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FAQs on Clown Triggerfish Behavior

Related Articles: A Cruiser and A Bruiser, the Clown Trigger, Balistoides conspicillum, Triggerfishes (Family Balistidae), Red Sea Triggerfishes, Triggers of the Cook Islands

Related FAQs:  The Clown Trigger 1, Clown Triggers 2, Clown Trigger Identification, Clown Trigger Compatibility, Clown Trigger Selection, Clown Trigger Systems, Clown Trigger Feeding, Clown Trigger Disease, Clown Trigger Reproduction, Genus Balistoides Triggers: Balistoides Triggers, Balistoides Triggers 2, Balistoides Identification, Balistoides Behavior, Balistoides Compatibility, Balistoides Selection, Balistoides Systems, Balistoides Feeding, Balistoides Disease, Balistoides Reproduction, Triggerfishes in General: Triggerfishes in General, Identification, Selection, Selection 2, Compatibility, Behavior, Systems, Feeding, Diseases, Triggerfish Health 2, Reproduction,

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Triggerfishes for  Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care

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by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Shy Clown Trigger,    8/8/08 Hello crew, just one quick question for you this afternoon. Three days ago I bought a clown trigger from my LFS and added him to my thirty gallon tank. <Too small.> As soon as he was added he sought refuge in my live rock and has been hiding back there since. His colors are as beautiful as can be and I see him swimming behind the rocks and sometimes poke his head out. Water quality are as follows: Ammonia-0 Nitrite-0 Nitrate-20 Ph-8.0 <Low> I just want to know if they are very shy fish when first introduced or if it's stress. <The new environment is stressful to them, which can lead to a bit of shyness in most fish. However if he is out swimming around it may be that he just prefers that area, as opposed to the front of the tank.> He is the only fish in there so he isn't being picked on. I also know that a thirty gallon tank will be much too small in the long run, I will have a 150 gallon tank in about one year and he will be the only fish in there given his aggressive nature as he matures. <He will outgrown the 30 in less than a year, these fish need space even when small, otherwise of physiological and psychological damage can occur.> My LFS told me he was from the Christmas Islands due to his white spots all over his body, and that these individuals are less aggressive than other clowns. Is this true? <Depends on the individual, but I would count on it being very aggressive.> I know with these intelligent fish that behavior is really dependent on the fish itself so it's difficult to gauge. <Yep, and this intelligence also leads to increased suffering when housed in a small tank, they get bored and destructive.> Sorry my single question turned into two. And thank you for your time. Shea <Welcome> <Chris>

Clown Trigger on bottom of tank, beh.  12/10/07 Dear WWM Crew, <Charlie> I have a clown triggerfish that is laying on his side at the bottom of the tank. He is breathing regularly (not too fast) and every now and then he will raise his trigger or twitch. His eyes look good and his coloration looks ok as well. When I went to feed him I thought he may be sleeping but when I realized something was wrong I tried to move him and he sort of just stayed laying on his side at the bottom. He made very little attempt to move. <Mmm, how long have you had this fish? What other livestock are present?> My wife and I think he may be suffering from dropsy as that is the closest thing I can find to the symptoms he is demonstrating. His abdomen looks somewhat bloated (he is a robust fish to begin with) so I would suspect this to be a swim bladder problem. <Mmmmm... am not so sure...> As a desperate attempt to help I have added Maracyn-2 to the quarantine tank I have him in - (20 gallon plastic trash can only used for salt water making). The main tank has a maroon clown and a Diodon holocanthus in it and they seem fine, although I am going to check the nitrates to see if they are too high and what led to the Clown Fishes current condition. Temperature in the main tank is 76 F and the Salinity is 1.025. <These are fine> I have been feeding the Clown triggerfish Mysis shrimp as of late, although I also feed him silversides every now and then. He eats the mysis at the surface of the tank. Maybe once a month I feed him crabs from the ocean that I catch by the beach. They are about the size of emerald crabs. I had worried maybe these crabs might have disease that they could bring to the tank, but I am not suspecting that here since I haven't fed him crabs in a month or so. If there is anything I can do to help my fish please let me know. Another quick observation is that on two occasions I have noticed small bubbles coming from the triggerfish's anus which I had hoped would help him but thus far no improvement. Thank you very much, Charlie <How large is this fish? It may be being bullied by either/both of its tankmates... the behaviors you list are indicative of behavioral issues, not dropsical... I would return this Balistes to the main tank, measure the nitrate as you state, watch the other fishes interactions. Remember... this trigger is called a clown, not simply for its looks. Bob Fenner>

