Today’s Awesome Fish Spotlight focuses on yet another butterflyfish, and this time it’s the highly under appreciated Chaetodon wiebeli. Well under appreciated in its range anyway. We’ve featured this species before when we caught sight of one in Bangkok, but this time we managed to get hold of one for ourselves.
As mentioned in our previous recount of C. wiebeli, the fish is rather unpopular despite being extremely abundant in the wild. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, and perhaps the locals don’t appreciate this fish because of its prevalence. In the wild, C. wiebeli is found in the South China seas, Japan and the Gulf of Thailand, and are capable of hybridising with Chaetodon lunula. Locals in Hong Kong and Taiwan often catch the juveniles in shallow shore lines, while adults are usually seen swimming in large groups along open reef fronts.
Despite being abundant, C. wiebeli is not often kept as aquarium fish, and they very rarely get exported out of their domestic range. We got our hands on one while visiting Hong Kong, and decided to bring it home. This specimen here is a large juvenile, and it will outgrow that black band on the caudal peduncle. The head will also develop a more elaborate Chinese opera style mask as it grows, as seen by the dusky patch developing just behind the white facial stripe. C. wiebeli will take on a more orangey tone as well as it matures.
Despite the nonchalant attitude towards this species in Asia, C. wiebeli is quite popular and sought after in the U.S and Europe. So if any Asian exporters are reading this, quit snubbing your seashore fish and send them out! I know I for one was quite excited to see a juvenile being sold for the price of a soft drink and a snack!
On a side note, this species is highly destructive in the reef and within a ten minute time frame, managed to cause considerable damage to Sinularia, Sarcophyton, Lobophyllia, Xenia, Anthellia, Blastomussa and various Gorgonians. That being said, this hardy fish would do excellent in a fish only display.