efficient LED hood can provide ample lighting for your Filefish tank and help promote healthy plant growth.
  8. Coralife BioCube Protein Skimmer: This protein skimmer can help remove organic waste from the water and keep your Filefish tank clean and healthy.
  9. Omega One Freeze-Dried Mysis Shrimp: This tasty treat can provide your Filefish with a high-quality source of protein and help promote healthy growth and coloration.


I remember when I first got my Filefish, I was amazed by their unique appearance and curious behavior. With proper care, these fascinating fish can thrive in a home aquarium.

To maintain a healthy environment for Filefish, focus on providing a suitable tank size, stable water conditions, and plenty of hiding places. This will help reduce stress and promote their well-being.

It’s important to offer a varied diet, consisting of algae, corals, and other invertebrates, along with occasional meaty foods. This diverse menu helps ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.

Invest time in observing your Filefish, as this will not only bring joy but also help you identify any changes in their health. Regular water changes and monitoring equipment will contribute to sustaining an optimal environment.

In doing so, you’ll be rewarded with a captivating display of your Filefish’s natural behaviors, and the satisfaction of knowing that you’re providing them with a happy and healthy home.


How often should I feed my Filefish?

I remember when I first got my Filefish; I used to feed it once a day. It’s essential to feed your Filefish 1-2 times daily, giving them enough food that they can consume within 2-3 minutes.

What type of food can I give my Filefish?

Filefish like variety! You can feed them:

  • Frozen mysis shrimp
  • Brine shrimp
  • Chopped squid
  • Nori or algae sheets

What size tank is suitable for Filefish?

A minimum of 30 gallons is recommended for a Filefish, although larger tanks are better to provide more space for swimming and hiding.

Do Filefish get along with other fish in the tank?

In general, Filefish are peaceful fish and can coexist with other non-aggressive fish species. Be cautious with tankmates that are of similar size and shape, as they may exhibit territorial behavior.

What are some tips to maintain water quality?

  • Regular water changes (10-20% weekly)
  • Monitor and maintain appropriate water parameters
  • Use a high-quality filter system

By following these tips, you’ll be able to take great care of your Filefish just like I have!

Reference: Wikipedia.


Hi there! My name is Jacob, and I'm the founder of this Pet people blog that talks all about aquarium and fishkeeping. I've been passionate about fish and aquatic life since I was a kid, and I've spent countless hours learning about different species, their habitats, and how to create the perfect environment for them to thrive in.

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