Clown trigger... beh.   9/10/07 Hi guys my clown trigger is acting odd. First of all he is the first one to go to sleep before i turn the lights out at then in the day when i turn the lights on he is the last one to come out. Why is this? <What they do... not unusual> Also he bumps into objects in the tank he swims real slow and just taps everything like he is mad or something why? <Might have vision issues...> he is fading in color too my water chemistry is good too just a little bit of nitrate everything else is perfect. <Not so sure... need more info. re the system, tankmates, actual water quality test values... Bob Fenner>
Clown Trigger II
Thanks for your advice. <Steven Pro in with the follow up.> I forgot to mention the size of the tank which is a 180. <Just fine> If I've had him a year and he is only an inch and a half, (probably has grown 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch since we got him) realistically how fast will he grow? <This depends on diet and water quality for the most part.> If he's always the smallest in tank (assuming that the others who are bigger than him now continue to grow) <They will eventually reach their adult size. At which point, your Trigger can outgrow them.> won't his aggression be less likely? <Take a look around his favorite hiding spot. You are looking for a tiny diary. If you find it, you will see he is recording all the times the Maroon Clownfish picked on him and remembering to make her pay for it later.> I guess the fact that he is passive right now and seemingly harmless is not a good sign? <Just about everything is passive and harmless as a baby. Wait until your Trigger grows up and makes everyone rue the day they picked on him.> Thanks again! :) <Have a nice day! -Steven Pro> 

Clown Trigger Down in the Dumps I have a clown trigger that is acting somewhat odd and I was wondering if you could give me suggestions.  He has not eaten for a day and a half (and he usually is VERY willing to eat!) and doesn't swim around much.  He just stays lodged under his rock most of the time -- only coming out momentarily.  His color looks good and I have not noticed anything strange on him -- looks totally normal.  I did a water test and everything is perfect.  The other fish show no signs of anything odd.  Got any clues or suggestions?  Is he depressed after the holiday rush maybe???  :) <Likely my favorite species of fish (commissioned a stained glass model years back!). This is about the "most intelligent" species of a smart family of fishes... that does "just seem" to "get the blahs" every now and then (as well as "the children's play hour")... I suspect, given the other input, that there's nothing wrong with yours... it will just as suddenly "wake up" and eat everything in sight. Bob Fenner>

