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Butterflyfish Family Chaetodontidae Identification

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A good hardy aquarium species.

Blue Striped Butterflyfish (Chaetodon fremblii)

Image by Keoki and Yuko Stender

Phylum:

Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Actinopterygii = Osteichthyes (Ray-Finned or Bony Fishes)

Order: Perciformes (Perch-Likes)

Suborder: Percoidei

Family: Chaetodontidae (Butterflyfishes)

Members of this family do not bear a sharp spine on the lower posterior corner of the preopercle. The absense of this spine distinguishes and separates them from their Angelfish Family Pomacanthidae relatives, which have this spine.

Genera of the Butterflyfish Family:

  • Genus Chaetodon, which is the largest group.
  • Genus Forcipiger, or Longnose species.
  • Genus Heniochus, or Bannerfishes.
  • As well as other valid genera or synonym names, such as Hemitaurichthys, Prognathodes, and Chelmon.

Identification:

The Butterflyfish family is comprised of fish ranging in average size from 4.5 inches to about 9 inches, with a few attaining almost 12 inches.

They primarily have oval-shaped, deep and greatly compressed bodies.

The dorsal fin is continuous along the back and not divided between the anterior spinous part and the spineless posterior portion.

The tail may be rounded, truncated, or emarginated on its posterior border, but is never forked.

They have small mouths with flexible, brush or comb-like teeth.
Although a few species have dull muted colors, for the most part this is a rather brightly colored fish family that has vivid stripes or markings in various shades of yellow, blue, red, orange, gold, brown, black and white. Many species also possess a dark stripe that runs through the eye that is characteristic to Chaetodontidae Family Butterflyfishes.

Distribution:

These fish occur in all tropical waters, but the largest number occurs in the tropical western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

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