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7 Saltwater Butterfly Fish Facts to Know Better These Marine Animals

juvenile foureyed butterfly fish facts

There are many butterfly fish facts. For example, we could tell you facts about the butterfly fish from Animal Crossing, the video game. However, we are sure that you, diver, prefer real fish. We could tell you facts about aquarium butterfly fish, but we nature lovers love fish that are free in the sea. We could also write an article entitled “7 freshwater butterfly fish facts”, but we would have to invent them, because we see Caribbean butterfly fish face to face. So, we are going to talk about them.

The goal of the butterfly fish facts you can read in this post is to improve your diving.  In this article, we do not offer you advice, techniques, or statistics about diving. On this occasion, we offer you facts about the butterfly fish.

It is a family with 7 species you will see, for sure, diving in the Caribbean with Dressel Divers. In this way, the next time you dive and see one of these beautiful fish, you will know much more about them, and you will be able to enjoy the dive to the fullest.

Foureyed Butterflyfish Video

1. What is a butterfly fish?

Different species of fish, both saltwater and freshwater, are known by the name of butterfly fish. They are so different in reality that they have absolutely nothing to do with each other beyond the common name. We are going to focus on the colorful saltwater butterfly fish facts.

The Chaetodontidae family is the scientific name for this type of butterfly fish, which has approximately 127 species and twelve genera. Its members are characterized by being:

  • round, thin-bodied fish;
  • small size (usually less than six inches)
  • slightly concave fronts, making them easy to distinguish from angelfish which, despite being similar in shape, have rounded fronts and are larger.

2. Why is a butterflyfish called butterflyfish?

Butterflyfish are named that way for their striated patterns of black, white, blue, red, orange, and yellow spots and bright butterfly-like colors. They range from silvery to bright white, with yellow tints to the fins and dark spots or bands across the flanks.

Additionally, reminiscent of their namesake butterfly, these small colorful fish flit about the reefs in search of food.


3. Butterfly Fish Habitat

Regarding butterflyfish facts about its habitat, we can say this type of tropical fish is found mainly on the coral reefs of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans: From Massachusetts to Rio de Janeiro, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

Butterflyfish habitat is generally in the shallow part of the reef between 3 and 15 m / 10 – 49 ft deep, although some species can be found as deep as 55 m / 180 ft.

butterfly fish facts - spotfin Butterflyfish

4. Butterfly Fish Diet

The coral reef is the pantry of butterflyfish, which feed thanks to their keen eyesight. So, they detect tiny worms, crustaceans, and other marine invertebrates.

An interesting fact about the butterflyfish diet is that they are one of the few fish capable of eating coral polyps. This is thanks to the sharp shape of their snout. Some butterfly fish species also eat algae and anemones.

5. Butterfly Fish Life Cycle

The life expectancy of the butterflyfish is between 5 to 10 years. At that time, they live in groups and in pairs that segregate for reproduction. A curious fact about the butterfly fish life cycle is that they are monogamous. They have had the same partner all their lives.

Adult females spawn aided by the male, who releases the sperm, creating a white cloud. This fact is even more visible considering that this process occurs at night. The eggs are inseminated, and as they have a large amount of fat, float to the surface.

Within a few hours, the previously translucent eggs turn brown, and after 30 hours of gestation, the first fry can be seen. The little ones feed on the yolk sac at the bottom until they are finished and then return to the surface in search of food.

They live in areas sheltered from the tide until they move to the reefs. The Chaetodontidae family enters a juvenile stage when it reaches the size of a coin.

Another curious fact about Butterfly Fish life cycle is that they have different color patterns at young age than their adult form. Butterfly fish reach sexual maturity around one year of age.

butterfly fish facts - banded Butterflyfish

6. Butterflyfish Predators and Threats

The main butterflyfish threat is the destruction of coral reefs because it is their home and food source. Due to ocean pollution and habitat loss, butterflyfish are considered endangered.

On the other hand, butterflyfish predators are snappers, eels, and sharks. Luckily, one of the most striking facts about butterfly fish adaptation is its survival mechanisms.

