Banded Butterflyfish Descriptive Essay

Animal-World > Marine - Saltwater Fish > Butterflyfish > Golden Butterflyfish

The Golden Butterflyfish is a beautiful attraction as a marine pet and is also very popular among divers!


Golden Butterflyfish FactsKeeping Golden Butterflyfish

The Golden Butterflyfish Chaetodon semilarvatus is an exceptional beauty hailing from the Red sea. It is often seen among areas of rich coral growth, sometimes just hanging out under the ledges of Acropora plate corals. It is a favorite for scuba divers to observe and photograph, and it is usually fearless making it possible to approach at close range. This pretty fish is also much sought after in the aquarium hobby though it does command a relatively high price.

This is a very popular and widely known butterflyfish. It's an absolutely astounding species with its large size, vibrant colors, and graceful swimming movements. Adults can reach impressive lengths of about 12 inches (30 cm) in the wild, though they are more common at about 9 inches (23 cm). Its color pattern is also striking. There is a bold dark bluish mask contrasting nicely with its bright yellow body and delicate red stripping. These features have influenced a number of other common names by which it is described, including Masked Butterflyfish, Bluecheek Butterflyfish, Blue Mask Butterflyfish, Red-lined Butterflyfish, Addis Butterflyfish, and Blue Cheeked Butterflyfish.

This is one of the easier butterflyfish to keep in a captive environment. It makes a great choice for an intermediate aquarist with some fish keeping experience. Once acclimated it will become a hardy pet that can be kept for several years. No technical care is needed to maintain it. It will take a variety of foods and once it is comfortable it will even go up to the surface to take foods from its keeper. Though not a very quick swimmer, it swims freely and usually spends a good deal of its time in the open water.

This fish does need a spacious aquarium with plenty of hiding places as well as open areas to swim. A 100 gallon tank is the minimum suggested size for a single fish. It will need some rockwork, preferably well developed live rock, that offers caves or overhangs along with plenty of swimming space. Many reef-keepers hope to keep the Golden Butterflyfish in a mini reef, but as it will be a coral eater it is best kept in a fish only community tank.

This is not an aggressive fish and can do well in a fish only community tank kept with a variety of other species that are not overly territorial or aggressive. It can be territorial to its own species and towards similar Butterflyfish, so does best if kept singly. However pairs or small groups can be maintained in a larger aquarium. It can also be kept with some of the larger and rather territorial genera of angelfish like the Pomacanthus and Holacanthus as well the smaller Centropyge genus and a number of others.

For more Information on keeping saltwater fish see:
Marine Aquarium Basics: Guide to a Healthy Saltwater Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Chaetodon semilarvatus
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Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Chaetodontidae
  • Genus: Chaetodon
  • Species: semilarvatus

Golden Semilarvatus Butterflyfish

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Golden Butterflyfish (Chaetodon semilarvatus) at

Nicely shot short video of a Golden Butterflyfish swimming amongst rocks and tankmates in its aquarium. The video has quite a few clear and closeup shots of this very pretty fish.

Dr. Jungle's YouTube Channel - Marine

Golden Butterflyfish - Quick Aquarium Care

  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gal (379 L)
  • Size of fish - inches: 11.8 inches (30.00 cm)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 79.0° F (23.9 to 26.1° C)
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore

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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Golden Butterflyfish Chaetodon semilarvatus was described by Cuvier in 1831, and was first collected in the Red Sea. This species was long regarded as an endemic to the Red Sea but recent diving observations have revealed that it occurs also in Gulf of Aden and also in southern Oman (one record from the latter).

This species is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC). They have a wide distribution and are generally common. Though they associate with corals, there have been no declines in populations recorded from coral depletion. Other common names they are known by include Masked Butterflyfish, Bluecheek Butterflyfish, Blue Mask Butterflyfish, Red-lined Butterflyfish, Addis Butterflyfish, and Blue Cheeked Butterflyfish.

