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FAQs about Box-, Cowfishes Identification

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Something fishy, TWA Ostraciid test ID    10/6/11
Hi Robert et al,
I am a scientific illustrator, and I also have a tendency to "collect" things where ever I go. Recently while on vacation in SW Florida, I happened upon an interesting find while beach combing.
I know this is a cowfish.... but is there any way to determine what kind of cowfish it is? The illustrator in me is planning a piece of artwork, and I want to use this as a natural science sort of project... showing a drawing of the cowfish, and when you roll over the image, showing this amazing skeleton.... but it will only be really accurate if I can ID it. All the stuff I've found online describes the scales and colors and fins.... which doesn't do me much good when all I've got is bone!
Figured maybe you guys would know better than I....
I did find this site:
but I'm not sure if this is the only species of cowfish that would be endemic to this locale. This skeleton is about 4 inches long.
<There are five indigenous possibilities... my bet is on Lactophrys (now Acanthostracion) polygonius (Poey 1876)... as this is more common, and the horns on the test appear similar>
Any help you can offer would be appreciated!
Thank you!
Wendy Amaral
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

So, what kind of Boxfish is this?   6/22/10
While this is a fish ID question that is due to scuba diving and not reef/marine aquarium keeping, I was pretty sure that Mr. Fenner could answer it.
<I am sure he can.>
I have read the article he wrote entitled: The Puffers called Box - Cowfishes, family Ostraciidae. I have consulted
Debelius' "Red Sea Reef Guide" and Lieske & Myers' "Coral Reef Guide: Red Sea". I am unsatisfied with guessing, so I was hoping that Bob - or someone else there at Wet Web - could ID this puffer/boxfish for me. I took these photos while diving in early May near Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt in the Red Sea. Thanks in advance for any help, Jeanne
<One might think it could be a blue boxfish (O. cyanurus) from the Red sea, but they have a differently colored back. This is a color variety of O. cubicus (Yellow boxfish). This variety from the Red sea once was seen a
separate species (O. argus), but now is defined "only" as a regional variety. Nice pictures indeed! When adult it will look like this
http://www.fishbase.org/Photos/PicturesSummary.php?StartRow=5&ID=6555&what=species&TotRec=27. Cheers, Marco.> 

Re: So, what kind of Boxfish is this?   6/22/10
Hum, really?
So what is the difference between the yellow and the already bluish one - age or gender?
<The age certainly plays a big role with O. cubicus coloration: Generally they start with black rings with white center as larvae, then they get the well known black spots on a yellow background later. As subadults they get
black rings again with white center, which later again develop into black spots surrounding lighter areas. But here it's also genetics. Once the Red Sea population ("O. argus" named for the Argus-eye like spots) comparable
to Red Sea populations of many other species formed due to isolation (the adults have the rings as well as the spots as in the picture I linked you to). Now there are also the standard O. cubicus wandering into the Red Sea
from the Indian Ocean, so you can find both.>
Thanks for the compliment on the photos. You are welcome to use them if they are helpful anywhere. Jeanne
<Thanks! Marco.>

Lactoria diaphana 5/5/09
<Hi there>
This is James Miller in Japan. I netted a round-belly cowfish yesterday and noticed your site did not have a photo of one. If you need one for your boxfish page, I can take one as your site has helped me out many times in the past. So much so that I purchased the CMA last month.
<Please do send this along when you can for posting, sharing... with credit to you. Bob Fenner>

Re: Lactoria diaphana 5/5/09
Mr. Fenner,
<Just Bob please James>
Here are some snapshots I took a couple of minutes ago. The fish won't sit still, but there may be one shot you can use. If not, I can try tomorrow as my camera's battery needs charging.
I have it in a QT with two volitans, a crown of thorns (harlequin shrimp food) and a pinecone fish that I netted yesterday.
<Hope they all are getting along! Thank you, BobF>

Anoplocapros ID hello there, <Cheers> today I bought a boxfish from TMC here in the UK which they described as a southern boxfish (robustus) its about the size of a fingernail and allover yellow. just wondering if any of you knowledgeable souls could take a guess as to whether it is a robustus or ????. <Mmm, well, according to fishbase.org there are four valid species... We have these listed but pix of only A. lenticularis: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfishes.htm. There are some pictures (including robustus) in Axelrod, Hunziker and Burgess "Atlas of Aquarium Fishes" (marine). Bob Fenner> regards and thanks   Graham  Hannan

