No, your screen isn’t displaying random alphabets in a series of unpronounceable words. Our atrocious attempt at translating today’s title post into Japanese was intentional. We’re going international on today’s Awesome Fish Spotlight (literally), and we’re featuring a butterflyfish that could probably represent Japan as a mascot species if there was ever such a thing. The specific epithet “nippon” literally means Japan, and we’re hoping our blatant misuse and overuse of the word “literally” hasn’t scared you off yet, because today’s fish spotlight is of one of our favourite species.
Chaetodon nippon falls into the heartbreaking category of “common but unavailable” fish that plague many enthusiasts. The nippon butterflyfish is neither deepwater, nor rare, and it for sure does not live in far flung places inhabited with exotic diseases and head hunters. On the contrary, it is fond of shallow waters. Although they can live quite deep, up to 100ft, they are almost usually seen swimming at shallow depths of around 15-30ft. Juveniles can sometimes be seen swimming along rocky outcrops near the surface. It is never rare, and the adults are often seen swarming around in large groups. C. nippon although named after Japan, is found in Taiwan as well nearby surrounding areas.
With these qualities you would think the fish would be commonly available, but unlike the coveted Centropyge interrupta or Chaetodon daedalma, the nippon butterfly rarely sees the light of exportation. We’re not entirely sure why, but maybe the fish just isn’t regarded as valuable by the locals.
Not only is C. nippon common in the wild, it is also capable of hybridising with sympatric species within its range. The photo above shows a hybrid of C. nippon x C. daedalma, and it is not improbable that other hybrids exists as well. On its own, C. nippon has a rather unusual and special coloration. The malt-yellow body outlined in dark brown may not be eye-catching, but it certainly is really unique and quite unlike any other species. In the juveniles, the soft dorsal region possesses an ocelli which fades away with age. The head also takes on a steeper contour with maturation and adults can look rather blockish.
We received a juvenile from Koji of BlueHarbor not too long ago, and unsurprisingly the fish is a pig. We really love the sombre almost cereal like colours of this fish and I don’t know about you, but this fish reminds me instantly of condensed milk and as a child i’ve had plenty. So barring the hunger pangs and nostalgia, we hope that C. nippon has at least made some kind of impression with its food coloured body and patriotic name.