Clown Trigger Down in the Dumps Mr. Fenner, Please help. . . I don't know what to do.  My clown trigger is still acting strangely.  3 days and no eating.  Yesterday he barely came out of his rock all day.  His color still looks good and he is still swimming fine (at least for the very short time he IS swimming and not in his rock).  However, he did come out for very short period of time last night and was being picked on.  First the maroon clown picked on him (normal for her to do this -- but he usually just ignores it. . .she just nudges him) and he quickly retreated to his rock.  Then he was out again and my supermale (about 6 times triggers size) started picking on him pretty bad and he quickly retreated again.  I turned the lights off immediately and of course the wrasse went to bed.  I looked in the tank this morning and could see Trigger in his rock and he was breathing but he wouldn't come out of course. <Yikes... maybe this fish is just being too bullied> What should I do?  Should I leave the lights off for a time period?  Should I put Trigger in a separate container in the tank with a rock or something (the hard part would be trying to catch him or get him out of his rock though). <Yes... either this or move at least the wrasse>   Normally the wrasse never picks on him -- is he sensing that Trigger is sick (even though he doesn't look it) and is deciding to pick on him for that reason?  Please help. . . he's one of my favorites (not to mention expensive) and I just don't know what to do to help him. <Would you feel safe, like eating if something six times your size was in your world, chasing you?> You have mentioned before that Triggers sometimes "get down in the dumps" -- how long does this typically last?  Are their symptoms what I describe?  Please help. . . your suggestions would be much appreciated!!! Thanks!  :) <Do separate these fishes... and try offering your trigger an opened clam or "cocktail" shrimp (sans sauce). Bob Fenner>
Clown Trigger Down in the Dumps
Thanks for your advice.  I will separate them when I go home for lunch today.  How long should they be separated?  Is it safe to re-introduce them in a few days?   <not likely... even if behaviorally "safe", the stress of moving a fish from one water chemistry to another and then back again within days is too dangerous. Personally... I'd wait closer to 2 weeks> Should I re-introduce them with the lights off?   <often helpful... please do> Thanks again for all of your help! :) <best regards, Anthony>
Clown Trigger Down in the Dumps
Thanks for your advice.  I will separate them when I go home for lunch today.  How long should they be separated? <... until the trigger is able to hold up on its own> Is it safe to re-introduce them in a few days?  Should I re-introduce them with the lights off?  Thanks again for all of your help! :) <Likely to take weeks, perhaps months. But you could try in a few days... when you're home so if there is overt aggression you can re-remove the wrasse. Bob Fenner>
Re: Clown Trigger Down in the Dumps
Thanks for your response. . . here's my problem though. . . . my sick tank crashed a week ago and I don't have it up and running again yet.  I would have to put my trigger in a separate container (Tupperware with holes in it) within the larger 160 gallon tank.  Is this ok?  I know it won't give Trigger the space he's used to but will this suffice for the time being?   <Yes, as a matter of fact, an all-plastic colander floating with some air trapped under the edge works great. Bob Fenner>
Re: Clown Trigger Down in the Dumps
Yesterday at lunch I tried to get Trigger in the plastic container (even had an opened clam ready to entice him with) but I couldn't get him out of the rock he was lodged in. <If large enough, one can depress the second hard spine of the dorsal fin/trigger to remove... else wise move the whole rock it's wedged in>   I didn't have time to move everything around and take the rock out so I decided to separate the wrasse until I could get off work.  When I got home however Trigger was floating at the top.  Very very sad. . . <Ohh> he was one of my favorites.  I just don't understand!  When I took him out and looked at him he looked perfectly normal!  No marks, not even fins torn! I really think wrasse just picked on him that one time that I saw.  There was absolutely no evidence of foul play -- even his color looked great.  What could have happened?  What did I do wrong? <Psychologically battered is my strongest inclination... maybe a latent internal problem?> I love triggerfish.  Could you recommend another that I might try?  I have a 160 gallon with a wrasse, maroon clown, Naso tang, and two yellow tangs.  What other trigger (hardy ones of course) would you recommend? <A Rhinecanthus species... of about the same size as your dominant wrasse. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/triggers/rhinecanthus/index.htm> Thanks for all of your help.  Hopefully you can shed some much needed light on this. . . . I just don't know what happened to him.  I've had him for 2 years (with the wrasse!) <What? Mmm, this IS strange...> and he has been the smallest one in the tank but a very confident, hardy fish.  He survived two very bad bouts with ICH and has always swam around like he owns the place.  My tank has always been a peaceful tank even with the constant loads of energy portrayed by the wrasse.  This was just so unexpected. . . thanks for any help! :)    <Maybe the wrasse has become "more alpha" in recent times. Sorry to hear/read of the loss. Bob Fenner>

Clown Trigger behavior Hey Crew, I have a clown trigger (3.5in.) in a 55 gallon that has been running for about 8 months now.  The clown was the first fish I introduced after my damsels.  Until a couple of days ago he would always have tons of personality and race back and fourth from one side of the tank to the other.  About a week ago I added a yellow tang (4 in.) I don't know if there is any correlation, but a couple of days ago the trigger has been acting much different. If it is out, it isn't swimming around. It still eats, and the coloration looks normal, but it just seems like it is lazy or something.  Also, when he is eating, he sometimes rotates onto his side, then flips back over.  If you have any ideas, I would be most gracious to hear your diagnosis.  Thank you  Eric <Good accounting of your system and pertinent points. It may be that your triggerfish is "just bored" (a fifty five gallon system is a very small world for this species... it needs more room), but I do suspect you're correct in correlating the addition of the Yellow Tang with its feeding/behavioral differences. I would not be overly concerned, and suspect that all will "self-correct" in a short while. Do look into and invest in a larger system. Bob Fenner>

Clown Trigger Growth Rate (3/9/04)   I appreciate your help on my last question, however I have another.  I realized in buying the clown trigger that it would eventually out grow my 40 tank, I was originally hoping to upgrade to an 100 gallon tank. However due to recent events this upgrade might not be possible. <Which is why one should always buy on the basis of what one has available now, not what one hopes to have in the unpredictable future.> How long will it take for my clown trigger which is now 3.5-4 inches to outgrow my current tank and around what size will it be when this happens. <It is likely to feel crowded within a year after only growing a few inches. Clown Triggers are mean and get meaner with age. When it gets unhappy, it will start biting your eel and even you.>  Thanks again, -Brad <If you don't think you can upgrade by Christmas, you should consider finding this fish a new, bigger home elsewhere. Steve Allen.>