These butterflyfish are found at reef slopes or over hanging reef plate corals at depths between 10 - 66 feet (3 - 20 meters). They are sometimes seen in great aggregations of about 20 individuals and sometimes up to 50-60 or more, but usually mated pairs are encountered in their natural habitat. They can be observed resting almost motionless under large Acropora table corals usually in the morning, and become more active in the late afternoon.

  • Scientific Name: Chaetodon semilarvatus
  • Social Grouping: Pairs - They are usually seen in pairs, but sometimes will be part seen in moderate to large groups.
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern


The adult Golden Butterflyfish is very distinctly shaped and colored. The body is disc-like and laterally compressed and it has a protruding snout tipped with a small mouth. The dorsal fin is continuous and it has a rounded tail fin. This species can reach a total length of about reach 12 inches (30 cm) in the wild, though are more common at about 9 inches (23 cm). Their average lifespan is between 5 - 7 years but could live much longer, up to 12 years, with proper care.

The body of an adult C. semilarvatus is entirely bright yellow. It has about 13 vertical narrow orangish lines, broadening slightly in the abdominal area. There is a triangular black patch just behind its black eye, covering the gill opening and reaching the chest area. The fins are yellow except the pectoral ones which are translucent, the dorsal and anal fins have a narrow blue submarginal line, and the caudal fin is translucent posteriorly. Juveniles very similar but with a black band through the eye instead of triangular patch.

  • Size of fish - inches: 11.8 inches (30.00 cm) - They are more common at about 9 inches (23 cm) and most available specimens are around 5 1/2 inches (14 cm).
  • Lifespan: 5 years - The average lifespan is between 5 - 7 years, but could live as much as 12 years with proper care.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Golden Butterflyfish is one of the easier butterflyfish to keep in a captive environment. No technical care is needed to maintain it, it will take a variety of foods and can be kept for several years. As it will harm polyps of some stony and soft coral species, it is not recommended for reef-type aquariums.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

The Golden Butterflyfish are omnivores, in the wild these butterflyfish are known to primarily eat live coral polyps, but also feed on sessile invertebrates and zooplankton. Provide Meaty foods, dried flakes, shrimps, and tablets. Japanese Nori (Asakusa-nori) will also be favored. Offer various foods quite frequently at first. Once it is successfully acclimated it will become a very hardy and long lived fish. Feed it at least twice a day, and if it is a tiny juvenile feeding should be tried three to four times everyday.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Most of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Offer various foods quite frequently at first. Once acclimated adults need at least 2 feedings a day and juveniles need 3 to 4.

Aquarium Care

No special care or technique is needed to maintain this fish in the aquarium and it will become a fairly hardy pet. Though not a very quick swimmer it swims freely, usually spending a good deal of its time in the open water and moving in and out of crevices. Frequent water changes are not necessary, rather normal water changes at 10% biweekly or 20% monthly are fine. Sudden massive water changes can cause trouble.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly - Change 10% biweekly or 20% monthly and avoid sudden massive water changes.

Aquarium Setup

These fish need a lot of space to swim as they can reach up to a whopping 12 inches in length. A 100 gallon (380 liters) tank is the minimum size for a single fish, and a bigger tank will be needed if you want to keep more than one. The tank should be well decorated with rocks and corals with many hiding places, even for adults. But they also need plenty of open space for swimming. This fish is a coral eater, nipping the polyps of hard stony coral species. It will also feed on other sessile invertebrates. Consequently it is not recommended for coral-rich reefs.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gal (379 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places
  • Substrate Type: Mix - Sand + Coral
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting - It is best kept under the normal lighting conditions, but can also be kept under very bright light as long as some dimly lit spaces are provided.
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 79.0° F (23.9 to 26.1° C) - This species lives in tropical areas. Temperatures of 75 -79° F (24 - 26° C) will serve them well, avoid temperatures higher than 86° F (30° C) or below 72 ° F (22° C).
  • Specific gravity: 1.020-1.025 SG
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Weak - Water movement is not a significant factor. It can tolerate a rather strong flow but slow-moving water will be more favorable
  • Water Region: All - It swims freely and usually spends time in the open water.

