Ask the WWM Crew
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Longhorn Cowfish Compatibility and Flow
Cowfish Cleaner shrimp questions, comp. in large sys.
Tetrosomus gibbosus; Ostraciid comp., stkg.
Round Belly Cowfish question 7/4/09
Re: Round Belly Cowfish question
Cowfish (reef comp.) and Powder Blue Tang (sys.) in 90 gal 12/31/08 Dear WWM crew, I have a 90 gallon saltwater tank with a 20 gallon sump, a powerhead, and a big protein skimmer. The whole tank tests good and we also have a uv sterilizer. In a couple of weeks I am going to the house of fins in Connecticut to get a powder blue tang and I was just wondering if cowfish or cube fish are reef safe. I have 200 pounds of live rock and some corals. No shrimps or anything. Are cowfish or cube fish coral safe? <By cube fish I assume you mean Boxfish. These are really a poor idea in any sort of reef, not to mention the size of system (ditto on the system size re the Powder Blue). See: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfshcompfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfshsysfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/powdbluetg.htm and the linked files above. Scott V.>
Re: Lack of quarantine, Ostraciids now -09/02/08 Thanks you, Bob - I shall certainly do that! <Good> One more question if I may? We have 3 bays of 9 tanks (so 27 tanks in total). Each bay is centrally filtered. Last week, they bought 2 yellow boxfish, and placed them into their own little tank in the bay, next to a rather expensive Mimic Tang among other things. Would you say it is safe to keep the Boxfish in a bay sharing water with the other fish? I have nightmares about them dying and wiping out the whole lot! Thanks again Emma <Mmm, Boxfishes can be deadly toxic to most all fish life, in a surprisingly large volume of water... but if care is taken to not "shake them up" (in handling, being stocked with aggressive tankmates) or not fail to see them die, dissolve... they can be placed in with other fish species. Bob Fenner
Boxfish/Systems/Compatibility 1/13/08 Hello, <Hi> I am setting up a 180 gallon aquarium 72x24x24. My question is what are the best Boxfish to keep? I know you have recommended Ostracion Meleagris, Whitely, and Solorensis. They would be kept by themselves. Also, can I put a pair of all three species in the 180 aquarium? If not how many Boxfishes could comfortably fit? What would I have to feed them? Any other special requirements? <Do read here and linked files above. Should steer you in the right direction. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfishes.htm> Thank you and email back ASAP! <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)
Puffer and Inverts... 2/25/07 Hey guys, <Hello.> tanks are doing nicely, much thanks to this site and all your advice! <Quite Welcome.> Have a drink on me :) <It'll have to be another six months....> One of my tanks is a 40g FO system with a Hawaiian blue puffer, he is pretty non aggressive, but has nipped a few fins in his time and tried to get at the Mithrax crab to no avail. <Normal Behavior.> I would like to add ANY kind of starfish to this system, is there one your sure he wont nip at? <Of those that would be compatible to this system, not likely. Smaller serpent or brittle type starfish may be okay due to their elusive behavior but it's still a risk nonetheless.> I also have a lunar wrasse, blue tang, and a Lemonpeel angel. (and yes I know what your going to say, <Really? You should come do some of the investigative follow-ups for me on my reports at work?> the puffer will be going to a larger tank in 6-8 months, he is only 3" now) <Not just the puffer...the surgeon and the wrasse too.> Anything else I can put in the tank as a 'cleaner crew'? <Well in this case the human is the best cleaner, however some larger snails (thick shells here) may be able to elude the puffer, larger hermits (though these present their own problems as well)...more posted in the FAQ's. Options are limited with inverts. when you have a puffer.> Again thanks for all the help, <Of course.> Gary <Adam J.>
Long Horn Cowfish <and tasty snack tankmates> 1/7/07 Hello Bob and crew! <Hi> I was thinking of purchasing a long horned cowfish, 2" long for a 100g FOWLR system. The tank has matured for 6 months and I currently have various cleaner crews in the tank including, hermits, peppermint shrimps and cleaner shrimps (Pacific Lysmata amboinensis). <A tasty snack for the Cowfish.> I understand the reluctance of many aquarists to keep this fish but I am truly fascinated by them and understand the risks involved with their potential to release a harmful toxin if stressed. <Yep.> However I am worried because when I set up my tank I was thinking of keeping a rather different selection of fish and changed my mind only recently. Will this fish pose any harm to my invertebrates which also includes 18 anemone sexy shrimps? <Snacks, their diet is almost identical to puffers.> If so I will re-think my plans. I have searched for information both on the web and in my textbooks but find nothing on this particular question. My dealer will want a sale and I have noticed he has told me many lies including that this boxfish only attains a max size of 4", 18" being more realistic. <Heard that one too, must be a popular sales tactic.> Thanks for your help, Jake. <Basically the Cowfish will make short work of most invertebrates in the tank. Truly one of the strangest and most interesting fish out there, but quite difficult to keep.> <Chris>
