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Related FAQs: Fijian Butterflyfishes, Indonesian Butterflyfishes, Butterflyfish Identification, Butterflyfish Foods/Feeding/NutritionButterflyfish Compatibility, Butterflyfish Behavior, Butterflyfish Systems, Butterflyfish Selection, Butterflyfish Disease,

Over to other Regional Accounts of Butterflyfishes: Cook Islands, Hawai'i, Maldives, Red Sea, Malaysia

/The Fishwatcher's Guides

 Butterflyfishes of Fiji

Bob Fenner

Heniochus monoceros FJ 

Butterflyfishes for Marine

Diversity, Selection & Care
New eBook on Amazon: Available here
New Print Book on Create Space: Available here

by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Bula! Welcome to the warm, clear waters of Fiji, a spread about cluster of some three hundred islands in the South Pacific. Though most of the Butterflyfishes (family Chaetodontidae) are on the "too touchy" side of the pet fish scale of survivability for aquarium use, the hardier (and medium) species that can be had out of Fiji should bear attention for two principal reasons: the presence of professional collecting/holding/shipping businesses in the trade located here, and secondly, the regular, speedy air-freight service (direct to Los Angeles). 

Everyone who has been in the trade and/or hobby has their own list of best and least liked organisms, one's that generally make it and those that don't. Here are my opinions re the chaetodonts after handling a few tens of thousands over the last thirty plus years. A couple of explanations. Common and scientific names are those most often used in the United States; no apology or vain attempt at completeness is offered. I know there is going to be no absolute agreement on what I'm putting forth here, but I'll gladly stand by my assessments; they are borne out of many individuals being examined from many origins, size ranges, shipping modalities...

For the purpose of our discussions here, we can place B/F species (not individuals) as such in distinct "boxes"; "good", "bad", "medium" and "unknown". "Good Butterflyfishes" I'll define as those that have been found to have a survival of fifty plus percent for three plus months (decent specimens shipped properly, passing alive wholesale through to the "end-user"). "Medium" ones have maybe 25% survivability; "Bad" B/Fs have less than twenty percent survival within the same parameters. Yes, the Butterflyfishes may be demarcated this didactically; the 'good' ones generally live, the 'bad' ones die easily. To save download time, click on the genera and FAQs links

"Good" Fijian Butterflies:

Chaetodon auriga Forsskal 1775, the Threadfin Butterflyfish. A great beauty and hardy aquarium specimen, though it will eat coral polyps and anemones. See other materials on this species by clicking on name. Widespread Indo-Pacific. An Auriga B/F in Hawai'i, and a Red Sea one w/o the rear dorsal area eyespot

Chaetodon ephippium Cuvier 1831, the Saddleback Butterflyfish. To a large size (9") and too often collected too large for aquarium use (get one 3-4" best). Central and western Pacific. Very nice out of Hawai'i for use in the U.S. Broad feeder on benthic invertebrates including coral polyps. Aquarium image.

Chaetodon lunula (Lacepede 1803), the Raccoon Butterflyfish. Though not as attractive as its namesake in the Red Sea (C. fasciatus), the Indo-Pacific Raccoon is just as hardy, and a very good choice for eating pest Aiptasia anemones in reef tanks, though it will consume coral polyps in some cases. This one in the Cook Islands, South Pacific.

Chaetodon melannotus  Bloch & Schneider 1801, the Black-Backed Butterflyfish.  To six inches, mainly 3-4. Widespread distribution from Africa's east coast and Red Sea (pictured here) over to the mid-Pacific. Hardy, though it does eat soft and hard coral polyps.

Chaetodon mertensii Cuvier 1831, the Chevron or Merten's Butterflyfish. A common, but hardy and good-looking species. You may find the Indian Ocean variety of this species listed/sold as C. madagaskariensis... it's the same species. Tropical central Pacific to east African coast. To five inches long. Pictured: one in the Maldives, Indian Ocean and one in the Cooks,  South Pacific.

Chaetodon ulietensis Cuvier 1831, the Pacific Double Saddleback Butterflyfish. A Pacific version of the Falcula or Saddleback Butterflyfish (Chaetodon falcula) of the Indian Ocean. Omnivorous eating habits, chowing down on many types of invertebrates and algae.. To about six inches in length. 

Forcipiger flavissimus   Jordan & McGregor 1898, Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish, Forcepsfish. Wide variety of foods taken, rarely corals. Widest species distribution of B/Fs, from east coast of Africa to west coast of Central America. To eight inches overall length. Maldives image. 

