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FAQs about Boxfishes 1

Related Articles: Boxfishes, Puffers in General, Puffer Care and Information, Pufferfish Dentistry By Kelly Jedlicki and Anthony Calfo, True Puffers, Freshwater Puffers, Burrfishes/Porcupinefishes, Tobies/Sharpnose Puffers, Puffer Care and Information by John (Magnus) Champlin, Things That My Puffers Have Told Me by Justin Petrey,

Related FAQs: Boxfishes 2, Boxfish Identification, Boxfish Behavior, Boxfish Compatibility, Boxfish Selection, Boxfish Systems, Boxfish Feeding, Boxfish Disease, Boxfish Reproduction, Puffers in General, Puffer Identification, Puffer Behavior, Puffer Compatibility, Puffer Selection, Puffer Systems, Puffer Feeding, Puffer Disease, Puffer Dentistry, Puffer Reproduction, True Puffers, Freshwater Puffers, Burrfishes/Porcupinefishes, Tobies/Sharpnose PuffersMarine Environmental Disease 1,

A rare and expensive male Ostracion cyanurus in the Red Sea.

ICK HELP!!!!!!! Boxfish Hi Bob, Anthony, Steve and co. Help, I think my new boxfish has brought ick with it. <this group of fishes is very prone to it... especially from shipping and drops in temperature> I cant give you a scientific name for it as I haven't yet researched it, but it is yellow with black spots <Ostracion cubicus... they can grow to 50 cm as adults...some reports place them bigger!!! A truly inappropriate fish for most every aquarium but still ever so beautiful and fascinating. Alas, they are toxic fleshed as well and are a great danger to all other fishes in the display including themselves. Any treatments including medication may be a sufficient stress to induce release of the toxin> on the top and sides fairly symmetrical, and now it also has small white spots that look like tour descriptions of ick, salt grain size but not protruding. The fish is in a tank with a dot dash blenny and he seems fine, there is only a few white spots but I don't want to let it get any further before I do something. The tank its in is only 20G and like I said only has one room mate, this is only a temp tank until I move to a new house and the fish move to a bigger tank. He is about 1 1/2" at most and otherwise seems healthy, eating etc. I have read your FAQ about Boxfish but can't get into the part of your site that deals with disease because I only have the U.K. equivalent of MSNTV so it is a bit restrictive! <unfortunate my friend, but no matter... we are here to help if we can!> I have got some turbo snails and a hermit crab in the tank and what with the fish being so sensitive I don't want to treat the whole water!  <agreed> I know I should perhaps lower the water and maybe give him some freshwater dips but I'm that new (4 months) that I don't want to do anything that may do more harm than good. <neither please... may elicit the toxic response and kill all> I have bought some anti white spot remedy from the LFS (Interpet no.6) that is marine compatible but in the leaflet it doesn't mention anything about putting it in the food just treating the whole tank. Please HELP.  I'm in a terrible panic, I did do all my research before buying this fish and I don't want to be irresponsible but don't know what to do. <your boxfish is scaleless... topical remedies may overdose it and ingested remedies likely will not help the external parasite. Such fishes really must be held in a quarantine tank for 4 weeks ideally> O.K. I suppose that I had better tell you something of the setup: 20G with just the two fish, Ammonia: 0 Nitrite: 0 Nitrate: Trace (barely pink) PH: 8.2 S.G.: 1.0225 <Oh, my heavens... this is truly an inappropriate situation. The invertebrates and other fish with the boxfish are food for it as an adult and the cubicus cannot fairly even be kept in a tank this small for even 6 months without fear of stunting and killing it prematurely. This animal needs an aquarium in the 200 gallon range in the 2 year picture if it is to have any chance of seeing adulthood. You were ill-advised on this purchase, my friend> Everything is going well apart from this. And like I said I would go through your sight more thoroughly if I could, as what I can get to is BRILLIANT. <thank you kindly> Please please help, I don't want to loose this fish it is so beautiful and precious.  I owe it the best care I can. <Shaun... my strong advice is to put the fish in a larger aquarium and use a natural non-fish cleaner like an eel cleaner shrimp. Medication is likely not an option although Formalin could be used on the fish in isolation if it becomes a last ditch effort. Best regards> Shaun Monkman.

Ostracion cubicus Hi ~ Last week I purchased an Ostracion cubicus boxfish from my local pet store. At first it seemed very pale compared to pictures of other boxfish I have seen and appeared a creamy, pale yellow instead of the usual bright yellow. I think this was just a product of stresses from shipping, moving, etc. <Quite likely and also a reaction to possible treatments along the way; copper, formalin, etc.> It also seemed as though it hadn't eaten in a while. After a few days in my tank (a 55 gallon fish-only tank which it shares with a yellow tang and a tomato clown), I got it to start eating bloodworms, which it now relishes. I also feed the tank flake food, Mysis, Sushi Nori, and some frozen commercial preparations. The boxfish now eats nicely and it's index of fitness has/is improved/improving. Also, I can now see splotches of brighter yellow coloring coming through. Hopefully, his color will continue to improve until completely healthy and settled in. However, I have also noticed random dottings of white spots on the fish. I performed a water change yesterday and the other fish are fine with no white spots. The boxfish still eats well and acts as if nothing is wrong. Do you think that this is just a product of the aforementioned stress? <Not sure. Do make yourself aware of what Marine Ich/Cryptocaryon looks like, just in case. Best description is pieces of salt stuck to the body, but seeing a picture is better.> Should I try to utilize any kind of treatment <Not until a definitive diagnosis is made.> (I know boxfish are scaleless, sensitive to copper-based meds) or just wait it out? Thanks for the great site and any help/advice you can give me, Dillon <Do make use of the vast about of information on WWM, beginning here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/parasiti.htm -Steven Pro>

