The gentle banner fish. 

A Poor Man’s Moorish Idol

The longfin banner fish, otherwise known as the black and white heniochus (Heniochus acuminatus) is characterized by their flat, black and white striped body, yellow dorsal fin, and a long, white banner fin that extends from their backs. Similar to the Moorish Idol (the same fish as Gil from Finding Nemo) in color and shape, the longfin banner fish is often referred to as the “poor man’s Moorish Idol,” but unlike the Moorish Idol, this marine fish is typically less expensive and much easier to care for.

In the Wild

Native primarily to the ocean waters of Japan and Micronesia, the bannerfish likes  lagoon areas and sloping reefs, where it can grow to almost 10” long, for both male and females, and typically has a lifespan of about 5 years. Like other butterflyfish species, these fish have fine, hair-like teeth that allow them to sift through pebbles and sand for zooplankton.

Their typical diet also includes bottom-dwelling invertebrates like coral polyps and Christmas tree worms, which are all known for quickly hiding in their shells. The bannerfish, despite its size, is a quick and graceful swimmer, able to hover almost motionlessly until food appears before swooping in to get its prey. 

In the Tank

As aquarium fish, the bannerfish is very peaceful and does well in communities with other fish species that are similar in temperament. Typically, these fish will travel in schools, but in a tank, they will tend to pair up.

Because of their size and habits, it’s best to have a tank of 100 gallons or more. As they tend to pick at invertebrates, they may not be suitable for reef tanks.

In the aquarium, the longfin bannerfish is hardy and can adapt to basic flake fish food. It will also feed off algae on the tank surfaces and any live rock in your aquarium habitat. 

Gentle and Beautiful

A favorite among aquarists for its beauty and similarity to the Moorish Idol, the bannerfish is an easy and gentle addition to any non-reef marine tank without more aggressive species.

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