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FAQs about Triggerfish Disease Diagnosis

FAQs on Triggerfish Disease: Trigger Disease 1, Triggerfish Health 2, Triggerfish Health 3,
FAQs on Triggerfish Disease by Category: Environmental, Nutritional, Trauma, Pathogenic (infectious, parasitic), Social, Genetic, Treatments

Related Articles: Triggerfish, Red Sea Triggerfishes

Related FAQs: Triggerfishes, Triggerfish: Identification, Selection, Compatibility, Behavior, Systems, Feeding Reproduction,


Triggerfishes for  Marine
Diversity, Selection & Care

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by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Bizarre swimming of trigger   MOVie Link  5/3/19
<Hello Zackery!>
I need some help...My blue throat trigger started doing this very bizarre corkscrew swim pattern today. Appetite decreased 2 days ago. He has been fine before this and strong eater. All my water parameters are testing in the perfect range.
<I need more information about your system...size, tankmates, filtration, water data (test numbers), temperature.>
He seems to ‘get worse’ with this when attempting to feed..it’s almost as if he starts the  twirling/corkscrew movements when trying to go after food but he’s ‘missing’ the food.
<It appears to be disoriented; this could be due to numerous factors; water quality, nutritional deficiency, a genetic anomaly... read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/triggers/faqs.htm  and the linked files above.>
Other times, he appears fine swimming as usual with only occasional bouts of this ‘swirling’.
Attached is a video recorded during feeding this morning showing the erratic behavior.
<Could you please place the video in the cloud or other server like YouTube and send us just the link?... our server doesn’t support very large files.>
Any thoughts on a diagnosis or treatment would be greatly appreciated.
<You’re most welcome. Wil.>
Re: Bizarre swimming of trigger     5/3/19

Here is the video link on YouTube for you:
<Ahh...thanks! >
I have a 90-gallon fish only tank with just the trigger (5 inches) and 2 small Clarkii Clownfish (1 inch each). The tank is 3 months old.
Filtration: Eshopps sump 1000 GPH
<Sounds good, It appears to be stable an uncrowded.>
My water parameters are as follows:
Temp: 78 degrees F
Specific gravity: 1.022
pH: 8.0
<A bit low, aim to 8.3-8.4 by adding a buffer>
Ammo: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: <10
Phosphates: 0
<I suggest focusing on its nutrition. Even though Blue throats tend to be a little more finicky than other triggers, try to feed it a diet as varied as possible including vitamin supplements. Keep an eye on it and give a few days to see if this condition is reverted. Please read the links I sent you and keep us posted.>
<Cheers. Wil.>

Played dead. Trigger... shipped w/o pure O2       6/23/17
Hey Bob,
I had this happen to me last night, never experienced this before, want to see if you think this is a bizarre, rare occurrence, or just the fishes trick of the trade.
<Let's see>
I bought 2 fish last night from local shop, a red tail or sargassum trigger, and pink belly wrasse. They were both at lfs store for over a year, ate well etc.
I drive home, about 1.5 hours, bring them in and prepare a freshwater dip.
I then remove wrasse from lfs bag, dip, then into quarantine. Next up the trigger.
He was upside down in bag, motionless. I open bag, lift him up by hand, and the fish is stiff, not moving , no movement whatsoever.
<Mmm; these fishes were bagged w/ oxygen I hope/trust>
Angry, I started throwing items around me, them confused. No drastic temp changes in bag, was in there for less than two hours , and so on.
Debating whether to toss or put him in freezer in case lfs wanted to confirm (they don't guarantee anyhow) I just tossed the fish in the quarantine till I could figure out what to do.
3 hours later I come home, and he's moving his fins, but not much more.
This morning, swimming, although not aggressively, that just may be how some of these triggers are, more benthic then water column Anthias type fish.
Did I witness a reborn, or is this a tactic?
<I suspect more the former. Balistids will swim upside down, and many species are given to swimming into holes, crevices and wedging themselves in to avoid divers, predators... But this situation reads as more likely a matter of too-low oxygen; common with larger, metabolically active fishes in small volumes. Best to ship triggers in doubled or tripled 4 mil bags... WITH O2 (little ambient air), IN THE DARK (as in a Styro fish box), and process/acclimate ASAPractical. Bob Fenner>
Thanks bob
Re: Played dead      6/23/17

