Forceps Fish, Forcipiger flavissimus Jordan & McGregor 1898

Other Names: Forcepsfish, Long-nose Butterflyfish, Longnosed Butterflyfish, Long-nosed Butterflyfish

A Forceps Fish, Forcipiger flavissimus, at Lady Musgrave Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Source: Dave Harasti / License: All rights reserved

A yellow long-snouted butterflyfish with yellow fins, a black upper head, a silvery-white lower head and chest, a black spot on the rear of the anal fin. The eye is equidistant between the snout tip and the pectoral-fin base.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Forcipiger flavissimus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 21 Jun 2024,

Forceps Fish, Forcipiger flavissimus Jordan & McGregor 1898

More Info


Shark Bay to North West Cape and offshore reefs of north Western Australia, and the far northern Great Barrier reef and reefs in the Coral Sea, to Sydney, with juveniles south to Jervis Bay and Montague Island, New South Wales. Elsewhere the species is widespread in the tropical, Indo-Pacific.
Found in habitats ranging from outer reef flats and reef crests, deep drop-offs, caves and ledges, usually in areas with rich invertebrate growth.


Dorsal fin XII, 22-24; anal fin III, 17-18; Pectoral fin 14-15; Lateral-line scales 74-80.
Body depth 1.9-2.4% SL; snout length 1.6-1.8 in HL.


It feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates including corals, hydroids, small crustaceans, echinoderms (tube feet, pedicilaria) and polychaete tentacles; also consumes fish eggs. 


Forms monogamous pairs.

Similar Species

The similar Longnose Butterflyfish, Forcipiger longirostris, differs in having a longer snout with the eye much closer to the pectoral-fin base than the tip of the snout, and usually rows of small black dots on the chest.


The specific name flavissimus is from the Latin flavum (= yellow) and -issimus (= the most) in reference to the bright yellow colour on the body of this species.

Species Citation

Forcipiger flavissimus Jordan & McGregor in Jordan & Evermann 1898, Bulletin of the United States National Museum 47(2): 671. Type locality: Clarion Island, Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Forceps Fish, Forcipiger flavissimus Jordan & McGregor 1898


Allen, G.R. 1980. Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World. New York : John Wiley & Sons Vol. 2 pp. 149-352 figs 214-510. 

Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls. 

Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2 

Allen, G.R., Steene, R. & Allen, M. 1998. A Guide to Angelfishes & Butterflyfishes. Cairns : Odyssey Publishing/Tropical Reef Research 250 pp. figs. 

Allen, G.R. & Smith-Vaniz, W.F. 1994. Fishes of Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Atoll Research Bulletin 412: 1-21 

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp. 

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls. 

Burgess, W.E. 1978. Butterflyfishes of the World. New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications Inc. 832 pp. figs. 

Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170 figs 1-2 

Gill, A.C. & Reader, S.E. 1992. Fishes. pp. 90-93, 193-228 in Hutchings, P. (ed.)  Reef Biology. A Survey of Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, South Pacific. Canberra : Australian National Parks Vol. 3, Kowari 230 pp. 

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Biodiversity of shallow reef fish assemblages in Western Australia using a rapid censusing technique. Records of the Western Australian Museum 20: 247-270 

Jordan, D.S. & Evermann, B.W. 1898. The fishes of North and middle America: a descriptive catalogue of the species of fish–like vertebrates found in the waters of North America, north of the Isthmus of Panama. Bulletin of the United States National Museum 47(2): 1241-2183 See ref at BHL

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp. 

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp. 

Kuiter, R.H. 2002. Butterflyfishes, Bannerfishes and their Relatives. Chorleywood, U.K. : TMC Publishing 208 pp. 

Myers, R. & Pratchett, M. 2010. Forcipiger flavissimus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T165716A6099950. Downloaded on 10 August 2020.

Oxley, W.G., Ayling, A.M., Cheal, A.J. & Osborne, K. 2004. Marine surveys undertaken in the Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Marine National Nature Reserve, December 2003. Townsville : Australian Institute of Marine Sciences 64 pp. 

Pyle, R. 2001. Chaetodontidae, Pomacanthidae. pp. 3224-3286 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, V.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 5 2791-3379 pp. 

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs. 

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs. 

Steene, R.C. 1978. Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World. Australia. Sydney : A.H. & A.W. Reed Vol. 1 144 pp. 216 figs.

Trnski, T. 2015. 187 Family Chaetodontidae. pp. 1298-1305 in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. (eds). The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 4 pp. 1153-1748.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37365068

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:2-145 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:22 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map