Vagabond butterflyfish Chaetodon vagabundus

  • Fringing Reef
  • Lagoon coral patches
  • Fauna
  • Fish
  • Butterflyfish
  • Vagabond butterflyfish


Chaetodon vagabundus from the order of Perciformes and family of Chaetodontidae is also known as Butterfly fish, Crisscross butterflyfish, Vagabond butterflyfish, and Vagabond coralfish. There are two sets of narrow dark diagonal lines perpendicular to each other in a chevron pattern on its overall white body. There are three black bands, one crosses the eye, one crosses the caudal peduncle and the third passes through the middle of the caudal fin. Thin orange stripes can be seen on the forehead. Juveniles possess a black spot at the end of the dorsal fin[1].  It has a total of 13 dorsal spines, 22 to 25 dorsal soft rays, 2 to 3 anal spines and 19 to 22 anal soft rays[2].


[1] ‘Chaetodon Vagabundus’.

[2] ‘Chaetodon Vagabundus Summary Page’.

Habitat and ecology

This species is present from South Africa across the Indo-Pacific region to the Line and Gambier Islands in Polynesia, North to Southern Japan and South to central New South Wales. It is found in coral reefs, from inner coastal reef flats to outer seaward slopes. This Butterflyfish can withstand a wide range of conditions, including turbid waters and influxes of fresh water from rivers. Its diet consists of coral polyps, algae, anemones and polychaete worms. This species is reported to seldom consume corals on the Great Barrier Reef but frequently does so in Seychelles. This Butterflyfish occurs in pairs that may be highly territorial against other pairs.


Conservation and management

According to the IUCN Red list, this species is categorized as being of ‘Least Concern’. However, localised declines have been recorded for this species but impact on global abundance is unknown. Its dependence on corals still needs to be evaluated. It is frequently collected for the aquarium trade. No conservation measures are in place for this species. However, it is present in many MPAs[1].


[1] Myers and Pratchett, ‘Chaetodon Vagabundus’.

Did you know?

This species is monogamous.