Heniochus acuminatus (Linnaeus 1758), the Long-Fin Bannerfish.(1) Widespread, central Pacific to east coast of Africa. Not in Hawai'i. To ten inches overall length. Cleaners as juveniles. Andaman Sea image.

Heniochus chrysostomus Cuvier 1831, Pennant Butterflyfish.(1) Central to western Pacific distribution. To six inches long in wild. Similar to H. varius, which is much more commonly offered in the trade. Heron Island, Australia image.

Heniochus monoceros Cuvier 1831, the Masked Bannerfish. To nine inches long, and "beefy" in profile. Mid-Pacific to east African coast. Takes all foods with gusto. Maldives image.

Parachaetodon ocellatus  (Cuvier 1831), the Eye-Spot Coralfish. Tropical western Pacific. Generalized feeder. To about six inches long in the wild.

Going back to Sulawesi, with an achin' in my heart

Medium Fijian Butterflies

Chaetodon citrinellus Cuvier 1831, the Speckled Butterflyfish. Aggressive in the wild, this is another broad feeder of invertebrates, including corals. Widely distributed and common, though never plentiful in the mid-Pacific all the way over to Africa. To five inches overall. One in the Cooks

"Bad" Fijian Butterflies:

Chaetodon baronessa Cuvier 1831, the Eastern Triangular or Baroness Butterflyfish. Like the similar Indian Ocean congener, Chaetodon triangulum, this fish is a strict feeder on coral polyps. Too often shipped out of Fiji, the Philippines and Indonesia. To six inches in the wild.

Chaetodon flavirostris Gunther 1873, the Black or Yellow-Faced Butterflyfish. Usually shy and non-feeding. Eats coral polyps, other bottom-dwelling invertebrates and algae in the wild. To some eight inches long. Way too often sold to the hobby as juveniles... they don't live. The first one at a wholesalers, the second in the Cook Islands.

Chaetodon lineolatus Cuvier 1831, the Lined Butterflyfish. At a foot long, vying for largest of the family. Widespread from Hawai'i over to the east coast of Africa, into the Red Sea. A beauty that eats corals, anemones, much of all else, but doesn't live. One in Hawai'i.

Chaetodon lunulatus Quoy & Gaimard 1824, the Redfin Butterflyfish. Easily confused with the Indian Ocean Redfin Butterflyfish, Chaetodon trifasciatus, this western Pacific to Hawaii congener fares no better in captivity. To about six inches long in the wild... leave it there. Here's a specimen in Fiji.

Chaetodon octofasciatus Bloch 1787, the Eight-banded Butterflyfish. Often sold as a "misc." butterfly, this is a strict feeder on coral polyps... rarely lives more than a few days. A juvenile and adult in Pulau Redang, Malaysia.

Chaetodon ornatissimus Cuvier 1831, the Ornate Butterflyfish. Yet another obligate corallivore. Yes, a beauty, but does not live in home fish tanks. Indo-west Pacific, Including Hawaiian Islands. To about seven inches in length. Commonly offered, doesn't live. This one in Hawai'i.

Chaetodon pelewensis  Kner 1868, the Sunset or Dot-Dash Butterflyfish. Very similar to the hardy Spot-Banded Butterflyfish, Chaetodon punctatofasciatus but with oblique body barring versus vertical. Southern Pacific Ocean area. To five inches length overall. This one in the Cook Islands.

Chaetodon plebeius Cuvier 1831, the Blue-Spot Butterflyfish. Maldives eastward to the South Pacific (Fiji), where these images were made. A beauty that is often sold in the trade and rarely lives for any period of time to speak of. This image from Australia.

Chaetodon reticulatus Cuvier 1831, the Reticulated Butterflyfish. Nice looking, and "friendly" underwater toward divers, but dismal survival records in captivity for this coral polyp eater. Found commonly in central and western Pacific. To six inches total length. One in the Cooks.

Chaetodon trifascialis Quoy & Gaimard 1824, Chevroned Butterflyfish. This fish is way too often offered in the trade, belying it's wide distribution, mid-Pacific to the east coast of Africa and the Red Sea. Almost exclusively lives on eating Acroporid polyps. To seven inches in length. This one in the Red Sea.

