The Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish looks so cute poking around the rocks with its extended snout!

The Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish Forcipiger flavissimus is a fun fish to watch as it maneuvers about the aquarium looking for food items. It has a brightly colored yellow body accented with a black face mask and a prominent eye-spot at the tail. But its most distinctive characteristic is the elongated snout. It’s a fair sized butterflyfish reaching just over than 8 1/2 inches (22 cm) in length, and a fair portion of that is the nose!

Its extended snout is tipped with strong jaws that can be likened to a pair of needle nose pliers. Wielding this specially adapted beak it is quite adept at sniping off the tentacles of tube worms, picking up copepods and mysid shrimps, or foraging for other small prey morsels hiding in cracks and crevices. Thus it is also commonly known as the Long-nosed Butterflyfish as well as the Forceps Butterflyfish.

This fish is very similar in color pattern and appearance to its close relative the Big Long-nosed Butterflyfish Forcipiger longirostris.. Sometimes dealers will even list them under the same common name, however they can be easily distinguished from one another. The snout on the Big Long-nosed Butterflyfish is actually much longer, to the point of being almost comical. It’s important to know which one you are getting, especially for the beginner. The Big Long-nosed F. longirostris is not as robust an aquarium inhabitant, though it is safer in a reef environment with stony corals.

Other butterflyfish with an extended snout similar to these two are found in the Chelmon genus. These are the Margined Coralfish Chelmon marginalis, Blackfin Coralfish (Muller’s Coralfish) Chelmon muelleri, and the familiar Copperband ButterflyfishChelmon rostratus. Unfortunately none of these three Chelmon species are nearly as hardy as their bright yellow long-nosed cousins.

Although the Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish looks quite delicate and fragile, this is not the case. It is a good beginner butterflyfish that will readily attract attention. It is fairly hardy, will usually be a good eater, and is peaceful. With the careful selection of a healthy specimen this yellow beauty can adapt and do exceptionally well in the saltwater aquarium.

This fish does need a good sized aquarium that is well established. A 75 gallon tank is the minimum suggested size for a single fish. It will need some rockwork, preferably well developed live rock, that offers caves or overhangs along with plenty of swimming space. These are peaceful fish and suitable for a community tank with other peaceful inhabitants. It can do fine with moderately aggressive tankmates as well, provided it is acclimated to the tank before introducing the more boistrous inhabitants. Keeping only one specimen per tank is best because they are often aggressive with others of their own kind, as well as their cogenitor the Big Longnosed Butterflyfish.

This species is great for a “fish only aquarium” (FO) or a “fish only with live rock” aquarium (FOLR). But keeping it in a reef environment is very risky as it has a very broad natural diet. It will feed on hard coral polyps and may also feed on soft coral polyps as well as a variety of other inhabitants. Favorites include polychaete worms (tubeworms, spaghetti worms) and the feet of echinoderms and sea urchins. They also enjoy hydroids, copepods, mysid shrimp, barnacle cirri, fish eggs and more. A positive to keeping it in a reef tank is that some individuals may help to rid the reef of those pesky Aiptasia species like the Glass AnemoneAiptasia pulchella, though they are not usually as adept at this as the Raccoon ButterflyfishChaetodon lunula or the Copperband Butterfly.

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

Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish

Report Broken Video
Short and to the point video of a vibrant and healthy Long-nose Butterflyfish!

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Chaetodontidae
  • Genus: Forcipiger
  • Species: flavissimus
Long-nosed Butterflyfish – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 75 gal (284 L)
  • Size of fish – inches: 8.7 inches (22.10 cm)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Temperature: 70.0 to 81.0° F (21.1 to 27.2&deg C)
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
Enter a Saltwater Aquarium
  • My Aquarium – Enter your aquarium to see if this fish is compatible!
Popular Searches

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish Forcipiger flavissimus was described by Jordan and McGregorin 1898. They have a very wide distribution. They are found in the Indo-Pacific from the Red Sea and East Africa to the Hawaiian and Easter islands, north to southern Japan, south to Lord Howe Island; throughout Micronesia; and to the Eastern Pacific in southern Baja California, Mexico and from the Revillagigedo and Galapagos Islands.

This species is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC). This is the most widely distributed if all the butterflyfish and is common throughout with no major threats. Other common names they are known by include Long-nosed Butterflyfish, Forceps Butterflyfish, Longnose Butterfly Fish, Forceps Fish, Forcepsfish, Long Nose Butterfly, Long-snouted Butterfly Fish, Yellow Long Nose Butterfly, and Long-nosed Coralfish.

These butterflyfish are found near exposed seaward reefs where there is lots of coral growth, rocky caves and ledges, and they are also found in lagoon reefs. They inhabit depths from between 3 to 476 feet (1 – 145 m) with environments that include everything from shallow flats to very deep walls. They are usually seen in pairs though sometimes seen in small groups of as many as 5 individuals, and occasionally they are seen alone.

