Clown Triggerfish

Clown Triggerfish

Also known as the bigspotted triggerfish, Clown Triggerfish (a member of the Balistidae family) are demersal marine fish commonly found on reefs in the Indo-Pacific. While not exactly shy of snorkelers they will retreat if you get too close.

Distinguishing Features

With its dramatic colouration, you won’t miss the clown triggerfish. Although mostly black, the bottom half of its body and belly is covered with white spots, reminiscent of leopard print. The clown triggerfish has an oval-shaped body, laterally compressed, and a large head. Don’t be deceived by its small mouth; it hides strong teeth (but it’s not aggressive like the Titan Triggerfish).

The yellow blotch at the base of the caudal fin and network of faint yellow pattern on its head makes this fish an interesting and stunning creature. The anal and dorsal fin are also yellow towards the base, but change to blue and fade to black, giving them a ‘feathery’ appearance.

Clown triggerfish grow up to 50cm in the wild.


The clown triggerfish is widely distributed throughout shallow tropical and subtropical waters in the Indo-Pacific Ocean and can also be found in the Caribbean.

Sloping reefs up to 75m depth, whereas juveniles stay around sheltered caves and overhangs.

Feeding Habits

Clownfish have quite a varied diet, based on molluscs, echinoderms and crustaceans, which they crush using their strong teeth. They are voracious eaters and spend the majority of their time foraging for food amongst the coral.

clown triggerfish


Unlike many other fish, the clown triggerfish digs a shallow crater, or nest in the sand, where the female lays her eggs. The males then fertilize them and both sexes guard the nest aggressively, with no hesitation in attacking intruders who get too close.

When the eggs hatch, the larvae simply float away on the ocean currents.

Life Cycle

Clown Triggerfish are solitary creatures and spend most of their lifetime alone, except when they come together for mating. They defend their territory aggressively and can frequently be seen attacking other fish if they venture to close. Their territory is an inverted cone shape, so if a clown triggerfish attacks you, be sure to move sideways to show you aren’t a threat.

Triggerfish Factiods

  • Clown triggerfish can be tamed enough to be hand-fed and are common features of saltwater aquariums. However juveniles do not adapt well to captivity and there is a high mortality rate.
  • It is a ciguatoxic fish and rarely eaten by humans.
  • Some divers have reported seeing clownfish devouring a whole bed of pearl oysters.

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