Raccoon Butterflyfish

Halfmoon butterflyfish, Moon butterflyfish, Crescent-masked Butterflyfish, Lunula Butterflyfish, Bandit Butterflyfish

Family: Chaetodontidae Raccoon Butterflyfish, Chaetodon lunula, Halfmoon butterflyfishChaetodon lunulaPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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My Raccoon Butterflyfish is a juvenile. My lunula is the most active fish in my aquarium, constantly swimming back and forth. My lunula gets along with my... (more)  Kent Wong

The Raccoon Butterflyfish is easily recognized by the mask on its face, like that of a nightime bandit!

The Raccoon Butterflyfish Chaetodon lunula is well named for its "masked" face. Like its terrestrial namesake, the mammal native to North America called the Common Raccoon, this fish is well suited for nighttime hunting activities. In the wild this fish will usually stay hidden during the daylight hours and spend its nights foraging for food. Like the mammal, this masked marauder has big eyes too, especially for a butterflyfish. This is probably an adaptation for a nocturnal lifestyle.

This butterflyfish is quick to catch the eye with its high contrast "bandit" type color patterning. It has a rich golden to warm brown background accented with bold black bars. The black eye bar, backed by a strong white band, creates its mask. Other descriptive common names they are known by include the Halfmoon butterflyfish, Moon butterflyfish, Crescent-masked Butterflyfish, Lunula Butterflyfish, Bandit Butterflyfish, Redstriped Butterflyfish, and Spotted Butterflyfish.

These fish are fascinating to observe and wonderful to photograph. During the day they are often reclusive, hanging out in caves or under ledges, or if they are out and about they are seen grouping in small schools. They make a pleasurable spectacle for nighttime divers, especially when seen as a group. In the aquarium they make an equally attractive showpiece. Most will readily learn to accept food during the daytime and though initially shy, once they adapt they will spend much of their time out swimming about.

This very attractive species is one of the hardier butterflyfish so can be recommended for the beginner. It is a good sized fish however, reaching lengths up to almost 8 inches (20 cm). It does need a large, well established aquarium. A 75 gallon tank is the minimum suggested size for a single fish and a bigger tank will be needed to keep more. Decorate the tank with rocks and/or corals with many hiding places along with plenty of swimming space.

Their diet varies somewhat depending on where they are from, but it is quite broad. Most will readily take all sorts of aquarium foods if they are comfortable with their environment. Only a few specimens, usually the very large ones or the very tiny ones, can have a more difficult time acclimating to life in captivity. For these you can offer a small, inexpensive anemone, which these fish find very difficult to refuse nibbling on. Once you can get this fish eating, provide it with a good and varied diet. After adaptation they usually prove to be a sturdy aquarium fish.

This species is great for a fish only aquarium. They are peaceful and suitable for a community tank with other peaceful inhabitants. They can be housed with other butterflyfish though they may chase them, especially others of the same species. But if the tank is large enough there will rarely be any damage.

Keeping them in a reef environment is very risky. They have a very broad natural diet. In the wild they are known to feed on soft coral polyps and sometimes hard coral polyps, algae, and a variety of other inhabitants. Favorites include polychaete worm tentacles (tubeworms), nudibranchs, and the feet of sea urchins, but they also enjoy hydroids, sea anemones, copepods, mysid shrimp, crabs, tunicates, fish eggs and more. A positive to keeping them in a reef tank is that some individuals may help to rid the reef of those pesky Aiptasia species like the Glass Anemone Aiptasia pulchella.

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


Geographic Distribution
Chaetodon lunula
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Chaetodontidae
  • Genus: Chaetodon
  • Species: lunula
Raccoon Butterflyfish

Report Broken Video
An curious little Raccoon Butterflyfish in its natural habitat!

This is a nice short but effective video showing a couple of Raccoon Butterflyfish in their natural habitat. One fish curiously approaches the camera lens to figure out what it is, but backs down when it realizes the item isn't food!

Raccoon Butterflyfish - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Minimum Tank Size: 75 gal (284 L)
  • Size of fish - inches: 7.9 inches (19.99 cm)
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 81.0° F (22.2 to 27.2° C)
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Raccoon Butterflyfish Chaetodon lunula was described by Lacepede in 1802. They are found in Indo-Pacific regions, with the exception of the Red Sea, from East Africa to the Hawaiian, Marquesan, and Ducie islands, north to southern Japan and south to Lord Howe and Rapa Islands. Some are occasionally seen in the eastern Pacific at the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, and the Cocos Island of Costa Rica.

This fish is one of a closely related group of butterflyfishes that belong to the subgenus Rabdophorus, which may eventually become a distinct genus. This is a large group that are being identified as related through modern DNA sequence data.

This species is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC) as they have a wide distribution, are very abundant, and there are no major threats currently identified. Other common names they are known by include Halfmoon Butterflyfish, Moon Butterflyfish, Crescent-masked Butterflyfish, Lunula Butterflyfish, Bandit Butterflyfish, Redstriped Butterflyfish, Spotted butterflyfish, Racoon Butterflyfish, Raccoon butterfly, Racoon Butterflyfish, Racoon Coralfish, Lunule Butterflyfish, Red-striped Butterflyfish, and Moon Butterfly fish.

These butterflyfish are associated with most reef habitats, from seaward reefs to lagoons and channels. They occur over fringe reefs, reef flats, back reef areas, foremost reef slopes, and commonly over rocky areas. Juveniles are seen among rocks in the shallow reef flats of inner-tidal zone and in tide pools. They are found at depths from .5 - 230 feet (.15 - 70 m), but they are most abundant at depths less than 98 feet (30 m). They are often seen in pairs or small groups up to about 20 individuals, but are also found alone.

