The Banded Butterflyfish is a common fish we have seen throughout the Caribbean. These fish are not very shy and, if you are careful, you can sneak up very close to these fish to take their picture. These Banded Butterflyfish were about 8 inches long. Like other types of Butterflyfishes, the Banded Butterflyfish has a tall and narrow body. Notice that it has a long snout, allowing it to reach into cracks and crevices where it catches the worms and other small animals that it eats. The Banded Butterflyfish swims by paddling with the pectoral fins on its sides. If you look closely, you will see these clear fins as a shadow just behind and below the eye of the fish on the left in this picture.
These Banded Butterflyfish are a mated pair. Like many kinds of Butterflyfishes and Angelfishes, these mating fish will stay together for most of their lives, never very far from each other as they explore the reef. If they get separated, they will swim up into the open water above the reef where they can see each other, then will race to each other to be back together again.
Like many reef hunters, these Banded Butterflyfish have stripes through their eyes. In this case, the stripe is a vertical black bar that matches the width of the pupil in the fish's eye. This stripe very effectively conceals where the fish is looking, sort of like a mask. Perhaps this helps it to sneak up on its prey.
Butterflyfishes are different from Angelfishes in some ways. Butterflyfishes are smaller, and have longer snouts with smaller mouths. These "tweezer mouths" seem designed to let them reach deep into cracks in the coral reef to find the worms and coral polyps they eat. Their body shapes and swimming styles are similar to Angelfishes, and they eat similar foods.
Tessa Dowell took this picture at a deep reef called Thumbnail near Bimini in September, 1999. She used a Nikonos V camera with a 28 mm lens and SB105 strobe.
Learn more about the Coral Reefs of Bimini on the 2001 ReefNews CD-ROM
Bimini: Jewel of the Gulf Stream