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(Lactoria cornuta & Acanthostracion
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|There are two species
commonly referred to as a cowfish. Both are
classified to the family Ostraciidae.
Between the two species cowfish
populations cover both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The
cowfish or Acanthostracion
The largest populations of these fish are found off the shorelines of
Florida. They can be found in smaller numbers from as far south as
Brazil to as far north as Massachusetts. The
longhorn cowfish or Lactoria
are most abundant in the Indo-Pacific. Their overall
habitat extends from Japan to Australia and even stretches into the
Atlantic Ocean off the southern coasts of Africa. Both species have
elongated faces and characteristic sharp spines above their eyes. The
combination of these two features makes them resemble a cow.
has a spotted color pallet. The spotting
looks rather similar to the spots on a leopard. The scrawling on their
bodies ranges from a bluish green to a yellow brown in color. Their
body color too varies from blue to yellow. They all have a blue line
that runs from their snouts to their anal fins. The defining spines
above their eyes distinguish them from their close relatives the
shallow to mid-water dwellers. They swim in
depths from 3 to 80 feet. They grow on average from 8 to 15 inches but
have been measured as long as 18 inches. They often frequent aquatic
grass beds. If it sees an intruder approaching it will remain
motionless relying on its spotted coloration to act as camouflage.
cowfishes' spines are much longer than his cousins,
hence the name longhorn. They come in variations of yellows, browns and
oranges. They too have spotting but it is not as dominant as it is on
their Atlantic kin folk. A clear distinction of this species is the
lack of a gill cover. Rather than possessing the flap common to other
fish, they have a slit. They also do not have a pelvic region in their
skeleton which means they lack pelvic fins. Instead of a pelvic
skeleton the scales in the posterior region of their bodies fuse
together into a solid triangular shape. This fusing allows for the
presence of a tail fin. This species has a second set of spines
protruding from the underside of their bodies at the beginning of the
tail area. Their extraordinary uniqueness makes them the most well know
cowfish in the aquarium trade.
tend to live on
the bottom of the coastal ocean floor
lines swimming in waters as deep as 150 feet. This is a much smaller
species. It will only grow to around 4 inches in length.
They are often called boxfish. Their
awkwardly shaped bodies make them slow swimmers. They are in fact
ostrciiform swimmers. This type of swimming involves the undulation of
the anterior region of the body as means of propulsion. This mode of
locomotion is analogous to using a single oar at the stern of a boat.
This peculiar method of transportation often makes these fish appear as
if they are hovering.
can be kept
in a community tank. Neither should be
housed with more aggressive species. They release toxin as a defensive
mechanism. The death of these fish will also result in the release of
In the wild they use their rounded
mouths to blow on the substrate and then feed on the live organisms and
debris that is unearthed. In captivity they can be fed marine algae,
live or frozen crustaceans or frozen marine food developed for
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