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

Family Chaetodontidae
updated Oct 2016

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 gaily 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 were 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. Four bands across the body which are orange or yellow edged in black and white. A pointed snout and a distinctive white-ringed black eye spot on the dorsal fin. The pelvic fins are bright orange and yellow. Usually seen alone or in pairs. It is sometimes called the Beaked coralfish.

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.

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."

Sentosa, Oct 03

Pointed snout to nibble on small things.
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.

They are often caught in fish traps
Kusu Island, Jun 04

It almost disappears when seen
from above or head on.
Sentosa, Oct 03

Copperband butterflyfishes on Singapore shores

Photos Copperband butterflyfishes for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map

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.

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

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

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

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.

Pulau Senang, Aug 10

Pulau Pawai, Dec 09

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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