Social Behaviors

This butterflyfish will do well in a fish only community tank that is well decorated with rocks and corals providing many hiding places. It is a non-reef safe fish. Although it does well in a coral-rich tank, it will nip some species of hard and soft corals.

As this species is not an aggressive fish so it is best to select tank mates that are not overly territorial or aggressive. As it can be territorial to its own species and towards similar Butterflyfish, it does best if kept singly. However pairs or small groups can be maintained in a larger aquarium. It can be kept with some of the larger and rather territorial angelfishes like members of the Pomacanthus and Holacanthus genera. Centropyge along with other angelfish members of Apolemichthys, Genicanthus, Chaetodontoplus and Pygoplitescan also be good tank mates.

Smaller non-aggressive fishes like cardinalfish, gobies, tilefish, fairy basslets, fairy and flasher wrasses are also good candidates as tank mates. But small but very territorial fishes like dottybacks should be avoided. Such fish as Basses or scorpionfish, even if they are small enough, should also be avoided.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes - Pairs or small groups can be maintained in a larger aquarium.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Monitor
    • Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (seahorses, pipefish, mandarins): Monitor
    • Anemones: Threat
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Threat
    • LPS corals: Threat
    • SPS corals: Threat
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Threat
    • Leather Corals: Threat
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Threat
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Threat
    • Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Threat
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Monitor
    • Starfish: Threat
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Threat
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Threat
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Threat

Sex: Sexual differences

No sexual difference is noted for this species. Butterflyfish species studied up to this time indicate that these fish are gonochoristic, meaning that each fish is either a male or a female and they do not change sex.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Golden Butterflyfish has not been cultivated in captivity. In the wild butterflyfish are pelagic spawners that release many tiny eggs into the planktonic water column where they float with the currents until they hatch. Once hatched the fry are in a post-larval where their body, extending from the head, is covered with large bony plates.

Marine butterflyfish have not reportedly been spawned successfully in captivity. There are, however, reports of some success in rearing wild collected larvae of some of the corallivorous butterflyfish. It is hoped these captive reared fish will be adapted to accept aquarium foods, and thus broaden the species selections that can be sustained in captivity. For more information see, Marine Fish Breeding: Butterflyfish.

  • Ease of Breeding: Unknown

Fish Diseases

Many of the Chaetodon members are often very colorful and attractive to aquarists. Unfortunately some of them are rather difficult to keep for a long period. Some are exclusively coral eaters, and sometimes they suffer from "ich" (white spot disease) and other infectious diseases. Problems with disease are reduced in a well maintained aquarium. Any additions to a tank can introduce disease, so it's advisable to properly clean or quarantine anything that you want add to an established tank prior to introduction.

Diseases that marine Butterflyfish are susceptible to include Marine Ich(white spot disease), Marine Velvet, Uronema marinum, and Lymphocystis. Some can be treated successfully with medical care or copper drugs, but some species hate sudden changes of water including pH, temperature, or any drug treatment. In the wild a cleaner wrasse (Labroides sp.) will help them by taking parasites from their bodies, however these wrasses are extremely difficult to sustain in captivity. Alternative fish such as Neon Gobies (Gobiosoma spp.) can help them by providing this cleaning service in the home aquarium.

The Golden Butterflyfish is a stony coral eater and it can also be sensitive to some drugs. Be sure to observe this fish closely when medicating it, so you can remove it if it shows signs of stress. For information about saltwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

"I have kept some seven specimens ranging from 7-13 cm in a community fish tank. They showed a great display without any trouble. White spot disease attacked them on occasion. Generally they were infected from other new comers, but they successfully recovered by using only an appropriate copper sulfate." ...Hiroyuki Tanaka


The Golden Butterflyfish or Mask Butterflyfish is commonly seen at retailers. Most available specimens are around 4 inches (10 cm) long, juveniles less than 2 inches (5 cm), though possibly obtainable, are more scarce.
This fish commands a fairly high price at about $120.00 to $250.00 USD, but this is much lower than in the past. Some twenty years ago they cost well over $450.00 - $500.00 USD.


