Melon Butterflyfish, Chaetodon trifasciatus Park 1797

Other Names: Lineated Butterflyfish, Pinstriped Butterflyfish, Purple Butterflyfish, Rainbow Butterflyfish, Redfin Butterfly Fish, Redfin Butterflyfish, Three Banded Coralfish, Three-banded Butterfly, Three-banded Coralfish

A Melon butterflyfish, Chaetodon trifasciatus, at Reunion island. Source: zsispeo / Flickr. License: CC BY Attribution-ShareAlike

A pale orange butterflyfish with oblique purplish stripes along sides, a yellow-margined black band through the eye and along the dorsal and anal-fin bases, a reddish-orange anal fin and a yellowish-orange caudal peduncle. The species has a bluish hue on the back and rear part of the body. 
Although recorded from Australia in a number of publications, in the AUS EEZ, this species only occurs at the territories of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2022, Chaetodon trifasciatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 24 May 2024,

Melon Butterflyfish, Chaetodon trifasciatus Park 1797

More Info


Australian territories of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island. Elsewhere the species is widespread in the Indian Ocean, from East Africa to the Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua, Indonesia.
Inhabits protected coral-rich areas in lagoons and on seaward reefs.


Dorsal fin XIII-XV,20-22; Anal fin III,18-21; Pectoral fin 13-15; Lateral-line scales 30-39. Body depth 1.5-1.8 in SL.


An obligate corallivore - feeds on polyps from a wide range of different coral species.


Although frequently collected for the aquarium trade, this species usually starves in captivity because it feeds only on live corals.

Similar Species

The similar Pinstripe Butterflyfish, Chaetodon lunulatus, has a white caudal peduncle (vs yellow in Chaetodon trifasciatus) and the back and rear of the body are not as bluish. C. lunulatus occurs in the East-Indo-west-central Pacific.

Species Citation

Chaetodon trifasciatus Park, 1797, Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond. 3: 34. Type locality: Bengkulu Province, Sumatra, Indonesia.


Bray, D.J. 2022


Atlas of Living Australia

Melon Butterflyfish, Chaetodon trifasciatus Park 1797


Allen, G.R. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

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

Burgess, W.E. 1978. Butterflyfishes of the World. New Jersey : T.F.H. Publications Inc. 832 pp. figs. (in part, Indian Ocean material only)

Findley, J.S. & Findley, M.T. 2001. Global, regional, and local patterns in species richness and abundance of butterflyfishes. Ecological Monographs 7(1): 69-91.

Graham, N.A.J., Wilson, S.K., Jennings, S., Polunin, N.V.C., Robinson, J., Bijoux, J.P. & Daw, T.M. 2007. Lag effects in the impacts of mass coral bleaching on coral reef fish, fisheries, and ecosystems. Conservation Biology 21(5): 1291-1300.

Hobbs, J.-P.A., Ayling, A.M., Choat, J.H., Gilligan, J.J., McDonald, C.A., Neilson, J. & Newman, S.J. 2010.New records of marine fishes illustrate the biogeographic importance of Christmas Island, Indian Ocean. Zootaxa 2422: 63-68.

Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S.J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travers, M.J., Skepper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Choat, H.J. & Ayling, A.M. 2014. Checklist and new records of Christmas Island fishes: the influence of isolation, biogeography and habitat availability on species abundance and community composition. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 30: 184–202.

Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S .J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travers, M.J., Skepper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Choat, H.J. & Ayling, A.M. 2014. Fishes of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands: new records, community composition and biogeographic significance. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 30: 203–219.

Kuiter, R.H. 1995. Chaetodon lunulatus, a sibling species of C. trifasciatus, with observations on other sibling species of butterflyfish (Chaetodontidae). Revue Française d'Aquariologie et Herpétologie 21(3-4): 105-106.

Park, M. 1797. Descriptions of eight new fishes from Sumatra. Transactions of the Linnean Society of London 3: 33-38 fig. 1 See ref at BHL

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.

Pyle, R., Rocha, L.A., Craig, M.T. & Pratchett, M. 2010. Chaetodon trifasciatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T165673A6087793. Accessed on 06 July 2022.

Steene, R.C. 1978. Butterfly and Angelfishes of the World. Australia. Sydney : A.H. & A.W. Reed Vol. 1 144 pp. 216 figs. (in part, Indian Ocean material only)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37365094

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:2-20 m

Feeding:Coral polyps only

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:15 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map