Clown Trigger & Passer Angel Behaviour Hi Bob, <Hello Matthew> I have bought and read your book and really enjoyed it (great photo of that adult clown trigger being held by a diver!). <I recently met someone (John Phillips of Tideline, LA) who had met and dived with none other than Rodney Jonklaas... a famous diver (RIP) from Ceylon/Sri Lanka... who was my inspiration as a collector and had a very nice pic of him and a Clown Trigger that circulated quite a bit...> I have a 100 gallon fish only tank with two aqua medic Turboflotor 1000multi hang on skimmers, a Eheim 2229 wet/dry biological and a Eheim 2028 for mechanical/carbon filtration.  I have no live rock but use A-Z No3 to keep Nitrates at about 2ppm - ammonia and nitrite are zero. I am proud of how healthy the fish look - their colours seem to glow. <Sounds very nice> My fish display some really interesting behaviour that I thought you might be able to explain. I have 3 fish - a 6" Clown Trigger, a 5" Passer Angelfish (it has yellow pectoral fins - female I think) and a 5" Lunare Wrasse. They have been together for about 6 months. <Going to be a very crowded system with time, growth> The trigger and the angelfish sleep together! There is a small "cave" in the tank and the triggerfish settles down in there when the lights go off at night and the angelfish then follows the trigger in and then seems to defend the cave. The angelfish will do regular patrols of the tank before returning to the cave with the clown trigger. If I get close to the tank the angelfish will charge at me and then return to the cave - it is normally hand tame when the lights are on and will follow me around the room in the tank. I even put a large plant pot in the tank to create another cave and although both fish go in there from time to time during the day they still choose to sleep together in the cave. During the day they do not react to each other and can even bump into each other without any reaction from either fish . I thought you might be interested!   Regards,  Matt - UK <Yes, thank you for sending this observation along. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Clown Trigger & Passer Angel Behaviour Thank you for the quick reply. <Welcome> Please find attached a photo of the clown trigger. Your book is a real inspiration and by applying your recommendations I hope you will agree that this is a very happy/healthy fish. <Yes, appears so! Bob Fenner>
Regards, Matt

A theoretical question about size <Not a Viagra ad!>    3/31/06 Hi, I am wondering if most marine species actually _do_ grow to their full adult size in aquarium. Some sources list captive size of a fish as small as 1/2 of that in the wild. Also, do you think there is some rational to the notion that available aquarium space may limit fishes' growth? I am particularly interested in clown triggerfish. Thanks in advance for your opinion. Taras <Do think the half as natural is a good guess/estimate... including Balistoides spp.... given time, space. Have seen the Clown grown to about a foot from small in captivity. Bob Fenner>

Clown Trigger Hi Bob, The 2 clowns I mentioned earlier at the LFS, someone brought it before I could get my hand on it. Funny thing was sitting there for month and when you kind of interested its gone. <More of so and so's rules, eh? Ah, human "nature", perception> By the way, how big a clown have you come across at your place? Imagine a 18" clown would be like ? I sure would like to keep it. Is it easy to have a pair? Thanks. David. >> <Only if collected as such and placed in a huge system... thousands, tens of thousands of gallons. A foot and a half is about all this species attains... have never seen them together for long in the wild... have seen many disastrous attempts at housing more than one in a system... Real War. Bob Fenner>

Clown trigger Hi Bob, Nice to hear from you again. I did not see any clown at the LFS this shipment felt disappointed. The nitrite level is at 0.3gm/l and dropping and I plan to do a water change once it show zero reading and add carbon ( SeaChem ) for cleaning up earlier medication from Maroxy. I hope everything will be ready before I get the clown. Any advice from you, Bob? <Regarding?> It would be nice to keep something beside the clown, wouldn't it? <Likely> Quite boring without much activity but got a nice picture from the net and hope you like it. By the way, if you come across interesting info about clown pls email to me, ok! Got to go now, Bye2 Take care, ok and God bless. David Teh. >> <Hotay! Keep studying, enjoying those Balistids. Bob Fenner>

My Irascible Trigger Fish Hi Bob. You may remember me. I've been known as 'Garlic Fingers' as well as other pugnacious puns. You recommended garlic for my clown trigger who had a recurring eye problem. Since the garlic, he has had no recurrence of the problem. <I'm with ya> Lately however, I have noticed that sometimes when I have not been in the room or near the tank for a while, the trigger looks pale and ashy. When he sees me by the tank, he quickly returns to his usual vivid coloring. I have had him for about a year, and he has become more aggressive as he has aged.  Is it possible this has anything to do with the changes in his appearance? I am on top of keeping my water quality up, and all things are right on. None of my other fish show any changes in color contrast. Is this a common thing with these clown triggers? <It, the color changes and behavior are all normal... the animal has imprinted on you... and is very happy when you're around... nothing to worry about> Thanks again, Deb with the Irascible Trigger (Fish) >> <Be chatting, Bob Fenner> 

