Saddle Butterflyfish (species: Chaetodon ephippium) in Lizard Island Field Guide (Lizard Island Field Guide)
Chaetodon ephippium
Saddle Butterflyfish

©Andy Lewis: An adult Saddle Butterflyfish

©Andy Lewis: A juvenile Saddle Butterfyfish at Watsons Bay

©Makeely Blandford: A juvenile Chaetodon ephippium in the Lizard Island lagoon. 3 cm.
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Order Perciformes
Family Chaetodontidae
Genus Chaetodon
Species Chaetodon ephippium



Distinguishing features

A small to medium sized grey fish with a distinct white-edged black saddle on the upper back, and a yellow throat and ventral fins. A black bar running from top of head through the eye to lower head seems to disappear with growth.


  • Up to 23 cm (Standard length)

Depth range

  • Depth range data is not yet available.



©Atlas of Living Australia: Australian distribution

Distribution and habitat preferences

Areas of rubble and coral close to well developed reefs.

Found in most reef habitats around the island.


The Saddle Butterflyfish is generalist feeder, taking coral polyps, invertebrates and some algae. It is usually seen in pairs or small groups near areas of coral, although it will feed over shallow reef flats quite some distance from the coral zone. The small juveniles recruit during the summer months, and are often seen near rocks and rubble in the high intertidal.

Web resources


References that assist with identification

  • Randall, J.E., G.R. Allen and R.C. Steene (1990). Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Other references

  • Bellwood, D.R., S. Klanten, P.F. Cowman, M.S. Pratchett, N. Konow and L. van Herwerden (2009). Evolutionary history of the butterflyfishes (f: Chaetodontidae) and the rise of coral feeding fishes, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, doi 10.1111: j1420-9101200901904x. LIRS catalog number 1348.
  • Berumen, M.L. and M.S. Pratchett (2006). Recovery without resilience: persistent disturbance and long-term shifts in the structure of fish and coral communities at Tiahura Reef, Moorea, Coral Reefs, 25: 647-653. LIRS catalog number 90045.
  • View all references