Triggerfish – Various Species

Redtooth Triggerfish
Redtooth triggerfish (Odonus niger) (46386906584).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Triggerfish – Various Species

Table of Contents

This article is formatted differently than the others. Because the triggerfish consists of 12 genera (consisting of about 40 species), I will combine images and info per gender. There is too little information to devote a full article by gender.

Worth knowing about the Triggerfish

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The Triggerfish belongs to the kingdom of animals, more specifically to the tribe Chordata. Here they are again subdivided into the class Actinopterygii (ray fins), underclass Neopterygii (new finned), infraclass Teleostei (bony fish), superorder Acanthopterygii (spiny fins), order of Tetraodontiformes (pufferfish), and family Balistidae (triggerfish).

The 12 groups have been discovered by different people and are listed under the respective species.

Triggerfish (Balistidae): Synonyms

Balistoides viridescens, Balistes viridiscens, Pseudobalistes viridiscens, Balistapus viridiscens, Balistoides veridiscens, Balistes brasiliensis, Pachynathus nigromarginatus, Balistes nigromarginatus.

All congeners (genera) are discussed a little further down.

Interesting facts

Triggerfish get their name from the unique dorsal fin that they can position upright by using their large dorsal spine. Its smaller secondary spine is used for this, which will support everything.

In this way, the predatory fish can hardly swallow the animal or get it out of small crevices.

When everything is safe again, they can activate their third spine, the “trigger” that brings everything back to normal.


  • This animal likes to live on its own.
  • Age: These fish live to be about 8 years old and some that live in captivity can live up to 20 years.
  • Length: on average 20 – 50 cm. However, there are some triggerfish that can grow larger, such as the “Stone triggerfish”, which can easily reach 100 cm in length.
Stone Triggerfish
Stone Triggerfish – by Zina Bartle –
  • Weight: 1.4 – 4.5 kg.
  • Body: A unique oval shape.
  • Most of these fish have beautiful colors and/or patterns, and markings.
  • Large heads narrowing to a small mouth.
  • Their eyes are close to the top of their heads, about a third of the length of the fish (from its mouth).
  • Relatively small pectoral fins.
  • The front dorsal fins are actually a series of spines.
  • Small, strong jaws with a row of four teeth on each side. Their upper jaw contains an additional set of six plate-like teeth.

International names

  • Australia: Black-lipped triggerfish, Blue-finned triggerfish, Dotty trigger-fish, Dotty triggerfish, Giant triggerfish, Titan triggerfish
  • China: 剥皮鱼, 斑点炮弹, 綠副鱗魨, 綠鱗魨
  • Christmas I.: Titan triggerfish
  • Comoros: Chebeja, N’tundu, Tchebeja, Troudou
  • Denmark: Titanaftrækkerfisk
  • Estonia: Hiid-balistoid, Hiid-oraselg
  • Fiji: Cumu, Cumu qau, Triggerfish
  • France: Baliste olivâtre
  • Germany: Riesen-Drückerfish
  • Guam: Mustache triggerfish, Titan triggerfish
  • India: Palli, Rondu, പല്ലി
  • Indonesia: Ampala biasa, Blue-finned triggerfish, Gomamongara, Hahu, Komparu watu, Lubiem, Lubien manok, Titan triggerfish
  • Japan: Gomamongara
  • Kiritabi: Te nuonuo, Te umufatu
  • Malaysia: Ayam laut, Dotty triggerfish, Jebong, Jebong titan, Titan triggerfish
  • Marshall Is.: Liele
  • Mauritius:
  • Mauritius: Baliste olivâtre, Bkue finned triggerfish, Bourse baroi
  • Micronesia: Liuwesho, Mustache triggerfish, Titan triggerfish
  • Mozambique: Porco ponteado
  • New Caledonia: Baliste verdâtre, Cëmô, Cimöö, Phwa
  • Niue: Moustache triggerfish
  • Palau: Beab, Dukl
  • Papua New Guinea: Blue-finned triggerfish, bluefinned triggerfish, Kaisep
  • Phillippines: Ampapagot, Ampapakul, Dotty triggerfish, Hahu, Kapuul, Pakol, Papakol, Puggot, Pugot, Sangkay
  • Samoa: Sumu-laulau, Umu
  • Singapore: Titan triggerfish
  • Solomon Is.: Kukupi, Titan triggerfish
  • South Africa: Dotty triggerfish, Gestippelde snellervis
  • Sri Lanka: Bluefin triggerfish
  • Tahiti: ‘O’iri ‘utaro
  • Taiwan: 褐擬鱗魨
  • Tokelau: Umu
  • Tonga: Hümu, Triggerfish
  • UK: Dotty triggerfish

Gender Abalistes (D.S. Jordan & Seale, 1906)

There are 3 species:

  • Hairfin triggerfish (Abalistes filamentosus)
  • Starry triggerfish (Abalistes stellaris)
  • Abalistes stellatus.