Cowfish Troubles I wonder if you could help me with a problem with my juvenile cowfish. I have had him in a 50 gallon tank for 3 months with a clown and a coral beauty. I recently introduced a small regal tang and he seemed to fit in very well, but then he nipped about one-third off the dorsal fin of the cowfish. The cow now only sits on the bottom, or sometimes on it's side, although when the coral beauty nudges him he will take off and swim in a normal manner, but this doesn't last long and he just goes down to the bottom again. He won't eat and I am very worried whether he will survive. The fin damage is the only damage I can see. The tang hasn't been near him since, it just seemed to be a one-off attack. Is there anything you can suggest, as I don't want to see him suffer. <I would place him in your quarantine tank for a month or so, until the damage is completely healed. This way he can heal in peace and be target fed to maximize growth and repair.> Thank you, Neil <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Cubicus boxfish with Ich Hi ~ My question is in regard to my cubicus boxfish which has contracted ich (small, while dots) over his body. It is in a 55 gallon fish only tank with a yellow tang and tomato clown.  <still... if it survives, the tank is incredibly small for how big this fish gets as an adult. Not to mention the toxin this fish exudes under stress that can kill it and all other fishes in the tank> The other two fish look fine. I sent more information regarding this boxfish (and the status it was in when I got it) on an earlier date in an e-mail question which was answered by Steven Pro (in case a reference for more information not included here is needed). I know that cleaner wrasses harass the scaleless/slow swimming boxfish, but I was wondering if a cleaner shrimp would be of any help/be compatible with the boxfish at all?  <either only treat symptoms and are unlikely to effect a cure alone. Either can even stress the fishes more by the frequent attention of service> Would a freshwater dip (like the type described on the WWM website) be safe for a boxfish?  <yes but supervised very carefully for fear of boxfish exuding toxin> I have raised the temperature in the tank to about 82 degrees and plan on lowering the specific gravity a little today. <helpful> Any tips on what I should do with this boxfish in terms of treatment would be greatly appreciated. <the greatest chance for survival for this fish is in a bare bottomed quarantine tank hands down. Freshwater dips, medicated foods, and/or small daily water changes form the bottom to fight the parasites in a QT tank would be best by far> Thank you, Dillon <best regards, Anthony>

Boxfishes, and a new SW aquarium... Mr. Fenner... <Hello> I'm a beginner at this but I believe that I have read just about anything there is to know about caring for a boxfish... I am thinking about putting up a new SW aquarium... I'm a little short on cash for now, so I am going to purchase no where larger than a 30-50g tank... to go with the new set-up... I am thinking about purchasing a boxfish (preferably "Ostracion cubicus" or yellow boxfish)... any suggestions you can make on how I should set-up the tank... live sand or live rocks... <Live rock... which will inoculate the substrate, make it live as well> I know that I should not include reef for it would get picked on by the boxfish... any suggestions on what types of fishes or inverts that are compatible with the boxfish....  <All sorts... please read through WetWebMedia.com re Ostraciids, invertebrates...> I know that the tank is not big enough to accommodate the size of the adult boxfish, but I know that a juvenile will suit it fine... therefore I will purchase a much larger tank to accommodate the fishes' growth... will a porky puffer go well with the boxfish... I know that they wouldn't, but because of my love for both.. are there any suggestions you can make to make it work.... sorry for all the questions... any response will be great... <In a large enough system, these fishes can be kept together... good filtration, skimming is called for... and regular maintenance to maintain good water quality... with such high metabolism, meaty eaters. Bob Fenner> gratefully... Sokha

Long-horned cowfish with black splotches Bob: <Anthony Calfo in your service> Purchased a juvenile (2" or so) cowfish from the LFS the other day. <WOW... few people have an aquarium to responsibly house this animal in a few years as an adult. Many push 2 feet in length in less than 5 years> Once I finished acclimating it in the quarantine tank, I noticed some black-ish splotches on its body and a bit around its mouth.  <asymmetrical, not raised grains/dots but rather a pigmented "splotches"? If so... doesn't sound pathogenic. Rather mechanical damage (recovery from a recent parasite infection, those wounds now showing necrosis/"bruising"> The splotches are much larger than, say, so-called "black ick," they don't protrude out from the body, and there's no particular pattern to them. They're mostly on the side of his body, with one on top, then the one around the mouth area. Still something like 95% of his body just looks like that of a juvenile cow-fish; he's bright yellow with those blue spots. I'm not absolutely certain that these black splotches are new, but I thoroughly doubt that I would have failed to notice them at the LFS. Definitely wouldn't have purchased the little guy if I'd seen what I'm seeing now. Any chance that the splotches are part of a juvenile fish's color-changing patterns, <not at all> or is it more likely a disease?  <still may not be... lets observe in QT for stabilization or improvement of this symptom before thinking meds with this sensitive fish (scaleless)> If it's a disease, then what type of disease is it, and how should I go about treating it in the quarantine tank? <going to be tough... no organic dyes or copper. FW dips and formalin (carefully) may be some of the only options> Thanks mucho, Joe <best regards, Anthony>

Re: Long-horned cowfish with black splotches Bob/Anthony: On closer examination, the splotches do indeed seem to be symmetrical (i.e., the same on either side of the body along the length-wise axis). The fish itself is doing better now and has started eating. Still, what do you think these splotches might be? <Stress markings, coloration... the fish is not "happy"... water chemistry, tankmates, food-wise... but will likely become so with time, your good care. Bob Fenner> Joe

Scribbled Box With Ich I have a scribbled boxfish in a 40 gal tank with ich. He's had it for about 3 weeks. For the duration of that time I've had the salinity lowered to 1.016-1.017, temp raised to 84 deg. The ich has not gotten any worse. In the mornings he has quite a few spots then its gone by evening, everyday. Is the ich falling off due to the lowered salinity, is it going thru its life cycle that quickly due to the elevated temp, or is the Boxfishes slime coat sloughing (is this a word) it off as the day progresses? <Most likely just its natural life-cycle.> Just trying to avoid meds. Nothing else in the tank but a few pieces of live rock, and a cleaner shrimp (slacker). All other specs are fine. Can the shrimp handle the lowered salinity for any duration? <Yes, but do not go any lower.> Thanks for any feedback. <You are welcome.> Any of you going to make it to DFW this Sept. for MACNA? -Darren <Very likely we will all be going. I think Anthony, Bob, and I are all committed to being there and more of the crew may come too. -Steven Pro>

