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/The Conscientious Marine Aquarist

The Puffers Called Box-, Cowfishes, family Ostraciidae, part 1

To: part 2, part 3, part4

by Bob Fenner

  Ostracion cubicus, Australia

Ostraciidae, from the Greek ostracum, meaning "shell", the box, trunk or cowfishes are found all over the tropical Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. Fourteen genera with about thirty three species. These may be the most characteristic of fishes with their bodies encased in a bony carapace.

The family is also notable for some members possession of "ostracitoxin" a toxic discharge substance of some trunkfishes. If/when sufficiently disturbed whole tanks, and recirculating systems of livestock have been wiped out. Though this is rare, the cautions listed elsewhere in this piece on netting, acclimation, and tankmates should be heeded if you intend to try a trunk/boxfish.

The genus Lactoria, especially Lactoria cornuta should be dealt with carefully; I have witnessed three poisoning "episodes" with this species, one from a dead specimen in a filter, another from a harassed individual, the third from the careless introduction of shipping water into a display system.

Lactoria and members of the genus Lactophrys are commonly called Cowfishes for their "horns", a conspicuous pair on the head and another doing rear-guard near the anal fin. The Smooth Trunkfish, Lactophrys triqueter is the most frequently offered member of the genus, with the Scrawled (Lactophrys quadricornis) and Honeycomb (Lactophrys polygonius) cowfishes occasionally available. All three hale from the western tropical Atlantic and grow to at least eleven inches in length. 

Genus Acanthostracion: Plus see below, species moved to genus Lactophrys

Acanthostracion quineensis (Bleeker 1865), the Guinea Boxfish. Eastern Atlantic coast, along Africa's coast. To seven inches in length.

No pic

Acanthostracion notacanthus (Bleeker 1863), the Island Cowfish. Eastern Atlantic and mid-islands. To twenty inches overall length.

No pic


Genus Lactophrys:

Lactophrys bicaudalis (Linnaeus 1758), the Spotted Trunkfish. Tropical west Atlantic. To nineteen inches. This one's about fourteen inches, in the Florida Aquarium, Tampa. More "spotty" appearing as juveniles. As the juvenile below.

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available)
 
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Lactophrys (now Acanthostracion) polygonius (Poey 1876), the Honeycomb Cowfish. Note the two horns above eyes; missing in trunkfish species. Tropical west Atlantic. To about nineteen inches in length. Bahamas pix.

Bigger PIX:
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Bigger PIX:
The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Lactophrys (now Acanthostracion) quadricornis (Linnaeus 1758), the Scrawled Cowfish. Note the two horns above eyes; missing in trunkfish species. A small one (four inches) and adult one in the Bahamas. 

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Lactophrys trigonus (Linnaeus 1758), the Buffalo Cowfish. Tropical west Atlantic. To about eighteen inches in length. St. Thomas pic. 

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To: part 2, part 3, part4

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