Please help me id Is this Acanthostracion quadricornis ? <Mmm, looks more like a juvenile Lactoria cornuta to me, but a Boxfish, family Ostraciidae for sure> Could this cute little guy kill everyone else if I put him in my aquarium? <If overly agitated, or died without notice and dissolved... if the system was small, under filtered... maybe> Thanks for any help, you can use the photo if you want. Eric
<Bob Fenner>
Complaint   2/7/06    Mike, As an animal and fish lover I think to take a fish out of water to photograph it is cruel at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfshidfaqs.htm Can the picture be removed please. Regards, Adam. Adam,    I will forward your complaint to someone who can help.    Mike Kaechele <Do agree with your sentiment... but, is not my/our photo... and is illustrative. Will post your note after. Bob Fenner>                                                                                                             Where is there dignity unless there is honesty?    Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)

Thornback cowfish <Aloha! Ananda here tonight...> I just caught what I believe is a Thornback Cowfish (Lactoria fornasini). <Yep, that definitely a thorn on his back....> I caught it on the west coast of O'ahu. Next to the picture of it on your website you said this is the best member of the genus for aquariums. Does this mean he wont poison his tankmates? Or eat the invertebrates? <The other species usually seen (scribbled and longhorn cowfish) grow to three times the length of this little guy. This one reportedly adapts to tank life more easily and is more tolerant of other fish in its tank. One source says that either this species is less likely to exude its toxins, or the toxins may be weaker than those of other species. But it will definitely eat your inverts.> I want to keep this cute little guy but am afraid... what would you advise ?? <I would suggest you keep him in his own tank, perhaps with a couple of mild tankmates like ocellaris or percula clownfish.> Thanks very much Aloha, Eric <You're quite welcome. --Ananda> by the way, your website is great. you guys have helped me with so much. if you want to use the picture, go for it.

Hovercraft Fish I'm looking for information about my hovercraft fish. <Never heard of a fish called that.  Is it a pufferfish?  I need to know what kind.  See if your fish looks like any of these & get back to me: http://home.earthlink.net/~snebluemoon/Picture%20Gallery.html> Please could you send me any information you have as I can't find any. Thank you. <Pufferpunk>

Re: Hovercraft Fish I couldn't find my fish on the link you sent me. <That's because that link if for FW & BW puffers.  Your fish is SW.  WWM has loads of info on them if you search for it.  See: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfishes.htm> This is the Hovercraft fish I have. I found this picture but I can't find any information. It may be called a Hovercraft Boxfish, the stockist had it listed as just "Hovercraft Fish" <I actually have a tattoo of your fish!> Again, thank you for your time, I'd appreciate further help. <You're welcome & good luck w/your very cool fish--PP>

Boxfish ID Hi guys-  There is boxfish at LFS I have never seen before. Last night I spent an hour searching every site and index I could find, can't find it. It is a basic yellow boxfish but the spots look like three seed peanuts, two black ovals on the outside and one bright white inside. Hard to explain but very dramatic looking. Any links to this fish would be appreciated, I want to know the species, max size and any info on keeping in captivity. TIA <Sounds like an intermediate/developmental stage of an Ostracion cubicus to me. Please see here on Fishbase: http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.cfm?ID=6555&genusname=Ostracion&speciesname=cubicus Click on the one image at top right... and look on the next page shown toward the bottom right. Bob Fenner>

Aging yellow boxfish question (1/5/04) Hi Bob, <Hi! Ananda here tonight....> I've just purchased your Conscientious Marine Aquarist book and am looking into getting a yellow boxfish. <A difficult fish to start with if you're a beginner....> I noticed the image of the adult being much different than that of the juvenile I've visited in the store. Do the adults always fade in color and age as these drastic pictures indicate? <I believe the amount of fading varies somewhat from fish to fish.> After how many years of life does this usually occur? Any information or resources would be much appreciated... especially pictures. <Your best bet is to ask the folks on the "Cowfish, Puffers, & More" Yahoo group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CowfishPuffers_andMore/ They have a number of people with cowfish.>   Thanks so much, Gina <You're quite welcome. --Ananda>

Cowfish Size Questions Hi thanks for the quick reply about the cow fish I was wondering how big it would grow as they have a really small one (about 1 inch) in the LFS but also a larger one (4 inches) just wanna know if it will grow huge or not. thanks a lot Andy <Some cowfish species get quite large. Most of the ones available for aquarium use and their size data we have posted here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfishes.htm Bob Fenner>

