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It is a native of the Indo-Pacific region, from the Red Sea and East Africa to the Hawaiian Islands and Samoa, north to southern Japan, south to Australia and New Caledonia. It is also found in Galapagos Islands in the Eastern Pacific. Under its junior synonym C. corallicola was placed in the monotypic subgenus Tifia, but this cannot be separated from the earlier-described Lepidochaetodon (sometimes considered a separate genus). It appears to be closer to the Tahiti butterflyfish (C. trichrous) than to the teardrop butterflyfish (C. unimaculatus).
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