Chaetodon trifasciatus  Park 1797, the Melon or Indian Ocean Redfin Butterflyfish. Like the same named Redfin Butterflyfish from the Pacific this is primarily a coral polyp feeder. Note the I.O. species much bluer dorsal coloration To about six inches long in the wild. Two Indian Ocean Butterflyfish, the first one in the Seychelles, the other the Maldives

Chaetodon vagabundus Linnaeus 1758, the Vagabond, Crisscross Butterflyfish. In the wild feeds on anemones, coral polyps, worms and algae. Compared with the similar Indian (Ocean) B/F (see above), Chaetodon decussatus, this species does poorly in captivity. In the Andaman Sea, and one in Fiji.

Of the "Good" or more hardy historically species of Butterflyfishes that can be had out of Fiji, most are exemplary (stipulated they are caught, held correctly, of appropriate size...) coming out of here to shipping points east and west. Do be on the look-out, and avoid the ones labeled as "bad" here... they are exceedingly difficult to keep in captivity.

One note re selection of these two dozen Butterfly species re timeliness. Akin to children's' tales of  porridge being too hot, cold or just right, you don't want to be too eager "on arrival" to pick up these and most other Butterflyfish species from most any collection region. Best to give these fish about a week post transit to "settle in" (most deaths occur during this interval), and no more than about two weeks at a dealers (due to probable copper exposure, trauma, likely starvation).


    Don't think the twenty four species of chaetodonts are the only attraction for pet-fish types in this part of the South Pacific. There are some seven hundred described species of marine fishes here, many gorgeous corals (hard, soft, gorgonians)... all sorts of other invertebrates. Fiji is about twice the time/distance of flights between Los Angeles and Hawai'i (approximately ten hours flying time) and a travel bargain. Being on the "other side" of the planet, Fiji is a great place to visit during our/northern cold season. Once there, accommodations, food, services are reasonably priced, the local folks genuine and friendly, the water warm and clear. See you there. 

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Butterflyfishes for Marine

Diversity, Selection & Care
New eBook on Amazon: Available here
New Print Book on Create Space: Available here

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Allen, G.R., 1979. Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World, Vol. 2. Wiley & Sons, N.Y.

Allen, Gerald R., Roger Steene & Mark Allen. 1998. A Guide to Angelfishes & Butterflyfishes. Tropical Fish Research/Odyssey Publishing. 250pp.

Burgess, Warren, 1978. Butterflyfishes of the World. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, N.J. 832 pg.

Burgess, W.E., H.R. Axelrod & R.E. Hunziker III, 1990. Atlas of Aquarium Fishes, Vol 1. Marine Fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Jersey.

Campbell, Douglas, 1980. marines: Their Care & Keeping. Butterflyfishes, Pt. 1, 2. FAMA 10,11/80.

Chlupaty, Peter, 1978. Keeping Butterflyfishes. T.F.H. 4/78.

Emmens, Cliff W., 1985. Keeping Chaetodons. T.F.H. 5/85.

Fenner, Bob, 1990. Bannerfish butterflies, the genus Heniochus. FAMA 6/90.

Fenner, Robert. 1995. The Yellow Long-Nose Butterflyfishes. TFH 11/95.

Fenner, Robert. 1995. The Pacific Double-Saddle Butterflyfish, Chaetodon ulietensis. TFH 12/95.

Fenner, Robert. 1996. Butterflyfishes you don't want. TFH 6/96.

Fenner, Robert. 1997. Rating the Butterflyfishes of the Red Sea. TFH 3/97.

Fenner, Bob. 2001. Butterflyfishes of the Maldives, Indian Ocean. FAMA 6/01.

Hunziker, Ray, 1992. The ten best Butterflyfishes. T.F.H. 6/92.

Michael, Scott, 1994. Bad Butterflyfishes. A.F.M. 7/94.

Michael, Scott W. 1998. Butterflyfishes: The secret is to choose the right species, Recommendations for your aquarium. AFM 2,3/98.

Moenich, David R. 1991. The Butterflyfishes. Aquarium Fish Magazine 1/91.

Nelson, Joseph S., 1994. Fishes of the World, 3rd ed. Wiley & Sons, N.Y.

Refano, Joe, 1983. The importer speaks: the butterflyfishes pt. I, II. T.F.H. 10,11/83.

Siegel, Terry, 1973. Butterflies. Marine Aquarist 4(2):73.

Steene, Roger C., 1985. Butterfly & Angelfishes of the World, Vol. 1 Australia. Mergus Publ., Germany

Taylor, Edward C. 2000. Marine Angels and Butterflies.  TFH 2-8/00.

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