Thanks bob. Oxygen was not used, just ambient air "caught" in the bag.
<Ahh, a huge mistake. Not only does the straight O2 help boost DO and sustain pH, it also anesthetizes fishes in transit to a degree>
He was in there for all of an hour and a half, next time I will invest in battery powered bubbler and use bucket for larger fish.
I was ready to toss him in trash, stiff as a rock, and slowly he came back.
He's hiding now, hoping whatever damage oxygen or lack thereof of did does not effect quality of life going forward.
<Me too>
Thanks again , bob
<Thank you for sharing. B>

Trigger fish swim bladder issue? 5/28/2008I have a black triggerfish (over 10 yrs old) <A good long time for a Melichthys niger in captivity> who is suddenly not swimming correctly. He appears to have lost his equilibrium and has stopped eating. <Bad signs> I moved him to a 10 gallon hospital tank. It has been two days and he is still breathing rapidly. I don't see any external parasites or injuries. The moray eel did bite him on the nose yesterday, but I don't think that did any real damage (they have been doing that for years). I testing the chemicals in the main 90 gallon tank and found no elevated parameters. <... may be that there are chemicals present that there are no tests for...> I have a protein skimmer (which hardly ever even collects anything) as the tank is very empty. I have two black/white damsels, the moray and the trigger. No live rock. <I would have some> Yesterday I bought 2 more damsels, and 4 green Chromis. The trigger was hiding in the rocks when the new fish were introduced. A bit odd on his normal behavior. I don't think the new fish had anything to do with it. I have the trigger propped up against some coral in the hospital tank and it also has an airstone and powerhead going. Any suggestions? Thanks! ps. I also did change out the filter sock in the 90 gallon yesterday am. I soaked it in fresh water with some bleach but then soaked it and rinsed it well before putting back in that tank. Other than that - nothing has changed. <Perhaps there is something in the way of senescence going on here (old age... cumulative genetic defect), maybe a nutritional deficiency effect... If I had another system up and going I might try moving the Trigger there. Otherwise the offering of favorite foods... with a vitamin/HUFA supplement soaking ahead of time. Bob Fenner>
Re: trigger fish swim bladder issue? 6/1/08
Thanks! I put him back in the 90 gallon tank on Sunday and by Monday he started swimming a bit. By Tuesday he was back to eating and by Wednesday he was acting territorial like his Old Self and was picking on the new fish. I guess we are now back to normal! How weird. Guess I didn't realize how much I like the old bugger till he decided to try and die on me!!! <Ahh! Thank you for this update. RMF>