The second and third species were considered to be different (by 2 discoverers…), yet they are talking about a single species with the common name Starry triggerfish (Abalistes stellaris).

Abalistes filamentosus (Hairfin Triggerfish)

Abalistes filamentosus (Hairfin Triggerfish). Source: J-L Justine / Fishbase via EOL. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike

Abalistes filamentosus (Hairfin triggerfish) – (Matsuura & Yoshino, 2004)

Distribution: Indo-West Pacific: the Ryukyu Islands to the Northwest Shelf of Australia, and the Timor Sea. Reported in New Caledonia.


They are mainly found in the vicinity of the Ryuku Islands, as far as northwestern Australia, and the Timor Sea. They were also noticed in New Caledonia.

Abalistes stellaris (Starry triggerfish)

Abalistes stellaris (Starry triggerfish) or Abalistes stellarus

Abalistes stellaris (Starry triggerfish) or Abalistes stellarus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)

Distribution: Indo-West Pacific: the Red Sea and East Africa to Southeast Asia, north to Japan, and south to northern Australia. Eastern Atlantic: St. Helena and south coasts of Africa.

Inhabit coastal areas, usually found over muddy and sandy bottoms, also around reefs, together with the sponges and algae. Feed on benthic animals. Oviparous. Also caught with vertical long-lines. Marketed fresh and dried salted.


Gender Balistapus (Tilesius, 1820)

Balistapus undulatus (Orange-lined triggerfish)

An Orangestripe Triggerfish, Balistapus undulatus, in Fiji. Source: Nick Hobgood / Flickr. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

Balistapus undulatus (Orange-lined triggerfish) – (M.Park, 1797)

Other Names: Orange-lined Triggerfish, Orangestriped Triggerfish, Red-lined Triggerfish, Red-lined Trigger-fish, Striped Triggerfish, Striped Trigger-fish, Vermiculated Triggerfish

Distribution: Indo-Pacific: the Red Sea south to Natal, South Africa and east to the Line, Marquesan and Tuamoto islands, north to southern Japan, south to the southern Great Barrier Reef and New Caledonia.

Adults which are territorial occur in coral-rich areas of deep lagoon and seaward reefs from the lower surge zone to at least 50 meters. They feed on a variety of benthic organisms such as algae, echinoderms, fishes, mollusks, tunicates, sponges, and hydrozoans. Eggs are laid as one cluster in a shallow excavation on sand or rubble along channels. Marketed fresh and dried salted.

(source: Dianne J. Bray, Balistapus undulatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 07 Nov 2021,

Gender Balistes (Linnaeus, 1758)

There are 7 species:

  • Grey triggerfish (Balistes capriscus)
  • Balistes ellioti
  • Finescale triggerfish (Balistes polylepis)
  • Bluespotted triggerfish (Balistes punctatus)
  • Balistes rotundatus
  • King/Queen triggerfish (Balistes vetula)
  • Balistes willughbeii.
Grey Triggerfish (Balistes capriscus)

Grey Triggerfish (Balistes capriscus)

Balistes capriscus (Grey triggerfish) (J.F.Gmelin, 1789)

Distribution: Eastern Atlantic: the Mediterranean to Moçamedes, Angola. Western Atlantic: Nova Scotia (Canada), Bermuda, and the northern Gulf of Mexico to Argentina.

Inhabits bays, harbors, lagoons, and seaward reefs. May drift with young at surface among Sargassum. Usually solitary or in small groups. Feeds on benthic invertebrates like mollusks and crustaceans. Oviparous. Consumed mostly fresh, smoked, and dried salted. The flesh is of excellent quality. Because it is resistant to capture, it proliferates and competes for food with other species.


Balistes Ellioti

Balistes Ellioti –

Balistes Ellioti (Day, 1889)

This fish has no official status.

Balistes Polylepis (Finescale Triggerfish)

Balistes Polylepis (Finescale Triggerfish) – Wikimedia commons.

