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The Amazing World of the Triggerfish

Updated on April 11, 2018
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Reef Triggerfish Swimming Underwater

reef-triggerfish-swimming-underwater- | Source


We all know that nature presents amazing wildlife especially marine creatures. The ocean occupies a huge portion of the earth and is home to billions of fish.

One of the most colorful fish in the sea or lagoon is the triggerfish. There are categorically about 40 species identified by biologists. They feature an oval shape with short pictorial fin and beak shaped mouth.

The color variations range from green, blue, yellow, checked, stripes, spots. They also have different intricate partners, color scheme, stripes to evade predators or hunt. This class of the fish is Actinopterygii, order Tetraodontiformes and family of Balistidae.


Why do we love the triggerfish

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Orange-lined | Source


As said earlier there are about 40 species of the fish. Popular ones are the orange-lined, masked and clown. They swim at various depths and are sometimes found in lagoons.

Masked trigger are common along the coast of Africa, indo-pacific region, India, Hawaii and Indonesia. On the other hand the only member of genus Balistapus orange-lined is widely distributed from the Indian Ocean, western pacific, tropics and subtropical regions.

Other geographical locations you find them are Samoa, Japan, Philippines and South Africa. The fish is highly territorial, aggressive and feed on a diverse menu such as hard coral, echinoderms, and algae. Other notable ones are the Yellowmargin, gilded and the largest of the species the Titan, stone triggerfish.


GreyTriggerfish | Source

List of Triggerfish

  • Balistes vetula
  • grey triggerfish
  • lagoon
  • reef
  • clown
  • redtoothed
  • titan
  • gilded
  • orange-lined
  • yellowmargin
  • pinktail
  • stone
  • masked
  • xanthichthys
  • mento Indian
  • blackbelly
  • orange side
  • starry
  • halfmoon
  • sufflamen
  • bluethroat
  • xanthichthys
  • caeruleoline
  • rhinecanthus
  • abyssus
  • abalistes
  • filmentosus
  • xenobalistes
  • tumidipectoris

Fish in Natural Habitat

Fish in Natural Habitat
Fish in Natural Habitat

Their Habitat

Many are found in coastal shallow in tropical oceans among the coral reefs. Some prefer subtropical and coastal regions. The fish is highly sort by fish enthusiast and a commonly featured in aquariums. This is because of their great diversity and bright colors.

The fish at the maldives island holiday resort

The fish at the maldives island holiday resort
The fish at the maldives island holiday resort


The ill tempered fish is oval in shape has a huge bulging head and measures from 21cm to 50 cm. The compressed body features small eyes at top side set further back from the mouth. Another interesting adaptation is the eyes ability to rotate each eyeball independently.

A few have elongated fins, however majority of the species have anterior dorsal fins terminated to three spines. The pelvic fin narrows to a ventral protrusion while the dorsal fin furrows at rest but has erectile capability.

On the huge head we have a powerful jawed mouth ideal for crushing marine shells. The formidable jaw consists of six sharp teeth on the upper jaw and a row of 4 teeth. Any diver that strays into its path would likely receive a painful bite. It also has the ability to undulate the posterior anal fins and retract them into grooves.

Capable of sudden fast movement or slow leisure swim, the trigger fish gets its name from its ability to lock and unlock the 2 dorsal fins to ward of predators. Other interesting features include stout armored rhomboid scales, overlaid skin on opercula gill plates and two pelvic fins.

An important member of the species of note is the Stone-triggerfish. They are the largest of the species reaching an amazing 3.3 feet. If threatened the fish is capable occasional bursts of speed however they generally move slowly.


Clown | Source


The rambunctious messy feeder sifts debris to find delicious live prey. They feast on urchins, worms, crabs and other small crustaceans. The fish feeds on sponge, hard coral, algae, mollusks.

Some species are known to feed on plankton, small fish and shrimp. The pharyngeal like teeth are put to good use to break shells. They rummage the soil with their hard fins to find food and squirt water from their mouths.

Characteristics of Trigger-fish

oval shape
slow moving
Single male many Female
huge bulging head
highly territorial
Both guard eggs
compressed body
high level of intelligence
They lay thousands of eggs

What they eat

  • urchins
  • worms
  • plankton
  • small fishes
  • shrimp
  • crabs
  • small crustaceans
  • sponges
  • hard coral
  • algae
  • mollusks


The slow moving fish are highly territorial and well adapted to bottom feeding. During the mating season they become more aggressive towards predators. According to FishiLeaks to avoid an attack the divers should swim horizontally from the upward cone of their nest.

They are believed to show a high level of intelligence and learn from previous behavior. It deploys its powerful teeth when threatened or guarding their nest. The male generally migrate to established territories or traditional spawning grounds during mating season. Both parents have the responsibility of guarding the hollow nests and eggs from predators. Their preferred nesting areas are sea flour or reef. The established territory usually accommodates several female who mate with the male. The polygamous nature ensures a continuation of the species.

Crosshatch aquarium Spawning


A thing that stimulates spawning includes changing tides and season. The moons location also plays an important part in relations to spawning.

Before mating the couple undergoes an intricate ritual or behavior. They periodically touch abdomen and blow water to carve out site for the eggs.

They lay eggs that attach themselves to the sand particles and are guarded by both male and female. To provide oxygen the female blows water on the eggs which may induce hatching.

Each nest can have thousands of eggs from different females at the same time. There is a high mortality rate despite the fish laudable efforts. However enough young one emerges to carry on the genes. The emerging juvenile fish change color and may change sex in some species.

Commercial Value

The triggerfish seems to have lots of commercial value with exotic fish enthusiasts. This is because they are very attractive and come in different colors, shapes and sizes.

The fish is actively gathered by fishermen because it is a top choice in aquariums. The fish also attracts premium price in the market. This has caused a serious decline in the population of some species in their natural habitat. This has led researchers to breed them in captivity to reduce the pressure on wildlife population.

Are you sold on the amazing world of the triggerfish?


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