By Bob Goemans
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 Chaetodon citrinellus (Speckled Butterflyfish, Citron Butterflyfish)

Chaetodon citrinellus
Cuvier, 1831

Speckled Butterflyfish, Citron Butterflyfish

Not Reef Tank Suitable

Likely Fish-Only Tank Suitable


These fishes belong in the Order Perciformes and Suborder Percoidei as members of the Family Chaetodontidae (Butterflyfishes), which contains 13 genera and almost 130 species, both described and yet undescribed. And note the genus Heniochus is described as Bannerfishes elsewhere in this Fish Library.

This is a very large family, probably containing the most colorful fishes to be found in the wild. They are laterally compressed disc-shaped fishes and most do not get overly large, i.e., about six inches. Besides their size and coloration, they make good community fish. Unfortunately many require excellent water quality and are difficult to feed, as their diet consists mostly of live food such as coral polyps, crustaceans, and algae.

Most appear to do better near the higher level of their temperature range, and also seem to do better in salinity levels found in reef systems, i.e., 1.025 than what is found in most fish-only systems, which is usually below that of reef systems. If possible, it is better to attain them as juveniles where there is a greater chance they will adapt to available aquarium foods. Chaetodon auriga and Chaetodon kleinii are among the easiest to maintain.

Even though the taxonomy of various fish families is constantly undergoing updates, the Butterflyfish taxon presented below is the latest as of August 2004. I want to personally thank those involved with this reclassification, i.e., Vincent Hargreaves Ph.D., and those assisting him such as John Randall, Frank Schneidewind, Peter Wirtz, and Hiroyuki Tanaka for their dedication to perfection, and for allowing this website ( to be the 'first in the world' to post it!

As for those in the Chaetodon genus, their distribution is quite extensive as it is found in both the west and central Pacific Ocean, e.g., Hawaii, Southern Japan, and the northwest and east coast of Australia, along with areas in the Atlantic Ocean. It is probably the largest genus of marine fish that interest hobbyists. Most of these very beautiful fish are described here, making this the largest genus in my library. It should be noted that C. aya, C. obliquus, and C. guyanensis are no longer valid in this genus and have now moved to the genus Prognathodes.

Also, C. hemichrysus is no longer a valid species. And that C. interruptus is also not a valid species, however, it should be regarded as a subspecies of C. unimaculatus, e.g., Chaetodon unimaculatus interruptus per Vincent Hargreaves, Jack Randall and Bill Eschmeyer. It should also be noted that C. andamanensis is an invalid species, however, it should be treated as a junior synonym of C. plebeius per Vincent Hargreaves. He states: "There are various 'intermediates' from the Maldives, Phuket and the eastern Indian Ocean that are well documented and prove that it is merely a geographical color variation." And that he, Frank Schneidewind, Jack Randall, and Bill Eschmeyer all agree on this matter.

To keep the status of this family as current as feasible, some updates have been applied in late 2015 and early 2016.











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