Chaetodon auriga is up to 23 centimetres (9 in) long. Its body is white with `chevron' markings on the side. Tear edge of the dorsal fin has a prominent black spot, and a prominent black vertical band runs through the eye. The rear of soft-dorsal fin has a trailing filament, and it has a belly patch of descending oblique dark lines as well as bright yellow fins. Two subspecies are sometimes recognised: Chaetodon auriga auriga occurs in the Red Sea population and lacks the dorsal eyespot; Chaetodon auriga setifer is the spotted population occurring outside the Red Sea.
May be seen in a variety of habitats ranging from rich coral reefs to weedy and rubble covered areas.
Maybe found singly, in pairs, and in aggregations that roam over large distances in search of food. Feed mainly by tearing pieces from polychaetes, sea anemones, coral polyps, and algae. Oviparous.
Form pairs during breeding.
While declines in abundance of C. auriga have been observed following localized coral loss, it is unknown why this species should have any reliance on live corals. It neither feeds or recruits on live coral (Pratchett et al. 2008). This species is collected for the aquarium trade however there is no data on how this affects the population. This species is harvested by artisanal fishers, accounting for 72% of the butterflyfishes caught (Mangi and Roberts 2006).