Cowfish/Boxfish Let me first say, this is the most impressive website I have ever seen.  <Very kind of you.>  I have learned so much from reading, unfortunately, I managed to kill most of my fish before finding your site. Thankfully, I am learning. My question, I saw some cowfish at my LFS, some were green and some orange. I thought they were really cute. I was reading up on them, on your website of course, and I keep seeing the terms boxfish and cowfish.  <Take a look here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfishes.htm. Boxfish and cowfish are both in the same family.>  I'm not really sure of the difference in the two. Do both basically release the toxins that will kill the fish in my tank if under stress?  <They both have the same toxins.>  I've had enough deaths over the past year and finally have a happy community. My tank is a 55G, with a firefish, flame angel, royal Gramma, and a Singapore angel.  <The biggest problem you are going to have is that the fish are going to outgrow your 55 tank. You would be best perhaps in passing on both of them.> Cowfish of a different color, not Oz Hi, I recently bought a whitish/yellow boxfish with black spots on it and I have noticed that it is starting to turn dark gray. Should I be worried? Thanks, Derek >>  This is probably an Ostracion cubicus, and they do grow into a gray phase. Take a look at a large marine fish reference work, and you'll understand if what you're looking at is "natural". Bob Fenner

Ostracion cubicus Hey Bob I just inherited a couple of fish with a used tank I purchased. One is a cute, tiny little boxfish. I think he might be a Ostracion cubicus but am not sure. He does not quite match the photos of Ostracion cubicus on the Net or in your book- (the Conscientious Marine Aquarist) however he is yellow with little black spots and is about the size of a single dice (ya' know, the thing you shoot craps with). The major difference between my fish and the photos of Ostracion Cubicus I've found is: my little guy has an almost invisible, nonexistent tail. If you peer super close you can see a tiny, clear fin moving madly back and forth. In the photos of Ostracion Cubicus they all seem to have a noticeable tail the same yellow/black spotted color as the body.  My question is: could this just be a very young Ostracion Cubicus that has yet to grow a bigger tail or is there another boxfish species that is also yellow with black spots? The guy I bought the aquarium and fish from called it a Boston bean which I believe is a somewhat generic name for baby boxfish and puffer species.  Thanks, Randy >> Hmm, could be a juvenile Ostracion cubicus... of possibly Lactophrys bicaudalis (the "official" "Boston Bean"), caught out of the Atlantic... Take a look at any fish reference work detailing the Caribbean... Is this your fish? When small they're orange to yellow with smaller dark dots than the "Cubicus, aka Yellow Boxfish"... Bob Fenner

Cowfish I am very new to the salt water wonderland. My very first purchase has been a cowfish. It is only a baby, he looks just like the one on your web site. My questions is: I bought another cowfish but this one is so different looking than my first one. The second one is almost white with some purple and the horns are much longer and a lot more sharper looking (very pointy) They seem to be getting along fine after 24hours. Also my first cowfish has such a great personality. Everyone who comes to my home just loves him. Do you know where I can find out more about the cowfish and the different species?  >> Hmm, well these are probably both the species, Lactoria cornuta... though there are other Cowfishes that look similar. Perhaps the best way to learn about these animals is to use your computer search engines (like Ask.com) and put in questions like "What do Puffers eat?". Boxfishes are puffers that have hard outer bodies... and don't "puff up"... And follow wherever the search engines lead you. There are no "all puffer" books that include much husbandry information as far as I know. Bob Fenner

Boxfish questions Bob, I have had a blue boxfish for about 6 months. He's healthy, I think. When I received him he had the normal blue sides brown top and some yellow on head, eyes and tail. The yellow has completely disappeared. Wondering if he's changing to a female, or could there be a nutritional problem.  <Much more likely the latter> He doesn't get much greens, mainly protein. There's a solorensis in with him , not sure the gender. <They're easily sexable... http://www.fishbase.org/Photos/ThumbnailsSummary.cfm?ID=6577> I wouldn't think it would matter. Anything I can change to keep his color or get it back? <Better nutrition, water quality> Also, how do you distinguish between a female cyanurus and a cubicus. Do they have similar markings?  <See fishbase.org> Have not seen too many pics on the net of the cyanurus. Thanks
<Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

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