Boxfish with a Boo-boo <<JasonC here, filling in for Bob.>> Hello everyone this is my first post here hopefully it will help. I have a reef tank 55 Gallons with a variety of fish and inverts. I have just added a boxfish, which was fine at the store, and now he has a patch of white opaque slime? Sloughing skin, about the size of a thumbnail on his back. Does anyone have any ideas what this may be? <<even though these fish look like they're made from plate-steel, they actually have very sensitive skin. Most likely a scrape or something similar.>> He eats like crazy and he is always active, in all other aspects he seems healthy. <<I've always thought this was a good sign, although these fish and their cousins are fanatic eaters. Sure all is well.>> He has made friends with the Clownfish and they can be seen swimming side by side all day. I need help on this one. <<be patient, wait it out. Do keep an eye out as your new boxfish becomes more familiar with its surroundings, you may find it nipping at your inverts. Cheers, J -- >>

Anaplocapros lenticularis-White Barred Box Fish Searched your web site but could find anything in detail about this fish other than general comments about the boxfish family. The local fish store has one at about four inches and I was trying to do some research. I have a 250 gallon tank up and doing well for over a year now. Per Burgess this is a peaceful fish and recommend for a community tank. The tank is fairly well stocked but not overly so at present and is comprised of angels, butterflies and tangs. Some 60 inches of fish now and about 80 inches if all are full grown. The dilemma is the tank contains some rarities including a Conspicuous Angel, a thriving Regal and a juvenile blue stripe as well as some more common fish. All get along well although the purple tang will occasionally chase new comers for a few hours then ignore them. Question: Is this boxfish fit for this community tank? The purple is about 3 inches is he/she likely to ignore the 4 inch box fish? He has ignored angels larger than him. Burgess shows this fish at 15 cm max. About 6 inches by my calculation. Your site shows 13 inches. Big difference. Any ideas on max size? Sorry multiple questions. <Boxfish are only to be kept in species specific displays. They have toxic flesh and can exude toxins into the water when stressed and kill every breathing fish in the display including themselves within mere hours. Beyond that, they are not adept swimmers and cannot compete with active community fish like angels and tangs. Even if they could, they are notoriously challenging feeders. The problem is not that they will not eat in captivity so much as they do not survive easily on what is offered (many dieing of a dietary deficiency. I could go on for quite some time about why the fish should not be bought or imported for impulse purchases (a specialists fish). Fortunately, my friend... this is not an impulse for you as you had the very good sense and intuition to ask before you bought an unfamiliar fish. I wish more folks did too! Kindly, Anthony Calfo> Thanks as always Randy-Las Vegas

Cowfish spots Bob, Andy, Steve, et al :-) <my name is Anthony... you can only call me Andy as long as I don't have to wear that Little Bo Peep outfit again> My cowfish has a few spots on his fins (like three), developed a few days ago, small speckles really on the dorsal fin, tail . <very common with this family of fishes...really should always be quarantined for a full four weeks before putting in any display> Today, there are some very light spots on the top of his head and a few on her body, not very distinct at all (you have to look hard to see them), but you can see the light spots on her head (3 of them about the size of 1/4 of an eraser head) if you look for it. Not sure what it is.  <at that size you can rule out parasites...nothing bigger than identical sized grains of salt in most cases> I've read in all your parasitic, bacteria FAQs, and it talks about them, but not really a treatment recommendation. <because the fish is scaleless (overdoses easily) and also is quite toxic (skin exudes toxin) and can kill everything else and itself in the tank if you try natural methods (temperature, freshwater dips)> I've been recommended by others to use StopParasite and have been told its safe with the live rock in the tank, just remove the carbon. Is this parasitic, marine ich ?, and would you go about this method of treatment (SP, garlic, Selcon. . . ) <a close-up picture would be nice, but I can tell you that your chances are that it is not a parasite and is most likely bacterial in nature> Also read that the spots may come and go automatically, <whoever told you that was silly or just stupid...heehee> but the subtle body spots trouble me. <yes, my friend...agreed. Treat as follows: remove fish to a bare bottomed quarantine tank. Heed pH in this system without a buffering substrate. Aim for tiny daily water changes from tank bottom for 8-14 days to maintain more sanitary conditions. Fed medicated foods if it will eat dry (Tetra bacterial and parasite for safety from secondaries)... and mix with normal frozen fare if necessary. Consider adding a normal daily "reef dose" of iodine to improve Redox. Look for stabilization or improvement in 3-5 days or change gears> Conditions are as follows: Temp : 77F PH 8.3 NH3/4 : 0 NO2 : < 0.1 (Salifert shows a very light pink, but its always that way) Nitrates : < 10 Salinity 1.23 (30ppm) Just did a 20% water change with prepared salt water from a few days ago and fed her Mysis soaked with Selcon, holding off on the StopParasite until I hear from you guys. <excellent on both counts> Thanks, Ed <May the Force be with You... and I don't mean that feeling you get after eating Mexican fast food. Anthony Calfo>

Re: cowfish spots Hey Anthony, sorry about that name thing :-). <heehee...no worries at all, it's one of the nicer names I've been called this week <G>> I'm going to see if the spots on the body become a bit more pronounced in a few days. There are definitely a few speckles in the dorsal and anal fins, I'm just going to confirm that there are definitely spots on his body before undertaking introducing more stress. <agreed> I'm aware that cowfish can release toxins and any of these drastic measures can cause her to do that. <excellent> For all intents and purposes, she is in a quarantine tank. There is a damsel in there and live rock. I prefer not to medicate if possible, but if it won't go away on its own, I'll have no other choice.  <keep in mind that the live rock, like sand/substrate, is a great impediment to medications. The carbonate material is like a sponge... reducing efficacy and contaminating the calcareous media> I dropped a cleaner shrimp in there, and the cow made a beeline to the shrimp - I thought she was going to eat it, but she just was curious, and stayed around the shrimp even while the shrimp was scared and trying to acclimate. Then finally the shrimp came out a bit and felt her with its tentacles and then jumped on and started cleaning. She just stayed there and wouldn't leave until she was cleaned. Hoping that will help some, but we'll see. <likely...quite stimulating and a much better choice than a cleaner wrasse> If I have to get into a hospital-tank and feed medicated foods, is there anything that can be soaked into frozen food ? <sure, most meds...depending on the drug needed for the symptom> She only eats Mysis  <very good whole prey item, but of course not a long term staple standing alone> (and will eat brine, but I try and hold back on feeding brine) <thank you!> right now and won't eat flake foods. <typical unfortunately> She is acting normal and eating normally though. As an aside, is it normal for cows to lose a bit of their color at night and recover that during the day ?  <very common for many fish...some have a deliberate pattern called a "fright" or "night" pattern> I thought I read somewhere that they do, but don't remember. Thanks Ed <best of luck to you and moo-moo, Anthony>