Mayday - Mayday - Trigger Down -11/18/07 Good morning Bob and Crew, <Mike from the GWN> First, thank you for your Daily posted FAQ's - always informative and helpful, even if they were not my questions. Before I get to the sad state of Sergeant Gas-em (you guessed it - my Sargassum) Here are the prerequisite details. Set-Up: 72gal. Bowfront with 80lbs. LR, approx. 2" Reef Sand, Hang-On Skimmer, Eheim Pro ll Canister Filter, 2 x Maxi-Jet 1200 Powerheads, Heater and 260W total of Actinics and 10,000s on timers. Corals: 2 Finger Leathers, a Gold Crown Leather (Toadstool?) <Sure> , 1 Glove Polyp, 1 Starburst Polyp, a Green Star Polyp, a Colt and a Frogspawn (oops! - Frogspawn is in a quiet corner) Inverts & Misc.: Sea Urchin, Serpent Star, 3 Nassarius Snails, 3 Trochus Snails, a small Conch, 2 Feather Dusters and some MIA Hermits, Fish: A 4" Purple Tang, a Coral Beauty, a Pixie Hawkfish, two 2" A.O. Clowns living in the Gold Crown, and a new 5" Sargassum Trigger (I am aware of the load here and already inquired as to size requirements for my new tank - due January - thank you for your advice on this) Water quality still testing well with 0's (nothing measurable) across the board for ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. PH approx. 8.2. Temp approx. 78deg. SG 1.022 (down from 1.023 - will adjust) Regular top-ups with treated tap water. I must admit to having been less than disciplined with my weekly water changes of late, but everything still testing very well up to this morning. All fish with the exception of the Trigger (the latest addition) seem to be just fine - active, eating and showing no signs of any problems. My new Trigger - 3 weeks in Q/T eating Mysis went well - moved to display - ate Mysis and Spectrum Pellets well, always active and responsive, but seemed to lose weight - added Squid and Plankton (vitamin soaked) to diet - he ate all and still seemed to lose weight over a period of about one month. Note: I saw other Sargassums at the LFS from the same "collection", weeks later, that also seemed to be pinching in. <Not uncommon for the family... issues related to collection, handling stress... take time to re-gain weight, fitness> A week ago I found him hiding in the rock which was unusual for him - he is usually right at the front watching everything while I am in the room, at least. He ate very little. He was spending more and more time in the rock and I would nudge him to get him swimming and eating - would only swim for a short time and eat little to nothing. He has not eaten or been seen swimming for the last couple of days - hiding in the rock. From your Trigger Disease and Behaviour FAQ's, I learned that this "can be" a common and temporary occurrence for these fish and did not panic until I found him on his side on the sand this morning. My Purple Tang, although still quite small (and smaller than the Trigger), can be aggressive and is harassing him a little now that he is sick. I do not see any wounds at all but I witnessed some more aggressive behaviour from the Tang this morning so I decided it would be best to remove the Trigger from this environment with the hope that he might still have a chance to recover if left alone. When I placed him in Q/T with some vitamins in the water (I only had an established 10gal tank with sand and LR ready / good water quality - I felt it was an emergency) he swam around on the sand seemingly trying to right himself, and now he is nose down on the sand with his tail up against the glass. Still alive but motionless. Very sad. <Still... don't give up hope> I do not believe (although I can always be wrong) that the smaller Tang drove him to this. <Maybe...> The Trigger seemed to have the run of the tank and I never witnessed any real aggression from the Tang until the Trigger became unable to defend himself. Certainly seems more like an internal parasitic problem. <Also a very probable factor> Is there anything I can do for this other than to just watch and wait? As usual, any thoughts or words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Mike from Canada <If you have another system, I'd move the trigger to it with some of the LR to make a cave of sorts... and hope. Bob Fenner>