  • Animal-World References: Marine and Reef
  • Chaetodon semilarvatus (Cuvier, 1831) Bluecheek butterflyfish,
  • Chaetodon semilarvatus, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
  • Helmut Debelius, Rudie H. Kuiter, World Atlas of Marine Fishes, Hollywood Import & Export. Inc., 2006
  • Scott W. Michael, Angelfishes & Butterflyfishes: Reef Fishes Series , Microcosm Ltd, 2004
  • Khalaf, M and Disi, A., Fishes of the Gulf of Aqaba, Kegan Paul Intl, 2002
  • Mark Allen, Roger Steene and Gerald R. Allen, A Guide to Angelfishes and Butterflyfishes , Odyssey Publishing, 1998
  • Dr. Warren E. Burgess, Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod, Raymond E. Hunziker III, Dr. Burgess's Atlas of Marine Aquarium Fishes, T.F.H Publications inc., 1990
  • Dr. Gerald R. Allen, Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World Volume 2, Aquarium Systems; 3rd edition,1985
  • Randall, J., Coastal Fishes of Oman, University of Hawaii Press, 1996
  • Cuvier, G. in Cuvier, G. & Valenciennes, A., Histoire naturelle des poissons, 22 vols. (1828-1849), Kegan Paul Intl, 2002
  • Kuiter, R., Butterflyfishes, Bannerfishes & Their Relatives, a Comprehensive Guide to Chaetodontidae & Microcanthidae, TMC-Publishing, UK, 2002
Author: Hiroyuki Tanaka, Clarice Brough CFS
Richelle - 2010-03-15
I think the golden butterfly fish is very pretty. It has a wonderful bright color. I think that it should be my pet someday but my parents will never approve.
Valerie - 2009-04-16
I think the golden butterflyfish is very very pretty and I am writing an essay on it!

Tell your story!

View (3) Animal Stories on Golden Butterflyfish

This article is about marine fish of the family Chaetodontidae. For unrelated freshwater or African butterflyfish in the family Pantodontidae, see freshwater butterflyfish.

The butterflyfish are a group of conspicuous tropicalmarinefish of the family Chaetodontidae; the bannerfish and coralfish are also included in this group. The approximately 129 species in 12 genera[1] are found mostly on the reefs of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. A number of species pairs occur in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, members of the huge genus Chaetodon.

Butterflyfish look like smaller versions of angelfish (Pomacanthidae), but unlike these, lack preopercle spines at the gill covers. Some members of the genus Heniochus resemble the Moorish idol (Zanclus cornutus) of the monotypic Zanclidae. Among the paraphyleticPerciformes, the former are probably not too distantly related to butterflyfish, whereas the Zanclidae seem far less close.

Description and ecology[edit]

Butterflyfish mostly range from 12 to 22 cm (4.7 to 8.7 in) in length. The largest species, the lined butterflyfish and the saddle butterflyfish, C. ephippium, grow to 30 cm (12 in). The common name references the brightly coloured and strikingly patterned bodies of many species, bearing shades of black, white, blue, red, orange, and yellow. Other species are dull in colour. Many have eyespots on their flanks and dark bands across their eyes, not unlike the patterns seen on butterfly wings.[2] Their deep, laterally narrow bodies are easily noticed through the profusion of reef life. The conspicuous coloration of butterflyfish may be intended for interspecies communication. Butterflyfish have uninterrupted dorsal fins with tail fins that may be rounded or truncated, but are never forked.

Generally diurnal and frequenting waters less than 18 m (59 ft) deep (though some species descend to 180 m (590 ft)), butterflyfish stick to particular home ranges. These corallivores are especially territorial, forming pairs and staking claim to a specific coral head. Contrastingly, the zooplankton feeders form large conspecific groups. By night, butterflyfish hide in reef crevices and exhibit markedly different coloration.