Re: cowfish spots follow-up II Anthony, Not a problem. So we do believe its some sort of pathogen. . . <indeed> Would you use Aquazole or your earlier recommendation of Furazone/Nitrofurazone ? Not sure what course I should take.  <two different treatments...both compatible and recommended> Also, I presume you want to remove the water from the bottom even if you don't believe its ich ?  <exactly... a very good habit in general> Water quality is quite high in this QT, since its LR based with a monster filter, rather than a bare bottom.  <although, regarding pathogens, nothing is as good as bare bottom tanks for minimizing nefarious populations of bad bugs> However, if its not ich, it'll save me from doing water changes /every/ day - or is that schedule still recommended ? <no...agreed. If you can correctly ID it as non-ich...then daily WCs are not critical> Supposedly this species tops out at 6-8", rather than the normal 12. < referenced the species in several ichthyological references (I could tell the species from the picture) and the range is actually 7-12". They are surely on record larger just the same. But even 6-8 inches is a hefty critter> Either way, I'm working on trying to heal it. I rarely have fish problems as its almost always controlled first before entry into a main tank. I can move this into a 125 gallon if you think that it might be a space issue. . . . Do you think that will help ?  <sounds like a much nicer tank in the long run with smaller tankmates> There is a lion fish in there, and a very small trigger that won't bother the cow (the trigger was in with her in the QT tank before). Not generally a good course of action to put a sick fish into a larger community tank, but if that will improve the situation, I'll try it. <indeed... the lion if is a Volitans will be getting big enough...not a good future home> It's also dependent if it'll infect the other fish. It sounds like you believe this is bacterial rather than parasitic ?? <moving a stressed fish is really dangerous... it is best to put it into a proper quarantine tank the first time and do your best from there. My advice is to treat it where it currently resides> Thanks Ed <regards, Anthony>

Re: cowfish spots follow-up III Anthony, et al - also, if I administer Aquazole, is it safe with LR, or should this be done with all LR removed ?  <if the main and only ingredient is Metronidazole...it is commonly believed to be reef safe. > Also, Aquazole directions are one measure every two gallons. Is this better administered as a food additive or as a medication into the water of the q-tank ?  <always best in food rather than water> If its for the entire tank, I may need like 5 of these tubes for the 40 gallon tank. . .. <not necessary> Ed <Anthony>

Cowfish spots follow up Anthony, et al. Ok, you asked for some close up pictures. This was about as good as I could do. What a real pain trying to get exposure settings to capture a moving target. . . <indeed> Anyhow, the spots on the body have gotten a bit larger but faded. Not just a pin prick. I see a few on the body, but not much. She does have a small water bubble on one side (about 2 mm), right above the small gill. No idea what that is. Don't know if its filled with air or water. Nothing seems to be bothering her as she is eating and swimming around ok. Does the picture help in narrowing down a treatment plan ?  <alas... no. Although the spots on the tail look too large to be ick. Quite frankly, this is just one of these fish commonly plagued by captivity in smaller aquaria. Some folks lick out with a tolerant individual...but this most often is the life that the aquarist and captive are forced to live in the confines of such tanks> This is a q-tank that I have her in, so I can remove all the rock in there. Just don't want to increase the stress anymore as she is quite large (50 gal) and moving her to a 20gal might be too cramped. <indeed... by most scientific references...this species reaches a foot in length...so even a six foot long tank is cramped by the time the creature is an adult at 2-3 years captive (assuming it does not stunt and die first)> Current food is Mysis, soaked in Selcon and two drops of Kent Garlic. UV filter post skimmer from sump. two cleaner shrimp in tank. <sounds good...hopefully it will eat other meaty foods for variety> If this is ich of some sort, I can remove the small healthy fish (have a small damsel, two shrimp and a very small bursa), and start the daily water changes from the bottom, and administer other meds. I have Aquazole coming in today, that I'll start if its the right stuff.  <I do believe that it will be therapeutic> I can do copper after removing rock, but generally that proves too stressful for cowfish if I remember correctly. <absolutely.. please never get copper near this fish. A hard to treat "scaleless fish"> Thanks, Ed <alas, Ed... I'm not sure what more can be said. We just have to make the best of the situation. The QT with the water changes, medicated feed and good water quality are the first course until you can get a positive ID on the pathogen. Do consider a good marine fish disease book to help with this and future diagnosis. Handbook of Fish diseases is a great Book that I often recommend by Dieter Untergasser. Anthony> Re: cowfish spots III Hey Anthony, yeah it sounds like it to me as well. Although I usually don't see it in the fins. <gills and fins are the first/most common because they are the easiest for the parasite to "suck blood" so to speak...but your fish is scaleless... much easier for the parasite in this case> It's in a 44 gallon right now that I'm sort of using as a Q-tank before I put them in the 200. 44 is a bit large to administer meds and do other things. However, I'm worried of putting him in a smaller tank. <agreed> He's about 6-7 long, 4" from top to bottom (has a bottom carapace) and 2" thick. Not sure if the stress level would be even larger in a smaller tank as he already looks small in the 44 gallon. . . Any thoughts ? <I totally agree... the 44 is small enough> He was fine for about week, but then developed these about 4-5 days ago. I think it may be from stress after the trip, but also from some rock adjustment about a week ago (I adjusted some rock actually to give him more space in the tank). <temperature changes are most influential> He's not getting any worse right now, so I'm trying some natural stuff first. <very fine> I dropped two cleaner shrimp in there that she's always hovering around (the shrimp actually are a bit afraid and I've only seen them jump on once). Is there anyway to co-erce cleaner shrimp to work more (feed less, etc) ? <paint a bulls-eye on the cowfish<G>> It looks like they are constantly scanning with their feelers, but I don't see them jumping on and actually cleaning (except once). <the cowfish does have toxic flesh... maybe the parasites taste funny to the cleaners...heehee. Like green peppers in the refrigerator> Should I reduce the amount of food for a day or so, and see if they get hungrier ? <alas, should make no difference> I've also put a UV in line right after my mech and skimmer (before the return) to kill any floating parasites that may reduce the spread if anything. . . Now just to see if there is some way to cure the ich. <good> I presume you mean Aquazole from SeaChem which contains Metronidazole ? I'll acquire a bottle by Monday and try it in the food. How are their other products Cupramine and Paraguard ? <overall a good line of products> Thanks Ed <best regards, Anthony>

