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FAQs about Rhinecanthus Triggerfishes Behavior

Related FAQs: Rhinecanthus Triggers 1, Rhinecanthus Triggers 2, Rhinecanthus Trigger ID, Rhinecanthus Trigger Compatibility, Rhinecanthus Trigger Selection, Rhinecanthus Trigger Systems, Rhinecanthus Trigger Feeding, Rhinecanthus Trigger Disease, Rhinecanthus Trigger Reproduction, Triggerfishes in General, Triggerfish: Identification, Selection, Selection 2, Compatibility, Behavior, Systems, Feeding, Diseases, Triggerfish Health 2Reproduction,

Related Articles: Triggerfish, Rhinecanthus Species, Red Sea Triggerfishes

Triggerfishes for  Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care

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by Robert (Bob) Fenner

triggerfish behavior. Rhinecanthus; no data     3/23/14
good morning ! I purchased a Huma trigger yesterday and all seemed fine .
today I am noticing sluggishness and the animal is rolling complete 360 degrees sideways . what can be wrong ?
<.... water quality, nutritional deficiency or something it shouldn't have ingested, genetic anomaly... some principal guesses. Read here:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> 

Question Re Change In Picasso Trigger Behavior (old age I think) -- 10/18/10
I have a marine tank that has two fish in it: a Yellow Tang and a Picasso Trigger. (I know, I know -- they're supposedly not good tankmates, but it's not my fault -- I inherited this tank and besides, they've gotten along fine for almost a decade.)
<<Actually'¦ As long as these two species aren't shoehorned in to a too-small-environment, 'I' would consider them to be suitable tankmates>>
Tank is 90 gallons, has a wet-dry filter and about 75 pounds of live rock. I've had the tank for more than 5 years,
<<Ah! So these two being together 'is' your fault [grin]>>
and before that it belonged to a family member who had it for about 4 years. My question regards the triggerfish, which has always been quite active and a wildly enthusiastic feeder.
But for the past two days, it's been spending a lot of time lying on the bottom in a cave in the live rock.
It does come out and swim around periodically, pecking at the live rock, but doesn't seem all that enthusiastic about eating. It doesn't come out when I feed, but I see it scavenging a bit afterward, so I don't think it's totally off its chow. And when it's swimming around it looks fine -- color's good, eyes are clear, it doesn't have spots, it's not flashing, its fins aren't clamped or frayed. It just seems ... tired.
<<I suspect this is the case--as in 'old' and tired>>
The tang, on the other hand, is as bouncy and active as ever. I just ran some water tests and as far as I can tell everything's fine -- Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate barely registering (5 is the lowest on my test kit, and it's under that). Salinity 1.022, pH is 8.4. I feed these fish Saltwater multi-pack cubes and pellet food; occasionally silversides because the Picasso loves them (but none recently) and I do 25 percent water changes every couple of weeks. I did a regularly scheduled 25-percent change last night, thinking it might help, but haven't noticed any difference in the trigger's behavior. I don't know how old this fish is, but I'm guessing it's pretty close to 10.
<<From what you have stated, yes--maybe more>>
Any thoughts?
<<It could be a parasitic (internal) manifestation, and if so--nothing really to do once the fish stops feeding. But I think it more likely this fish is just nearing the end of its life-span. 9 years is a good long time for this fish (and testament to you and your other family member's good care over the years 'and a general lack of overcrowding of this tank). Either way there's nothing much for you to do here I think but to continue as you have been, and watch and wait>>
<<Happy to share'¦ EricR>>
Re: Question Re Change in Picasso Trigger Behavior (old age I think) -- 10/19/10

