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Butterflyfish Facts

Madhura Pandit Mar 7, 2020
The butterflyfish is called so due to the bright and colorful patterns on its body. There are more than a hundred known species of the fish. Here are some more fascinating facts about the butterflyfish.
The saltwater butterflyfish (family Chaetodontidae) is not to be confused with freshwater African butterflyfish (family Pantodontidae). They are entirely different species and bear no similarities.
The butterflyfish (also written as butterfly fish) is a colorful marine fish, usually found in coral reefs. This tropical fish is a common sight in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. These species are found in a variety of colors, and are very attractive.
Their colorful appearance earns them the name 'butterflyfish'. The fish is popular in aquariums and among fish breeders. Butterflyfish and angelfish look more or less similar.

Quick Facts

  • Common Name - Butterflyfish (or Butterfly fish)
  • Family - Chaetodontidae
  • Location - Indian, Atlantic, Pacific Oceans
  • Habitat - Tropical coral reefs
  • Average size - 4 inches - 8 inches
  • Life Span - 4-8 years
  • Water Type - Saltwater
  • Conservation Status - Least Concern
  • Color - Yellow, White, Silver, Black, Orange
  • Diet - Omnivore
  • Prey - Plankton, Coral, Crustaceans
  • Predators - Fish, Eels, Sharks
  • Distinctive Features - Bright colors

Miscellaneous Facts

  • The butterflyfish and the coralfish belong to the family Chaetodontidae. There are about 120 known species of the fish.
  • The butterflyfish, the banner fish and the coralfish look similar. This is because they all belong to the same family, i.e., Chaetodontidae.
  • A butterflyfish has a pointed snout or an elongated nose, that is absent in the angelfish.
  • Spawning in these fish occurs usually at dusk. This is a natural mechanism used to increase the survival rate of the young ones.
  • The fish are able to make quick and swift movements due to the constant strokes made with their pectoral fins.

Physical Features and Behavior

  • The average length of these fish is about 5-9 inches. However, certain species like the saddle butterflyfish can grow up to 12 inches in length.
  • The fish has a disc-shaped body, uninterrupted dorsal fins and a rounded tail. Certain species also have eye-like spots on their backs and/or tails.
  • Most of the species of the butterflyfish are very colorful, with red, yellow and orange shades and patterns on their body. However, you may also come across some dull-colored species.
  • Butterflyfish develop specific plates on their body as protective armors during their period of reproduction. These plates disappear completely as the fish age.
  • Among all the species, the golden butterflyfish is the most popular and sought-after ones. It has a bright yellow body, a long snout and is known as yellow longnose butterflyfish.
  • Usually, these fish travel in schools. A solitary traveling fish is usually in search of a mate. When the fish finds its mate, they hunt, live, and travel together for life.


  • The butterflyfish is omnivorous. It feeds on worms, amphipods, crabs, zooplankton, as well as algae and seaweed.
  • Its long snout helps to get food from crevices of rocks.
  • In case you keep them as pets, you should feed them very tiny pieces of frozen seafood or fish flesh. They have a tiny mouth and have difficulty in eating large quantity of food.


  • As mentioned above, this fish is found in the coral reefs. It is commonly found in the Western Indo-Pacific.
  • The fish stays in shallow water (up to 20m) and is rarely found to go in the deep waters.
You can visit the local aquarium to actually see these beautiful fish. They make excellent pets. If you are planning for the same, you can look out for fish care tips and then buy one. Ciao!