Re: cowfish spots III Hey Anthony, yeah it sounds like it to me as well. Although I usually don't see it in the fins.  <gills and fins are the first/most common because they are the easiest for the parasite to "suck blood" so to speak...but your fish is scaleless... much easier for the parasite in this case> It's in a 44 gallon right now that I'm sort of using as a Q-tank before I put them in the 200. 44 is a bit large to administer meds and do other things. However, I'm worried of putting him in a smaller tank. <agreed> He's about 6-7 long, 4" from top to bottom (has a bottom carapace) and 2" thick. Not sure if the stress level would be even larger in a smaller tank as he already looks small in the 44 gallon. . . Any thoughts ? <I totally agree... the 44 is small enough> He was fine for about week, but then developed these about 4-5 days ago. I think it may be from stress after the trip, but also from some rock adjustment about a week ago (I adjusted some rock actually to give him more space in the tank). <temperature changes are most influential> He's not getting any worse right now, so I'm trying some natural stuff first.  <very fine> I dropped two cleaner shrimp in there that she's always hovering around (the shrimp actually are a bit afraid and I've only seen them jump on once). Is there anyway to coerce cleaner shrimp to work more (feed less, etc) ?  <paint a bulls-eye on the cowfish<G>> It looks like they are constantly scanning with their feelers, but I don't see them jumping on and actually cleaning (except once).  <the cowfish does have toxic flesh... maybe the parasites taste funny to the cleaners...heehee. Like green peppers in the refrigerator> Should I reduce the amount of food for a day or so, and see if they get hungrier ? <alas, should make no difference> I've also put a UV in line right after my mech and skimmer (before the return) to kill any floating parasites that may reduce the spread if anything. . . Now just to see if there is some way to cure the ich. <good> I presume you mean Aquazole from SeaChem which contains Metronidazole ? I'll acquire a bottle by Monday and try it in the food. How are their other products Cupramine and Paraguard ? <overall a good line of products> Thanks Ed <best regards, Anthony>

Re: cowfish spots Anthony, another day or so, and the faint white spots are just that - faint white spots. They haven't gotten worse.  <a good sign> a few speckles on each fin are still there, but she's still acting normal. Should I just continue to leave it like it is for a few days and see if it gets better/worse ? I imagine that is the most prudent course of action right now.  <agreed...continue good and stable water quality, just medicated feed if possible (especially if recovery seems slow)> But if it is some sort of bacterial infection, it should have manifested itself a bit more, correct ?  <likely, but not always> Only difference is that there is a cleaner shrimp in there which the cow seems to constantly be in line for. . . <nature taking its beautiful course> Thanks Ed <kindly, Anthony>

Re: cowfish spots II Anthony, actually just noticed there are some spots on the cowfish on one side (4 spots). The spots are pin head size, but definitely white spots ? Still white salt like spots on the fins though. ich? parasite? <now that sounds like common marine Ich (Cryptocaryon)> Should I take out the carbon and initiate stop parasite ?  <best treated in a quarantine tank and avoid meds in water with the sensitive cowfish. Meds in food OK (try Metronidazole from SeaChem in food as per instructions). Keep in bare-bottomed quarantine tank...do a daily water change. A daily siphoning of the bottom of the tank (extracting larval tomites) each day for 8 consecutive days can theoretically break the life cycle of marine "Ich" without meds on otherwise healthy fish (not starved, etc)> The spots are not eraser sized but just pin pricks. <likely the primary stressor that incited the secondary parasite... broad spectrum antibiotics like Furazone/Nitrofurazone are likely safe in the QT tank water for treatment (it only stays in effective solution for about six hours, although yellow color remains)> Ed <best of luck to you, Anthony>

Cowfish dipping, Dangerous Liaisons Anthony/Bob, thanks for the responses. <Hola! my friend. Anthony> I've had a cowfish in the past (along while back) that co-existed with a grouper and an eel before.  <Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes as they say...still not a safe/responsible mix my friend. These are living creatures...treat your charges respectfully> eel wasting fed, and never went for the food when the other fish were feeding. Obviously different fish, different set of circumstances, and the results that I got in the past. <agreed> Was just trying to recreate that for the current environs. . . With this tank, the grouper is quite small (< 4") and smaller than the cowfish. It is an omnivore (Cephalopholis polleni), <Aieeeee! You are killing me <smile>. Polleni groupers max out at 16-18"!! And they are rather rare and expensive... it will truly be a shame to see him choke to death or die of neurotoxin> and is categorized as semi-aggressive (as compared to just about all the other groupers at aggressive) and co-exists well with just about anything. <assuming he has read the same books as you have and agrees that he will not be the exception...hehehe> I'll definitely heed your advice for the cowfish on the dipping and be careful of introducing any tankmates. <yes, thank you> Unfortunately I'm a bit limited in the number of tanks, so I'll just have to choose his few mates carefully. Ed <very good, and best of luck to you. Anthony>

