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Triggerfish Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.


This care sheet covers a variety of triggerfish, including:

  • Red-toothed trigger
  • Picasso trigger
  • Bluejaw trigger
  • Clown trigger
  • Pinktail trigger
  • Undulated trigger
  • Bursa trigger
  • Red tail trigger
  • Queen trigger
  • Blueline trigger
  • Assasi trigger
  • Rectangle trigger



Odonus niger, Rhinecanthus aculeatus, Xanthichthys auromarginatus, Balistoides conspicillum, Melichthys vidua, Balistapus undulatus, Rhinecanthus verrucosus, Xanthichthys ringens, Balistes vetula, Pseudobalistes fuscus, Rhinecanthus assasi, Rhinecanthus rectangulus


Found in the tropical and subtropical oceans and seas around the world, triggerfish get their name from their unique triple dorsal spines they use for protection or to lock themselves into a rock crevice. They are colorful and personable, with a large head, powerful jaws and chiseled teeth. Known for nipping at invertebrates and corals, triggerfish are not typically reef-safe. Some triggerfish, like the red-toothed trigger, are more peaceful as juveniles but become more aggressive towards their own species or other triggers as they grow. Most triggers are known for exhibiting high levels of intelligence and their ability to vocalize through a grunting sound. Always research compatibility when choosing to add a trigger to your aquarium.


Typical appearance and behavior

  • Since their natural diet consists of invertebrates, they may nip at things like corals while exploring their habitat and are therefore not considered reef-safe
  • Triggerfish can be highly territorial and are known for their aggression as adults
  • They are colorful and can have unique patterns and markings
  • Recognizable by their oval-shaped bodies and unique posterior dorsal and anal fins
  • Triggerfish may have large heads with small mouths, but they are equipped with powerful jaws and sharp teeth
  • They protect themselves from predators by using their spines, which can be stretched out in defense or used to lock themselves in crevices and cracks in rocks



Care Difficulty Beginner to intermediate, depending on species
Average Life Span Up to 20 years with proper care
Average Adult Size Up to 20+ inches, depending on speciess
Diet Carnivore
Minimum Habitat Size 55+ gallons for juvenile;
125+ gallons for an adult
Water Temperature 74–80°F
Specific Gravity 1.020-1.025



Habitat size

Keep in an appropriately sized aquarium and upgrade the size of your aquarium as your triggerfish grows. A minimum of a 55-gallons is recommended for juvenile triggerfish, and a minimum of 125+ gallons is recommended for adult triggerfish.


Building your habitat

  • Water health - Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health. Slow to moderate water circulation, based on species, should be provided to mimic water currents found in the triggerfish's natural habitat. Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to the health of aquatic life. If you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing. The addition of a protein skimmer can aid with maintaining great water quality and high dissolved oxygen levels. An aquatic heater should be used to stabilize water temperature, ensuring it does not fluctuate more than +/-2 degrees in a 24-hour period. The specific gravity should remain stable. Do not allow specific gravity to fluctuate more than +/-0.001 in a 24-hour period
  • Décor – Provide rock and décor for hiding places and plenty of room for movement



A well-balanced triggerfish diet consists of:

  • A variety of flakes, pellets, freeze-dried, frozen and live foods
  • Also provide hard-shelled shrimp and shellfish to help keep their teeth trimmed


Things to remember when feeding your triggerfish:

  • Feed small amounts 2 to 3 times daily, no more than fish will eat in 1 to 2 minutes
  • Thaw frozen food before feeding


Triggerfish care

Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your triggerfish healthy

  • Daily: Check filter, water temperature and other equipment
  • Weekly: Test water quality at least once a week
  • Weekly to monthly: Change 10–25% of the total volume of water every two to four weeks, or as needed; change filter media monthly

Avoid overcrowded conditions; this is a major cause of stress and disease


Where to buy triggerfish

Various triggerfish are available for purchase at Petco online and in store; availability varies by location. If visiting your local Petco Pet Care Center location, please call ahead to check availability.


Triggerfish supplies


Tank mates

  • Puffers
  • Groupers
  • Large angelfish
  • Large wrasses
  • Large tangs
  • Squirrelfish



Signs of a healthy triggerfish

  • Clear eyes
  • Healthy appetite
  • Bright, even coloring
  • Fins completely intact and undamaged
  • Free of parasites or disease



Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian)

  • Loss of color or appetite
  • Spots or fungus on body or mouth
  • Erratic swimming
  • Labored breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Cloudy eyes or pop-eye
  • Bloating
  • Frayed fins
  • Listlessness


Common health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueFin rot Symptoms or CausesFrayed or disintegrating fins; the base of the fins usually reddens. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueBacterial infections Symptoms or CausesCloudy eyes, open sores and/or reddening of the skin. Suggested ActionImprove water quality; add freshwater salt and use a commercial antibacterial remedy as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueMarine Ich or marine velvet Symptoms or CausesCysts on fins, gills and skin; labored breathing; excess skin mucus or pale skin. Suggested ActionQuarantine fish immediately and use a commercial parasite remedy as directed; complete a water change; freshwater dips can help dislodge the parasites; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.
Health IssueViral infection (lymphocystis) Symptoms or CausesWhite nodule growths on fins or body Suggested ActionImprove water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment.



  • What do triggerfish eat? Triggerfish are carnivores, eating a variety of flakes, pellets, freeze-dried, frozen and live foods. They should also be offered hard-shelled shrimp and shellfish to help keep their teeth trimmed.
  • Is a triggerfish an omnivore? Triggerfish are primarily carnivorous, but some species may consume plant matter during feeding.
  • How big is a triggerfish? Some triggerfish can reach an adult size of 20+ inches.
  • Where can you buy triggerfish? Various triggerfish are available for purchase at Petco online and in store; availability varies by location. If visiting your local Petco location, please call ahead to check availability.


Additional care sheets


Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center partner about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All 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 and/or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of diseases.

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

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at for more information about aquatic life and disease.


The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.