The longnose butterflyfish is easily recognised by its yellow body and black and white head, but its most remarkable feature is its long snout.

It uses this long snout to probe crevasses for food particles and prey, and to bite the tube feet off of sea urchins and other echinoderms.

The longnose butterflyfish is the most widespread species of butterflyfish. It lives in pairs along rocky shores and reefs along the southern African coast. It is a common visitor to deep reefs throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

It is highly territorial, and will defend its patch of coral from any other longnose butterflyfish of the same sex. This butterflyfish uses soundwaves, generated by body movements, to signal its territorial boundaries to other fish.

The IUCN classification for this species is Least Concern with stable populations


This is the biggest family of tropical fishes. There are about 120 different species worldwide and about 24 of these live off the southern African shore. Butterflyfishes are so named as they dart to and fro about the reef as butterflies flutter between plants.

Butterflies have mostly black, yellow and white markings. Several species have a large black dot towards the back of their bodies. This ‘eye-spot’ supposedly confuses would-be predators

Most butterflyfishes change colour at night and find cracks and crevices on the reef to sleep.

Species Facts

  • Also known as big-nosed butterflyfish, forcepsfish or yellow longsnout butterflyfish.
  • Has the widest distribution of all butterflyfish.
  • Grows to 22cm long.
  • False eye marking on anal fin confuses predators.
  • Related to a similar species Forcipiger longirostris, which is distinguished only by its longer snout and angular gill cover (rounded in Forcipiger flavissimus).
  • Pairs of longnose butterflyfish occupy territories on rocky shores and reefs at depths from 2 to 114m.