Longnose butterflyfish

Yellow longnose butterflyfish

The Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish is a beautiful, brightly-colored yellow fish, with a long, pointed snout that can simultaneously reinforce the competing notions of deliberate design and evolution for picking food items out of the deep recesses of reef rocks.

They are hardy, docile creatures–but are they reef-safe? And are they appropriate for your saltwater aquarium?

Let’s dive deeper and find out how to care for these gorgeous creatures. But first, let’s scan a few quick facts.

Longnose butterfly fish near SPS corals

Quick Facts About the Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish:

  • Scientific Name: Forcipiger flavissimus
  • Common Names: Longnosed Butterflyfish, Forceps Fish
  • Max Size: 8.7 Inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 75-Gallons
  • Aggression Level: Docile
  • Color: Yellow, Blue, Black, & Silver
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Most Active: Day
  • Lifespan: 5 to 10 Years

Natural Habitat of Forcipiger flavissimus

The yellow longnose butterflyfish originates from the Indian and Pacific oceans and can be seen in waters off of the continent of Africa or in the reefs of Hawaii. In the wild, a male and female will pair together and occupy a territory, which is generally a reef area with depths ranging from 3 feet to a few hundred feet deep, in some instances.

Proper tank conditions & species behavior

If you’re looking to get a brightly colored fish that’s also fun to watch, then the Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish certainly meets those criteria, but there is more that needs to be considered.

Minimum tank size

This species is relatively large by reef fish standards. They reach about 8.7 inches in length at full maturity and since they are active swimmers, the minimum tank size should be about 75-gallons (in my estimation). If you want to add in more than one Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish, you will need to consider buying a 100-gallon aquarium to allow the fish enough space to swim around.

Aquarium needs

This species isn’t picky about the type substrate in its tank or water flow. The one major tank requirement/suggestion is to keep them in a tank with ample rockwork–both to pick over in search of food and for hiding. The yellow longnose butterflyfish can be a shy fish that will avoid the open water (particularly when introduced), so having ample places within the live rock to hide will likely aid in the acclimation of your individual fish to your home and is thought to lower the stress (or what we perceive to be stress–hiding, labored breathing, overall skittishness).

Forcipiger flavissimus

Compatibility with the longnose butterflyfish

With other fishes

The longnose butterflyfish is a moderately peaceful community fish that can be kept with most of the other peaceful, non-aggressive or non-predatorial reef aquarium fish. However, as mentioned earlier, they will be aggressive towards other longnose butterflies or even some other competing butterflies. The amount of aggression you could and should expect will also go up depending on how long these fish are in your tank. That’s not an uncommon phenomenon in reef keeping. The fishes who have been there the longest often become the most aggressive towards newcomers.

With corals

The biggest question you should hopefully be asking, about any butterflyfish, is whether or not they are reef-safe and can be kept with corals. The short, lukewarm answer to that is…maybe??…I mean…probably not…I mean how much do you love those corals and how badly to do you want one?

I’m not trying to be cagey. I was attempting to be real…and perhaps amusing? Maybe just annoying. Anyway, here’s the straight scoop. This fish loves to eat meaty foods. They have been observed eating corals. However, according to some accounts, they largely ignore corals, in most cases (Michael 2001).

What I’ve seen with many different fish species over the years is that the generally accepted behavioral guidelines are generally accepted for a reason, but they are not absolutes or guarantees. So take it with a grain of Instant Ocean Mix and take the amount of risk you can tolerate.

But then again, just like in the characters in our favorite stories, that little bit of unpredictability or tendency to go against the behavioral grain is what keeps things interesting.

Other invertebrates

“My what a very long nose you have,” said the big bad wolf fish. “The better to reach into the rockwork and find some tubeworms or tube feet to eat,” replied the butterflyfish.

This fish will probably leave your shrimps and crabs alone, but it will very likely eat your tubeworms and may harass urchins and starfish (for their feet).

Forcipiger long nose butter fly pair

Pairing the yellow longnose butterflyfish

Keep in mind that these fish do naturally pair up in the wild, so having a bonded pair in your tank may be the natural way to observe their behavior. will be beneficial to your tank. It can be difficult, and expensive, to establish a pair in your tank, however, since individual specimens cost around $50 or more. Another complicating factor is that there are no obvious external differences between the genders (at least to us…they seem to be able to figure it out), so at random, it might take you 5-7 fish, depending on your luck, to all-but-guarantee a male-female pair. Of course, at those numbers, it might be better to try and make a deal with a local fish store to help you sort it all out.

As is the case with many (most?) reef fish, same-gender fish will spar with each other to establish or defend a territory.

Unlike a few other reef fishes, longnose butterflyfish are born either male or female and stay that way throughout their lives. There is no hermaphrodism in this species.

Feeding F. flavissimus

The longnose butterflyfish prefers a meaty diet–so frozen mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, bloodworms, or chopped up seafood (mussels, shrimp) or even live blackworms and brine shrimp are preferred. Feed them a few times a day, if your schedule can accommodate. They have been known to accept flakes and pellets as well.

Longnose butterflyfish

Where To Buy 

Moderately popular and hardy, the yellow longnose butterflyfish is somewhat broadly available. You can ask for it at your local fish store or purchase it from an online retailer for ~$50-80.

Whether to Buy a Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish or Not

If you are looking for a boldly colorful, hardy, interesting fish with a body shape that will amaze guests, then the yellow longnose butterflyfish could be a great addition to your tank. The decision on whether or not to add them to your tank probably comes down to whether your tank already has urchins, starfish and tubeworms or how concerned you are about the low-to-moderate risk that the fish nips at (or full-on dines on) your prized corals.

But how can you resist that face…am I right?

Compatible fish species

Want to learn more about a few fish species that would be compatible with Forcipiger flavissimus? 

Check out the following species:

Alternate fish species

Not sure the longnose butterflyfish is right for you, but you want to think about some other fish that might have a similar look?

Check out:

How about you–what are your thoughts about this amazing fish? Worth the risk? Or do you have a personal experience you can share? Please leave a comment below.

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