Tankmates for Puffer 10/23/06 Hello all, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have a quick request for a new fish suggestion. I currently have 40 gallon long tank that has been established for over a year. I had added a very small 2' Hawaiian Blue Puffer and a 3' yellow tang. I run a protein skimmer (recommended for a 150gal tank) that works NONSTOP (dirty little puffer). A tidepool2 setup as a refugium with livesand and rocks. I have over 60lbs of live sand and 50lbs of rock in the tank with 2 football size balls of Caulerpa algae. The water parameters stay consistent and the fish look very happy. The puffer does nip a bit at the tang, but the tang still hangs around him all the time so it must not be too bad. My wife wants more fish (preferably colorful) in the tank and I was wondering if it was ok to add more fish, how many and what would you recommend that would be ok with the puffer? I understand this puffer will grow larger, but long-term plans are to have this tank converted to a 100gal within 16 months. <Sounds like a nice set up. Glad to hear you plan to upgrade. You don't mention how large the puffer is now. If I were you, I'd wait till the upgrade to add more fish. Certainly, a Tomatoe clownfish & damselfish should work (you could try a few damsels now). You can try adding faster-moving or larger, more aggressive fish, like a trigger. You never really know how a puffer is going to react to tank mates, so be sure you have a back-up plan, like an extra tank or being able to return fish to the store.> Thank you for any suggestions, <You're welcome, ~PP> John
Cowfish Mauled/Cowfish Compatibility 6/26/06 I have a 6 mo. 24g Nano that is running smoothly with various zos, Flower Pot, Cup Coral, Sun Coral, a Cowfish, Percula Clown, firefish, banded goby, Sally Lightfoot, a Peppermint Shrimp, and various other cleaners. Problem...my Cowfish turned up the other day with a half eaten tail fin. Added some Melafix and he seemed to perk up and be recovering. This morning I discovered the cowfish stuck to the intake with a shredded side fin. Can't seem to get his equilibrium. Who could be the culprit? I thought Sally Lightfoots and Peppermint Shrimps are supposed to be safe. Any thoughts...my cowfish is recuperating in a quarantine tank but want to remove the offender quickly. I did watch the tank the other night, late, didn't see any mischief but the shrimp was standing guard. I will try you jar technique to catch the offender. <I'm putting my money on the Sally Lightfoot if the Cowfish problem isn't disease related. They are not to be trusted with slow moving fish such as the cowfish. James (Salty Dog)> Debra <<A cowfish in a 24 gallon world? Not for long. RMF>>
Dead Cowfish - 04/23/2006 Hello, <Hi Justin with you today.> I had a Small Long horned Cowfish (1 inch) die Sometime last night. This morning I woke up to find My Yellow tang breathing really heavily. My clowns and Gramma seem OK right now. I did a 10% water change. Should I move all My fish to a Quarantine? It is only a ten gallon since I am 13 And don't have very much extra money. <Your cowfish probably released its tetradotoxin poison when it died. Please be VERY careful, and do a water change of about 30% of the tank. Wear gloves as well. Continue to do 30% water changes for the week and you should be fine. If your fish seems even more ill, do a 80% water change ASAP.> Great Site Chad <Write back and let us know if you need more help.> <Justin (Jager)>
Boxfish death - 02/27/06 Hello. I am a Marine aquarist who lives in Puerto Vallarta and captures his own fish for the tank. <Neat. Que bueno.> I will usually keep them for a week, then collect new specimens the next week and free the older ones. Only the most adaptable specimens are kept indefinitely. Yesterday I caught a juvenile Ostracion meleagris. I put it in a separate tank, as I am aware of their ostracitoxin and its ability to kill everything in the community tank. <You are wise here. Tienes razon> The tank I put it in was small, some 20 gallons, and was an overnighter as I planned to bring some water in and mount up a larger one just for the boxfish. The boxfish was fine, looked angry, I knew that the toxins could kill him in a matter of minutes, yet he or she did not die, so I took it everything was fine. There was an anemone (quite small) in a corner of the tank, which was there as one of my oddities. Today, in the morning, checked on it, the fish was fine. This afternoon I arrived from my water fetching excursion to find the boxfish with its tail being sucked by the anemone!!! hell, half the body looked beat up (the skin was ulcerated) and the tail had large ulcerations. The fish died a minute or two after being extracted. The case is, I KNOW that the boxfish released the poison, the question is, did it release the poison and while intoxicated, fall into the anemone, thus ending up there? <Maybe... or just an unfortunate swimming accident> or did the damn anemone actually grasp the fish and begin to suck it in (this just seems unlikely, honestly, but boxfish ARE slow and clumsier as there bodies are cumbersome). <Yes> Anyway, what about my water? will the toxins eventually break up in time, or must I change the water now, and what about my filters and ornaments? <I would do a good volume water change (25%), have other water on hand to do this again tomorrow, add some activated carbon to your filter flow path> what treatment is to be given to them in order to make them aquarium safe? <Keep your eye on your livestock... possibly move if all seems to be going bad> I can change the water any time, but what kind of cleansing is to be used? <Just what's stated above> I would really appreciate answers, as I have never dealt with these toxins and would rather have a guideline to work around, rather than risk any further problems. Really hate to kill the little guys, and really, that is what one does when one takes them out and has them die in one's tank. Well, thank you for your time, would appreciate an answer. Carlos Juvera <Buenos suerte. Bob Fenner>