Mysterious Trigger Deaths - 01/08/06 It is too late to help with my problem but I hope you can give me advice on where things went wrong for the future. <<Sorry for your troubles...I'll try to be of help.>> I strongly believe in quarantine. At the end of October I purchased a smallish female Blue Throat Trigger and put her in quarantine. Things progressed very well and she began eating the second day and was becoming less shy. On 11/21 I purchased a male Blue Throat Trigger of about the same size as I had wanted to add a pair to my display tank and thought it better to quarantine them together and add them at the same time. <<Agreed. I too bought a pair of these fish, though I acquired mine "as a pair".>> He was much shyer and more skittish than the female was. Quarantine tank is 20 gallons, bare tank with pieces of PVC of varying sizes for hiding places. <<Sounds good>> I have a hang on filter with no media just for circulation and to allow me to add carbon or other media if needed and a sponge filter that I keep going at all times so it has as active bacteria culture already. <<You've done your homework...>> I don't normally add any medications unless there are specific disease signs/symptoms. <<Ah! Excellent to hear. I too am a believer of "treat only when 'absolutely' necessary".>> Display tank is 72" x 30" wide x 24" high and total system volume of about 250 gallons. Things progressed fine for a couple of weeks although the male continue to be very skittish and would hide whenever anyone came near the tank, or even walked into the room. <<Not really atypical behavior. Once the fish is with other fish the hiding should become less, though this species likes having a "bolt hole".>> The female was eating well and would stay out of hiding most of the time, even when I approached the tank. <<My experience was similar.>> Near the holiday time neither fish displayed any disease symptoms at all but the male was still skittish and would only eat if I added the food to the tank and then left so I decided to leave them both in the Q-tank a bit longer hoping he would get more accustomed to things. <<Mmm, that is a bit surprising/disturbing. Mine will often dive for cover if I make a rapid movement, but always comes out for food while I stand and watch. But still, fish are individuals...>> Around 12/31 (5 -6 weeks in quarantine for the male and 8 weeks for the female) his behavior got stranger and he started zooming around the tank, running into the walls, or trying to jump out and banging against the top of the tank. <<Uh oh>> He stopped eating and spent most of the time hiding in the corner behind the sponge filter unless startled by someone coming into the room or the lights coming on. A few days later the female started acting the same way. Both stopped eating. Wednesday of this week, 1/4, the male died. There were no spots or unusual areas on his body, no bloating, eyes clear, fins intact with no problems. Female was exhibiting same symptoms so I decided to treat with an antibiotic just in case as I figured things couldn't get any worse. <<I tend to agree...though I think this may have been an internal parasite...very difficult to treat.>> I was using Maracyn and Maracyn Two which the directions told me could be used together. This morning the female was dead. <<Likely too little too late...though I'm not sure there was/would have been anything you could do.>> She did seem to have a little bloating in the abdominal area but otherwise, no outward signs at all. I am very distressed over the loss of these two fish and feel very responsible. <<I understand>> What should I have done differently? <<Hmm...maybe nothing...possibly a separate quarantine. Is possible the male was malaffected when purchased, and subsequently infected/affected the female...but then hindsight is always 20/20 my friend. Also possible this was (in both cases) merely the result of poor collection/mishandling... I still support your stand on not treating/pouring chemicals in to the tank unless you're absolutely sure what you are treating. Even then, not much (if anything) you could have done. Purely my own opinion here, but based on your statements I'm inclined to believe these fish were doomed before you ever got them.>> I haven't decided if I want to try again or just leave my display as it is. <<If I may suggest... If you try these fish again (wholly worthwhile in my estimation), ask to have them collected/shipped from Hawaii. Shorter transit time and good collection/holding practices...all which increase survivability. Also use a LFS that will quarantine/ensure the fish are feeding properly before purchase, if at all possible.>> Thanks. Mickey <<Regards, EricR>>

Crazy Trigger Tricks - Or Something Worse? I recently purchased a four inch clown trigger. I added him to my tank a few days ago & he's been eating good & seems to be doing ok. This morning, he was playing dead in the rocks & looked fine. <Unnerving- but not all that unusual for a trigger> A few minutes later when I looked at him his whole body had lost color & he was almost completely white.  I had baby triggers in the past & have never had this happen before. I immediately reached into the tank and once I got close he, moved deeper into the rocks & in a few second after movement his color came back. Is this normal? <Well, the color change could be anything from a response to fright, environmental changes, or even a attempt at "blending in" with the surrounding environment.> I lost my other clown trigger a few weeks ago & after this I am concerned about my new addition. Thank you! Jill <Well, Jill, assuming that your water chemistry parameters are acceptable, and that the fish is not displaying any additional signs of distress or illness, I'd just chalk this up as another trigger behavioral quirk. Keep a close eye on the fish, and be sure to take appropriate actions should any other disease symptoms manifest. Good luck. Regards, Scott F.>

