fis h of th e m o nt h
(BLOCH & SCHNEIDER 1801)
Big-spotted triggerfish, clown
tiger, clown trigger, clown
triggerfish, yellow blotched
Type Locality: India
Range: Indo-Pacific: East Africa
south and east through Indonesia
to Samoa, north to southern
Japan, and south to New
Taxonomic Troubles: Originally described as Balistes conspicillum.
The name is sometimes misspelled Balistoides conspicillium.
Size: 50 cm ( 20 inches).
Preferred Water Chemistry: Tropical marine.
Difficulty: An extremely hardy species once it starts feeding. It
can be recommended to beginning marine aquarists provided they
understand the fish’s requirements for big tanks. This is not a fish
for a 55- or even a 90-gallon tank!
Tank Setup: The aquarium for this species must be huge, with a
180-gallon being the absolute smallest that can be considered—and
this being only if the fish is kept by itself, there is massive filtration,
and regular large water changes are performed. This species is not
reef-safe. It is best kept in a fish-only-with-live-rock (FOWLR)
system that not only has several large caves in which the animal can
sleep, but also plenty of open swimming area. Rockwork must be
sturdy and stable so the fish cannot cause any catastrophic collapses.
Tankmates, if any, must be large and tough, but that is not sufficient.
For example, a lionfish, which is large, tough, and venomous, will
be harassed by a trigger, and its long fins will be shredded.
Feeding: A carnivore. Once acclimated to captivity, specimens
will take just about any meaty fare. Always feed meat from marine
species, and never offer live fish, as this will only fuel the trigger’s
Description: A verbal description of the coloration of this species
cannot begin to convey its unusual beauty. What appears as clown-like
garb is probably countershading camouflage, with the large white spots
under a dark top making this rather garish fish much less visible on the
reef than one would think.
Breeding: Although there have been aquarium spawnings, the details
of raising the fry have not yet been figured out.
Notes: Most triggers are pretty nasty, and this one is particularly so. It
is also interestingly colored, and it can become a real pet, interacting with
you through the glass. While the fish may well be willing to take food from
your hand, it is also more than able to take a bite out of that hand with
its sharp teeth, which are used to eat such crusty prey as sea urchins and
crabs. Hundreds of these fish are sold as tiny specimens, but they quickly
outgrow all but the largest tanks. In terms of hardiness, ease of care,
coloration, and personality, this is a great choice for a marine ornamental,
but its almost 2-foot adult size restricts it to oversized aquaria, and its
territoriality and aggressiveness are such that almost all specimens wind
up having to be kept as their tank’s sole inhabitant. And its aggression isn’t
reserved for tankmates—heater tubes, filter tubing, and acrylic tank panels
can all succumb to the fish’s brute strength, powerful jaws, and sharp
teeth. They’ve even been known to scratch glass aquarium panels. As a
dog-like pet alone in a giant tank, the clown trigger will not fail to please.
But in a community setup, it is almost guaranteed to disappoint.