Forcipiger flavissimus – Longnose Butterfly Fish

Forcipiger flavissimus or Longnose Butterfly Fish is an well-known and well-loved species for the seawater aquarium. They are reasonably easy to keep.

Forcipiger flavissimus – Longnose Butterfly Fish

Yellow longnose butterflyfish or Forcipiger flavissimus belong to the family Chaetodontidae. This family is comprised of 120 species in 10 genera and encompasses all butterflyfish as well as bannerfish and coralfish. This species habitat extends from the Red Sea throughout the Indo-Pacific and east to the Hawaiian Islands. They are not as common to Hawaii but a significant populace exists near the island of Maui. This fish has one of the longest names in the Hawaiian language: La-u wi-li-wi-li nu-ku-nu-ku ‘o-i ‘o-i. The translation breaks down to; (lau) leaf, wili-wili (tree), (nu-ku nu-ku) nose, (‘oi-‘oi) long sharp.


The name itself, longnose butterflyfish implies a fish of unique proportions, and this is the case. From the tip of its long snout to the base of its caudal fin, this fish’s body and fin structure form the general shape of a triangle. Their dorsal fins are split into a series of feather-like projections that look very much like a Mohawk. This fish is bright yellow in colour with a white triangle from its snout to the bottom of its head and a silver triangle from its eyes to the top of its head. There is a white patch directly below the pectoral fins. The colour palette is further accent in black. They have markings around their eyes and just behind the silver triangle with a black “false eye” at the top of their anal fin. Their caudal fins are typically transparent.

The Aquarium

These fish have moderate care levels and benign attitudes. They make an excellent choice for an amateur to moderately experienced aquarists. These exotic beauties are a longtime favourite among saltwater aquarium owners. They will mix well with other peace-loving fish in a multi-species environment. In nature, they are most often found in pairs. Longnose pairs will vigorously defend their territories in the confines of an aquarium. This species is not well suited for marine reef setups. They will grow to an adult length of as long as 9 inches. An aquarium with a minimum 110-gallon capacity is recommended. You should also provide them with plenty of hiding places as well as wide-open areas to swim in. These fish have an amusing habit of swimming upside down near the surface of the water when they are comfortable with their surroundings.


This is a carnivorous, foraging species. In nature, they use their elongated snouts to poke down in the nooks and crannies of rocks and reef formations in search of small invertebrates. Their diet consists largely of tubeworms including; feather dusters, fan, coco, and spaghetti worms.

In an aquarium setting, you will want to provide them with an abundance of living rock for snack food in between meals. They have been known to nibble on coral and urchins in the absence of an adequate food supply. A well-fed longnose will generally leave them alone.

This species may demonstrate a reluctance to eat when first introduced to an aquarium. Should this prove the case, try tempting them with mysis or brine shrimp. Tubifex and bloodworms may also entice them to begin feeding. A good trick to get them to accept non-living food items is by wedging them into the cracks and crevices of rocks for them to forage. Once they have been properly acclimated to life in captivity they will readily accept most food preparations formulated for carnivorous marine species. To maintain body weight and overall fit and vigour you will want to feed your longnose two to three times a day.




Copyright images

Russell Gilbert

Last Updated on 28 October 2021 by John

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Common names

Longnose Butterfly Fish

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