Thanks, Eric.
<<Quite welcome Laura--sorry it wasn't better news>>
I'm feeling very sad about this.
<<I do understand>>
It's a beautiful fish with a great personality.
<<Indeed'¦ These fish (triggers) can become quite the 'pets'>>
And it's been kind of an abrupt change.
<<As has been my experience with fishes which seem to pass of 'old age' (such fishes in the wild are no doubt quickly made a meal of and thus are not seen to linger on)>>
Last night, after I emailed you, I found it lying on its side on the sand between some live rock and the glass, although when it saw me, it quickly backed up and swam into its cave. If the problem's something other than old age, though, I can't figure out what it is. The fish hasn't lost any weight, which I'd think that it would if it had a case of parasites advanced enough to cause a change like this, and there's nothing about its appearance that suggests any kind of disease.
<<Hmm'¦ It's a possibility this fish is simply bored (does happen with intelligent species such as this), though I would have thought if so, such behavior would have manifest before now. You could try rearranging the tank's rockwork/decor; or better yet, get/move the fish to a bigger tank altogether, to see if there is any change/improvement in behavior>>
If anything else occurs to you, please let me know -- I'm feeling really bad about this.
<<The loss of appetite bothers me. Brief hunger strikes are not unknown (especially if the fish is 'unhappy'), but considering the age of this fish, I'm still inclined to believe as we've already discussed>>
Thanks again,
<<I do hope the Trigger rebounds and proves me wrong, my friend. Please keep me apprised of its' condition/any changes, if you so desire. Cheers'¦ Eric Russell>>
R2: Question Re Change in Picasso Trigger Behavior (old age I think) -- 10/20/10

I'm out of town at the moment, but my husband said the trigger was swimming around tonight, begging for food. My fingers are crossed!
<<Mine too! EricR>>
Re Change in Picasso Trigger Behavior (old age I think) -- 11/01/10

Hi Eric -
<<Hey Laura!>>
I thought you might like an update on my Picasso trigger.
<<Yes indeed, thank you>>
It still spends a fair amount of the day sitting on the bottom in a cave in the live rock, but comes out and swims around a lot more than it did when I posted my original question a couple of weeks ago.
<<I see>>
It's also eating normally -- not really begging for food the way it used to, but when food appears, the trigger comes right out of its cave to eat.
<<Glad to hear'¦>>
So I'm thinking that age probably is the right diagnosis -- it's the only one that makes sense.
<<Time will tell -- you're doing all you can do here>>
Thanks again,
<<Welcome, as always'¦ Eric Russell>>
R4: Question Re Change in Picasso Trigger Behavior (old age I think) -- 01/29/11

Hi Eric -
<<Hey Laura>>
Just thought I'd let you know that my Picasso trigger died yesterday.
<<Very sorry to hear 'though not unexpected>>
Since I wrote the first time several months ago, its behavior had been more or less consistent; it would hang in its cave a fair amount but come out to eat pretty much every day. And there were definitely days when it was out and about for extended periods although sometimes I'd catch it resting on top of live rock in a part of the tank where it didn't usually hang out, almost as if it were too tired to keep swimming.
<<Possibly so>>
It was swimming around and eating on Thursday, and my husband saw it alive in its cave yesterday afternoon. But when he went to feed last night, it was dead on the sand. I still don't have a better explanation than age or some chronic disease process since it didn't have a mark on it, the water parameters have been consistently fine and the only other fish in the tank, a yellow tang, has never shown any sign of a problem.
<<I would be in agreement>>
The poor tang, though, does keep circling the cave where the trigger used to hang out; I realize the dangers of anthropomorphizing, but it's hard to not come to the conclusion that it misses its buddy;
<<Oh! It likely does'¦ Or at the very least, is/was comfortable (habituation) to it being around>>
the two were together their entire lives, and used to follow each other around the tank like puppies. Anyway, just thought you'd be interested.
<<Thank you for the update my friend'¦ EricR>>

Stuck Huma- 10/25/09
Hey Crew, (whoever i get lol)Became a proud owner of a Huma Huma Trigger last night. Acclimated him for about a hour. every thing was cool, he swam around for a bit then we turned the light off...woke up in the morning and he has wedged him self into our rock work. it took me a hour to find him. i resisted the urge and didn't touch him! i moved the rock a bit and he seemed to work himself in deeper. there is a way out of the rock but im pretty sure its too small for him to get out and im not sure if these little guys have reverse. he's only about a inch and was labeled a rectangular trigger Thanks Tyler
<Hello Tyler. I remember this species, Rhinecanthus rectangulus, fondly from my university days. A very robust, reasonably tolerant species (by trigger standards, anyway). Anyway, it is in the nature of triggers to
"lock" themselves into crevices when alarmed. That's what their trigger-like dorsal fin spines are for. So, I'd not worry overmuch. He'll probably be out and about by tomorrow. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Stuck Huma- 10/25/09