Balistes Polylepis (Finescale Triggerfish) (Steindachner, 1876)

Distribution: Eastern Pacific: San Francisco, California, the USA to Callao, Peru, including the Galapagos Islands.

Occurs in rocky reefs, boulder-strewn slopes, and adjacent areas of sand. Adults demersal; young pelagic. Feeds on sea urchins, small crustaceans, and mollusks. Minimum depth 3m.


Balistes Punctatus (Bluespotted triggerfish)

Balistes Punctatus (Bluespotted triggerfish) – Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

Balistes Punctatus (Bluespotted triggerfish) (J.F.Gmelin, 1789)

The blue-spotted triggerfish is known to not do well with other species within the same family when kept in an aquarium. If other specimens are in the tank with it, the aquarium should be large to avoid aggressive and malicious behavior. This species is not only naturally aggressive in its behavior, but it is also curious and known to explore. Another common name for the blue-spotted triggerfish is the Golden Heart Triggerfish.


Balistes rotundatus

Balistes rotundatus

Balistes rotundatus (Marion de Procé, 1822)

No image available for this species;
the drawing shows typical species in Balistidae.

Balistes Vetula (Queen triggerfish)

File: Balistes vetula (queen triggerfish) (San Salvador Island, Bahamas) 4 (16151145845).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Balistes vetula (queen triggerfish) (Linnaeus, 1758)

Balistes vetula, the queen triggerfish or old wife, is a reef-dwelling triggerfish found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is occasionally caught as a gamefish and sometimes kept in very large marine aquaria.


Balistes rotundatus

Balistes willughbeii

Balistes willughbeii (Lay & Bennett, 1839)

No image available for this species;
the drawing shows typical species in Balistidae.

Gender Balistoides (Fraser-Brunner, 1935)

There are 2 species:

  • Clown triggerfish or Bigspotted triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)
  • Titan triggerfish, Giant triggerfish, and Moustache triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens).
Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)

Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum) – File:Baliste clown ATPPD (2).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Balistoides conspicillum (Clown triggerfish) (Bloch & J.G.Schneider, 1801)

The clown triggerfish is a fish that grows up to 50 cm (19.7 inches). Its body has a stocky appearance, oval shape, and compressed laterally. The head is large and represents approximately one-third of the body’s length. The mouth is small, terminal, and has strong teeth.


Titan Triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens)

Titan Triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens) – Flickr

Balistoides viridescens (Titan triggerfish) (Bloch & J.G.Schneider, 1801)

The titan triggerfish is diurnal and solitary. It feeds on sea urchins, mollusks, crustaceans, tube worms, and coral. It often feeds by turning over rocks, stirring up sand, and biting off pieces of branching coral. This is why other smaller fish species are often seen around it, as they feed on the detritus and smaller organisms that are stirred up. Titan triggerfish have been observed being aggressive to other fish who enter their territory.


Gender Canthidermis (Swainson, 1839)

This genus is classified into 3 species:

  • Largescale triggerfish (Canthidermis macrolepis)
  • Rough triggerfish or Spotted Oceanic triggerfish (Canthidermis maculata)
  • Canthidermis sufflamen.
Canthidermis Macrolepis (Ocean triggerfish)

Canthidermis Macrolepis (Largescale triggerfish)

Canthidermis Macrolepis (Largescale triggerfish) (Boulenger, 1888)

These dark-colored triggerfishes are found in all the world’s oceans in tropical and subtropical areas. They are absent in the Mediterranean. Unlike most triggerfish they are epipelagic.


Canthidermis Maculata (Rough triggerfish)

Canthidermis Maculata (Rough triggerfish) – by BEDO (Thailand) –

Canthidermis Maculata (Rough triggerfish) (Bloch, 1786)

The maximum length for this species is 50 centimeters (20 in) but usually grows up to 35 centimeters (14 in). Adults and juveniles have different colorations. Adults are blue grayish while juveniles are grayish-black with white spots that fade overage. Adults may be seen with dark blotches appearing on the face and pectoral fins during mating.


Canthidermis Sufflamen (Ocean triggerfish) –

Canthidermis Sufflamen (Ocean triggerfish) (Mitchill, 1815)

Unique Characters: Body brownish to gray. Large dark blotch at the pectoral-fin base. Dorsal and anal fins are broad and high.