Their coloration also makes them popular aquarium fish. However, most species feed on coralpolyps and sea anemones. Balancing the relative populations of prey and predator is complex, leading hobby aquarists to focus on the few generalists and specialist zooplankton feeders.

Butterflyfish are pelagic spawners; that is, they release many buoyant eggs into the water, which become part of the plankton, floating with the currents until hatching. The fry go through a tholichthys stage, wherein the body of the postlarval fish is covered in large, bony plates extending from the head. They lose their bony plates as they mature.[2] Only one other family of fish, the scats (Scatophagidae) express such an armored stage.


The family name derives from the Ancient Greek words χαιτέ, chaite ("hair") and οδοντος, odontos ("tooth"). This is an allusion to the rows of brush-like teeth found in their small, protrusible mouths.

Taxonomy, systematics and evolution[edit]

The Chaetodontidae can be, but are not usually, divided into two lineages that arguably are subfamilies. The subfamily name Chaetodontinae is a little-used leftover from the period when the Pomacanthidae and Chaetodontidae were united under the latter name as a single family. Hence, Chaetodontinae is today considered a junior synonym of Chaetodontidae. In any case, one lineage of Chaetodontidae (in the modern sense) contains the "typical" butterflyfish around Chaetodon, while the other unites the bannerfish and coralfish genera. As the Perciformes are highly paraphyletic, the precise relationships of the Chaetodontidae as a whole are badly resolved.[3]

Before DNA sequencing, the taxonomy was confused about whether to treat these as species or subspecies. Also, numerous subgenera have been proposed for splitting out of Chaetodon, and it is becoming clear how to subdivide the genus if that is desired.[4]

The fossil record of this group is marginal. Their restriction to coral reefs means their carcasses are liable to be dispersed by scavengers, overgrown by corals, and any that do fossilize will not long survive erosion. However, Pygaeus, a very basal fossil from the mid- to late Eocene of Europe, dates from around the Bartonian 40-37 million years ago (Mya). Thus, the Chaetodontidae emerged probably in the early to mid-Eocene. A crude molecular clock in combination with the evidence given by Pygaeus allows placement of the initial split between the two main lineages to the middle to late Eocene, and together with the few other fossils, it allows the deduction that most living genera were probably distinct by the end of the Paleogene 23 Mya.[5]


The bannerfish-coralfish lineage can be further divided in two groups; these might be considered tribes, but have not been formally named. Genera are listed in order of the presumed phylogeny, from the most ancient to the youngest:[3]Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2013). "Chaetodontidae" in FishBase. February 2013 version.

Bannerfish/coralfish lineage 1:

Bannerfish/coralfish lineage 2:

The "typical" butterflyfishes may eventually come to contain more genera; see Chaetodon:



Further reading[edit]

  • Pratchett, Morgan S. & Berumen, Michael L. & Kapoor, B.G. [Editors] : Biology of Butterflyfishes. CRC Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4665-8290-3


  • Fessler, Jennifer L. & Westneat, Mark W. (2007): Molecular phylogenetics of the butterflyfishes (Chaetodontidae): Taxonomy and biogeography of a global coral reef fish family. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol.45(1): 50–68. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2007.05.018 (HTML abstract)
  • FishBase [2008]: Family Chaetodontidae – Butterflyfishes. Retrieved 2008-SEP-02.
  • Hsu, Kui-Ching; Chen, Jeng-Ping & Shao, Kwang-Tsao (2007): Molecular phylogeny of Chaetodon (Teleostei: Chaetodontidae) in the Indo-West Pacific: evolution in geminate species pairs and species groups. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement14: 77-86. PDF fulltext
  • Sepkoski, Jack (2002): [Chaetodon]. In: A compendium of fossil marine animal genera. Bulletins of American Paleontology364: 560. HTML database excerpt

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