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Banded Butterflyfish
(Chaetodon striatus)

banded butterfly fish, Chaetodon striatus

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The banded butterflyfish or Chaetodon striatus belongs to the family Chaetodontidae. They are native to the Atlanatic Ocean form Massachusetts to Brazil, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. These are shallow marine reef dwellers frequently inhabiting depths from of 3 to 55 meters.

The fish was first classified by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. Chaetodontidae means bristle-tooth. Striatus refers to the fish’s thick black vertical stripes. There are three of these stripes, two on both sides and a third extending from their dorsal fin to their caudal peduncle. These flat, disk shaped fish have a silver body with black pectoral fins and a shot pointed snout. They typically grow to length of 5-6.5 inches. They will live five to seven years.

Juveniles look different than adults. They have a large black ring with a dark spot in the middle that resembles an eye on their bodies. This artificial eye tends to confuse would-be predators. The spot fades away as they mature. Juveniles are also a different color than adults. They are brownish yellow in color. This may be a means of protective camouflage while they are young and too small to defend themselves against attack.

The banded butterflyfish is known by various other names including; banded mariposa, butterbum, butterflyfish, portuguese butterfly, and school mistress.

This fish is a perfect choice for beginning saltwater aquarists. They are a docile species whose habitation of marine reefs lends to their peaceful cohabitation with other species. It is best to raise them in pairs. They are not good candidates for reef aquariums. It would be the equivalent to giving them free tickets to an all you can eat buffet.

This is a diurnal species. They are active during the day and rest at night. They will seek shelter from night predators such as moray eels and sharks when the sun starts to go down. In the wild banded butterflies eat polychaete worms, coral polyps, crustaceans and mollusk eggs. They frequently pick the parasites off of other fish such as grunts and surgeon fish. Adults also feast on the plankton columns common to marine reefs. They will also pick at the ocean floor in search of food. In an aquarium they will eat most of the commercially available marine fish foods. They generally will not turn their nose up at Marine fish flakes or freeze-dried food products.

This species is not harvested for human consumption. It is, however, harvested for the aquarium industry.

Banded Butterflyfish Breeding

Banded butterflies are frequently found in pairs. Pairing occurs early in life and has been observed to last for periods of time, suggesting that this is a monogamous species.

Courtship rituals between a pair of banded butterflies are long and energetic. It begins buy the fish circling each other until one fish eventually breaks the pattern and runs. They will then start chasing each other all around the reef. Intruders to the courtship are quickly chased away. Spawning occurs at dusk. The female will release up to 4000 eggs. The eggs will hatch within a day.

The larvae of these fish, referred to as tholichthys, are specific to the butterflyfish. Tholichthys are incased in bony armor-like plates that extend backwards from their heads. Once they are a few days old they will settle on the bottom of the reef overnight. The next morning the will emerge as fully developed juveniles.

Environmental Parameters


pH Level Specific Gravity
72-78  °F 8.1-8-4 1.020-1.025

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