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includes filefish species

Members of the Balistidae family, filefish are closely related to triggerfish. They have rough scales and tiny mouths. The first of their two dorsal fins is a spine that can be locked in place. Recommended for more experienced marine aquarists.


Filefish Facts

average adult size: 3 1/2 to 12 inches long, depending on species
average life span: depends on species
diet: omnivore
minimum aquarium size: 29-50+ gallons, depending on species
water temperature: 72-78°F
salinity level: 1.020-1.025


A well-balanced Filefish diet consists:

  • Food may be flaked, pellet, frozen or live.
  • Vary diet to ensure proper nutritional balance.


Things to remember when feeding your Filefish:

  • Best to feed small amounts 3 times a day, no more than fish will eat in 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Thaw frozen food before feeding.


  • Keep in an appropriately sized aquarium; provide plants, rock and décor for hiding places and plenty of room for movement.
  • Live rock can provide a natural food source while also enhancing biological filtration.
  • Stable water quality and parameters are critical to the health of aquatic life. If you are unsure of your water quality, Petco provides free water testing.

Normal Behavior

  • Usually solitary, but sometimes found in pairs or small groups; shy and generally peaceful.
  • Inhabit all levels of the aquarium.
  • Do best in quiet, non-aggressive environments.

Habitat Maintenance

Daily: check filter, water temperature, specific gravity and other equipment.

Weekly: check water quality at least once a week.

Monthly: change 10 to 25% of the total volume of water every 2 to 4 weeks, or as needed. Introduce new inhabitants to the aquarium gradually.


  • Compatible with dwarf angelfish, anthias, basslets, batfish, blennies, boxfish, butterflies, cardinals, clownfish, goatfish, gobies, hawkfish, hogfish, parrotfish, puffers and tangs. Can be compatible with large angelfish, damsels, lionfish, pseudochromis and wrasses.
  • May not be compatible with invertebrates; may eat shrimp, crabs and coral polyps.


Signs of a Healthy Fish

  • Clear eyes
  • Healthy appetite
  • Active swimming
  • Fins completely intact and undamaged

Avoid overcrowded conditions, which are a major cause of stress and disease. Maintain good water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration.

Red Flags

  • loss of color
  • spots or fungus on body or mouth
  • listlessness
  • labored breathing
  • cloudy eyes
  • weight loss
  • erratic swimming

Common Health Issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueFin rot Symptoms or Causes Frayed or disintegrating fins; the base of the fins usually reddens. Suggested Action Improve water quality; consult your aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueMarine Ich Symptoms or Causes Cysts on fins, gills, and skin; labored breathing, excess skin mucus or pale skin. Suggested Action Treat entire aquarium with a commercial parasite remedy and improve water quality; freshwater dips can dislodge the parasites.


Ask a store partner about Petco's selection of books on filefish and the variety of Petco Brand products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All Petco Brand products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as Atypical Mycobacterium and Salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to and for more information about aquatic life and disease.

This care sheet can cover the needs of other species.

Note:The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please refer to the sources on the following page or contact your veterinarian as appropriate.

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.