Gender Melichthys (Swainson, 1839)

Here we have again subdivided into 3 species:

  • Indian triggerfish or Black-finned triggerfish (Melichthys indicus)
  • Black triggerfish or Black durgon (Melichthys niger)
  • Pinktail triggerfish (Melichthys vidua)
Melichthys Indicus (Indian triggerfish)

Melichthys Indicus (Indian triggerfish) – Черный триггер Бесплатная фотография – Public Domain Pictures

Melichthys Indicus (Indian triggerfish) (Randall & Klausewitz, 1973)

This fish has a brown body and black fins with white lines at the base of the dorsal and anal fins. It is found across the Indian Ocean. They can grow up to 10 in (25 cm) long.


Melichthys Niger (Black durgon)

Melichthys Niger (Black durgon) | Brian Gratwicke | Flickr

Melichthys Niger (Black durgon) (Bloch, 1786)

A blimp-shaped triggerfish with bright white lines running along with its dorsal and anal fins. From distance, it appears to be completely black. Black durgons are capable of changing color based on their surroundings.


Melichthys Vidua (Pinktail Triggerfish)

Melichthys Vidua (Pinktail Triggerfish) – Wikimedia Commons File:Pinktail triggerfish – (43419852771).jpg

Melichthys Vidua (Pinktail Triggerfish) (J.Richardson, 1845)

Triggerfish such as the Pinktail Triggerfish are highly sought after in fish-only aquariums. A Pinktail Triggerfish is about 40 cm and is therefore certainly not suitable for smaller aquariums.

This fish is generally not aggressive towards other fish, but it is territorial, so do not place this fish with shy animals.


Gender Odonus (Gistel, 1848)

Odonus Niger (Redtoothed triggerfish)

Odonus Niger (Redtoothed triggerfish) – Wikimedia Commons

Odonus Niger (Redtoothed triggerfish) (Ruppell, 1836)

The mouth of the triggerfish seems to be grinning and it maintains tiny red teeth that are needle-sharp with two teeth in the upper jaw which can be seen when its mouth is closed. They have the ability to change their color depending on their mood, food, feeding, and water quality from purple to blue and to bluish-green.


Gender Pseudobalistes (Bleeker, 1865)

Again subdivided into 3 species:

  • Yellowmargin triggerfish (Pseudobalistes flavimarginatus)
  • Rippled triggerfish (Pseudobalistes fuscus)
  • Stone triggerfish or Blunthead triggerfish (Pseudobalistes naufragium).
Pseudobalistes Flavimarginatus (Yellowmargin triggerfish)

Pseudobalistes Flavimarginatus (Yellowmargin triggerfish) –

Pseudobalistes Flavimarginatus (Yellowmargin triggerfish) (Rüppell, 1829)

These triggerfish can grow to a maximum length of 60 cm (24 in). They are marketed either fresh or dried for food but are potentially dangerous in some areas due to ciguatera poisoning.


Pseudobalistes Fuscus (Rippled triggerfish)
Pseudobalistes Fuscus (Rippled triggerfish) – Wikimedia Commons
Pseudobalistes Fuscus (Rippled triggerfish) (Bloch & J.G.Schneider, 1801)

Pseudobalistes fuscus can reach a length of 55 centimeters (22 inches) in males. The body is mainly brown, but the fins have yellow margins. Juveniles are yellowish-brown with a network of brilliant bluish wavy lines. With growth these lines become interconnected.

This fish is known for its aggressiveness and many divers choose to stay away from them, as they bite often.


Pseudobalistes Naufragium (Stone triggerfish)

Pseudobalistes Naufragium (Stone triggerfish or Blunthead Triggerfish) | Marine fish, Sea life, Underwater sea

Pseudobalistes Naufragium (Stone triggerfish or Blunthead Triggerfish) (D.S.Jordan & Starks, 1895)

Found around reefs and over sandy bottoms of shallow waters. Feeds on sea urchins, small crustaceans, and mollusks, often blowing into the sand to uncover prey or turn over urchins.


