Finding out how many different types of triggerfish are in the world can be mind-boggling and overwhelming, especially if you’re only just starting to learn about these fish. Triggerfish are just like other fish, except they have trigger-like protrusions from their mouths and they’re not very friendly at all.
They come in several different shapes and sizes, but the most common varieties of triggerfish are those listed below.
If you’re an underwater photographer or marine biologist, chances are you’ve come across at least one triggerfish in your travels. These colorful little fish, often found in the Indo-Pacific area and the Red Sea, has garnered fame from the aquarium trade due to their unique bodies, distinctive coloration, and distinct fin shape, but did you know that there are actually most popular 17 different types of triggerfish?
That’s more than most people think!
Thankfully, these different types of triggerfish will give you a great start on your way to becoming an expert!
Types of triggerfish
Titan triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens)
Titan triggerfish are an aggressive species of triggerfish, native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They inhabit shallow waters near reefs and can grow up to 28 inches in length.
They are nocturnal fish, meaning they spend most of the day hiding in holes or caves, coming out at night to feed. They will eat anything from crustaceans to algae. Unlike other types of triggerfish, titan triggerfish do not have venomous spines.
Bluelined Triggerfish (Pseudobalistes fuscus)
Bluelined triggerfish, aka the bluelin triggerfish, is a species of triggerfish that lives in shallow waters and has a distinct blue line on its side. Bluelined triggers are found in most coral reefs in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. They live among branching corals, sponges, and sea fans.
The bluelin triggerfish gets its name from the distinctive blue line that runs along its side. It is one of the smaller members of this family at only about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long. It’s diet consists mainly of algae which it scrapes off rocks with its flat head. Because it likes to hide in cracks and crevices, it can be hard to spot unless you’re looking carefully for it!
Boomerang Triggerfish (Sufflamen bursa)
The Boomerang Triggerfish (Sufflamen bursa) is found in Indo-Pacific waters. These fish are generally blue with a white belly. They have been observed to be aggressive and feed on the corals they live on. They can grow up to 30 cm long and weigh up to 1,600 grams.
They are oviparous, meaning they reproduce by laying eggs. In some cases, they will abandon their eggs after fertilization. The female is responsible for caring for the egg during incubation, which lasts from 3 days to 2 weeks depending on the water temperature. As soon as the hatchlings emerge from their egg capsules, it is assumed that both parents will help protect them until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
Sargassum Triggerfish (Xanthichthys ringens)
The Sargassum Triggerfish is a type of triggerfish that spends most of its time in the water column, feeding on plankton and other small organisms. They are very popular aquarium fish due to their large size, availability, and easy care. This fish is not reef safe because they will eat corals.
The Sargassum triggerfish is one of the best types of triggerfish for saltwater tanks due to their longevity and hardiness. It can grow up to 24 inches long and live up to 20 years with proper care. They require an aquarium of at least 180 gallons with lots of rock work and hiding places.
An unusual feature about this species is that it has both male and female organs (hermaphroditism) which makes them easier to breed in captivity than many other types of triggerfish.
Bluethroat Triggerfish (Xanthichthys auromarginatus)
Bluethroat triggerfish are small fish that can grow to about 6 inches long. They are pale, with yellow stripes and a light blue throat. Bluethroat triggerfish live in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean near Indonesia.
They spend most of their time on shallow coral reefs. The bluethroat triggerfish spends its days hiding among the corals so that it can eat any algae that grow there as well as some of the small invertebrates that live among the corals. They will also hunt shrimp and crabs.
When a bluethroat triggerfish sees something it wants to eat, it sticks out its jaw and snaps it shut quickly like a trapdoor.
Niger Triggerfish (Odonus niger)
The Niger triggerfish is found in the Indo-Pacific. They are typically a dark brown color, with a white stripe that runs from the front of their head down their body to the tail. The stripe is usually highlighted by either yellow or blue spots. The Niger triggerfish can reach up to 35 cm in length.
They are primarily nocturnal and are carnivorous fish, feeding mostly on benthic invertebrates such as crustaceans, mollusks, and worms. The Niger triggerfish has a tendency to change color when startled and often will turn bright red or light purple in response.
Niger triggerfish have been observed using stones as tools, picking them up off the sea floor and using them to break open hard-shelled prey.
Crosshatch Triggerfish (Xanthichthys mento)
The Crosshatch Triggerfish, also known as the Xanthichthys mento, is a carnivorous fish found in the Indo-Pacific. They live in coral reefs and rocky lagoons at depths of 15 to 100 feet. They are one of the few triggerfish that don’t have any spines or venom.
The crosshatch triggerfish can grow up to 20 inches long. They are greenish brown with white bars on their body and sides. The male crosshatch triggerfish has brighter colors than the females.
Their head is shaped like a square with small teeth lining their jaw. The Crosshatch Triggerfish eats shrimp, crabs, lobsters, clams, snails, and bivalves by picking them up off the ground or out of holes on the reef floor.
Pinktail Triggerfish (Melichthys vidua)
The pinktail triggerfish, also known as the Melichthys vidua, is a species of triggerfish found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is considered to be an uncommon fish. This species of fish is often mistaken for the queen triggerfish due to their similar appearance and coloring.
