Photograph by Blane Perun

Butterfly fish

Considered among the most beautiful fish ever encountered near tropical coral reef formations, butterflyfish are a unique group of tropical fish belonging to the family Chaetodontidae. There are about 120 different species of butterflyfish that can be found mostly in the coral reefs of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as in species pairs that can be found in the Pacific and Indian Ocean. These fish are quite small in size – usually between 12 and 22 cm in length – and they are known by their characteristic body covered in high contrast stripes and colors such as white, black, orange, blue, red and yellow.

The main trait that butterflyfishes are known for are their beautiful, colored bodies that are often covered in brightly colored patterns that continue to carry the fame of these uncommon species of tropical fish. Species like the powderblue surgeonfish and Achilles tang are among the most well-known, their smooth patterns and brightly contrasting colors being the highlight of the main traits associated with butterflyfish. Angelfish can be black, bright silver or gold colored, while tangs and surgeonfish feature intense colors and patterns that can easily allow them to blend in with their environment.

Most species of butterflyfish can be found in the reefs of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, where they appear either in schools or as solitary fish that act territorial toward both members of their own species, and toward other reef fish. This behavior makes the placement of butterflyfish somewhat less predictablel; however, their habitats are often clearly defined. Tropical and subtropical regions, including places like the Philippines, Indonesia and the Hawaii Islands are the main areas where a lot of different types of angelfish, surgeonfish, rabbitfish, and a host of other important species of butterflyfish can commonly be located.

An important characteristic of butterflyfish is that they are quite capable of defending themselves and have evolved various creative means of doing so. Aside from their characteristic scalpel-like spines, surgeonfish are a species of butterflyfish that often school together, and are extremely well-organized when working together to overwhelm the defenses of their prey. Also, one of the most well-known types of butterflyfish – the rabbitfish – are more casual and docile when dealing with other fish – with the exception of specimens belonging to their own species. Rabbitfish are highly territorial and may find it difficult to coexist with each other, even though some subspecies do school together.

One of the most well-known types of butterflyfish is the angelfish. Usually found in their common silver coloring with characteristic dark stripes, or featuring stripes similar to zebra patterns, angelfish are quite beautiful and come in many shapes, sizes and patterns. Other common varieties of angelfish also include the marble, black, half black and veiltail varieties – the latter being significantly more multicolored than most subspecies and featuring much longer and more agile fins. Butterflyfish such as these are the highlight of the tropical coral reefs we can find in most of our oceans and have become extremely well-known for their stunning colors and beautiful patterns.


Blane Perun

Diver - Photographer - Traveler

Whale in Ocean