Gender Rhinecanthus (Swainson, 1839)

Here again, we have a classification of 7 types:

  • Deepwater triggerfish (Rhinecanthus abyssus)
  • Picasso triggerfish, Lagoon triggerfish, Blackbar triggerfish, or Picassofish (Rhinecanthus aculeatus)
  • Assasi triggerfish or Arabian picassofish (Rhinecanthus assasi)
  • Rhinecanthus cinereus
  • Halfmoon picassofish (Rhinecanthus lunula)
  • The Reef, rectangular, or wedge-tail triggerfish (Rhinecanthus rectangulus)
  • Blackbelly, or Blackpatch triggerfish (Rhinecanthus verrucosus)
Rhinecanthus Abyssus (Deepwater triggerfish)

Rhinecanthus Abyssus (Deepwater triggerfish) – The Holy Grail of Triggerfishes –

Rhinecanthus Abyssus (Deepwater triggerfish) (Matsuura & Shiobara, 1989)

Living environment: Indonesia

Rhinecanthus Aculeatus (Picasso Triggerfish)

Rhinecanthus Aculeatus (Picasso Triggerfish) – Pixabay

Rhinecanthus Aculeatus (Picasso Triggerfish) (Linnaeus, 1758)

Also known as Lagoon triggerfish, Blackbar triggerfish, or Picassofish

Lagoon triggerfish live in the reefs and sandy areas of coral reefs, where they eat just about anything that comes along. 


Rhinecanthus Assasi (Arabian Picasso Triggerfish)

Rhinecanthus Assasi (Arabian Picasso Triggerfish) –

Rhinecanthus Assasi (Arabian Picasso Triggerfish) (Forsskål, 1775)

R. assasi mostly lives in or near coral reefs. It occurs in the western Indian Ocean, including the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.


Rhinecanthus Cinereus

Rhinecanthus Cinereus – Randall, J.E. cc-by-nc –

Rhinecanthus Cinereus (Bonnaterre, 1788)

Western Indian Ocean: Reunion and Mauritius; new record from the Maldives.


Rhinecanth Lunula (Halfmoon Picassofish)

A juvenile Halfmoon Triggerfish, Rhinecanthus lunula, in Cabbage Tree Bay, Manly, New South Wales, 2013. Source: John Sear / License: CC By Attribution-NonCommercial

Rhinecanthus Lunula (Halfmoon Picassofish) (Randall & Steene, 1983)

Also known as Cresent Triggerfish, Halfmoon Picassofish, Lunula Triggerfish

A rare species, R. lunula has a small geographic distribution. When first described as a species, R. lunula was only known to exist from the Pitcairn Islands to Queensland, Australia. 

(sources:, and

Rhinecanthus Rectangulus (Reef Triggerfish)

Rhinecanthus Rectangulus (The reef, rectangular, or wedge-tail triggerfish) | Flickr

Rhinecanthus Rectangulus (The reef, rectangular, or wedge-tail triggerfish) (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)

It’s Hawaiian name:

humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, meaning ‘triggerfish with a snout like a pig’, also spelled humuhumunukunukuapua’a or just humuhumu for short)


Rhinecanthus Verrucosus

Rhinecanthus Verrucosus- File: Blackpatch triggerfish (Rhinecanthus verrucosus) (42586038625).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Rhinecanthus Verrucosus (Blackbelly, or Blackpatch triggerfish) (Linnaeus, 1758)

Distribution: Indo-West Pacific: in tropical waters, from the Chagos Archipelago through Indonesia to the Solomon Islands, north to southern Japan, south to Vanuatu.


Gender Sufflamen (D.S. Jordan, 1916)

Consisting of 5 types:

  • Bluethroat triggerfish (Sufflamen albicaudatum)
  • Bursa, Scythe, or Boomerang triggerfish (Sufflamen bursa)
  • Halfmoon triggerfish (Sufflamen chrysopterum)
  • Masked triggerfish (Sufflamen fraenatum)
  • Orangeside triggerfish (Sufflamen verres)
Sufflamen albicaudatum (Bluethroat triggerfish)

Sufflamen albicaudatum (Bluethroat triggerfish) – by Sean McGrath from Saint John, NB, Canada –

Sufflamen albicaudatum (Bluethroat triggerfish) (Rüppell, 1829)
  • Distribution: Western Indian Ocean: the Red Sea to the Gulf of Oman.
  • Inhabits open bottoms with scattered corals or rubble.


Sufflamen bursa (Bursa, Scythe, or Boomerang triggerfish)

Sufflamen bursa (Bursa, Scythe, or Boomerang triggerfish) – Kona, Hawaii. The image was taken by Clark Anderson/Aquaimages –

Sufflamen bursa (Bursa, Scythe, or Boomerang triggerfish) (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)
  • Distribution: Indo-Pacific: East Africa to the Hawaiian, Marquesan, and Ducie islands, north to southern Japan, south to the southern Great Barrier Reef in Australia, New Caledonia, and Rapa.
  • Inhabit clear inner and outer reef habitats from exposed algae reef flats to deep along drop-offs.


