Moonlighter, Tilodon sexfasciatus (Richardson 1842)

Other Names: Butterfish, Six-banded Coral Fish, Six-banded Coralfish, Six-banded Sweep

A Moonlighter, Tilodon sexfasciatus, at Portland Breakwater, Victoria. Source: Julian K. Finn / Museum Victoria. License: CC by Attribution

Easily recognised by the broad dark bands on the head, body and tail base. Like butterflyfishes of the family Chaetodontidae, small juveniles have an ocellus (false eyespot) on the soft dorsal and anal fins.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2018, Tilodon sexfasciatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 14 Jul 2024,

Moonlighter, Tilodon sexfasciatus (Richardson 1842)

More Info


Endemic to southern Australia from about Wilsons Promontory (Vic) and northern Tasmania, to Jurien Bay (WA). 
Occurs in relatively shallow waters to a depth of about 30 m, and occasionally much deeper. Juveniles inhabit shallow rocky reefs, while adults often occur on deeper coastal reefs. Larger fish are commonly encountered along drop-offs in the southern parts of their range, although they may be seen under jetties in Western Australia.


Dorsal fin X, 20-21; anal fin III, 17-19; Caudal fin 17; Pectoral fin 17; Pelvic fin I, 5; lateral line approx. 80.

Body very deep (57-63% SL), strongly compressed; caudal peduncle shallow; head small (28-36 % HL), dorsal profile concave; snout of moderate length, slightly conical; eyes large (26-36% HL); mouth small, protractile, partly covered by preorbital bones; jaws with bands of long, slender, close set, brush like teeth, outer rows slightly enlarged; preopercular edges finely serrated; edges of opercular and preorbital bones smooth.

Scales small, weakly ctenoid, covering body, fin bases and head, except snout anterior to eyes; lateral line gently curved.
Dorsal fin continuous, outer margin evenly curved, spinous base shorter than soft base, spines moderately long, of similar length, rays becoming progressively shorter posteriorly; anal fin similar to and opposite soft part of dorsal fin, spines strong, second somewhat enlarged, about equal in length to third; caudal fin moderately large, broadly forked. Pectoral fins small, pointed, upper rays longest. Pelvic fins moderately large, inserted below and behind pectoral fin bases.


Silvery white with broad black vertical bands - one or two crossing caudal the peduncle, posterior-most three on body crossing the sides, and a band on the head through the eye. Juveniles with a white-edged black ocellus anteriorly on soft portion of the dorsal fin and anal fins.

Similar Species

The Moonlighter has been confused with butterflyfishes of the family Chaetodontidae, and is relatively similar in overall appearance and behaviour.

Small Moonlighters are known to set up cleaning stations to remove parasites from other fishes.

Species Citation

Chaetodon sexfasciatus Richardson, 1842, Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 10: 26. type locality: Western Australia.


Bray, D.J. 2018


Australian Faunal Directory

Moonlighter, Tilodon sexfasciatus (Richardson 1842)


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Thominot, A. 1881. Sur deux genres nouveaux de poissons faisant partie de la famille des Squammipennes et rapportés d'Australie par J. Verreaux. Bulletin des Sciences, par la Société Philomathique de Paris 7 8: 140-142 (as Tilodon australis)

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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37361003

Depth:1-30 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:40 cm TL


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CAAB distribution map