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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrate > fishes > Family Chaetodontidae
Copperband butterflyfish
Chelmon rostratus

Family Chaetodontidae
updated Sep 2020

if you learn only 3 things about it ...
Has a false eye to distract potential predators.
This fish forms monogamous pairs.
It does poorly in a home aquarium, Don't collect them.

Where seen? This strikingly patterned fish is commonly seen on many of our shores, among coral rubble and near reefs. It is said to be more active during the day, but those seen at night can be quite frisky. Elsewhere, they are found on rocky shores, coral reefs, estuaries and silty inner reefs.

Features: To about 20cm, those seen during low tide usually about 4-8cm. Body flat, circular disk-shaped, snout is long and pointed. It is sometimes called the Beaked coralfish. 4 bands which are orange or yellow edged in black and white. White-ringed black eye spot on the dorsal fin, white-edged black bar at the base of the tail. The pelvic fins are bright orange and yellow. Juveniles are solitary, more secretive and found in shallower water. Adults have proportionally taller fins swimming in the open near the sea bottom, forming pairs during breeding.

Sentosa, Oct 03

Pointed snout to nibble on small things.

It almost disappears when seen
from above or head on.
Sentosa, Oct 03
What does it eat? It uses its long snout to pick out bottom dwelling creatures from crevices. These include worms and small crabs.

Human uses: Unfortunately these beautiful fishes are popular in the live aquarium trade although they are considered among the most difficult to keep and feed. According to the IUCN Red List, "there is no data on how harvest for the aquarium trade affects the population. There appear to be no other major threats to this species." Fish traps left on the intertidal often contain several of these beautiful fishes. Sometimes, they are already dead as the trap is exposed out of water.

Copperband butterflyfishes on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Punggol, Sep 18
Photo shared by Richard Kuah on facebook.

Changi-Loyang, Jul 20
Photo shared by Dayna Cheah on facebook.

Tanah Merah, Jun 09
Photo shared by James Koh on his flickr.

Tanah Merah, Nov 09
Photo shared by James Koh on his blog.

East Coast-Marina Bay, Nov 17
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Seringat Kias, Apr 12
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Kusu Island, May 16
Photo shared by Jonathan Tan on facebook.

St John's Island, Jul 17
Photo shared by Able Yeo on facebook.

Sisters Island, Aug 09
Photo shared by Neo Mei Lin on her blog.

Small Sisters Island, Sep 10
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.

Cyrene, Jun 20
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Pulau Tekukor, Jan 10
Photo shared by James Koh on his flickr.

Pulau Hantu, May 19
Photo shared by Jianlin Liu on facebook.

Terumbu Hantu, Jul 18
Photo shared by Dayna Cheah on facebook.

Pulau Semakau, Jul 15
Photo shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.

Terumbu Bemban, Jun 20
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Terumbu Semakau, Jul 14
Photo shared by Jianlin Liu on facebook.

Beting Bemban Besar, Apr 10
Photo shared by Toh Chay Hoon on her blog.

Terumbu Pempang Laut, Apr 11
Photo shared by Russel Low on facebook.

Terumbu Pempang Laut, Apr 11

Copperbanded Butterflyfish from Loh Kok Sheng on Vimeo.



  • Allen, Gerry, 2000. Marine 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 & Fishermen New Holland Publishers. 434pp.
  • Lieske, 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.
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