Fish from the butterfly family are among the most beautiful and colorful reef fish.
These fish were named after the butterfly because of their multi-colored hues, and their hovering swimming action.
Its body shape is elliptical (its height and length are almost identical), and it has flattened sides which easily allows its to pass through the coral’s cracks and narrow passages.
The front of its head ends in a pointed snout at the tip of which it has a small mouth with many strong teeth, which are suitable for munching algae and small animals on the coral reef.
The butterfly fish have a variety of bright colors, and most of them have a line or an “eye-shadow” which camouflages the pupil and serves as an eye protector.
Its body colors are striking, and are a means of communication with other animals, announcing their presence while they protect their permanent habitat.
The butterfly fish have a diverse social structure, some of them move along the reef alone, some live as couples, and others travel in schools.
The butterfly fish are active during the day, and at night they hide in the reef’s crevices. The different types of food among the many species create an ecological separation which decreases the level of aggression between the species. They feed on coral polyps, zooplankton, algae plankton, and mollusks.
They reproduce by releasing eggs and sperm into a body of water. The eggs are plankton.
In the Gulf of Eilat there are 10 known types of butterfly fish, some of which are: the striped butterfly fish, the crown butterfly fish, the antenna butterfly fish, and the masked butterfly fish.
The Striped Butterfly Fish
This type of butterfly fish is indigenous to the Red Sea, it moves in groups of 2-6 along the reef wall, up to a depth of 20m. Its name is derived from the prominent white stain on its forehead, and the fish reaches an adult length of 22cm.
It has a dark stain on its head which covers its eyes, and dark diagonal stripes divide its yellow body.
During the breeding season they gather in large groups.
They are also active at night, and they feed mainly on coral stone polyps, sea anemones, multi-bristled worms, sponges, and algae.
The Crown Butterfly Fish
This is a small fish, up to 12cm in length. It is active during the day, lives in a permanent spousal relationship, on and in front of the coral reef, up to a depth of 12m.
Its eyes are camouflaged by an eye strip that crosses the pupil, and it has a black stain on its forehead. It gets its name from the large red stain on the rear section of its body. The rest of its body is colored in yellow shades with dashed brown stripes, and it has a yellow tail fin with a red stripe on its edge.
It feeds on crustaceans and coral polyps.