Chevron Butterflyfish

Triangulate Butterflyfish, V-lined Butterflyfish, Chevroned Butterflyfish, Table-coral Butterflyfish

Family: Chaetodontidae Chevron Butterflyfish, Chaetodon trifascialis, Triangulate Butterflyfish, V-lined Butterflyfish, Table-coral ButterflyfishChaetodon trifascialisPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Hiroyuki Tanaka

The Chevron Butterflyfish is outstanding, marked with many chevron-patterned lines on a rich silvery white body!

The Chevron Butterflyfish Chaetodon trifascialis is a handsome fish known and named for its beautiful diagonal chevron design. It is one of the more elongate butterflyfish in the genus. Yet it is moderate in size, reaching a total length of only about 7 inches (18 cm). This is a striking species with its elegant form, graceful swimming movement, and alluring colors.

The silverish white body is touched with yellow around the perimeter and there is a broad dark band running through the eye and another on the tail. But its primary feature is the numerous chevron-patterned lines. These decorative markings have led to a number of common names including Triangulate Butterflyfish, V-lined Butterflyfish, Rightangle Butterflyfish, and Chevroned Butterflyfish. Also because this pretty butterflyfish is found in its natural habitat swimming among table corals of the Acropora species, it is called the Table Coral Butterflyfish and Acropora Butterfly.

Although this fish is occasionally available and reasonably priced, it is one of the most difficult butterflyfish to keep in a captive environment. Like most butterflyfish they are corallivorous, but they take it a step further. They are obligatory coral eaters, meaning this is where they get the bulk of their nutrition. These types of fish have a specialized diet that poses a difficult problem for the aquarist as providing a coral diet is quite expensive and challenging.

Their specialized diet is difficult to reproduce in the aquarium and makes them very difficult to keep. They are only suitable for an expert aquarist. Though some individuals will accept substitute foods such as brine and mysid shrimps, they will subsist only for a short period of time without all their necessary nutrients. Fortunately there are some species of butterflyfish that are quite similar in appearance and easier to keep. One of these is its close relative the Merten's Butterflyfish C. mertenssii.

Other closely related species with similarly colored chevrons include the Asian Butterflyfish C. argentatus, Seychelles Butterflyfish C. madagaskariensis, Pearlscale or Philippines Chevron Butterflyfish C. xanthurus and Eritrean Butterflyfish C. paucifasciatus. some other related chevrons having deeper bodies including the Eastern Triangular Butterflyfish C. baronessa, Hooded Butterflyfish C. larvatus, and Triangle Butterflyfish C. triangulum.

This fish It is quite active and will swim freely in the open water, but it also spends time hiding in cracks and crevices where it will lie motionless. It does need a more spacious aquarium than other butterflyfish of similar size. It also needs larger furnishings like table corals where it can hide or keep motionless as well as open areas to swim. As it is fond of the live polyps of stony and soft corals, it can not be recommended for a reef-type setting. This species is a somewhat aggressive fish. It is territorial and will be aggressive towards other members of its own kind, and sometimes other butterflyfish. But it can be kept with larger and rather territorial angelfish like Pomacanthus and Holacanthus species.

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


Geographic Distribution
Chaetodon trifascialis
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Chaetodontidae
  • Genus: Chaetodon
  • Species: trifascialis
Chevron Butterfly Fish Close Up

Report Broken Video
A nicely colored Chevron Butterflyfish.

Undersea video taken in Coral Gardens about 5 meters underwater. The spots two Chevron Butterflyfish hiding amongst some corals and follows one for a short period of time as it darts up and around the corals. Both specimen present wonderful and healthy coloring and body shape.

Chevron Butterflyfish - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 7.1 inches (18.01 cm)
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Difficult to Impossible
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Minimum Tank Size: 70 gal (265 L)
  • Temperature: 70.0 to 79.0° F (21.1 to 26.1° C)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Chevron Butterflyfish Chaetodon trifascialis was described by Quoy and Gaimard in 1825, and was first collected in Guam. They are found in the Indo-West Pacific Oceans; Red Sea, African coasts to southern Japan, New Caledonia, Hawaiian and Society Islands and Rapa. Rare in Hawaii. Other common names they are known by include Triangulate Butterflyfish, V-lined Butterflyfish, Chevroned Butterflyfish, Rightangle Butterflyfish, Table-coral Butterflyfish, and Acropora Butterfly.

This species is on the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened (NT). This butterfly fish is heavily dependent on a coral diet. It has experienced declines in populations from 20 to 37% due to losses in coral reefs. Substantial declines have been noted especially in the species Acropora hyacinthus, which is one of about 15 corals it is known to feed on. Most of these corals are themselves listed as near threatened (NT) or vulnerable (VU).

Their natural habitat is in hard coral rich areas of outer reef slopes, lagoons, and coastal reefs at depths between (1 - 30 meters), though most are found in the shallower waters of that range. Adults are solitary and territorial. An adult specimen is typically seen alone, patrolling an established territory that often contains one or more table corals of the Acropora species. Females will have a smaller territory than males. In one area of Okinawa they exhibit a harem type behavior with the males territory encompassing that of two or three females. Juveniles are observed alone or in a small group in shallower waters, often among branches of Acropora table corals.

  • Scientific Name: Chaetodon trifascialis
  • Social Grouping: Solitary
  • IUCN Red List: NT - Near Threatened

Description

The Chevron Butterflyfish has the typical butterflyfish shape, though is a bit more elongated. Its body is oval and laterally compressed and it has a protruding snout tipped with a small mouth. The dorsal fin is continuous and it has a truncated tail fin. This species can reach a total length of about 7 inches (18 cm) in the wild, but most available specimens available are less than 4 1/3 inches (12 cm). The lifespan for most of the Chaetodon species is between 5 - 7 years, but these fish subsists only for a short period of time the home aquarium as their necessary nutrients are extremely difficult to provide.