Clown Trigger with possible parasite Robert, I have a clown trigger that has a line that runs from his body to his top fin. At the end it has a little brown bag or ball looking thing. I am not sure what this is. Any info on this would be appreciated. Thank-you, Rick <Likely nothing... maybe a genetic/developmental anomaly, perhaps evidence of some sort of trauma... probably not important. Will most likely self-cure. Bob Fenner>
Robert, would a fresh-water dip help if this was a worm parasite. <In most cases, no. Real worm, or worm-appearing crustacean parasitic problems rarely are susceptible to dip/bath procedures... Most folks avail themselves of "economic poisons" for such... but don't think, and I would not, utilize either in your case. Bob Fenner>

Dead Clown Trigger I received my order of fish on Tuesday, February 15th. Today, Sunday  February 27th, my 5.5" Clown Trigger died for no apparent reason. I have  kept his body. My water checks fine, he had no signs of disease or  distress. He looked perfectly healthy. He even ate voraciously until  yesterday, February 26th. He still ate yesterday, just not as much. Everyone else in the take, 2-Yellow Tangs; 1-Blue Surgeon; 1-HumaHuma  Trigger; 1-Niger Trigger; Metallic Green Mushrooms, look great and are  eating well. The death of my Clown makes absolutely no since to me and I  would like to hear any explanation that you have. When I invest $85 into  a Clown, I expect him to be in picture perfect health. I just can't  understand how a Triggerfish would just drop over dead with no apparent  signs of distress.  >> Don't know that I understand such events either... but do know that triggers do seem to "just die for no apparent reason" at times... Maybe internal disease problems? Perhaps a rock et al. extraneous material they ingest? Maybe psychological problems cause them at times to just "exit stage left"?  Ones that never eat, are very brightly colored... might be cyanided... and can be tested for such... But a specimen that does eat for days... not cyanided... Bob Fenner

HELP!!! Hi Bob, This is a last ditch effort to save a fish. I don't have anyone else to turn to. I have a clown trigger that I have had for about 5 years. Two days ago, I woke up to find him lying on the bottom of the tank and not moving. Normally, as soon as I walk up to the tank, he swims right to me, excited for food. I used a net to see if he would move and he just went to another spot at the bottom. There are no visible signs on the outside. I checked my the half shell in the tank his favorite treat) and he did not respond. I was tempted to just take him out and put him in the freezer and then decided to see if he would make it another day. Today I am grasping at straws. I decided to try a fresh water bath just to see what would happen. I tried it for about 3-4 minutes. When I returned him to the tank, he began swimming around, but very unbalanced, mostly upside down. The only thing that I could find in my books was swim bladder disease? Do you have any suggestions. This has been my favorite fish and I am so upset, any help would be appreciated. Thanks so much, Diane. >> Hmm, this is one of my fave species... our old company logo-fish... and have had many... but none myself as long as five years. However, Public Aquariums have kept them for more than two decades... so they do live a good long time...  What is wrong with yours? I can't say, because I don't know... Symptomatically, this sounds like some sort of "internal problem"... Is it cranial/nervous in origin? Don't know... Some sort of internal organ condition or parasite difficulty? Once again, I'm sorry to have to relate... not only am I unable to suggest exactly what the cause(s) might be... I would not do much other than what you've done...  There are Anthelminthics (Vermifuges... to expel worms), anti-protozoals... even some anti-microbials that might be "tried"... but I would not resort to them...  I doubt if this is a "psychological" display... as you know triggers are very capable of... but don't know the organic roots. Having seen even the most dire of circumstances with these Balistids... I am inclined to ask you to wait and hope your triggerfish/friend can and will recover on its own.  Bob Fenner

Triggerfishes for  Marine
Diversity, Selection & Care

New eBook on Amazon: Available here
New Print Book on Create Space: Available here

by Robert (Bob) Fenner
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