Skip Navigation
North Carolina Aquariums
Toward a greater understanding of North Carolina's aquatic resources . . .
1-800-832-FISH (3474)
ask.gif (15643 bytes)


What can you tell me about triggerfish? I see them in aquariums and on restaurant menus.

March 17, 2006


As you noted, triggerfish are both a commercial fish and an aquarium specimen fish.

The gray triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) is the species most often used commercially. It can reach a length of one foot and its quality is excellent. It is consumed fresh, baked, broiled, fried, blackened, smoked, or dried and salted.


The colorful queen triggerfish (Balistes vetula) is consumed in some cultures, however, it is without question the most popular of the two triggers for aquarium display.


Triggerfish live in tropical to subtropical waters from Nova Scotia to southeastern Brazil. They are “disk-shaped,” with a small mouth but very well-developed teeth. They feed on invertebrates such as mollusks, crustaceans and other ocean-floor animals.



The queen triggerfish is a favorite aquarium specimen

because of its brilliant blue and yellow coloration.

The queen triggerfish has stunning coloration – vibrant blue stripes and a hot-to-pale yellow body. Gold, dark-centered lines radiate from its independently rotating eyes, and its fins often appear luminous blue, depending on the light. It can reach a length of two feet.


An interesting fact about triggerfishes is the long, sturdy spine located in their first top fin. The long spine is “triggered” by a second small spine behind it. When the fish feels threatened, it darts into a nearby crack or crevice, flips up its trigger and securely anchors itself inside. Once locked in position, there’s no getting it out.


Triggerfish also have an interesting way of feeding on their favorite food – sea urchins. They blow a jet of water onto the urchin to overturn it, then attack its soft underside.