The major difference between these two species is that the pinktail triggerfish has a pink tail while the queen triggerfish has an orange tail. Other than this, both species are very difficult to tell apart from one another.
These types of triggerfish have been popular among divers because they are relatively hard to find in certain areas and they offer great photo opportunities.
Indian Triggerfish (Melichthys niger)
The Indian triggerfish is a reef dweller that is found in the Indo-Pacific region. It inhabits areas with sandy or rubble bottoms and can reach lengths of up to two feet long. They are solitary fish, but they will school at night and during morning hours. They are predators that feed on crabs, shrimp, sea urchins, and bivalves.
They have thick jaws lined with rows of teeth that allow them to crush their prey. These fish come from the family Balistidae which means they are part of a group called balistids which also includes the triggerfish and family members of the Balistidae.
Picasso Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus aculeatus)
Picasso Triggerfish, also known as Lagoon triggerfish, blackbar triggerfish, or white banded triggerfish, are found in the Pacific Ocean, often inhabiting areas near coral reefs. These fish have a brownish to reddish colored body with white stripes on their lateral and dorsal fins. They can grow to be up to one foot long, but most Picasso triggerfish are about eight inches long.
Picasso triggerfish are carnivorous and feed on small fishes, crustaceans, mollusks, and squids. Picasso triggerfish are solitary creatures that will defend themselves by biting when threatened. These fish also have venomous spines at the base of their pectoral fins that can inflict excruciating pain if touched. The spines aren’t poisonous, but they do deliver an extremely painful sting.
Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)
One of the most common types of triggerfish is the Clown Triggerfish, or Balistoides conspicillum. The Clown Triggerfish can be found in many parts of the Indo-Pacific region including Hawaii and Australia. They are a reef dweller that primarily spends their time close to the bottom with its head tucked into a crevice.
It can grow up to 16 inches in length and is typically brown, yellow, or greenish in color with white speckles on its body. The colors act as camouflage, making it difficult for predators to see them. It feeds mostly at night by catching prey near the sea floor.
Undulate Triggerfish (Balistapus undulatus)
The undulate triggerfish is a widespread species, found in the Indo-West Pacific from eastern Africa to Melanesia. They live in coral reefs, rocky areas, and lagoons at depths of up to 120 feet.
Unlike other triggerfishes, the head of this species is brownish rather than yellow and its scales are large. It has a small mouth with two rows of teeth on the upper jaw and one row on the lower jaw that can be used for crushing hard-shelled prey. Undulate triggerfish have three dorsal spines and five anal spines.
Their maximum length is about 35 cm (14 inches). It’s an omnivore; it feeds mainly on crustaceans and mollusks but will also eat sea urchins, polychaete worms, algae, starfish eggs, and bivalves. Some populations seem to specialize in scavenging while others feed primarily on zooplankton.
Queen Triggerfish (Balistes vetula)
Queen triggerfishes are one of the largest triggerfish species and can grow up to 6 feet in length. The Queen triggers’ diet consists mainly of benthic invertebrates, such as crabs and shrimp, as well as a variety of fish and squid species. They have been known to eat their own kind when food is scarce, including young ones.
They live on shallow reefs and usually bury themselves in the sand or mud during the day, coming out at night to hunt for food.
Reef triggerfish (Rhinecanthus rectangulus)
Reef triggerfish are common fish in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean. They are oviparous, with females laying eggs in batches of between six and twenty-four, though on average they will lay around ten.
The eggs are guarded by the male parent until they hatch out as free-swimming larvae that are then released into the open water. Reef triggerfish eat small invertebrates, including crustaceans and worms, as well as algae and diatoms from coral reefs. They live at depths of up to 70 meters and feed during daylight hours.
In some areas, they can be found living singly or in pairs while others form schools.
As juveniles, these triggerfish have distinctive black markings which fade as they mature, becoming a mottled white with reddish or brown spots when fully grown. There is also an orange form which is less commonly seen but its coloring can vary depending on where it lives.
Grey triggerfish (Balistes capriscus)
The grey triggerfish is a type of triggerfish that can be found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. It has a maximum length of about sixty centimeters (24 inches) and can live up to thirty years.
The coloration on its dorsal surface ranges from brown to black, with mottled white patterns on the head and fins. They are commonly observed around reefs and coral communities in shallow water.
They feed mainly on shrimp, crabs, squid, octopuses, and fish eggs. In captivity they eat crustaceans such as krill or crab legs; these should be finely chopped so they can easily swallow them whole. They’re generally not aggressive unless defending their territory or eggs/young.
Rough triggerfish (Canthidermis maculata)
Rough triggerfish are one of the most widespread species and typically inhabit shallow, inshore waters. They get their name from the rough skin that covers their body, which can be gray in color.
Rough triggerfish have a variety of uses in different cultures around the world, from being used as food to helping people with certain medical conditions. They also have many natural predators like sharks, larger fish, marine mammals, and other triggerfish. Despite this, they’re still fairly common all over the world.
Some people also use them for jewelry ornaments, which is where the golden nickname comes from. It’s not uncommon for divers to mistake rough triggerfish for lionfish because of how bright their colors can be at times.