Porcupine Puffer and Long Horn Cowfish 2/22/06 Hi, <Hello> I currently have a 4" porcupine puffer in my 125 gallon fish only with live rock tank. His/her tankmates include 2 green Chromis, and a royal Gramma. I read that a long horn cowfish is a good tankmate for a porcupine puffer, <Mmm, not IMO> and I wanted to make sure that this is true. I was also wondering what other fish would be compatible with both the puffer and the cowfish. <... a bunch... see WWM re...> The puffer and the cowfish are two of my favorites, and I would love to have them both, but I do not want to put either of them in a bad situation (or their tankmates for that matter). I'd appreciate any advice. Thank you, Charity <Cowfish are problematical in captivity period... for toxicity reasons mainly... I would not mix one in this sized system (too small...) with other tetraodontiform fishes. Bob Fenner> Boxfish... selection? Behavior? Compatibility 10/19/05 Dear Bob, <Yo Babylon... have a Hash House Harrier friend here in Kona named Babble On> Have two questions for your superior knowledge on fish. I have a Polka dot boxfish that I bought about 2 weeks ago. He's been fine, feeding him flakes, pellets, fresh shrimp, etc. <An Ostracion meleagris...? You say "he's"... so a male?> After coming back to my office on Monday I notice white flaking around areas of his body. I eventually caught him and dusted it all off and his coloring and what not was all normal. It seemed like it was shedding skin or something. <Happens> Is that possible or what else could it have been? I don't believe Ick can get that big and two I don't think it can be brushed off so easily. He seems to be eating fine and movement is good is there anything to be concerned about? <Mmm, this family of fishes can produce toxic slime...> Sal: 1.24, 0 ammonia, nitrate , nitrite, 8.4 PH. What should the typically Alk and hardness be in the aquarium? <Posted on WWM> Also I have this green hair like algae growing off my Hang on filter floating in the water, Should I leave it for the fish to eat on? <... maybe> Best regards Master Guru, Jason <Please read on WWM re Boxfish Compatibility. Bob Fenner>
Boxfish 9/19.5/05 Would an Ostracion Meleagris boxfish constantly harass Tridacna clams? Just checking compatibility... Thanks! <They are supposed to be safe. Keep in mind they can release toxins when disturbed. Have you looked here yet? http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfshbehfaqs.htm James (Salty Dog)> <<RMF would not place tetraodontiform fishes with tridacnids period...>> Small Boxfish and cleaner shrimp I saw this cute little fellow at the LFS and he was about a inch long. He was a yellow spot boxfish! <Sometimes called a Boston Bean!> His mouth looked as big as the point on a ball point pen. Could he harm cleaner shrimp? ( such a tiny cute little dude) <Not while he's small> How fast do the grow? <Moderately> I saw in the general description that they eat anything too slow to get away. <Eventually this will include cleaner shrimp!> Is this true of this tiny mouthed box fish? (such a cute little dude) <Yep!> I will have a nest of cleaner shrimp. And that is the only one thing that I'm settled on for stocking the 200plus tank. So if They grow too fast, or would eat the shrimp at the present size, then I will kiss them good bye! <There's another problem with this fish. They're not very hardy and are susceptible to parasites such as ich and velvet. If they die they will sometimes release toxin into the water that could take out your whole tank. Ya gotta watch out for the "cute" fish! They can be real trouble!> Thanks Keith <My pleasure. Take a look at the Wetwebmedia website articles and facts to find much more information on this and thousands of other fish. David D.>
New spiny boxfish...killing puffer?? (06/21/03) <Ananda here tonight...> Hi I have had my salt tank for about three years now I have a puffer, 2 damsels, mandarin goby a clown fish and just added a spiny boxfish. <Yikes. I'd keep that boxfish in his own system. Boxfish will exude a toxin when stressed....> My puffer and 1 damsel are not doing well the damsel I am not worried about but the puffer is just sitting a the bottom of the tank with the discoloration as if he is sleeping. <...and it sounds like that might be happening already.> He has not ate for 2 days when normally he is right at the top. The boxfish is slightly an aggressive eater but does not seem to bother the other fish. <Well, not physically.> My water is good I just did a water change a lowered my salt level to 1.018 is he mad that his is not the biggest fish or is he going to die probably from the sounds of it?? Julie <I don't know why you lowered the salt level -- not really necessary and probably more stressful to the boxfish, possibly causing him to exude more toxins. If you cannot put the boxfish in his own tank, I think you may have to make a choice between the boxfish and your other fish. Boxfish have special husbandry requirements, and I would urge you to research them thoroughly before trying to keep this fish. If the boxfish is stressed or if it dies, it can wipe out your entire tank. Please reconsider your strategy. Also, you might check with the good folks at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CowfishPuffers_andMore/ . --Ananda>