Dangerous Liaisons was Re: Cowfish dipping Cowfish Anthony, ciao again.  <Ciao, bello... in your service> I find lots of nuts quite often - mostly on the golf course though, after the squirrel has gotten through with it. . . I guess they are hand me downs. :-). <heehee...> I have him right now out of my eel/grouper tank, and in a smaller tank with a tiny damsel and a small bursa trigger. Another bad neighbor, but this trigger is quite small < 3" <agreed...not so bad, given to choose> and gets the hell out of the cow's way - sort of like after you've tipped the cow on your cow tipping soiree. . . (funny comment you had on the cow tipping, which I failed to acknowledge the first time :-). <Ha! Subtlety is what I call it when things aren't funny <smile>> I think what makes him ok, is that he's quite large. I thought he was about 4", but he's more like 6", and 4" from top to bottom, and 2 1/2" thick. He's quite a beast in this 50 gallon that I'm watching him in. There isn't anything that is going to get near him and think he's food since he's too big to swallow even for a 12-16" grouper. He's just too big top to bottom and too big around. I think after a few days, I have to get him out of the 50 gallon and put him into the 215 just for his own comfort as he's ok, but a bit cramped in a 50gallon (call it a q-tank for all intents and purposes). <yes...agreed on all counts> I do have a very large tank that I'm in the process of building (900+ gals) <beauty!!!> which will make it even more spacious for all these carnivorous/omnivorous fish I have. . . . Hopefully the cow won't ever do one of his toxin releases, but if he does, there is about 4000 gal/hr going through it that'll hopefully dilute and remove it. . <do use small relative) frequent changes of chemical media and always have a barrel of new seawater on hand that in good times lies in wait for the next water change and in bad times will serve as a toxin free, friendly body of water to remove survivors to if necessary> Looks like the cow likes brine shrimp a lot and since brine breaks up, he seems to get his share, < a truly deficient food for the long run... soak with Selcon in the meantime but break him of that habit ASAP. Brine should constitute less than 20% of the diet (and that is being generous). Adult brine shrimp is merely water made to look like a shrimp (heehee) unless it is gut-loaded or enriched> even with a little dexterous trigger swimming around greedily. . . You don't want to know the grouper, eel, and cow species that are actually involved, since I'm killing you already with the generics. Not sure I want that printed in a FAQ forever, for all to see :-). <Ha! And please accept my thanks for sparing me the pain <G>. Best regards in your endeavors. I'll look forward to pictures (and perhaps a visit!) of that sweet 900 gallon tank. Kindly, Anthony> Ed

Cowfish dipping...  <which is entirely different from "cow tipping" for those folks with a rural familiarity> read through all your FAQs on dipping and puffer/boxfish and didn't see anything referencing whether I should dip the cowfish. <and by asking before you did, you most likely spared its life. The toxin that cowfish exude under stress is often issued during the "trauma" of a freshwater dip and can kill it within minutes. I am a very strong proponent for freshwater dips... this is just one of the few excluded species> If I have a new cowfish coming in (4" now, small breed, max of 6"), <which species/name?> is it safe to dip the cowfish in fresh water/Meth blue for a few minutes before dropping him in the q-tank ? Will that stress him out too much after overnight shipping to cause him to excrete toxins ? < yes...above> Obviously don't mix transport water, <mix in acclimation bag/bucket with new system water but do not put shipping water mix into main system> watch him during the dip to see his reactions, etc. Other thing is he's going in a tank with a grouper. <Whoa! What grouper species? And I must disagree. Cowfish are best handled and respected in a species specific tank. Your aquarium is not the ocean not does it have the power of dilution. Odds are that you will kill the cows tankmates and possibly the cow too for forcing them to live in close and possibly stressful proximity. Even only one event of aggression from the grouper in the next year is enough to wipe out the tank> I don't believe the grouper will harass him, but feeding may be an issue as I hear cowfishes are quite slow.  <indeed... a horrifyingly bad mix for so many reasons> He may have to resort to the flakes if he can't get his share with the grouper in the tank (as the grouper doesn't eat flakes).  <your cowfish will die of a dietary deficiency if forced to live on these flakes... please research dietary needs and husbandry more> Is there anything that a cowfish may eat that the grouper won't (mussels, clams, etc? ), also, you indicate that a mussel should be dropped in 'open' - but how does that contribute to filing the cowfish' teeth down ?Thanks, Ed < I suspect that Bob meant partially open. Mussels can be notched at the back to lay partly open or (if freshwater species) allowed to open slowly in the saltwater display which forces the fish to work diligently for it's meal. Good behavioral enrichment as well. Other good foods will include plankton (Pacifica when small and superba when adult), Mysid shrimp (excellent!) and squid. But again... no guarantees with the grouper. Please forego the cowfish or do it the honor of a proper species specific display. As aquarists we must use and manage our resources responsibly. Kindly, Anthony>

Fast Growing Boxfish I have had a very healthy boxfish (cubicus) for about 5 months now and he is growing quite fast (about 4 inches long now) and eating more and more as time goes on. I'm wondering if he will be okay indefinitely in my tank or if he might outgrow it: the tank is 125 gallon with quite a bit of live rock. My other concerns are that he will get too big to reach the floor between the rocks in order to feed and that he might get so big as to dominate the tank to the exclusion of other fish. What can you tell me? -Pat <Well, Pat, I can tell you that these guys are pigs, like you mentioned, and will swim around at the top of the tank begging to be fed. Adults approach 18 inches, so your fish is eventually going to get rather large for your tank. Diligent attention to a high quality protein skimmer and changes of activated carbon are in order. You can read further of these fish at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfishes.htm -Steven Pro>

Injured cowfish Hi Bob - I had the pleasure of meeting you and your wife at MACNA this summer. <Ah, what a great time> I have a baby cowfish (about 1 1/2" now) who was nipped on his belly several times by another fish. The other fish has been removed from the tank. The cow now has swelling in that area with diamond shaped protrusions. <It's (Boxfishes) underlying armor... Please see the pix of this species (likely Lactoria cornuta) posted here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/boxfishes.htm> There seems to be a little shedding going on, too. I want to put him in a hospital tank and treat him but am not sure what to use. I know cows can be sensitive to some medicines, particularly those containing copper.  <You are correct> I have had this little guy since he was the size of a dime and he has been doing great - sure don't want to lose him now. He is eating but not as much as usual. He is swimming fine and seems alert. I would appreciate any advice you can give me. Thanks - Laurie <There are risks in everything, but I would leave this fish where it is if it were mine... Likely better chance of its recovery in place... and not that much risk of poisoning... as you have had this specimen for such a while, and it is adapted to the system where it is. Perhaps adding some liquid vitamins to its foods, and a teaspoon per thirty gallons of a hexose sugar in addition. This is what I would do. Bob Fenner>