They feed on a wide assortment of foods with some favorites being invertebrates like polychaete worms (tubeworms, spaghetti worms) and the feet of echinoderms and sea urchins. They also ingest an assortment of small animal prey like copepods, amphipods, mysid shrimp, barnacle cirri, and fish eggs, as well as hydroids, opisthobranches (snails and sea slugs), soft coral polyps and hard coral polyps.

  • Scientific Name: Forcipiger flavissimus
  • Social Grouping: Pairs – They are usually seen in pairs, though sometimes in small groups or singly.
  • IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern


The Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish has a disc-like shaped body that is laterally compressed and it has a long protruding snout tipped with a small mouth. The dorsal fin is continuous and it has a rounded tail fin. This species can reach just over 8 1/2 inches (20 cm) in length. The average lifespan in the aquarium for this species is about 5 – 10 years though they can live much longer with proper care, the longest recorded lifespan is 18 years.

This fish has a bright yellow body as well as yellow dorsal, anal and pelvic fins. There is a black bar over the nape covering the upper half of the eyes, giving a mask-like appearance. The rear edge of the dorsal and anal fins can be edged in blue and there is a prominent eye-spot on the anal fin just below the caudal peduncle. The pectoral and caudal fins are transparent.

  • Size of fish – inches: 8.7 inches (22.10 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 years – They generally live about 5 – 10 years, though a lifespan of 18 years has been recorded.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

This fish is fairly easy to keep and is suggested for the beginner to intermediate aquarist. It will generally feed and acclimate quickly. It is not a difficult fish to keep in an established captive environment as long as its needs are met. It will take a variety of foods and no technical care is needed to maintain it. As it will harm the polyps of stony and soft coral species, it is not recommended for reef-type aquariums.

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

Foods and Feeding

The Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish are primarilycarnivores. in the wild it’s found in areas with abundant corals, picking in between coral heads with its long snout. It feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates including stony coral polyps and soft coral polyps as well as small animal prey including crustaceans. In the aquarium offer meaty foods, dried flakes, prepared frozen foods, shrimps, and tablets. It may enjoy eating live brine shrimp but should be fed as many different foods as it will eat, as it will not thrive on that diet alone. Several sponge based frozen foods are now available and can also be fed to butterflyfish. Vegetables like Japanese Nori (Asakusa-nori) may also be favored. Feed it at least twice a day. If it is a tiny juvenile, food should be provided frequently in small quantities three or four times everyday.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore – They are primarily carnivores, though may accept some vegetable foods.
  • 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

They do need a lot of space to swim. As they can reach almost 8 1/2 inches in length a 75 gallon tank is the minimum size for a single fish. They like plenty of rockwork, preferably well developed live rock, that offers caves or overhangs. They also need plenty of swimming space and moderate water movement.

This fish is known as a coral eater, and may nip the polyps of stony and soft coral species. It will also snack on certain sessile invertebrates. Consequently it is not recommended for reef-type aquariums. They are best kept in a “fish only aquarium” (FO) or in a “fish only with live rock” aquarium (FOLR). It will need a good sized aquarium that is well established, matured for at least six or more months is best.

  • 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 very bright light as long as some dark areas are provided.
  • Temperature: 70.0 to 81.0° F (21.1 to 27.2&deg C)
  • Specific gravity: 1.020-1.025 SG
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All – It swims freely in all levels of the aquarium, and spends time both under overhangs and in the open water.

Social Behaviors

The Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish does great in a large fish only live rock (FOLR) community tank. Keeping it in a reef environment is very risky as it will feed on hard coral polyps and may also feed on soft coral polyps as well as a variety of other inhabitants. Though it may help rid reef tanks of the dreaded Aiptasia anemone species, it may eat coral polyps as well so keep a watchful eye.

This is peaceful fish and will do best if kept with peaceful tankmates in a community aquarium. 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.

It can be kept with some of the other butterflyfish but will be aggressive towards other members of its own kind, as well as other butterflyfish in its same genus. It can be kept with moderately aggressive types of fish, but it should be added to the aquarium first and allowed to acclimate before adding more belligerent inhabitants. 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: No – Will be aggressive towards other members of its own kind and genus.
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Safe
    • Monitor
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat
    • Monitor
    • Anemones: Monitor
    • Mushroom Anemones – Corallimorphs: Monitor
    • LPS corals: Threat
    • SPS corals: Monitor
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Monitor
    • Leather Corals: Monitor
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Monitor
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Monitor
    • Zoanthids – Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Monitor
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat
    • Starfish: Monitor
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Threat
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Monitor
    • 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

The Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish are generally hardy and 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.

LIke all butterflyfish, it 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.


This fish is generally readily available in pet stores and online and is relatively inexpensive.