Blackback Butterflyfish, Chaetodon melannotus Bloch & Schneider 1801

Other Names: Black-back Butterflyfish, Black-back Butterfly-fish, Blackbacked Butterflyfish, Black-backed Butterflyfish, Black-backed Butterfly-fish, Black-backed Coralfish

A Blackback Butterflyfish, Chaetodon melannotus, on the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Source: fugm10 / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

A whitish butterflyfish encircled in yellow, with many diagonal black lines on the side, black along the upper back, a black eye bar, a black saddle on the caudal peduncle, and yellow fins.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. & Thompson, A.S. 2020, Chaetodon melannotus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 May 2024,

Blackback Butterflyfish, Chaetodon melannotus Bloch & Schneider 1801

More Info


Offshore reefs of northwestern Western Australia, and Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, and the Torres Strait Islands, the northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, and reefs in the Coral Sea, to at least Wollongong, New South Wales; also Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean, and the Lord Howe Island region and Norfolk Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, Indo-west-central Pacific.
Inhabits coral-rich areas of lagoons, seaward reefs, and reef flats. Juveniles recruit to shallow habitats with rich coral growth, settling among branching Montipora coral.


Dorsal fin XII-XIII, 18-21; Anal fin III, 18-21; Pectoral fin 14-15; Lateral-line scales 33-39.


This species inhabits coral-rich areas of lagoons, seaward reefs, and reef flats. Occurs as individuals or in pairs, but noted to form aggregations, possibly to mass-spawn (Pratchett et al. 2006). It is an obligate corallivore, but feeds on both hard and soft corals (e.g., Pratchett 2005). It recruits to shallow coral reef habitats with rich coral growth, settling among branching Montipora.


An obligate corallivore - feeds on polyps of hard and soft corals.


Juveniles settle out among branching Montipora corals on shallow reefs with rich coral growth.


Although frequently collected for the aquarium trade, the species may be difficult to maintain due to its diet of live corals.


The Blackback Butterflyfish feeds on live coral and recruits to Montipora corals on the Great Barrier Reef. Climate-induced coral bleaching has resulted in significant population declines (Pratchett et al. 2006).

Similar Species

Differs from the very similar Spot-tail Butterflyfish, Chaetodon ocellicaudus, in having a black saddle (vs a black spot) on the caudal-fin base, a black upper back, and a black spot or blotch on the anterior anal-fin base.

Species Citation

Chaetodon melannotus Bloch & Schneider, 1801. Syst. Ichthyol.: 224. Type locality: Tranquebar, India.


Bray, D.J. & Thompson, A.S. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Blackback Butterflyfish, Chaetodon melannotus Bloch & Schneider 1801


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37365043

Danger:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-25 m

Feeding:Feeds on live corals

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:18 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map