Dying Boxfish Hi, I am new at saltwater aquariums (started about 8 months ago), we have a 55 gal tank with protein skimmer, Fluval 404, one actinic light and one wide spectrum light, 50 lbs live rock (with some waving polyps, brownish/greenish button polyps, anemone mushrooms, & a few other small things I don't know that much about yet but all doing great ;) ), 2 boxer crabs, one horseshoe crab, 10 snails, 2 choc chip starfish, 2 anemones (one about 6 in wide white with bluish/purplish tinges at the ends of his arms and one about 1/4 the size of the first that's mostly lavenderish color), an anemone shrimp and now sadly one yellow boxfish. I love the boxfish and have now bought a total of six at different times but only one has made it and he's not doing so well either. <Six?> The first three mysteriously died within one week of getting them, then a very small one I bought died but at least I had an idea he might be sick since he started jerking a little once in a while during swimming around, one died last night not sure if he was eaten by the large anemone or had hidden and died but anyway he had a dusting of whitish stuff and his fins were deteriorating then I found him this morning **gross details coming be warned** and he was perfectly without any color or spots and had no eyes and was on the bottom of the tank about 3 inches from the anemone. My last surviving boxfish is in a 10 gal quarantine tank and has some whitish dusting on him and a small amount of fin rot starting. At first we thought these last two boxfish had ick but now I don't think so with the tail rot. We gave them both copper treatment in the quarantine tank but took them out last night because the one that died looked extremely bluish and had something (looked like peeling skin?) coming off him. He was wobbly but swam around in the big tank about an hour before he disappeared and I found him this morning, so I put the other back in the quarantine tank after doing a short 2 minute low salt dip and am going to try the hyposalinity method I've read about and bring the quarantine tank to 1.015 ppm for 7 days (good idea??) <Boxfishes are sensitive to copper treatments... Yes to the hyposalinity protocol. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/martrthyposalfaqs.htm> and give him antibiotics I'm off to the store now to buy. Do you have any advice to keep the last one alive? I'm thinking we need to try another kind of fish... Everything else seems to do great. BTW we feed the boxfish frozen brine shrimp mostly, some bloodworms, and a tiny bit of greens but they don't like that too well. Recently tried cut up cuttlefish and they (just "he" now) liked it ok. Thanks in advance. Melinda Parks <I would hold off on placing any other slow moving fishes in with your anemones. Bob Fenner>

Long-horned Cowfish Hi Bob! A few quick questions: A friend of mine has a 75 gallon tank that is currently home to a peppered moray (on the large side) and a 6-inch porcupine puffer. She's interested in adding a long-horned cowfish (Lactoria cornuta). She's concerned about the fact that some cowfish and boxfish release toxins if they die or become agitated. <She should be> I've done some searching (and she has as well), and all we can find is that this particular species has venomous flesh. It is not mentioned if toxin is actually exuded from the flesh into the water. <Can be> Please let me know if adding this fish would be safe for the tank, considering the possibility of toxicity or inadequate space. Thanks! Gina <The size and type of the tankmates worries me a bit here... the Moray and Puffer may be such eager eaters as to starve, otherwise stress the Lactoria. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/puffers.htm and over to the ostraciid FAQs... onto the link to the boxfish site... Bob Fenner>

Boxfish questions Bob, I have had a blue boxfish for about 6 months. He's healthy, I think. When I received him he had the normal blue sides brown top and some yellow on head, eyes and tail. The yellow has completely disappeared. Wondering if he's changing to a female, or could there be a nutritional problem.  <Much more likely the latter> He doesn't get much greens, mainly protein. There's a solorensis in with him , not sure the gender. <They're easily sexable... http://www.fishbase.org/Photos/ThumbnailsSummary.cfm?ID=6577> I wouldn't think it would matter. Anything I can change to keep his color or get it back? <Better nutrition, water quality> Also, how do you distinguish between a female cyanurus and a cubicus. Do they have similar markings?  <See fishbase.org> Have not seen too many pics on the net of the cyanurus. Thanks Darren <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Boxfishes Hi Bob, First of all, thank you in providing a truly "pearl of wisdom" on the net : your website is the answer to almost every aquarist prays; it could use a search engine though ; <Hmm, does have one... the Google search is on...> Anyway, I recently fall in love with two box fishes : Ostracion cubicus Ostracion meleagris <Both cuties> I have a spare 15 gal tank.. I wonder if I can setup it up and house a pair of meleagris and a cubicus in there ? Will these species fight ? <In such a small tank... bad proposition... even for just one specimen... really.> I found info about these fishes contradictory : some authors say they are very difficult to keep, others say easy... What's your opinion ? <Easy enough to maintain in a large, stable setting... about sixty gallons per...> In my 180g reef I think I might have a mantis.. I've found that the Labracinus lineatus ( Australian flame Basslet ) preys on mantis ( or is supposed to ). Is this fish considered reef safe ? <As a juvenile yes... as an adult, can be trouble.> best regards my friend, Goncalo Proenca <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Boxfish Hi Bob. My wife and I are a fan of the Boxfishes. We have an Atlantic Cowfish and were wondering if it would be compatible with one of the spotted varieties. Thanks for any advice you can give. Russ <By and large Boxfishes can be mixed together... same old stipulations re adequate space, meaty feedings, and not "upsetting them" too much. Bob Fenner>

Solorensis boxfish gender Hello Bob or Lorenzo, I purchased a boxfish through the mail. It was suppose to be a Whitley, male with blue coloring. <Wowzah, very rare... I have only seen/photographed females> I received a scribbled (solorensis) which is fine with me. <A very nice species> But I cant tell if its male or female. Its brown like the females, its only 2" in length. It has the bar protruding toward the face like a male. When do the males turn blue? Could this be a male that has not changed yet? <Depending on "conditions" at two to three inches... Could well be.> Either way it seams healthy and eating. Thanks, Darren <Bob Fenner>