Algae Control and Other Issues (3/23/04) Dear Crew, <Steve Allen today> Thank you for all the help in the past and in the future. I was curious if there is a specific email address I should send my questions as I do frequently not get replies. <Odd. I do remember reading the reply to the cowfish/Dottyback query in the daily FAQs very recently. Perhaps you have some sort of filter on your e-mail locally or at your ISP that is blocking our replies. All queries go to firstname.lastname@example.org> My last question that didn't receive a reply was this "Thank you for the help so far, WWM has been very helpful. I was interested in buying a cowfish and a royal Dottyback. <Bad combo. The Dottyback will likely harass the cowfish, which then may release its toxin and kill everything in your tank, including itself. Also, cowfish eventually get very large and will likely eat your inverts. I would not consider them "reef-safe."> The cowfish is just a little (for now) yellow guy with black dots and of course you know the royal dotty back. Are these guys safe with false percula clowns, banded coral shrimp, green brittle star, and algae blenny. I have read that the cowfish is omnivorous and I do have a fair bit of green algae and black algae (trying to get rid of, just got another powerhead to increase water movement as WWM stated). <Good move. Nutrient control is the key. Don't count on a Cowfish to eat this. It is not known for algae-grazing.> I have also read that the royal Dottyback is very territorial will this be a problem with the other tank mates?? <It will harass and smaller, similar-shaped or timid fish.> I am wanting to do a partial reef partial fish tank are these 2 reef safe, I know the cowfish nips at some corals, anemones. <In other words, it is not reef safe.> I also had a question about the power head I just bought. Are all powerheads submersible? I bought the Pro 4 by Hagen, which pumps 240-425 GPH, it has a water line located on the side. Am I able to submerse it as it states it is a submersible?? <Most Hagen's are, but you can easily contact them at their excellent website and inquire.> Finally I read that you should have a GPH flow of 5X -10X the tank size. Now are these imperial or metric GPHs. <Well, there's no such thing as "metric" gallons. Metric is liters. Imperial gallons are used in the UK and maybe some other former colonies. They are bigger than US gallons. The US gallon is about 3.8 liters and the Imperial is about 4.5. I am 99% sure that the flows on Hagen's are listed in US gallons.> Just curious not to worried as they are FAIRLY similar. <Actually, the difference adds up quickly as you get to larger amounts: 240-425 USG is 200-354 IG.> I also was curious about algae control. I read over http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm and did what I could. The main thing was to increase the water movement. <Nutrient control is more important.> I added a 400gph pump which after a few days seems to have encouraged the growth of the algae. I have removed all water that comes with frozen foods but still no luck. <Measure your nitrates and phosphate levels. Get them down if high. Phosphate is especially important to keep very low to zero. Do you use RO water? If not, you may be introducing large quantities of these algae fertilizers with every top-off and water change as levels are quite high in some localities.> The algae in question is black and forms long threads and has spread rather quickly in the last week. <Sounds like slime algae.> I also have a lot of coralline algae by the looks of it on my aragonite is this bad? <Coralline usually sticks to rocks & glass rather than sand. Could it be more of a purple Cyanobacteria. Check some pix on the web.> I have tried to purchase snails but my local store never seems to have any on hand. Could you please tell me the difference between snails, trachea snails and turbo snails in terms of algae control and coral compatibility? <Read the snail articles and FAQ on WWM--the info you need about snails is there. Rather odd that your LFS has no snails. Did you ask why? Most have zillions because they profit greatly by selling them.> Thank you so much for everything, and I do apologize for the lengthy emails. I just feel as though I get the run around at my local fish store. <Are there others that are not too far away you could check?> Thank you again, Todd Hawman <Hope this helps.>
