Raccoon butterflyfish

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Not to be confused with Chaetodon lunulatus, the oval butterflyfish.
Raccoon butterflyfish
Chaetodon lunula is feeding on sea urchin.jpg
Off Kona (Hawaiʻi), feeding on a sea urchin while a saddle wrasse, Thalassoma duperrey (lower left), waits for morsels
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Chaetodontidae
Genus: Chaetodon (but see text)
Subgenus: Rabdophorus
Species: C. lunula
Binomial name
Chaetodon lunula
(Lacépède, 1802)

The raccoon butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunula), also known as the crescent-masked butterflyfish, lunule butterflyfish, halfmoon butterflyfish, moon butterflyfish, raccoon butterfly, raccoon, raccoon coralfish, and redstriped butterflyfish,[1] is a species of butterflyfish (family Chaetodontidae). It is found in the Indo-Pacific region and in the southeast Atlantic. Its length is up to 20 cm (nearly 8 in).[2]

It belongs to the large subgenus Rabdophorus which might warrant recognition as a distinct genus. In this group, its closest relative is probably the very similar Red Sea raccoon butterflyfish or diagonal butterflyfish, C. fasciatus. Other close relatives appear to be the black butterflyfish, C. flavirostris), Philippine butterflyfish, C. adiergastos, and perhaps also the unusual redtail butterflyfish, C. collare. Although the coloration of this group varies greatly, they are all largish butterflyfishes with an oval outline, and most have a pattern of ascending oblique stripes on the flanks. Except in the red-tailed butterflyfish, there is at least a vestigial form of the "raccoon" mask, with a white space between the dark crown and eye areas.[3][4]

In the aquarium[edit]

The raccoon butterflyfish is generally not aggressive towards other fish, with the exception of lionfish and triggerfish. In captivity, the typical lifespan of a raccoon butterflyfish is five to seven years. It has been observed as a beneficial predator of Aiptasia and Majano sea anemones. They will eliminate this nuisance pest within a two- to six-week period depending on the anemone population and size of the tank; however, they will eagerly feed on any soft corals and may cause more harm than good to the decoration. In a confined environment, this species is prone to succumbing to "marine ich", infection by the ciliate Cryptocaryon irritans.


  1. ^ Pyle, R., et al. 2010. Chaetodon lunula. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. Downloaded on 03 June 2013.
  2. ^ FishBase [2008]: Chaetodon lunula. Retrieved 2008-SEP-01.
  3. ^ Fessler, Jennifer L. & Westneat, Mark W. (2007): Molecular phylogenetics of the butterflyfishes (Chaetodontidae): Taxonomy and biogeography of a global coral reef fish family. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 45(1): 50–68. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2007.05.018 (HTML abstract)
  4. ^ Hsu, Kui-Ching; Chen, Jeng-Ping & Shao, Kwang-Tsao (2007): Molecular phylogeny of Chaetodon (Teleostei: Chaetodontidae) in the Indo-West Pacific: evolution in geminate species pairs and species groups. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 14: 77-86. PDF fulltext