Chevron Butterflyfish, juvenile, Chaetodon trifascialisChevron Butterflyfish (Juvenile) Photo courtesy: Hiroyuki Tanaka

The adult C. trifascialis is white overall with numerous chevron-patterned lines throughout on the side, except for the chest area. It is yellowish at the pectoral fin base and the eye has a dark band edged by yellow or white.

The dorsal fin is yellow, edged by blue with a black sub-marginal line posteriorly, and slightly duskier centrobasally of the fin. The anal fin is also yellowish, edged by blue with a black sub-marginal line. The caudal fin is black with a yellow margin and a narrower yellow edge on the upper and lower portions. The pelvic fins are white.

Small juveniles are similar but with fewer pronounced lines on the side. They have a broad black band on the posterior part of body and a broad yellow area on the caudal peduncle. The pelvic fins are yellow and the other fins are translucent. The black band on the posterior part will reduce with growth.

  • Size of fish - inches: 7.1 inches (18.01 cm) - Most specimens available are less than 4.72" (12 cm).
  • Lifespan: - The lifespan for most of the Chaetodon species is between 5 - 7 years, but this species subsist only for a short period of time as its dietary needs are very difficult to meet.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Chevron Butterflyfish is one of the most difficult butterflyfish to keep in the captive environment for a long period due to their specialized natural diet. They are only suitable for an expert keeper. A few specimens are successfully encouraged to accept substitute foods and are fairly easy to maintain, but only for a short period. As corals are its natural diet, it has poor survivability. Also because it will harm the polyps of hard stony coral species, it is not recommended for reef-type aquariums.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Difficult to Impossible
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Expert

Foods and Feeding

The Bennett's Butterflyfish are omnivores. In the wild this species is an obligate coral eater, feeding on corals in the genus Acropora along with Montipora and occasionally Pocillopra. In captivity it will sometimes accept live brine and mysid shrimps. Also offer other meaty foods, dried flakes, prepared frozen foods, and tablets. Vegetables like lettuce or Japanese Nori (Asakusa-nori) may also be favored. Offer various foods quite frequently at first. Feed it at least twice a day, and if it is a tiny juvenile, feeding should be fed three to four times everyday.

Juveniles tend to accept various foods and will be more successfully kept than adults. Once it is successfully acclimated it will become a fairly hardy fish, but unfortunately it will not last so long as its dietary needs are very difficult to meet.

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

Aquarium Care

It is active and a rather quick swimmer, and it will even go up to the surface to take foods when it is well acclimated. It swims freely, spending a good deal of its time in the open water. But it also needs larger decorations, like table corals, where it may hide or keep motionless. 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: 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 about 7 inches in length. The tank needs larger furnishings like table corals where it can hide or keep motionless, so for this it requires an even more spacious aquarium than other butterflyfish of similar size. A 70 gallon (265 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. Although it does well in a coral-rich tank, it will nip some species of hard and soft corals. Consequently it is not recommended for coral-rich reefs.
 

  • Minimum Tank Size: 70 gal (265 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: 70.0 to 79.0° F (21.1 to 26.1° C) - This species lives in both tropical and subtropical areas. Temperatures between 70 -79° F (21 - 26° C) will serve them well, avoid temperatures higher than 84° F (29° C) or below 66 ° F (19° 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 is quite active and will swim freely in the open water, but it also spends time hiding in cracks and crevices where it will lie motionless

Social Behaviors

The Chevron Butterflyfish is a non-reef safe fish. Though it does well in a coral-rich tank, it will eat the corals. It is best kept in a large fish only community tank that is well decorated with large furnishings such as table corals where it can rest and lie motionless.

This species is a somewhat aggressive fish. It is territorial and will be aggressive towards other members of its own kind, and sometimes other butterflyfish. Larger and rather territorial angelfish like Pomacanthus and Holacanthus can be kept together with this species. Also other angelfish like members of Centropyge, Apolemichthys, Genicanthus, Chaetodontoplus and Pygoplites also can be good tank mates.

Smaller, non-aggressive fishes like cardinalfish, gobies, tilefish, sometimes other species butterflyfish, fairy basslets, fairy and flasher wrasses also are good candidates as tank mates. 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: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: No - It is territorial and will be aggressive towards other members of its own kind.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Safe
    • Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Monitor
    • 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: Monitor
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Monitor
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Threat
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Monitor

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 Chevron 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.

This species has not been cultivated in captivity. The breeding behavior of this species has been observed In Okinawa where males keep a harem type territory that overlaps the smaller territories of two to three females. Spawning occurs at the full moon and for five more days. The male will visit the females throughout the day and courtship begins at dusk. The male will follow a female, nudging her anal area with his snout. The pair will eventually rise up in the water column, releasing their pelagic gametes at the apex and then immediately dart back to the substrate.

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 Chevron 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.

"Many specimens of 4-10 cm long were collected by friends at the Nichinan coast of Miyazaki every year. I have kept more than ten individuals of 5-10 cm in fish community tanks. These beautifully marked butterflyfish would do fairly well for some period of time when they excepted foods. Some did well without any trouble and survived several months. White spot disease was occasionally a problem, but many were successfully cured by using an appropriate copper sulfate. " ...Hiroyuki Tanaka

Availability

The Chevron Butterflyfish is sometimes seen at retailers. Most are smaller than 4 1/3 inches (12 cm), but juveniles less than 1 1/2 inches (3 cm) are rare. They are moderately priced, starting at about $20.00 USD.

References

Author: Hiroyuki Tanaka, Clarice Brough CFS

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