The Spot-banded Butterflyfish is not only beautiful, but is one butterflyfish species that is fairly hardy in the aquarium!

The Spot-banded Butterflyfish Chaetodon punctatofasciatus is an attractive and relatively hardy species. It has a hearty appetite and will take a variety of foods and still won’t outgrow your aquarium. It only reaches a length of up to 5 inches (12 cm) at the maximum. It is one of the easier butterflyfish to keep in captive environment and once acclimated it will even go up to the surface to take foods from its keeper.

This fish is all about spots, dots, and bands. Its color pattern is quite attractive and interesting. The body is a yellow tan on the lower half, becoming yellow on top. It has seven dark vertical bands and spots all over. The spotting on the upper half forms broken vertical stripes while those on the lower half become horizontal stripes. It has a yellow eyebar outlined in black that become dark brown on the eye itself. There is a yellow margin on the dorsal fin and a bright orange patch running through the caudal peduncle. There are a bunch of common names used to describe it. Sometimes you may hear it called the Punctato Butterflyfish, Sevenband Butterflyfish, Spotband Butterflyfish, Spotted Belly Butterflyfish, and Spots and Bands Coralfish.

This species is also frequently called the Dot and Dash Butterflyfish or Dot Dash Butterflyfish, but so is the Sunset ButterflyfishChaetodon pelewensis. The main visual difference between these two species is the orientation of their spots and bands. On the Spot-banded Butterflyfish they are aligned vertically on the upper portion of the body whileand on the Sunset Butterflyfish they run diagonally throughout. These two species are often found together in the wild and both are sold under the ‘dot-and-dash’ label.

If you are getting a ‘Dot-and-Dash’ Butterflyfish you will definitely want to know which species you are obtaining. Though they look very similar they differ in the degree of difficulty in keeping them. The Spotband Butterflyfish is one of the easier species to maintain, while the Sunset Butterflyfish is quite a challenge. These two also cross breed in the the Western Pacific. The hybrids are collected and shipped on occasion as well, and they too are labeled as the ‘Dot-and-Dash’ Butterflyfish.

Oncefhis butterflyfishhas settled in it can be a hardy pet and no technical care is needed to maintain it. It is a good choice for an intermediate aquarist. Although its natural diet consists mainly of coral polyps and algae, it will accept a wide variety of foods in the aquarium. It does need a good sized aquarium that is well established, and having good algae growth in the aquarium will help to sustain it. A 55 gallon tank is the suggested minimum size for a single fish but a much larger tank will be needed to keep more. Decorate the tank with rocks creating many caves for hiding places and lots of rocky rubble. Also make sure there is plenty of swimming space. Though not a very quick swimmer, it swims freely and usually spends a good deal of its time in the open water.

Many reef-keepers hope to keep this butterflyfish in a mini reef, but as it will be a coral eater it is best kept in a fish only community tank. They are a little shy, especially when young, but are not an aggressive species. They won’t mind friends, and a companion that is the same species or a another butterflyfish is a good choice in a larger aquarium. Other fish with a similar temperament will also make good tank mates.

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

Spot Banded Butterflyfish

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Owner feeding his Spot Banded Butterflyfish (Chaetodon punctatofasciatus), also called the Dot Dash Butterflyfish

Narrated video of a Spot Banded Butterflyfish, Chaetodon punctatofasciatus, also known as the Dot Dash Butterflyfish being fed. This aquarist makes a good point about feeding your butterfly with very small bits of food. Their mouths are very small, and designed for finely picking at corals, thus the need for small foods. New Spectrum’s .5 mm pellets are also a good food to try.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Chaetodontidae
  • Genus: Chaetodon
  • Species: punctatofasciatus
Spot Banded Butterflyfish – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Size of fish – inches: 4.7 inches (11.99 cm)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 81.0° F (22.2 to 27.2&deg C)
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Spot-banded Butterflyfish Chaetodon punctatofasciatus was described by Cuvier in 1831. They are found in the Indo-Pacific Oceans from Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean to the Line Islands in the west, north to the Ryukyu Islands and south to Rowley Shoals and the northern Great Barrier Reef, and throughout Micronesia. They are replacedby the Peppered Butterflyfish Chaetodon guttatissimus in the Indian Ocean.

This species is on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC) as they have a wide distribution and there are no major threats currently identified. Other common names they are known by include Dot Dash Butterflyfish, Punctato Butterflyfish, Sevenband Butterflyfish, Spotband Butterflyfish, Spotted Belly Butterflyfish, Dot and Dash Butterflyfish, Spots and Bands Coralfish, Punctato Butterflyfish, and Punctato Butterfly.

This fish is a member of a close-knit group of butterflyfish in the subgenus Exornator. This group is comprised of four species that are very similar in appearance, though they do differ intheir ability to adapt to captivity. The other three members are the Pebbled ButterflyfishChaetodon multicinctus, Peppered ButterflyfishChaetodon guttatissimus, and Sunset ButterflyfishChaetodon pelewensis. It is suspected that these four are able to produce fertile hybrids, and this species has hybridized with the Peppered Butterflyfish C. guttatissimus and the Sunset Butterflyfish C. pelewensis.