Sufflamen chrysopterum (Halfmoon triggerfish)

Sufflamen chrysopterum (Halfmoon triggerfish) –

Sufflamen chrysopterum (Halfmoon triggerfish) (Bloch & Schneider, 1801)
  • Not to be confused with the Rhinecanthus lunula (Halfmoon picassofish)
  • Inhabit coastal to outer reefs. Habitats from silty lagoons to pristine outer reef walls. Occur in shallow lagoon and seaward reefs. Solitary and territorial.


Sufflamen fraenatum (Masked triggerfish)

Sufflamen fraenatum (Masked triggerfish) –

Sufflamen fraenatum (Masked triggerfish) (C.H.Gilbert & Starks, 1904)
  • Distribution: Indo-Pacific: East Africa south to Natal, South Africa and east to the Hawaiian, Marquesas, and Tuamoto islands, north to southern Japan, south to Lord Howe Island.
  • Inhabit coastal rocky reefs, often silty habitats and lagoons on the open sand. Solitary. Found over sand and rubble patches of seaward reefs.


Sufflamen verres (Orangeside triggerfish)

Sufflamen verres (Orangeside triggerfish) –

Sufflamen verres (Orangeside triggerfish) (C.H.Gilbert & Starks, 1904)
  • Distribution: Eastern Pacific: Cedros Island, Baja California, Mexico to Salinas, Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands.
  • Common around rocky reefs and along continental coasts. Feeds on sea urchins, small crustaceans, and mollusks, often blowing into the sand to uncover prey or turn over urchins.


Gender Xanthichthys (Kaup, 1856)

Consisting of 6 types:

  • Gilded triggerfish (Xanthichthys auromarginatus)
  • Outrigger triggerfish or Blueline triggerfish (Xanthichthys caeruleolineatus)
  • Greene’s or Kiri triggerfish (Xanthichthys greenei)
  • Striped or Lined triggerfish (Xanthichthys lineopunctatus)
  • Redtail or Crosshatch triggerfish (Xanthichthys mento)
  • Sargassum triggerfish (Xanthichthys ringens)
Xanthichthys auromarginatus (Gilded triggerfish)

Xanthichthys auromarginatus (Gilded triggerfish) – by Rickard Zerpe –

Xanthichthys auromarginatus (Gilded triggerfish) (E.T.Bennett, 1832)
  • Distribution: Indo-Pacific: East Africa to the Hawaiian Islands, north to the Ryukyus, south to Cocos-Keeling Atoll and New Caledonia.
  • Occur in upper margins of current-swept seaward drop-offs and ledges. Current-prone and with rich invertebrate growth such as sea whips. Usually found at moderate depths over 20 meters and occur in small loose groups.


Xanthichthys caeruleolineatus (Outrigger or Blueline triggerfish)

Xanthichthys caeruleolineatus (Outrigger or Blueline Triggerfish). Source: Ginger Garrison / Shorefishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Xanthichthys caeruleolineatus (Outrigger or Blueline Triggerfish) (J.E. Randall, Matsuura & Zama, 1978)

Distribution: Indo-West Pacific: St. Brandon’s Shoal (western Indian Ocean) through Indonesia to the Tuamoto Islands, north to the Ryukyus.

Occurs in deep seaward reefs. One collection outside Micronesia was made at 15 m.


Xanthichthys greenei (Kiri triggerfish)

Paratype of Xanthichthys greenei (Greene’s or Kiri triggerfish). Across paratypes, there is variation in cheek-groove pigmentation and dorsal spot patterns. Photo by R. L. Pyle or B. D. Greene (not indicated in the source).

Xanthichthys greenei (Greene’s or Kiri triggerfish) (Pyle & Earle, 2013)

Distribution: Pacific Ocean: Kiribati (Line Islands).

This species is relatively abundant within its depth range, on coral rubble and holes adjacent to deeper drop-offs (below a thermocline) at several localities of the coasts of Kiritimati (Christmas Island). It has always been observed near the reef substratum, where it would seek shelter when approached.