Cowfish safe corals and diet 8/1/04 Hi. I have a cow fish in a tank that I want to add some corals to. The tank already has a Goniopora and some kind of stony honeycomb brain coral which the cow leaves alone. I also had a Sarcophyton which died due to a temperature spike and the cow also left that alone. However, I replaced the Sarcophyton with a Lobophytum and the cow has started to nibble on it. <These fishes are known to be risky, but mostly with crustaceans.> I know cowfish are not considered to be reef safe, and I've already discounted any coral that needs to be fed meaty chunks as the cow knows all about that and takes the food straight out of their stomachs, but I was wondering if there are any corals that would be unlikely to end up in the cow's stomach? Would I have a better chance with stony corals? <So called "SPS corals are probably safe, and meaty large polyp stonies are probably at the greatest risk.> Another question I have relates to an answer on the Q&A a few days ago that said that cowfish need greens as well as meaty foods and most die due to malnutrition. I feed mine a variety of meaty foods as well as fish pellets that contain algae and I occasionally give him a sheet of Nori. I've had him for many months and his condition is good but I don't want to slowly starve him. I feed enough for him to eat in a few minutes, twice a day. Does the diet I have described sound sufficient to you? Thanks for your help. <Variety, variety, variety! Quality, quality, quality! Frozen Mysis, frozen foods containing algae, high quality pellet foods (look for few or no non-marine ingredients). Best Regards! AdamC> - Cow Fish? - Hi. I am always getting info from your website but couldn't find the answer to my question this time (it's a first) I was wondering if a cowfish would get along with a crimson red starfish, two clown fish and a cleaner shrimp. I've always wanted a cowfish but I'm not sure if it would be safe with what I've got I might get some coral too would the cow fish be ok with them. <Think the cowfish will do fine, although it may at some point go for your shrimp as snack food. Other than that, these are generally peaceful and entertaining fish.> Thank a lot Andy <Cheers, J -- > Toxic blue boxfish Hello, I have a 65 gallon tank with approx. 65lbs of liverock and a 3" Picasso trigger and a 3" Niger trigger that get along peacefully. <You're lucky. Don't expect it to continue, especially in a tank that size> I am considering adding a blue boxfish to the tank and am expecting some initial aggression to occur until territories are re-established. How real is the threat of the boxfish poisoning the whole tank during this stressful acclimation period? <Don't get the boxfish. The aquarium is already going to be overcrowded whenever your triggers grow. Also, boxfish should not be housed with aggressive tankmates - they are best left a species tank. Please read our archives regarding boxfish for more information> Thank you. <No problem. M. Maddox> Cowfish Toxins and Tank Die-offs <Hi, Mike D here> I understand that the longhorn cowfish can release ostracitoxin if stressed or if it dies<Yes it can as can any member of the cowfish, boxfish and trunkfish family>. I am looking at a cowfish under 2" to go into a 200gal tank.<For a 2" specimen, your most likely problems initially would be aggression and over-competition for food from existing tankmates.> Is it possible to wipe out the whole tank at this size?<With a cowfish, <my answer would be "no" as they tend to be much less toxic overall than some of the boxfish, with a relatively few species actually responsible for all of the urban legend horror stories of complete tank die offs that abound> I know that it can grow to 18" and that it would be more feasible then, however, for my piece of mind through the acclimation period, do you think the risk is there?<While this species CAN grow to 18", sizes exceeding 12" are relatively rare is specimens purchased small and raised in a captive environment. These are small mouthed fish that require frequent feedings to do well, compounded by having a rigid "shell" that makes malnutrition hard to discern, unlike some of their soft-bodied relatives such as puffers that will show a visible caving in of the abdominal walls. While they have the dentition to handle relatively hard food items, such as marine worms, shrimp and squid, they graze small amounts almost continuously when awake.> Thank you once again for your reply. You have helped me on many occasions and I truly appreciate the information.<I hope this helps a little...the toxin is quite similar to tetrodotoxin found in the puffer and porcupine fish families and the greatest risk is in losing your specimen and having it scavenged by tank-mates before you notice it, as almost anything that manages to ingest a portion is almost certainly doomed.> Caryn
Lactoria fornasini Hi all, quick question...will the little thornback feast on my arrow crab, cleaner shrimp, hermit crabs and corals if I keep it well fed by me? I'm hoping it may be ok but I think I'm asking for trouble... <My personal opinion is that you are just asking for trouble somewhere down the line. Sorry to say. MacL> Thank you for such an informative site! Glen in Ontario.
Question: I have a mature 75 gal tank with both soft corals and fish and have a few misc. questions that the books don't seem to agree or comment on.
Bob's Answer: Hey Blithe, you're right, most books are not in agreement... and if you ask me, many are obviously written by folks who have precious little practical or scientific experience... Yep, the Lactoria (cowfish) will gladly munch all crustaceans and some of your corals. Other tangs, even another Ctenochaetus should mix okay with the Chevron. Just make sure they're larger or much smaller. Need to know more about you, your system to make broad generalizations re: the Anthiinae. There is a huge range of survivability in the group (as large as any other fish family), but I don't want to unduly influence browsers to try expensive fancy basses. Take a gander at Scott Michael's new book for some pointers re: these miniature basses.