New Trigger I recently started a salt water tank - 90 gallon three weeks ago. After two weeks of cycling with limited live rocks (hard to find in the summer), I bought two Percula clowns. Three days ago, I bought a juvenile clown trigger, a scooter blenny and four hermit crabs. The clown trigger has been very shy for the first two days. He is 3/4" long, the clowns are 1 1/4" long. Yesterday, the clown started swimming. I fed the fish last night and the clown trigger ate like crazy. His tummy was bloated. Right after eating, he hid back in the rocks. Could I have over fed the trigger? Is he sick?  This morning when I went to see him before heading to work, he was still hiding in the rocks, his tail curled in. His tummy does seem bloated anymore, but it was hard to see because he was hiding in the rocks. He didn't seem to want to move.  Should I feed him tonight when I get home? Is he sick? >> The trigger is likely fine... just settling in... and hopefully he will get along for a while with the other animal life you list... though it will someday consume all the others... including the Hermit Crabs... keep offering it food daily... and be patient. Bob Fenner

CLOWN TRIGGER Hi Bob The colours on my clown seems to 'come on and off'. She could look real pale one moment and then the next moment fully flushes with the natural colours. Is this natural? I have been told to check water quality but I doubt that is the reason. Thanks John Wong <Water quality could have something to do with the color changes, but not necessarily... This sort of behavior is natural... and these intelligent animals do need "guidance/stimulation" to be "happy"... but will still engage in what appear to be anomalies (swimming upside down, spitting, moving things about...) Bob Fenner>

Color Change Dear Mr. Fenner, <Bob is out of town, discovering snow in the great Midwest. Anthony Calfo and I are answering the daily questions for him until his triumphant return.> I have a clown trigger 3-4" that I think is changing into his adult form. In the last month or so I have been noticing that his color is fading while his spots are noticeably getting larger. I want to know if their is something wrong with him or does that go with changing to adult hood and also when will he look "Normal" again. <There is a color change from juvenile to adulthood, but I would not describe the transformation as "fading". Take a look at the pictures at this link, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/balistoides.htm> I have a 100 gallon tank with a Red Sea adult emperor angelfish and I get my parameters checked bi-weekly. They are both healthy and eating Life Line herbivore and carnivore food cubes. thank you <You are welcome> Ian Behnk <Steven Pro>

Clown Trigger  Bob, <Hi Jerad, Craig here> I have read all of your Q&A's on clown triggers just to learn more about them. I recently purchased a 4 1/2' clown that a guy has had for a year. The clown is very yellow and has clear fins. Will he always stay real yellow or will he turn more black on his face and body? Also he darkens up a lot whenever he eats, is that normal? I know Fiji's have the best colors buy where do you think mine is from? thanks for everything and also can I get a good link to a site with extensive info. on clowns.  Thanks again, Jerad <I don't know if your fish will color up but you can see that much coloration is related to the fish's moods, surroundings, and food sources. I would give your Trigger a good varied diet, lots of space, and good water quality and he will become whatever he is supposed to naturally look like. You can find all kinds of Trigger info at: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/triggers/ follow all links as well. Enjoy! Craig>

Fish With Slow Growth Hi guys! <Hey!> No big problem. I'm just curious as to why my clown trigger is growing so slowly. He has been in a 180g for two years, and is very healthy and active. He has grown from about 5" to 7" in that time.  <This is a touch slow, but please do not make fun, he may be sensitive.> Fed approx. once per day with a varied diet--sometimes I am away from home and skip a day or two, while other days I'll feed two meals. He eats supermarket squid, scallops, shrimp, crab, plus flake food, silversides, and a variety of frozen cubes. <Sounds good, I would add some more protein frozen PE Mysid shrimp and more krill (Freeze dried and frozen). Occasional live crayfish too for dental care (wearing teeth down).> I added a gorgeous golden meleagris puffer to the tank, and that fish has gone from 7" to 9" in less than six months. Since both fish will reach approx. the same adult size, and are in the same tank, and eat approx. the same amount of food, shouldn't the growth rates be nearly the same too?  <not really>  Is it simply that the trigger is a bit more active and "burns calories"? I want to make sure they -- the two above plus a 28" snowflake moray-- eat enough, but on the other hand I don't want out-of-control nutrients in the tank either. BTW, I will get a larger tank for them as they continue to grow.  <good to hear>  Thank you for your thoughts. Steve. <How long is your tank? A fish in a 100gal six foot long tank will grow faster than in a 100gal four foot long tank. Offer foods higher in protein, make sure water quality is good, and he should start putting on some weight. Best Regards, Gage.>

Triggerfishes for  Marine Aquariums
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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