Adults are mostly seen in pairs in their natural habitat, though occasionally they are seen singly or in small groups. They prefer coral rich areas of off-shore reefs and lagoon reefs. They inhabit areas of back reefs, reef faces, and fore-reef slopes at depths between 3 – 148 feet (1- 45 meters). In the southern part of their range they are frequently found swimming with the similar looking Sunset Butterflyfish, C. pelewensis, and occasionally these two will hybridize. They feed on a variety of foods including hard coral polyps, filamentous algae, polychaete worm tentacles, and benthic invertebrates such as copepods.

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


The Spot-banded 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 rounded tail fin. This species grows to a length of just over 4 3/4 inches (12 cm). The lifespan for most of the Chaetodon species is between 5 – 7 years, but sometimes longer with proper care.

The adult C. punctatofasciatus has a yellowish brown body that is more of a yellow tan on the lower half and yellow on top. There are several deep brown bands running vertically and spots all over. The spotting on the upper half forms broken vertical stripes while those on the lower half become horizontal stripes. There is an orange area on the caudal peduncle, an orange band edged by black through the eye, and a black spot on the nape. The fins are a yellowish brown except for the pelvic fins which are white. The dorsal and anal fin both have a yellow margin with a black sub marginal line. The caudal fin is yellow basally with a black line centrally and the rest is transparent. Juveniles are very similar but a more creamy white, becoming more yellow as they mature.

This species is very similar in body shape and colors to its close relative the Sunset Butterflyfish C. pelewensis, and they mix in some ranges. Hybrid crosses are observed and shipped from these areas on occasion. The hybrids have intermediate but variable color patterns of the parental species. Some of the patterns are rather complicated with irregular bands and spots, however almost all cases can be readily distinguished from other species of Chaetodon.

  • Size of fish – inches: 4.7 inches (11.99 cm)
  • Lifespan: 5 years – The average lifespan Chaetodon species is between 5 – 7 years, and possibly longer with proper care.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

This fish is moderately hardy and is suggested for an intermediate aquarist. In the aquarium it will take a variety of foods and usually proves to be a sturdy aquarium fish. They are one of the easier butterflyfish to keep in a captive environment and no technical care is needed to maintain it. As it will harm polyps of some stony and soft coral species, it is not recommended for reef-type aquariums.

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

Foods and Feeding

The Spot-banded Butterflyfish are omnivores, in the wild they feed on coral polyps, algae, polychaete worms, and benthic invertebrates. In the aquarium it will readily accept substitute foods. Provide a variety of finely chopped meaty foods such as fresh or frozen seafood, live brine shrimp, and blackworms, dried flakes, shrimps, tablets, and Japanese Nori (Asakusa-nori).

They have a very small mouth so all foods must be very fine. Also provide lots of algae and prepared frozen formulas including those containing algae. If possible, a tank with lots of filamentous algae will be greatly appreciated. Once it is acclimated it can become hardy and live for some period. Feed it at least twice a day, and if it is a tiny juvenile, feeding should be tried 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: Some 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 5 inches in length, a 55 gallon tank is the minimum size for a single fish and a bigger tank will be needed if you want to keep a large community. The tank should be established and a good algae growth will help in keeping this fish. This fish is not a very quick swimmer and will spend a good deal of its time in the open areas. Even so, the tank should be well decorated with a rocky environment creating numerous caves and lots of rubble. This fish will nip at the polyps of hard and soft coral species, so it is not recommended for coral-rich reefs.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 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: 72.0 to 81.0° F (22.2 to 27.2&deg C) – Avoid temperatures higher than 84° F (29° C) or below 68° F (20° 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 swims freely and usually spends time in the open water.

Social Behaviors

The Spot-banded Butterflyfish is a non-reef safe fish. Though it does well in a coral-rich tank, it will nip the polyps of hard stony coral species. It it best kept in a fish only community tank that is well decorated with rocks that create caves for hiding places and lots of rocky rubble.

This fish is not aggressive and isshy when initially when introduced to the aquarium. It is best to select tank mates that are not overly territorial or aggressive. It will generally get along well with other butterflyfish, as well as other members of its own kind. But they do need to be in a good sized tank with plenty of hiding places. Keeping two of these fish together can sometimes be a problem if they are of the same sex and the tank is not large enough. Smaller non-aggressive fishes like cardinal fish, gobies, tilefish, fairy basslets, fairy and flasher wrasses are good candidates as tank mates.

Some of the moderately aggressive species may bully this butterflyfish. Be cautious withdamselfish and anemonefish, angelfish, surgeonfish, and triggerfish. If this fish is bullied it will tend to hide in a corner and then refuse to eat. To help prevent any problems, add this butterflyfish to the aquarium first, and make sure it is fully acclimated before adding potential troublemakers. 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. Larger frogfishes can swallow everything, so also should 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
    • Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat
    • Monitor
    • Anemones: Safe
    • Mushroom Anemones – Corallimorphs: Safe
    • 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: 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 Spot-banded Butterflyfish is moderately hardy and disease resistance, but 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.


The Spot-banded Butterflyfish is often available at retailers online and in pet stores. It can be acquired in various sizes and is moderately priced.