Boxfish My local fish store recently lost almost all of their fish in their salt tank (125 gallon) which included my box cowfish. I had read that boxfish can emit poison if harassed too much, among things such as cleaner wrasse which this tank included two of these. The tank was fine the night before, but on opening the next day most of the fish were dead including the two cow box fish. water tested normal , so I was wondering if the box fish could have poisoned the tank, but left a few fish still alive. The fish left were two cleaner wrasse, Mexican wrasse, six stripe wrasse, and a black molly. I f the box fish truly poisoned the others, would there be anything to look for or test for. Any feedback would be great. >> Very intriguing post. Yes, the cause of loss could have been Ostracitoxin... from the Boxfishes (family Ostraciidae)... and the real/best clue is indeed the tally of what was left alive... these fishes have greater tolerance even than the puffers themselves... Now, a test for the presence of the toxin? There are biochemical and physical chemistry tools that could (if you act quickly, as the material degrades) lead you definitively to an answer... If you have ties with a college or not, call them and speak with someone in the chemistry or biochemistry depts. about these (Mass spec.) possibilities. What does the system water smell like? Frequently there is a trace of 'phenol' odor... But, of course, the cause of mortality could be a myriad of other things... Bob Fenner
Boxfish Bob I'm planning to purchase a yellow cubicus boxfish from you, but I need to know if they are poisonous or not? If so, what is the chance of releasing the poison in my tank? How do I keep such a fish? I have an established tank with tangs, angels, cardinals, clowns, and inverts. Thanks, Alan >> Yes, this (and all other Ostraciids, boxfish/puffer family) animal is/can be made to release toxins from its skin if "upset"... but is not a tremendous risk overall (compared with other potential sources of mortality) if your tank is large, well filtered... and bereft of mean, bullying fish livestock... more of a concern to me would be the likelihood of damage caused by the Boxfish (Ostracion cubicus) nibbling on your invertebrates. Bob Fenner
Trunkfish Dear Mr. Fenner, Please forgive any intrusion as I seek some information on Ostracitoxin and it's effects. In particular I had a female spotted trunkfish (Ostracion meleagris) in a reef system. Unfortunately the fish suddenly died last night and as a result it killed most of the other fish (minus the clowns and invertebrates). I am currently faced with having to breakdown and sterilize the whole system which can be quite stressful to the other reef dwellers in the tank. Would you possibly know if it is possible to filter out the toxin with activated carbon or by some other means or am I faced with the daunting task of sterilizing the whole system? Also, is the Ostracitoxin poisonous to humans through touch or contact with the water? Thank you in advance for any help you may give. >> Ohh, very sorry to hear of your losses... the toxin is somewhat like a short half-life nuclear blast analogously... the organisms that are going to die, generally do so in short order... And yes to the activated carbon having a discernible effect.... I would not tear the whole system down. I'm sure you have probably effected a large water change already, but will list this as a second priority (after the possibility of removing livestock to another system ASAP) for browsers. Ostracitoxins are not toxic to humans from skin exposure. Bob Fenner
Cowfish toxicity We have a 39gal tank; somewhat established. things have been pretty stable until the last few days. ammonia & nitrites were slightly elevated (.25) so we did a 10% water change, hoping our watery residents would perk up. The cow fish was declining to eat and the yellow tang and yellow-eye tang were also moping. unfortunately, the cow died today and the yellow tang is developing browning splotches like bruising. We are monitoring water conditions closely. any ideas?" And your reply really helped; Unfortunately, between then and now, we have lost the entire tank, except the sailfin tang, which is acting very strange and is not eating either. To sum up: on the 19th, we lost the cowfish, the baby mandarin and everybody started acting strange. on the 23rd, we lost the yellow tang. on the 24th, we lost the yellow eye and the Jawfish. This morning, we lost both damsels, the mandarin and the Cuban hog. The only things left in the tank are the sailfin, 4-5 snails, blacklegged crabs, white burrowing starfish, flower anemone and 4 corals. They all appear to be doing well, in fact the leather coral is putting out an off-shoot. We took a water sample to our local distributor and they are as stumped as we are! The only thing off in the tank is nitrates. We have about 49 lbs of live rock, and have everything set up in an eclipse tank. I have no idea what has gone wrong, or where we go from here!!!!! The only thing we don't have is a protein skimmer ... which won't fit inside the eclipse hood (I brought one home tonight and tried it). Do you have any advise ... ideas .... ????? We don't intend to give up, but just don't know what to do next. Terry >> Sorry to hear of your losses and ongoing troubled situation. Yes, I have some definite ideas of how to remedy the circumstances that are causing you trouble. First, the Cowfish's passing is likely tied in intimately with the other fishes' stress, and you need to dilute, remove the toxic residue left by the Cowfish... Through a very large (50%) water change, placing a bag of activated carbon or Polyfilter in your Eclipse mechanical filter area, and rigging up the protein skimmer you have... The last will likely require that you cut the top to accommodate the skimmer (I assume it is a hang-on type)... Please get someone there to help you if you feel uncomfortable with any of these steps. Bob Fenner, who says, do the water change and chemical filtrant addition now.
