By Bob Goemans
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Chaetodon vagabundus

Linnaeus, 1758

Vagabond Butterflyfish

Not Reef Tank Suitable

Likely Fish-Only Tank Suitable

Range: Indo-West Pacific Ocean: East Africa to Line and Tuamotu Islands, north to Southern Japan, south to Lord Howe and Austral Islands.

Size: 9 inches (23 cm)

Natural Environment: Inhabits lagoon patch reefs, reef flats, and fore-reef slopes at depths between 3 – 100 feet (1 – 30 m) and feeds on soft and stony coral polyps, worms, sponges, hydroids, tunicates, crustaceans, sea anemones and filamentous algae.

General Husbandry: One of the hardier and larger species in this genus, and quite attractive. Its body is basically white with numerous chevron shaped grey lines, black eye band, and black on the trailing edge of the body. The caudal peduncle is black, with the tail yellow and having a central black band. Anal and dorsal fins are yellow and may show blue or black edging.

Best maintained in larger peaceful fish-only aquariums, especially those with lots of open swimming space, live rock hiding places, and having some micro and macroalgae growths. As to diet, a meaty diet of live fortified brine shrimp and/or black worms (Lumbriculus variegatus) is a good beginning. Once feeding regularly, various frozen meaty foods such as mysis, can be offered several times daily. Flake foods, especially those containing Spirulina and/or Nori should also be occasionally offered. Not a difficult species to get feeding in captivity.

Yet should there be a problem getting this species to feed, small human consumption clams/black mussels purchased in local grocery stores and placed on the half-shell in the aquarium may help entice it to begin feeding. Over time, frozen foods like mysis and brine shrimp may be more readily accepted.


    Order: Perciformes

    Suborder: Percoidei

    Family: Chaetodontidae

    Genus: Chaetodon

FYI: May consume Aiptasia anemones.

Can be maintained in pairs or with others from other butterflyfish genera, yet best to introduce all at the same time.

Juveniles acclimate more easily to aquarium life than do adults.

Pressing some soft foods into openings/crevices on a piece of old dead coral skeleton can sometimes encourage finicky eaters to begin feeding.

Experience Level: Intermediate

Temperament: Peaceful

Diet: Omnivore

Coral Safe: No

Invertebrate Safe: No

Acclimation Time: 30 minutes+

Aquarium Environment: Fish-only aquarium

Tankmates: Peaceful or non-aggressive

Minimum Tank Size: 125 gallons

Temperature Range: 72 - 82°F (22 – 28°C)

Specific Gravity: 1.020 -1.026

pH: 8.0 - 8.5

 Chaetodon vagabundus (Vagabond Butterflyfish)
Photo © Bob Goemans
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