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General information

The Butterfly fish (Chaetodontidae) are one of the most beautifully colored and varied genus of reef-fish in the oceans, well known for it ability to gracefully move about the coral reef with an air of total indifference. Their tightly compress bodies display an array of various patterns and colors. The head and body is usually a dark backgroundcolor which is broken up by a series of stripes and other patterns. Coloration varies considerably but often includes patches of yellow, orange, blue, and white. A "false eye" is commonly seen on some butterfly fish; this is usually located towards the back of the fish or even on a fin, the objective being to distract a striking predator from the butterfly fish's own head.

There are 114 family members worldwide known they can be found in tropical waters among the reef, most often observed in the Indo-Pacific. The Chaetodon genus contains the majority of the species. Their small size (12.5-20 cm - 5 to 8 in.), rounded bodies and slightly concave foreheads easily distinguish them from similar-appearing angelfish that are larger, have rounded foreheads and generally exhibit elongated dorsal and anal fins. The mouth on the butterfly fish is small and protrudes, even extensively in some cases such as the longnose butterfly fish. They have many small teeth in both jaws and the round, flat body of the butterfly fish is, in most species, covered with contrasting colors. These small, colorful fish spend their day flitting about shallow to deep reefs, dock pilings and rubble fields using keen eyesight to search for exposed coral polyps, tiny worms and other invertebrates. The main diet of the butterfly fish consist of algae, plankton, worms and small crustaceans but in many species this fish is considered an omnivore, which means it will eat almost anything that is available. Butterflies generally travel singly or in pairs within a rather limited home-range. At dusk they find shelter in a reef recess and become inactive. As they settle in for the night, daytime colors pale and markings change.

Little is known about the mating and reproduction habits. Most species prefer to live singly or in pairs even though some species are known to live in small schools. Please note that some species that are equal in size are known to fight with each other.

Class: Ray-Finned Fishes (Actinopterygii)
Superclass: Bony Fishes (Osteichthyes)
Suborder: Bass (Percoidei)
Order: Perch-like Fishes (Perciformes)
Family: Butterflyfishes (Chaetodontidae)

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