New tank and longhorn box fish Hi there, My friend had a 65 gallon tank with a clown trigger and a Niger trigger. Each were about 6" in length. She was selling the whole thing. I have always been interested in a saltwater tank but we moved so much I always put it off. Anyway I agreed to buy the tank. One day later the fish were sick and the tank sprung a leak. She put them in a 20 gallon and called me. I decided to take down my 55 gallon tropical tank and put everyone in a 20 gallon and convert my 55 to salt. I have an undergravel filter with two powerheads running in reverse, and a Skilter filter . ( a back filter with a protein skimmer. It was hers.) We were hurrying as fast as we could, I freighted some calcite down from anchorage for the substrate, and mixed up a batch of water, the clown trigger died and in desperation we threw the Niger in and hoped for the best. He has since perked up and seems to be weathering the changes. The tank has been up for four days now. This is not how I wanted to go about this project, but here I am. The very next day a lady called me and wants me to take her longhorn cow fish. It is rather large, too big for her tank. She currently has it in a 29 gallon with many filters. It is about 12" or more. Apparently it has a continual case of ick. She keeps Greenex in the tank to keep it in control. After my tank breaks in she wants me to take it. I have many questions. (understatement) Will it get along with the Niger trigger? Will the ick clear up in a bigger tank? I have read about it releasing toxins, mainly when it dies, how do you deal with that? You are probably shaking your head by now, but any ideas and help would be appreciated. Thank you for your time, Cindy Haralson >> Hmm, well, the Puffer/Boxfish might go... but do cure the ich problem (through dips/baths, real copper use, not the Greenex (copper and malachite), in a separate system... the toxin issue is a tough one... but for what you have... I would be inclined to try... Take a read through the treatment et al. printed materials stored here: Home Page Bob Fenner
Wrasses and Boxfishes Hello Bob, I have read several things you have written and I was wondering if you could help me with a few questions. I have a 55 gallon tank that I will be setting up as a saltwater tank. I would like to have a reef tank but am unsure the fish I want to keep will be compatible with the corals etc. I am interested in keeping the bird wrasse and or a boxfish/puffer species. Has anyone ever bred either species or tried. How could I provide the best environment for either or both of these species. I appreciate your help and look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your time, Aaron >> Hmm, not the wrasses of the genus Gomphosus, but some of the Boxfishes and other puffer families have spawned (incidentally). No young raised to maturity as far as I'm aware. And thanks for writing... please take a gander and bookmark our website (many articles and book sections, images... ): Home Page re the selection, husbandry issues. Be chatting, Bob Fenner
Boxfish Hi Bob. My wife and I are a fan of the Boxfishes. We have an Atlantic Cowfish and were wondering if it would be compatible with one of the spotted varieties. Thanks for any advice you can give. Russ <By and large Boxfishes can be mixed together... same old stipulations re adequate space, meaty feedings, and not "upsetting them" too much. Bob Fenner>
Long-horned Cowfish Hi Bob! A few quick questions: A friend of mine has a 75 gallon tank that is currently home to a peppered moray (on the large side) and a 6-inch porcupine puffer. She's interested in adding a long-horned cowfish (Lactoria cornuta). She's concerned about the fact that some cowfish and boxfish release toxins if they die or become agitated. <She should be> I've done some searching (and she has as well), and all we can find is that this particular species has venomous flesh. It is not mentioned if toxin is actually exuded from the flesh into the water. <Can be> Please let me know if adding this fish would be safe for the tank, considering the possibility of toxicity or inadequate space. Thanks! Gina <The size and type of the tankmates worries me a bit here... the Moray and Puffer may be such eager eaters as to starve, otherwise stress the Lactoria. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/puffers.htm and over to the ostraciid FAQs... onto the link to the boxfish site... Bob Fenner>
Cowfish dipping, Dangerous Liaisons Anthony/Bob, thanks for the responses. <Hola! my friend. Anthony> I've had a cowfish in the past (along while back) that co-existed with a grouper and an eel before. <Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes as they say...still not a safe/responsible mix my friend. These are living creatures...treat your charges respectfully> eel wasting fed, and never went for the food when the other fish were feeding. Obviously different fish, different set of circumstances, and the results that I got in the past. <agreed> Was just trying to recreate that for the current environs. . . With this tank, the grouper is quite small (< 4") and smaller than the cowfish. It is an omnivore (Cephalopholis polleni), <Aieeeee! You are killing me <smile>. Polleni groupers max out at 16-18"!! And they are rather rare and expensive... it will truly be a shame to see him choke to death or die of neurotoxin> and is categorized as semi-aggressive (as compared to just about all the other groupers at aggressive) and co-exists well with just about anything. <assuming he has read the same books as you have and agrees that he will not be the exception...hehehe> I'll definitely heed your advice for the cowfish on the dipping and be careful of introducing any tankmates. <yes, thank you> Unfortunately I'm a bit limited in the number of tanks, so I'll just have to choose his few mates carefully. Ed <very good, and best of luck to you. Anthony>
