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Clown Triggerfish
(Balistoides conspicillum)

clown triggerfish, Balistoides conspicillum

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Clown triggerfish or Balistoides conspicillum are a species classified to the family Balistidae. Tiggerfish are shallow to mid-water dwellers swimming in depths ranging from 3 to 250 feet. They inhabit coral reefs ranging as far south as southern Africa throughout the Indo-Pacific to as far north as the coastlines of Japan.

Clown references their rather exotic body shapes and distinctive coloration. These fish have flat, very rounded bodies giving them the look of a clown dressed in hula-hoop apparel. They have multicolored fan tails, large polka dotted underbodies and a colorful region outlining their moths, typically in yellow, that makes them look like they are wearing the exaggerated lipstick makeup found on clowns. They have spines on their anterior dorsal fins which make it appear that the fin was “triggered” to move. These spines become erect when the fish feel threatened making it harder for predators to swallow it. Combine these two descriptive words and you have a clown triggerfish. 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Keeping Clown Triggerfish

Clown triggerfishes can grow to as long as 20 inches in length. They require a big aquarium. They are a very aggressive species and should only be housed with similarly large and aggressive fish. They will often attack and kill their fellow tank-mates. There have even been reports of unwitting aquarium owners purchasing these fish when they are young and still small as an addition to their community tanks. The juvenile peacefully coexists with its more docile tank-mates for periods lasting as long as years. Then one day the trigger fish decides it is large enough to claim its domain and proceeds to go on a serial killing rampage until everything else in the tank is dead. They are extremely territorial. Never attempt to keep two males in the same aquarium. A male and female can be kept together but only if they both deem themselves compatible. They make unsuitable marine reef fish. They quite regularly dig up coral. In the wild their diet consists primarily of hard shelled crustaceans. They will eat the bottom dwelling inhabitants typical to a reef tank environment. Keeping them in a mono-species aquarium is the highly recommended. Because of their size they generate a lot of waste. You will require a top notch filtration system. You will most likely still find the need for frequent water changes.

This is a very hardy and highly adaptable animal. They are one of the easiest of all marine life to keep alive and healthy. They are highly prized among aquarists despite their high price tag because of their unusual shape and unique color palettes. Serious saltwater aquarists with multiple tanks will often point to their clown triggerfish as the crowning achievement of their collection. They can live in excess of 10 years. You will be able to point yours out to admirers for a long time.

These aren’t picky eaters. They will eat pretty much any fish product designed for marine carnivores. But their all time favorite is hard shelled crustaceans such as fresh in shell shrimp. They can even be trained to eat right out of you hand. Be careful on that one. Tiggerfish have very sharp teeth and have been known to bite the hand that feeds them. They can also communicate. They will emit a noise that sounds similar to a pig’s grunt when they are disturbed or angry.

These fish prefer well lit aquariums with a cave to hide in at night. If you decide you must have one do not buy one that is very young, even if the price makes it tempting. Baby clown triggerfish are typically a fraction of the price of older juveniles. They also have a much higher mortality rate.

Environmental Parameters


pH Level Specific Gravity
72-78  °F 8.1-8-4 1.020-1.025

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