[Ocean Oasis Field Guide] Satellite image of the Baja California peninsula and Gulf of California See Spanish version

Johnrandallia nigrirostris
Barberfish. Mariposa barbero

Photo of barberfish, © Gini Kellogg

Young butterflyfish are greatly prized as aquarium fishes. However, they are aggressive and constantly pick at their tank-mates.

Family: CHAETODONTIDAE (Butterflyfishes)


The barberfish has a deep compressed body, and small protractile mouth with brush-like teeth. Its body is silvery-yellow with black bands on snout, forehead, and along base of dorsal fin, and a black raccoon-like mask around eyes. Barberfish reach a maximum size of 20.3 cm (8 inches).

Range and Habitat

The range of the barberfish extends from Baja California to Panama, and the Galapagos and other offshore islands. They form small to very large aggregations in rocky areas and coral reefs at depths from near the surface to 40 meters (130 feet) deep.

Natural History

Barberfish are very active during the day, feeding on algae, mollusks, and crustaceans. They seek shelter closer to the reef's surface at night. Barberfish are best known as "cleaner fishes." They occupy sites called "cleaning stations" where other fishes go to be cleaned of crustaceans and other ectoparasites.

Text by Patricia Beller
Photograph © 2000 Gini Kellogg

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