Xanthichthys lineopunctatus (Striped or Lined triggerfish)

Xanthichthys lineopunctatus (Striped or Lined triggerfish). Source: Phil Heemstra / FishWise Professional. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Xanthichthys lineopunctatus (Striped or Lined triggerfish) (Hollard, 1854)

Distribution: Indo-West Pacific: East Africa south to Port Alfred, South Africa, and east to northwest Australia and the Ryukyu Islands. Recorded from Australia as Xanthichthys ringens.

A rare species that occurs in offshore reefs, often seen well above the bottom. Also taken by drive-in nets. Oviparous.


Xanthichthys mento (Redtail triggerfish)
Redtail Triggerfish (Xanthichthys mento)
Xanthichthys mento (Redtail Triggerfish) (Jordan & Gilbert, 1882)

Distribution: Western Pacific: southern Japan and the Ryukyu, Izu, Marcus, Wake, and Hawaiian islands. Eastern Pacific: southern California, USA, and the Pitcairn, Easter, Revillagigedo, Clipperton, and the Galapagos Islands.

Found mainly around oceanic islands and near reefs along the continental coasts. Found in schools in seaward reefs above drop-offs. Benthopelagic. Feeds on zooplankton.


Xanthichthys ringens (Sargassum triggerfish)

Xanthichthys ringens (Sargassum triggerfish)

Xanthichthys ringens (Sargassum triggerfish) (Linnaeus, 1758)

Distribution: Western Atlantic: North Carolina, USA, and Bermuda to Brazil.

Inhabits seaward reef slopes, usually well below 30 m, wherein some places are among the most common fish. Young live among floating Sargassum. Solitary or in small groups. Feeds on crabs and sea urchins. Spawns in deep water.

Gender Xenobalistes (Matsuura, 1981)

Balistes rotundatus

Xenobalistes tumidipectoris

Xenobalistes tumidipectoris (Matsuura, 1981)

No image available for this species;
the drawing shows typical species in Balistidae.

Where can you find the Triggerfish?

The Triggerfish can be found all over the world in the tropical and subtropical oceans. Most species reside in the Indo-Pacific. Many live in relatively shallow waters and like coral reefs.

An exception to this is the Oceanic Triggerfish which is pelagic. (which prefers to live in open waters and oceans and not close to the bottom).

Here and there I have added any comments about the habitats to the description of the various species.

Triggerfish: Their nutrition

The Triggerfish is an omnivore and likes to eat squid, mussels, shrimp, other fish, and other meats that carnivores like. They also like marine algae.

Here and there I have added any comments about their nutrition to the description of the various species.

How do these animals mate?

Spawning occurs on the basis of lunar cycles. Eggs can occur from 2-6 days before the full moon and 3-5 days before the new moon. This usually happens on days with high tide and around sunset.

The female and male look for a place for their eggs together. They do this by blowing water on a piece of sandy bottom that they find suitable. After this, they start rubbing their bellies together as if they are spawning. Eventually, the eggs appear and are spread on the sandy bottom and attached to the sand grains.

Triggerfish in the human diet

Before you plan to eat Triggerfish you should check whether the species you want to eat is safe because there are some specimens that are slightly toxic. The animals then have “ciguatera” and that is the poisonous substance that they ingest by eating fish that were already infected. This is not fatal, but it can make you seriously ill…

Fortunately, you can safely eat many other species because these animals have beautiful white meat with a sweet taste, just like crab meat (after the fish has been cooked). Of course, you can also bake, fry, or grill the fish.

They can also be eaten raw, which is why they are also very popular in Japan for sushi, sashimi, and ceviche.

So remember: Triggerfish are delicious, but avoid the larger ones that have already eaten smaller, toxic-containing fish.

How do you fish for Triggerfish?

Triggerfish are quite aggressive by nature and are therefore not easy to catch.

Since the animal has a very small mouth, you have to fish with a small hook because if the hook is too big, they just nibble the bait off the hook.

Like most bottom-dwelling fish, the triggerfish mainly swims around natural hard bottoms. They like ledges, corals, wrecks, and artificial reefs. These animals are practically not found in the coastal bays or passes, and coves. In many cases, they do occur close to the coast where they are easy prey for the local fishermen with smaller boats.

Enemies of the Triggerfish?

Predators of the Triggerfish are sharks, jacks, and grouper. They also become the prey of an occasional visitor such as a tuna or a marlin.

Endangered species?

To date, there are still many of these animals and so they are not in danger of extinction.


This is where I come to the end of this article. I hope you found it interesting and of course any questions, additional information, comments, ambiguities, or untruths can always be left behind. Thanks in advance.

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