The raccoon butterflyfish is one of the easiest Hawaiian fish to recognize, with the black eye “mask” that they have in common with their namesake. While many Hawaiian butterflyfish feature bright or pale yellow hues, the raccoon butterfly is more of a rich gold color, which gives it a deep, dusky look when combined with its contrasting black and dark brown markings. When they make an appearance on our snorkeling tours, they’re hard to miss because of their bold coloration and their moderate size at 8 inches in length.
This fish is referred to as Chaetodon lunula in the scientific community, while its Hawaiian name is kikakapu kap. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is its broad distribution throughout the Indo-Pacific, East Africa, Micronesia, Polynesia, southern Japan, and even Australia’s Lord Howe Island. This was partly made possible because its diet consists of many types of soft-bodied invertebrates like worms, sea anemones, nudibranchs, and sometimes algae and coral polyps, which can be found in many marine habitats.
If you spot the raccoon butterflyfish on our Maui snorkeling tours, it will usually be traveling in pairs or aggregations in shallow reef flats, but Scuba divers can see them in waters as deep as 75 feet. It is often seen during the day, but has also been found to be active at night.
When you snorkel in Hawaii, you’ll find that there are many types of butterflyfish, and they generally share some combination of yellow, black and white coloration. However, not all of the fish with these colors are butterflyfish. The common exceptions are the schooling bannerfish and the Moorish idol, which are often mistaken for each other as well as butterflyfish. Generally, butterflyfish will feature an oblong disc shape to their bodies, while the schooling bannerfish and Moorish idols can be likened to an almost crescent moon shape.
If you’re interested in learning about the types of fish that you see on our snorkeling tours, don’t hesitate to ask our knowledgeable guides! They can tell you all about the many colorful members of the coral reef ecosystem that has delighted so many snorkelers and Scuba divers over the years. On that note, if you need our assistance booking your snorkeling tour, you’ll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo, and we hope to see you soon!