Vagabond Butterflyfish (species: Chaetodon vagabundus) in Lizard Island Field Guide (Lizard Island Field Guide)
Chaetodon vagabundus
Vagabond Butterflyfish

©Andy Lewis: An adult Vagabond Butterflyfish

©Andy Lewis: A juvenile Vagabond Butterfyfish at Watsons Bay
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Order Perciformes
Family Chaetodontidae
Genus Chaetodon
Species Chaetodon vagabundus



Distinguishing features

A small to medium sized white fish with a laterally compressed body. It has a black bar through the eye, a distinct cross hatch pattern on the sides, and a vertical black bar at the rear of the body and another through the tail fin. Distinguish from the similar Threadfin Butterflyfish by the presence of the vertical black stripe (not black dot) and the absence of a trailing filament on the rear of the dorsal fin.


  • 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 Vagabond 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.

Web resources


  • Arnal, C. (2000). Ecologie comportementale de la symbiose poisson nettoyeur/ poisson client: motivations et honnĂȘtetĂ©, Ph.D. thesis, University of Perpignan, France. LIRS catalog number 637.
  • Berumen, M.L., M.S. Pratchett and M.I. McCormick (2005). Within-reef differences in diet and body condition of coral-feeding butterflyfishes (Chaetodontidae), Marine Ecology Progress Series, 287: 217-227. LIRS catalog number 1019.
  • Bostrom-Einarsson, L., M.C. Bonin, S. Moon and (2018). Environmental impact monitoring of household vinegar-injections to cull crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster spp. Ocean and Coastal Management, 155: 83-89. LIRS catalog number 2202.
  • View all references