Hi Again, Well he's out!!! but... now i cant find him. in another rock maybe...? don't mind him in rocks but how do i feed him if he's in a rock!
thanks Tyler
<Glad there was a happy ending. Anyway, the thing with Triggerfish is that when they're hungry, they'll make their presence known. These are NOT shy fish, and are comparable to things like Oscars and Pufferfish in their willingness to beg for food. So, for now, just let him get used to his environment. If there are any other fish in the tank, make sure they aren't bullies (you can't keep two triggers in one tank, for example). Once he's settled, offer small amounts of suitable invertebrates: krill, mysis, unshelled shrimp, shucked clams, squid, etc. depending on the size of your triggerfish. Hand-feeding is certainly doable, but given the teeth on these fish, impale the food on the end of a stick, e.g., a toothpick or stay stick. Cheers, Neale.>

Do Huma Triggers Jump? 01/29/09 Hey guys! <Hello.> Quick question, in your experiences, are Picasso triggers prone to jumping out of tanks? I'm curious, because I have an open topped tank. <No, not unless hunted by predators. Moonlights also help to prevent fish from jumping at night, as will covering the tank at night with a frame and mosquito net (instead of a lid to keep the temperature in summer). For this species also have a look here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/triggers/rhinecanthus/index.htm and on the linked FAQs.> Thanks! <Welcome. Marco.>

Behavior question - Picasso Trigger   8/23/08 Crew, <Tim> I am considering purchasing a particular Picasso trigger at my LFS. I have owned in the past and have come across this one which appears to be a healthy specimen at first glance. I would like your input on what I've noticed with this fish to be sure if he is suitable at this point. I have him on hold at the store until he is eating better. When I first saw him, he wouldn't touch any food. A few days later he began to eat some frozen food, but not any shrimp they gave him. He seems to be rather timid and shies away from the glass when you approach. He will eat more regularly if no one is near his tank. <A normal progression, expression> The strange thing is this fish looks VERY healthy. Normally the Picassos I see come in are rather thin in the belly and face, but not this one. He has a well rounded belly and looks great, and that was what got my interest in the first place. But his acting timid and barely eating have me concerned. This fish looks to be clearly healthy, being plump with great color. He is about 4"-5" in length. I have him on hold still to see if he becomes a little more outgoing and feeding better. My real question is: even if he is eating well, should I still be concerned about his shyness and timid response? <Mmm, a bit, though, as intimated, Rhinecanthus et al. triggers often behave in this manner when first collected from the wild, particularly in these "tween" sizes... smaller and larger ones tend to be more bold> Is the behavior perhaps indicative of a health problem? Or just merely his "personality"? <Most likely the latter> Thanks always, Tim <I would accept, move this fish into a more social setting, in your system. Bob Fenner>

Mouth problems on Checkerboard wrasse   8/23/08 Can anyone tell me what would be causing this? I hope the pictures are good. <Mmm, good enough. Appears to be a physical trauma> For history, I quarantined this fish for 3 weeks. I slowly saw this developing but figured it was untreatable, more of a water quality issue maybe from being in QT. Also, he only had about a 2.5" deep Tupperware dish filled with sand to dive into, I thought maybe he was hurting his face. <Mmm, maybe... something has... could have been resultant from when it was wild collected or being held from the reef to you somewhere along the line> Anyway, I moved him into the main tank and it seems to slowly be looking worse. You can actually see his teeth where his lip has recessed. This hasn't stopped him from eating at all, he is quite the little carnivore. I'm just worried it could be some type of flesh rotting bacteria or something, although there are no other marks on his body except his face, leading me to believe it's just blunt force physical trauma. <Me too> The only other thing I can think of is I always feed frozen food. I grind up shrimp/scallop/tuna along with some Formula 2 and then also Spectrum pellets. I freeze this all in a Ziploc bag and then feed to my tank. He strikes at the chunks of food I put in while they are still frozen, I just wonder if the hardness of the frozen food is slowly wearing his mouth back? <This could be a factor as well... I would defrost all first... outside the system> I find it hard to believe but it could be the cause? Thanks for any advice you guys/gals have, you're great. <I do hope this fish recovers in your care... I might try "lacing" the food with a vitamin/supplement, like Selcon. Do your best to optimize water quality, and likely this fish will self-heal. Bob Fenner>

Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus color change) Bob, I wrote yesterday regarding my Passer Angel and received your response today. Thank you for replying so quickly. Frankly, I wasn't expecting any kind of response. Unfortunately, your diligence has prompted me to write again, this time regarding my Triggerfish, which I am hopelessly fascinated by, to pose a question to you. I have researched a great deal of literature, both printed and on the internet regarding the species, Rhinecanthus aculeatus and have been unable to find mention of the "manifestation" I am about to describe. When I consulting my seller, he had no idea what I was talking about. I have enclosed to small video captures of what appears to be coloration changes between the eyes of this particular specimen. I watched on several occasions as this transformation took place before my very eyes before getting the event on camera. My initial thought was that it was simply some bizarre optical illusion, having to do with the placement of the scaling in conjunction with the light. However, I have observed these color band changes in different lighting, in various locations within the tank. I am wondering if you can shed some . . . light . . . on this observation. There appear to be seven distinct bands of coloration between the eyes (which I will call his forehead for simplicity). At various times he appears to cycle or change the coloration of these bands between black and tan, the color of the majority of his body, to black and blue . . . but reversed. By that I meant that the bands of color that were black and tan, the black lines change to blue and the tan to black. I do not know if this an actual color change or if my eyes and video camera deceive me, or, if it is genuine, what might the origin of such an unusual, and highly specific region of coloration change? Any thoughts? <If your eyes are deceiving you, then we are in good company. The triggers of the genus Rhinecanthus do indeed change these markings apparently at will, or with mood... suspect this is a function of the same sorts of chromatophores, iridophores that produce coloration in most fishes. Bob Fenner> James Witmer

Fish Pacing Hi,  My Picasso trigger is swimming up and down the tank erratically (not sick) Is there any explanation to this behavior?  <yep... often a sudden change in lighting (new bulbs or old ones cleaned of a lot of debris or bulbs blown out then suddenly replaced)... more commonly it is caused by a change in indirect room lighting that causes a mirror effect on the glass of the aquarium (fish sees it's reflection and paces)... and less commonly a sudden downgrade in water flow (powerhead or water pump fails and is not replaced. This is more often seen in imported fishes that come from dynamic parts of a reef and are put into aquaria with typically weak water movement (common with Achilles and powder blue tangs...Naso's too... an increase in current often stops the pacing> This trigger used to be a dominant fish in the 90 g tank for 6 months (until Sohal outgrew Picasso). Is Picasso scared and should be moved?  <has nothing to do with species interaction IMO. It is a dynamic of their physical environment. Do consider recent cleaning/maintenance (or lack thereof) of powerheads recently too> Thank you. <best regards, Anthony>

Picasso Trigger/Stars & Stripes Puffer Hello to whomever may be working tonight! <<It's JasonC today, greetings.>> Here's a little story, with some questions at the end. I brought home a Stars & Stripes puffer tonight (3 inches), and acclimated him into my tank that currently contains Gordon (my 1.5-inch Picasso Trigger) and a random blue damsel I can't catch to get rid of. I was worried that Gordon would pick on him even though he's never bothered the damsel. The puffer settles himself in, and within a few minutes he's sticking his mouth into rock crevices and darting forward (trying to munch on something in there, I'm sure). Now here's the strange part: Gordon eyes him warily for about 15 minutes, then slowly swims up to him. Then, to my horror, he bites the puffer! But I soon realize it's not a hard bite, as the puffer doesn't even move. It's more like little nibbles, almost like what kissing gouramis do to the glass when they're alone ;-) And it gets stranger. Gordon shadows the puffer around, and the next time the puffer does the munchin' in the rocks bit, Gordon's right alongside him, doing the same thing. He's never showed any interest in the rocks before, except to occasionally rearrange them. So what's going on? <<My take on this is - and you should know that both these fish are pretty smart as fish go - is that the trigger realizes the puffer might reveal something tasty with its digging, and so the puffer is just standing by to see if this is the case. From time to time, something appears and it takes a taste.>> It's this a weird case of inter-species puppy love? <<I don't think so.>> Or was Gordon just getting a taste to decide if the puffer is edible? <<Less possible than the other explanation - again, because these fish are smart, the trigger probably knows already that puffers aren't good eating.>> Thanks in advance! Jodie <<Cheers, J -- >>

