Butterflyfishes of Egypt

The Red Sea is a good place to look for butterflyfishes, since there are several species which are found here but are very uncommon elsewhere.   For instance, these masked butterflyfishes are found only in the Red Sea and in the Gulf of Aden to the south-west.

masked or blue-cheek butterflyfishes (Chaetodon semilarvatus)

The standard name for these is bluecheek butterflyfishes, but I prefer masked.   Many of the varieties on this page have several common names, which is why it's important to also know the Latin name, which you can see by hovering your cursor over the photo.

masked or blue-cheek butterflyfish (Chaetodon semilarvatus)

Unlike the blue-cheek butterflyfishes, the threadfin shown here is very widely spread, from South Africa all the way up to the Red Sea and right across the Pacific to Hawaii.  I didn't get any really good photos of it while I was in Egypt, but I got a slightly better photo from Australia.

threadfin butterflyfish  (Chaetodon auriga)

The lined butterflyfish is another very widespread species, but I only managed to get this one photo of them.   They're the largest of all butterflyfishes, reaching a length of up to 30 centimeters.   It's also rather unusual in having only one English common name, despite its great range.

lined butterflyfishes (Chaetodon lineolatus)

I was a bit luckier with this black-backed butterflyfish, but again this was the only photo I managed to get.   I have a really nice photo of a pair of these on the Great Barrier Reef.  When they're frightened their back is supposed to become entirely black, except for two white spots, but I've never seen this.  As you can see, this one's dorsal spines are flat, which means it isn't too worried.  They use the dorsal fins to signal danger to each other, a behaviour which is very commonly seen amongst butterflyfishes, which often pair up for life.

black-backed butterflyfish  (Chaetodon melannotus)

Here's a much cleaner shot than the previous two and one I really wanted to get, not only because it's another speciality of the Red Sea, but also because it's very unusual to see red colouration on a butterflyfish.   The appropriately named redback butterflyfish is very recognisable as a butterflyfish, with its flat shape, stripes and the bar through its eyes, but the red definitely sets it apart from most of its cousins, who mostly have yellow as the dominant colour.   Because of its localized distribution, the redback butterflyfish is also called the Red Sea Chevron butterflyfish.

redback butterflyfish  (Chaetodon paucifasciatus)

I thought at first that these two photos must be of the same fish, because of what looks like a scar curving across its side.  However, after looking at various people's photos, it seems that this mark is another characteristic of the species.   The fish in the previous photo also has a dark mark extended out from the second stripe from the right, which this fish lacks.

click here to go to a wallpaper-sized photo of this redback butterflyfish  (Chaetodon paucifasciatus)

The butterflyfish below is also highly localized in this area, which is why it's known as the Red Sea Raccoon butterflyfish, or sometimes just the Red Sea butterflyfish.   The "raccoon" part of its name comes from the black mask around its eyes, which looks very much like the black mask raccoons have around their eyes.

Red Sea raccoon butterflyfish  (Chaetodon fasciatus)

The research I did said that this species is mostly seen alone or in pairs, but in fact this is the only variety which I saw in the Red Sea in groups, as you can plainly see here, with over a dozen all together in one spot, with another just to the left of the frame.   You can see the whole group together in a computer wallpaper sized photo by clicking on this photo - the wallpaper photo will open in a new page.

click here to go to a wallpaper-sized photo of these Red Sea raccoon butterflyfishes  (Chaetodon fasciatus)

Chevron butterflyfishes can be found all the way from Africa to Hawaii and Tahiti.  Like most other butterflyfish they eat coral polyps, and they also eat the mucus which coral produces in great quantities every day.

chevron butterflyfish  (Chaetodon trifascialis)

In our final photo, this blacktail or polyp butterflyfish is another speciality of this area.   Apart from its tail, it's very similar in appearance to the melon butterflyfish of the Pacific ocean, even down to the dark bulge on one of the top stripes.  It's not too surprising, then, that it's also called the Red Sea melon butterflyfish.

click here to go to a wallpaper-sized photo of this Red Sea melon butterflyfish, aka polyp butterflyfish or black tail butterflyfish  (Chaetodon austriacus)