7. Butterflyfish Adaptations; How Do Butterflyfish Protect Themselves?

Butterflyfish protect themselves thanks to their small, flattened bodies. Butterflyfish can take refuge in the cracks and crevices of coral reefs.

Others claim that their color pattern is another butterflyfish adaptation mechanism that helps them confuse predators, for example, in the case of the 4-eyed butterflyfish that can appear to be swimming backward.

Their pointed mouth allows them to reach feeding points where others cannot, and their protruding pectoral and pelvic fins let them make sudden stops and sharp turns.

8. Types Of Butterfly Fish

  • Foureyed Butterflyfish Facts (Chaetodon capistratus) 

The 4 eyed butterfly fish’s main distinctive feature is a black spot ringed in white on the rear body near the upper base of the tail. Meanwhile, juveniles have two wide, dusky body bars and the youngest 4-eyed butterflyfish has a second smaller black spot ocellated in white on the rear dorsal above the larger spot.

The foureyed butterfly fish adults’ body is silver-gray, marked with numerous dark thin lines that radiate at diagonal from the midbody; a black bar on the head runs across the eyes; and they have a yellowish submarginal band on the rear dorsal, tail, and anal fins. Here we post 4 eyed butterfly fish images.

butterfly fish facts - foureyed Butterflyfish
  • Spotfin Butterly Fish Facts (Chaetodon ocellatus)

The main distinctive features are yellow fins (except pectoral), with a black dot on the outer edge of the rear dorsal fin. When they are juvenile, they have a black spot on the rear dorsal, anal, and base tail fins which, with maturity, join to form a rear body bar, juvenile their tail is translucent.

At the adult age, spotfin butterflyfish have a silver-white body with a black bar on the head that runs across the eye; may have a darkish spot on the rear dorsal fin below the distinctive black dot noted above.

butterfly fish facts - spotfin Butterflyfish - 2
  • Banded Butterly Fish Facts (Chaetodon striatus

The main distinctive features are two wide black midbody bands. The juvenile ones have a black spot ringed in white on the rear dorsal fin. You can distinguish banded juvenile butterflyfish from spot fin or 4-eyed butterflyfish easily by lack of any yellowish fins.

When banded butterflyfish get to adult age they show a silver-white body, a black bar on the head that runs across the eyes, a blackish border on the rear of the body, base of rear dorsal and anal fins. Here we post banded butterfly fish images.

butterfly fish facts - banded Butterflyfish - 3
  • Long-snout Butterfly Fish Facts (Prognathodes aculeatus)

As it could not be otherwise, the main characteristic of the long-snouted butterflyfish is… Indeed! Its long, pointed nose. In addition, this butterflyfish shows a dusky yellow bar that runs from the upper head across the eye but not into the eye as with other butterflyfishes.

The upper half part of the body is of a yellowish orangish color and darkening to orangish brown or black on the dorsal fin; the lower body is white. Here you can find Long-snout butterfly fish images.

butterfly fish facts - longsnout Butterflyfish
  • Reef Butterfly Fish Facts

Its main distinctive features are broad, dark, bar-like areas on the rear body, including the rear portions of the dorsal and anal fins. On the other hand, juveniles show a black bar on the rear fin and base of the tail. They have a small black spot on the rear dorsal fin when they are very young.

Adults have yellowish back and dorsal fins, silver-white lower body, yellow to reddish-yellow tail, and a black bar on the head that runs across the eyes.

The last butterflyfish facts are, as it cannot be any other way, regarding scuba divers. They tend to ignore us but move away when we approach. Often, the best way to get a close look at a butterflyfish is to wait quietly in a concealed position near their course of travel. When are you coming to see them?

butterfly fish facts- Reef Butterflyfish juvenile

The last butterflyfish facts are, as it cannot be any other way, regarding scuba divers. They tend to ignore us but move away when we approach. Often, the best way to get a close look at a butterflyfish is to wait quietly in a concealed position near their course of travel. When are you coming to see them?

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