Let the fun begin: Humu Triggers Hi Robert. <Anthony Calfo in your service> I just thought you'd get a kick out of these photos. I purchased a Picasso today, and from the moment I took it out of the bag, it has had me laughing. I've sent two photos - one ( trig-n-bowl ) was taken when I put the thing in a big glass bowl and did a drip of aquarium water for acclimation. The fish was just killing me; laying on its side, watching every move I made. The second picture, which is distorted, is of the thing begging for food tonight. Jeez - it has only been here 3 hours and it has already gone through a short lock-in-rocks-using-trigger-fin-and-hide stage to relentlessly demanding food. Thanks for the suggestion on the Humu. I've already gotten my money's worth. <ahh... great fish and indeed such interesting and personable characters. Quite hardy too... thank you for sharing, my friend> Best, Edward. <be chatting soon... A>

- Picasso Trigger's Eyes - Hello <And hello to you, JasonC here.> I just bought a Picasso and I noticed that at it's eyes' have a bluish tint at some angles and at others it has a greenish tint. However if it is facing me it's eyes are black. Is this normal <Yes.> Thank you for your time. <Cheers, J -- >

Scratching Picasso! Dear WWM Crew- My Picasso trigger constantly scratches in the sand and rocks he has no visible signs of disease or ick I've done 3 fresh water dips nothing works he's scratched him self up with wounds now please help! <Ack! Doesn't sound fun! It's Ryan helping today.  Triggers do this, to an extent.  This doesn't quite sound normal.  Unfortunately, without more info I can be of little service.  What size tank is this?  Have you made any changes in your water chemistry that may have caused this?  Is he a mature trigger with a history of this behavior?  There is much to be considered.   Please quarantine him if possible-in a glass bottom tank with little to no rock, ho won't be able to rip himself up too badly.  Just don't forget that with a fish like this in QT, daily water changes are mandatory.  Search the WWM FAQs- there is a ton about scratching triggers.  If you're still amiss, write us back with the details.  Hope this helps! Ryan>

Picasso Running Scared? (9/6/04) Hi, <Hello. Steve Allen here.> I would like to ask your crew a question regarding my Picasso trigger. He or she has been a hardy specimen for some time now. I recently added two puffers to his tank which already had a clown. He (the Picasso) quickly asserted himself as alpha male within minutes. They have been getting along <or putting up with one another> now for some time (a couple of weeks maybe).  I have always fed him from my hand and he has always been a good eater. <Haven't been bitten yet, eh? Can happen & hurts.> The two puffers have also been eating from my hand also, especially the porcupine. This last Saturday, I got up to feed them, a little later than normal, and found the Picasso hiding in the coral he normally sleeps in and the dog face puffer had changed color. They both have not responded to my feeding. The porcupine is still eating well but I can't get the Picasso out of his hiding place. He now has started coming out very slowly and does not eat well. He will NOT eat from my hand anymore.  He also stays in his hiding place all day long. He has hardly eaten anything.  The dog face is starting to eat again from my hand and is starting to be himself again. Except today the dog face blew himself up for no apparent reason. I am concerned about this behavior from my Picasso, this is not how he used to act. I am planning on buying a new tank next week for all the other fish except the Picasso. <A big one, I hope. These puffers will grow to over 10" and will need plenty of room.> I read that these triggers can be a little aggressive as they age. <Not as bad as Clowns, but all Triggers get more aggressive as they grow/age.>  Will this behavior end soon and what do you suppose happened. <Hard to say, but it sounds as if they may have had a nasty tussle.> I have a 60 gal. tank and all chemistry is excellent. The new tank I am buying will be 120 gal. <Good>  Any help would be greatly appreciated. <How big/old the Trigger? You may need to house it in quarantine while getting the Puffers into your new tank. Keep an eye out for any symptoms suggesting infectious our toxic ailments as well. It does seem to me that the solution here is separation.> Thanks, Mike Jamison <You're welcome. Good luck.>

Fading trigger Hey guys, is it normal for a three inch humu humu trigger to fade to real light in color.  He's been in the tank for three days now and I have a 65g.   Sometimes he's real vivid and dark, other times he's real lite and dull, sometimes *change is drastic in short period of time. Thanks <Isn't abnormal at all... Balistids do rapidly change color in response to mood, environmental conditions. Bob Fenner>

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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