Coral Reefs

Banded butterflyfish

November 6, 2011, 4:55 pm
Content Cover Image

Banded butterflyfish seen on night dive, Dos Gravatás, Buzios, Brazil. Source: Bernard E. Picton

The Banded butterflyfish (Chaetodon striatus) is a member of the butterflyfish family (Family Chaetodontidae) that lives on coral reefs in the Western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. This species preys chiefly upon polychaete worms, coral polyps, crustaceans and mollusk eggs using their elongated narrow mouths to grasp their prey.


caption Banded butterflyfish. Source: ''Reef Fish Identification'', New World Publications © 1994


Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
Phylum:--- Chordata
Class:------ Osteichthyes (Bony Fishes)
Order:-------- Perciformes
Family:-------- Chaetodontidae (Butterflyfishes)
Species:----------Chaetodon striatus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Physical Description

Banded butterflyfish have small (7.5 to 15.0 centimeters in length), oval bodies with tapered heads and a long pointed mouths. Individuals are white with three large black bands, one on the head that passes through the eye, and two in the mid-body.  The species manifests a black border along the rear of the tail and anal fins. 


caption Distribution of the banded butterflyfish. Florida Museum of Natural History.

This taxon is found in the Western Atlantic from  Massachusetts, USA to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea.


Chaetodon striatus typically live on coral reefs at ocean depths ranging from three to 20 meters.

Feeding Behavior

This species feeds primarily on polychaete worms, coral polyps, crustaceans and mollusk eggs using their long narrow mouths to grasp their prey. Their good vision allows them to locate small prey while their narrow body allows them to maneuver through the reef in search of prey. Adults may form plankton-feeding aggregations of up to 20 individuals, and occasionally clean other reef fishes which join the group, such as grunts, parrotfishes and surgeon fishes. 


Banded butterflyfish live on coral reefs and are generally found singly or in pairs, but they may ocassional join aggregations of up to 20 indiviuals to feed on plankton.

caption Tholichthys larvae of butterflyfish. Florida Museum of Natural History.


Most mating occurs from February to May, with Banded butterflyfish breeding in pairs. Spawing occurs, at dusk, in the water column; the male and females swim seven to eight meters above the reef before releasing gametes. The number of eggs produced depends on the size of the female, ranging from hundreds to thousands of eggs. Eggs are buoyant and hatch within a day or two to produce a larvae with a yolk sac attached. After a few days the yolk sac is absorbed and the larvae continue their pelagic stage. The larvae of butterfly fish are very distinct; the larvae, know as tholichthys, develop a series of armor-like plates over their heads and bodies. Eventually, the larvae settle on the reef and rapidly transform into juveniles that live in sandy areas around isolated coral heads and sponges, in sea grass beds, or in mangroves.Juveniles live alone until they reach sexual maturity at about one year of age. 


Banded butterflyfish may occasionally act as cleaners.

Conservation Status

Banded butterflyfish are not considered to be a species at risk.

References and Further Reading



McGinley, M. (2011). Banded butterflyfish. Retrieved from


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