They have a wide and variable diet, that differs depending on the areas they are found. They are known to feed on coral polyps, algal fragments, and a variety of benthic invertebrates. Favorites include polychaete worm tentacles (tubeworms, spaghetti worms), nudibranchs, and the feet of sea urchins, but they also enjoy hydroids, sea anemones, opisthobranch molluscs, peanut worms, copepods, mysid shrimp, crabs, tunicates, and more. Sometimes groups will invade the nests of damselfish to eat the eggs.

  • Scientific Name: Chaetodon lunula
  • Social Grouping: Pairs - They are usually seen in pairs or small groups of up to about 20 fish, and sometimes singly.
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern

Description

The Raccoon Butterflyfish has a disc shaped body that is 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 grows to a length of up to almost 8 inches (20 cm). The typical lifespan is between 5 - 7 years.

The adult C. lunula has a rich golden color on its lower body and a dark warm brown on the upper portion. Between these two colors, and blending in at the top, are a series of angled horizontal red speckled lines. All its fins and the front of its nose are golden yellow. It's accented with a bold black eye bar backed by a strong white band, creating its mask, another strong black band running from the white band to the dorsal fin, and a third at the rear in front of the tail fin. Juveniles lack the black bands running from the white band to the dorsal fin.

  • Size of fish - inches: 7.9 inches (19.99 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 years - The typical lifespan is between 5 - 7 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

This fish is moderately hardy and can be recommended for the beginning aquarist. However it is a good sized fish so it does need a large well established aquarium. Sometimes a specimen, usually the very large ones or the very tiny ones, can have a more difficult time acclimating to life in captivity and may refuse to eat. Offer it a small, inexpensive anemone, as these fish find it very difficult to refuse nibbling on them. Once eating, provide it with a good and varied diet and it will usually prove to be a sturdy aquarium fish.

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

Foods and Feeding

The Raccoon Butterflyfish are omnivores, in the wild they feed on soft coral polyps, hard coral polyps, algae, and a variety of other Cnidarians as well as benthic organisms. In the aquarium it is they will accept a wide variety of foods. Offer Meaty foods, dried flakes, shrimps, and tablets and frozen foods of all kinds including Formula I, Formula II, Angel Formula and spirulina. Several sponge based frozen foods are now available and can also be fed to butterflyfish. Japanese Nori will also be favored. Feed it at least twice a day, and if it is a tiny juvenile feed it 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

Once adapted no special care or technique is needed to maintain this fish in the aquarium. 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, avoid sudden massive water changes.

Aquarium Setup

These fish need plenty of space to accommodate their size and to swim. As they can reach almost 8 inches in length, a 75 gallon tank is the suggested 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/or corals with many hiding places.

In a reef environment this fish is a will readily eat soft coral polyps, and may nip the polyps of hard stony coral species. It will also feed on any other invertebrates it can find with the exception of large ornamentals. Consequently it is not strongly recommended for coral-rich reefs. The best success in a reef environment is a large tank that is well stocked and a proper and nutritious diet is provided.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 75 gal (284 L)
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places
  • Substrate Type: Mix - Sand + Coral
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting - It can also be kept under bright light as long as some dark areas are provided.
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 81.0° F (22.2 to 27.2° 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 is recommended.
  • Water Region: All - It swims freely and usually spends a good deal of its time in the open water, moving in and out of crevices.

Social Behaviors

The Raccoon Butterflyfish is not recommended for a reef tank as it does eat most soft corals as well as sessile invertebrates, and may very well begin to nip on hard coral polyps. A positive to keeping them in a reef tank is that there are some individuals that may help rid the reef of those pesky Aiptasia species, but there is a risk to the other inhabitants. They should not be housed with any invertebrates other than large ornamental crustaceans.

This is a peaceful fish that can be housed with a variety of tank mates. It does best kept in a large fish only community tank with other peaceful inhabitants. It can also be housed with other butterflyfish, though they may chase them, especially others of its own kind. But if the tank is large enough there will rarely be any damage.

Smaller non-aggressive fishes like cardinalfish, gobies, tilefish, fairy basslets, fairy and flasher wrasses are good candidates as tank mates. 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. 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: Yes
    • 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: Monitor
    • 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: Threat
    • Starfish: Monitor
    • 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

This species 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 Raccoon Butterflyfish may 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.

Availability

This fish is generally readily available in pet stores and online, and is moderately expensive.

References

Author: David Brough CFS, Clarice Brough CFS
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Lastest Animal Stories on Raccoon Butterflyfish

Kent Wong - 2007-11-04
My Raccoon Butterflyfish is a juvenile. My lunula is the most active fish in my aquarium, constantly swimming back and forth. My lunula gets along with my Saddleback Clownfish and Skunk Shrimp; however, my Longnose Hawk and Watchman Gobby tend to go on the defensive whenever my lunula swims close by. I've noticed that during the night, my lunula tends to "sample" my Spotted Cardinalfish's tail.

Reply
johan maree - 2007-02-14
I have a Raccoon butterfly along with a wrasse, a devil firefish, and a seabass among others. a funny setup really, but they all seem to get on very well. the first day that i caught my lunula, i did not feed any of the fish for the day, and surprisingly, the next day when i fed my fish, the lunula was the first to eat the tubifex i fed them.
so...... where theres a will, theres a way.

Reply
Charlie TAN - 2006-05-21
amazed by their peaceful temperement. they are carnivorous and hard to start their feed. but provided with a lot of live rock i think my raccoon can stay without feed for sometime. I have difficulty feeding my fish
so i keep adding live rock and just 1 fish at the moment until i can feed it. One
succumbed to disease before with slime and respitory problems, no effect from medicines like anti protozoa and copper. at last cured by a new medicine remedie by OCEAN FREE, herbal O formula, product of Malaysia.

Reply

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