> Subphylum Vertebrate > fishes
learn only 3 things about them ...
Colourful stripes. With false eye on the dorsal fin or
They have small pointed snouts with brush-like teeth.
do poorly in aquariums. Don't collect them.
seen? People are generally surprised to hear that colourful
butterflyfishes are commonly seen on many of our shores. They usually
hide among coral rubble and rocks, or among seagrasses. Fishes seen
range from tiny ones less than 5cm to larger ones up to 20cm. Butterflyfishes
are generally active during the day and rest in a safe place at night.
are butterflyfishes? These fishes belong to Family Chaetodontidae.
According to FishBase:
the family has 10 genera and 114 species, most found in the Indo-Pacific
oceans, generally near coral reefs. They are closely related to angelfishes
(Family Pomacanthidae) which used to be included in the butterflyfish
Features: Butterfly fish adults
grow to about 20cm, but smaller juveniles (5-10cm) are more commonly
seen during low tide. Body flat, disk-shaped so that it almost disappears
when seen from above or head on. Being very flat, the butterflyfish
can also slip into narrow cracks.
Usually with colourful patterns; some have a large 'false eye' somewhere
on the back of the body. When seen sideways, the large 'false eye'
may fool predators into thinking that it is a big fish! Smaller predators
may thus be discouraged. And if a predator does attack it, the butterflyfish
unexpectedly swims 'backwards'. Its real eye is concealed by a colorful
band. Their colours are usually brighter during the day, and duller
What do they eat? The butterflyfish
and its relatives nibble on small creatures. They have a pointed snout
and small mouth with brush-like teeth; 'Chaetodont' means 'bristle-tooth'
in Greek. Some species have a long snout which can probe crevices
and other hiding places and used like pincers or tweezers. Those with
shorter snouts nip off soft food. Others may also eat sponges, fish
eggs, plankton and small algae. Some feed on creatures found on the
bottom such as worms. Some may nibble on coral polyps, using their
pointed mouths. A few species may feed in midwater on zooplankton.
Many eat a combination of coral polyps or tentacles, small animals,
fish eggs, and seaweeds.
An adult butterflyfish is usually restricted to a small territory
and doesn't travel far from it. Their planktonic larval stage, however,
is long and they may thus drift to settle far from their birthplace.
Butterflyfish Babies: The male
and female of these fishes generally look similar. Many are found
in monogamous mated pairs. In many species, the pairs are stable for
at least three years and some may pair for life. A mating pair will
rise to the water surface together, simultaneously releasing eggs
and sperm. A unique feature of this family is a prolonged larval stage
in which the free-swimming larvae may remain drifting with plankton
for 2-3 months before changing into juvenile butterflyfishes. As a
result, butterflyfishes are quite widely distributed. They are unique
among fishes in that the larvae pass through a stage when a bony sheath
encases the head.
uses: Butterflyfishes of various kinds are popular in the
live aquarium trade. The family is the third most frequently exported
and second highest in total value in the aquarium trade. However,
most species are difficult to maintain in captivity. Those that eat
only specialised prey are doomed to die of starvation in an aquarium.
Harvesting of butterflyfishes and their relatives from the wild for
the live aquarium trade may involve the use of cyanide or blasting,
which damage the habitat and kill many other creatures. Like other
fish and creatures harvested from the wild, most die before they can
reach the retailers. Without professional care, most die soon after
they are sold. Often of starvation as owners are unable to provide
the small creatures and plants that these fishes need to survive.
Those that do survive are unlikely to breed.
Status and threats: Like other
creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities
such as reclamation and pollution. Over-collection can also have an
impact on local populations.
are seen together.
Jawa, Jul 05
seen near carpet
Chek Jawa, Jul 05
snout to nibble on small things.
Sentosa, Oct 03
sideways it's hard
to spot from above or head on.
Sentosa, Oct 03
Some are seen among living corals.
Tanah Merah, Jun 10
on Singapore shores
Chaetodontidae recorded for Singapore
Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity
+Other additions (Singapore Biodiversity Records, etc)
+Chaetodon adiergastos (Panda butterflyfish)
+Chaetodon collare (Collare butterflyfish)
Chaetodon octofasciatus (Eight-banded
Chelmon rostratus (Copperband butterflyfish)
Parachaetodon ocellatus (Kite
Heniochus acuminatus (Longfin bannerfish)
+Heniochus varius (Humphead bannerfish)
Now listed under Family
Now listed under Family
- Lim, Kelvin
K. P. & Jeffrey K. Y. Low, 1998. A
Guide to the Common Marine Fishes of Singapore. Singapore
Science Centre. 163 pp.
- Tan, Leo
W. H. & Ng, Peter K. L., 1988. A
Guide to Seashore Life. The Singapore Science Centre,
Singapore. 160 pp.
on Reef Fishes of Singapore by Jeffrey Low.
Chaetodontidae (Butterflyfishes) and Chaetodon
lineolatus (Lined butterflyfish) and Chaetodon
octofasciatus (Eightband butterflyfish) and Chaetodon
triangulum (Triangle butterflyfish) and Chaetodon
trifasciatus (Melon butterflyfish) and Chaetodon
unimaculatus (Teardrop butterflyfish) and Chaetodon
vagabundus (Vagabond butterflyfish) and Chelmon
rostratus (Copperband butterflyfish) and Parachaetodon
ocellatus (Sixspine butterflyfish) and Coradion
chrysozonus (Goldengirdled coralfish) and Heniochus
acuminatus (Pennant coralfish) and Heniochus
singularius (Singular bannerfish) from FishBase:
Technical fact sheet on the family.
5: Bony fishes part 3 (Menidae to Pomacentridae) FAO Species
Identification Guide for Fishery Purposes The Living Marine Resources
of the Western Central Pacific.
and coral diseases on the wild shores of singapore blog, 30
on the Compressed Air Junkie blog, 25 Aug 2011.
- Tan Heok Hui & Kelvin K. P. Lim. 16 Jan 2015. Blue-striped angelfish and longfin bannerfish from Singapore. Singapore Biodiversity Records 201: 12-13 ISSN 2345-7597.
- Tan Heok Hui & Kelvin K. P. Lim. 18 July 014. Confirmed occurrence of the collare butterflyfish in Singapore, Chaetodon collare. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2014: 190
- Jeffrey K. Y. Low. 2013. More noteworthy fishes observed in the Singapore Straits. Nature in Singapore, 6: 31–37.
- Jeffrey Low K. Y., Jani Isa Thuaibah Tanzil & Zeehan Jaafar, 2009. Some note-worthy fishes observed in the Singapore Straits. Nature in Singapore, 2: 77–82.
- Wee Y.C.
and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
- Allen, Gerry,
Fishes of South-East Asia: A Field Guide for Anglers and Divers.
Periplus Editions. 292 pp.
- Kuiter, Rudie
H. 2002. Guide
to Sea Fishes of Australia: A Comprehensive Reference for Divers
New Holland Publishers. 434pp.
Ewald and Robert Myers. 2001. Coral
Reef Fishes of the World
Periplus Editions. 400pp.
- Lim, S.,
P. Ng, L. Tan, & W. Y. Chin, 1994. Rhythm of the Sea: The Life
and Times of Labrador Beach. Division of Biology, School of
Science, Nanyang Technological University & Department of Zoology,
the National University of Singapore. 160 pp.