Longnose Butterflyfish, Forcipiger longirostris (Broussonet 1782)

Other Names: Big Longnose Butterflyfish, Big Longnosed Butterflyfish, Black Long-nosed Butterflyfish, Long-beaked Butterfly Fish, Long-bill, Longer-nosed Butterflyfish, Longnosed Butterflyfish, Longsnouted Coralfish, Pipe-snouted Butterfly Fish, Rare Long-nose, Very-long-nose Butterflyfish, Very-long-nosed Butterflyfish

A juvenile Longnose Butterflyfish, Forcipiger longirostris, at Lembeh Straits, Sulawesi (North), Indonesia. Source: Dennis Polack / FishWise Professional. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike


The Longnose Butterflyfish has a compressed yellow body with a tiny mouth at the end of a very long snout. The upper part of head is black or grey and the snout is silvery-white. A black spot present on the rear of the anal fin just below the caudal peduncle and a black bar runs from the beginning of the dorsal fin through the rear part of the gill cover to the pectoral-fin base. Chest usually with rows of black flecks or spots.

Video of Longnose Butterflyfish at Homaunau, island of Hawaii.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Forcipiger longirostris in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2020,

Longnose Butterflyfish, Forcipiger longirostris (Broussonet 1782)

More Info


Found in Australia from Scott Reef (Western Australia) and the Great Barrier Reef (Queensland). Also known from Christmas Island. Elsewhere the species is widespread in the tropical Indo-west-central Pacific. 

Inhabits coral-rich outer reefs, often near drop-offs. Individuals or pairs are often. seen picking small invertebrates from within corals or from reef crevices


Dorsal fin X-XII, 24-28; Anal fin III, 17-20.


To 22 cm.


Body and fins bright yellow, head black or grey above, with a silvery-white snout. A black bar runs from the beginning of the dorsal fin through the rear part of the gill cover to the pectoral–fin base. A black spot is present on the rear of the anal fin just below the caudal peduncle. Chest region often with a row of small black spots. All fins are yellow except the caudal fin which is clear.

Rare individuals may be all black or the yellow body may be all brown in colour.


Feeds by sucking small invertebrates (mostly tiny caridean shrimps) from crevices and branching corals. Like many other plankton-feeding fishes, this species has greatly reduced dentition, and it can also rapidly move the entire jaw apparatus forward to capture prey.


Longnose Butterflyfish form monogamous pairs during the breeding season and females spawn thousands of pelagic eggs into the water column. Butterflyfish larvae typically hatch 30 hours after spawning and the larvae spend an average of 40 days in the plankton before they metamorphose and settle on the reef. 

Forcipiger eggs and larvae have been described. The larvae have an elongate, armoured snout, reduced supracleithral and posttemporal plates, a large, ragged supraoccipital crest, and long, sharp preopercular spines (Leis & Rennis 1983).


Although difficult to maintain in captivity, Longnose Butterflyfish are occasionally sold in the aquarium industry.


IUCN: Least Concern


Whether defending a harem or a monogamous mate in the wild, forcepsfish and longnose butterflyfish warn competitors away with a single percussive popping sound followed by a flick of the head (Boyle & Tricas 2011).

Predators are thought to be deceived by the black, eye-sized spot near the clear tail fin allowing the butterfly fish to escape. The real eye is "hidden" in the black head of these butterflyfishes.

Similar Species

Longnose Butterflyfish differ from Forcepsfish (Forcipiger flavissimus) in having a longer snout and smaller mouth, 10-11 vs 12-13 dorsal-fin spines, and black flecks or spots on the chest.

The recently described Forcipiger wanai from Cenderawasih Bay, West Papua, is a dusky brownish-yellow fading to yellow-orange near the fins with a bright yellow band behind the black marking on the head.


The species name longirostris refers to the very long snout of this species.

Species Citation

Chaetodon longirostris Broussonet 1782, Ichthyologia, sistens piscium descriptiones et icones. Decas I.: 31, Pl. 7. Type locality: Hawaiian Islands, central Pacific.


Dianne J. Bray

Longnose Butterflyfish, Forcipiger longirostris (Broussonet 1782)


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

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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37365069

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:2-208 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish (rare)

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:22 cm

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