Dangerous Liaisons was Re: Cowfish dipping Cowfish Anthony, ciao again. <Ciao, bello... in your service> I find lots of nuts quite often - mostly on the golf course though, after the squirrel has gotten through with it. . . I guess they are hand me downs. :-). <heehee...> I have him right now out of my eel/grouper tank, and in a smaller tank with a tiny damsel and a small bursa trigger. Another bad neighbor, but this trigger is quite small < 3" <agreed...not so bad, given to choose> and gets the hell out of the cow's way - sort of like after you've tipped the cow on your cow tipping soiree. . . (funny comment you had on the cow tipping, which I failed to acknowledge the first time :-). <Ha! Subtlety is what I call it when things aren't funny <smile>> I think what makes him ok, is that he's quite large. I thought he was about 4", but he's more like 6", and 4" from top to bottom, and 2 1/2" thick. He's quite a beast in this 50 gallon that I'm watching him in. There isn't anything that is going to get near him and think he's food since he's too big to swallow even for a 12-16" grouper. He's just too big top to bottom and too big around. I think after a few days, I have to get him out of the 50 gallon and put him into the 215 just for his own comfort as he's ok, but a bit cramped in a 50gallon (call it a q-tank for all intents and purposes). <yes...agreed on all counts> I do have a very large tank that I'm in the process of building (900+ gals) <beauty!!!> which will make it even more spacious for all these carnivorous/omnivorous fish I have. . . . Hopefully the cow won't ever do one of his toxin releases, but if he does, there is about 4000 gal/hr going through it that'll hopefully dilute and remove it. . <do use small relative) frequent changes of chemical media and always have a barrel of new seawater on hand that in good times lies in wait for the next water change and in bad times will serve as a toxin free, friendly body of water to remove survivors to if necessary> Looks like the cow likes brine shrimp a lot and since brine breaks up, he seems to get his share, < a truly deficient food for the long run... soak with Selcon in the meantime but break him of that habit ASAP. Brine should constitute less than 20% of the diet (and that is being generous). Adult brine shrimp is merely water made to look like a shrimp (heehee) unless it is gut-loaded or enriched> even with a little dexterous trigger swimming around greedily. . . You don't want to know the grouper, eel, and cow species that are actually involved, since I'm killing you already with the generics. Not sure I want that printed in a FAQ forever, for all to see :-). <Ha! And please accept my thanks for sparing me the pain <G>. Best regards in your endeavors. I'll look forward to pictures (and perhaps a visit!) of that sweet 900 gallon tank. Kindly, Anthony> Ed
Cowfish dipping... <which is entirely different from "cow tipping" for those folks with a rural familiarity> read through all your FAQs on dipping and puffer/boxfish and didn't see anything referencing whether I should dip the cowfish. <and by asking before you did, you most likely spared its life. The toxin that cowfish exude under stress is often issued during the "trauma" of a freshwater dip and can kill it within minutes. I am a very strong proponent for freshwater dips... this is just one of the few excluded species> If I have a new cowfish coming in (4" now, small breed, max of 6"), <which species/name?> is it safe to dip the cowfish in fresh water/Meth blue for a few minutes before dropping him in the q-tank ? Will that stress him out too much after overnight shipping to cause him to excrete toxins ? < yes...above> Obviously don't mix transport water, <mix in acclimation bag/bucket with new system water but do not put shipping water mix into main system> watch him during the dip to see his reactions, etc. Other thing is he's going in a tank with a grouper. <Whoa! What grouper species? And I must disagree. Cowfish are best handled and respected in a species specific tank. Your aquarium is not the ocean not does it have the power of dilution. Odds are that you will kill the cows tankmates and possibly the cow too for forcing them to live in close and possibly stressful proximity. Even only one event of aggression from the grouper in the next year is enough to wipe out the tank> I don't believe the grouper will harass him, but feeding may be an issue as I hear cowfishes are quite slow. <indeed... a horrifyingly bad mix for so many reasons> He may have to resort to the flakes if he can't get his share with the grouper in the tank (as the grouper doesn't eat flakes). <your cowfish will die of a dietary deficiency if forced to live on these flakes... please research dietary needs and husbandry more> Is there anything that a cowfish may eat that the grouper won't (mussels, clams, etc? ), also, you indicate that a mussel should be dropped in 'open' - but how does that contribute to filing the cowfish' teeth down ?Thanks, Ed < I suspect that Bob meant partially open. Mussels can be notched at the back to lay partly open or (if freshwater species) allowed to open slowly in the saltwater display which forces the fish to work diligently for it's meal. Good behavioral enrichment as well. Other good foods will include plankton (Pacifica when small and superba when adult), Mysid shrimp (excellent!) and squid. But again... no guarantees with the grouper. Please forego the cowfish or do it the honor of a proper species specific display. As aquarists we must use and manage our resources responsibly. Kindly, Anthony>
Cowfish Troubles I wonder if you could help me with a problem
with my juvenile cowfish. I have had him in a 50 gallon tank for 3
months with a clown and a coral beauty. I recently introduced a small
regal tang and he seemed to fit in very well, but then he nipped about
one-third off the dorsal fin of the cowfish. The cow now only sits on
the bottom, or sometimes on it's side, although when the coral
beauty nudges him he will take off and swim in a normal manner, but
this doesn't last long and he just goes down to the bottom again.
He won't eat and I am very worried whether he will survive. The fin
damage is the only damage I can see. The tang hasn't been near him
since, it just seemed to be a one-off attack. Is there anything you can
suggest, as I don't want to see him suffer. <I would place him
in your quarantine tank for a month or so, until the damage is
completely healed. This way he can heal in peace and be target fed to
maximize growth and repair.> Thank you, Neil