Boxfish recommendations Dear Mr. Fenner: I have just recently discovered your WetWebMedia website- what an incredible wealth of information. I have been enjoying it immensely and using the information therein to help me plan my next aquarium system (a 60g mini reef).  <Thank you, and glad to help> I have not set the system up yet and am still in the planning stages. At this point I have my heart set on keeping one or two boxfish as the primary occupants of the tank. My question is what is your recommendation in terms of hardiness, ethical means of capture, compatibility with other fish, and compatibility with invertebrates such as shrimp and coral? <Pretty much stated on the scant coverage offered on WWM... but my current favorites are the Solorensis, Cyanurus, and Whitley's... these are more and more available, and arriving in good initial health... I would avoid the most common species of Ostraciids... i.e. Meleagris, the Black and Blue Boxfish... these are and have been "bad" on arrival the last few years...>  I very much appreciate any information you could give and apologize if this is a recurrent question. <No worries my friend. Bob Fenner> Sincerely, Samantha Harris

Keeping Boxfish (Ostracion cubicus) Hello. I'm considering purchasing a boxfish (preferably Ostracion cubicus) now that my much-loved porcupine puffer has died. I just wanted a general guide on the overall care on such fish. I have spent a lot of time at your website, but still have a few questions: I have a 55 gallon marine aquarium (the SeaClear acrylic systems with the built in wet\dry and a protein skimmer) with a Maroon clown, Sebae clown, and Bicolor angel (all are small-3 inches or under). I feed my fish mostly dry food (Wardley marine color flakes, dried krill, etc.). Would the boxfish require live and\or frozen food regularly??  <Yes, pretty much daily... won't live long or well on dried prepared foods> I've kept fish since I was 6 (11 years so far) but with starting college I have not kept up with the latest info in the hobby, and I don't remember all that I used to.  <who does?> Do they have any special needs I should know about?? Do you sell boxfish?? <Yes... to not be "disturbed"... by you, the system, other livestock... and no, I sell only ideas> Any tips or some advice would be helpful. Thanks a lot for your time. Michael --Rhino Fades To Grey-- <Not much more to say my friend. Place such Boxfishes (family Ostraciidae) in established, optimized, stable, and not-too-busy settings, feed them regularly and they should do fine. Bob Fenner>

Re: Keeping Boxfish (Ostracion Cubicus) Thanks a lot for your prompt response and for your tips. I have just one more question: should I feed frozen food for fish (such as the various frozen 'cubed' foods) or should I purchase frozen seafood (small shrimps and oysters) or both?? In terms of live food: fish or something such as brine shrimp?? Thanks for any info. <Both would be better... live foods I would dispense with... not important to these fishes, more money, and likelihood of introducing pests, disease. Bob Fenner> Michael

Ostraciids/Boxfishes et al. Publishing! Hello Theresa, A note of yours was passed on to me by Sue Steele of FAMA with a note from her requesting I contact you... and offer what help, advice I might have. Have written for the hobby and industry in this field (and even worked for a while on a doctorate on the systematics of balistoids!) and will gladly assist you in what ways am able.  Per your letter, do agree that any viable commercial book/let project in the field has to be wide enough in interest to generate sufficient volume. A Puffer and Trigger book of a hundred pages or so might do well. The issues of who's to finance the printing, binding, sales and distribution are always bugaboos to work out... and there are scarce publishers in the field (Howell's, Barron's, the new Microcosm/TFH...) or the self-publishing route... Do you have much layout experience? Not hard to learn the basics... Most "Mac" types use Quark software, I've elected to stick with Adobe's Pagemaker (think the 6.5 release is the latest). Taking your own pix is a very good idea... and selling "installments" of the work to hobby magazines a real plus (for exposure, for later sales/ads... for honing your writing, self-employment skills... Anyhow, a note of hello and offer of help. Please let me know if I may be of assistance. Bob Fenner, www.wetwebmedia.com

Upcoming Writer/Photographer! Hello Mr. Fenner, Thank you very much for taking time from your busy schedule to contact me. Ms. Steele informed me that she passed my questions on to you, and I am delighted to hear from you. What a coincidence that you have some background pertaining to Triggerfish. <Amazing... yes, a very small, and shrinking world> Let me give you a bit of background of my situation, and I will look for your guidance from there. I have worked in saltwater aquaria for the past 10 years. I have kept a number of species, but most of my experience was dedicated to keeping seahorses and boxfish/cowfish. However, I have a strong interest in syngnathids and Tetraodontiformes in general. Most of my knowledge is based upon my own experiences. As you know, there is much cross over between care of related species. However, since I have been writing for FAMA these past two years, I have had many people contact me about their "fish" questions. Most of my discussion centers around cowfish, my area of greatest experience. <Ah, and rightly so I'm sure we'd agree... Beautiful, interesting, intelligent species.> I have since set up a web site providing general care information about cowfish, and an e-mail discussion list devoted to cowfish and other Tetraodontiformes. From these, I have had requests to produce a book on the subject of cowfish. <Ah, very good. Would you mind my placing a link to same? I have a similar effort in www.wetwebmedia.com where I endeavor to influence, inform aquarists> I am not a scientist nor public aquarium curator. In fact, my degrees are in education, literature, and linguistics. However, my experiences, reading, and discussions with other aquarists have greatly contributed to my repertoire. <Hmm, I too have a secondary credential and a couple of life science degrees... and am not a scientist or person in the public employ... I will assure you that there are many "educated derelicts" who do little to make the world better... we are at least "doing something"... ahem, our part> I had contacted Mr. Peter Giwojna about the possibility of writing a cowfish book. You may know him, as he writes for FAMA occasionally. We speak through e-mail occasionally, typically about hippocampids. In any case, he instructed by to contact Neal Pronek of TFH. We thought this a good place to query since TFH magazine is now picking up some of my articles. Unfortunately, Mr. Pronek felt the scope was too narrow to be a profitable book. <Yes, know Neal well enough to state so, and he is a treasure chest of knowledge and experience in the field of pet-fish publishing (actually the best I can think of)... and do concur, the work(s) would either have to be very scant (a few dozen pages, not expensively produced....) or a vanity effort (i.e. not profitable ventures)> Mr. Giwojna and I then discussed the possibility of my writing something with a broader scope, such as Tetraodontiformes, of perhaps, Puffers and Boxfishes. I was not comfortable resubmitting a new proposal to Mr. Pronek, so I asked Ms. Steele for her advice and opinions. <Good idea> And that leads me to your e-mail to me. I have absolutely no lay-out experience, and have only a vague idea of what that would entail. We are upgrading our camera here, and I am going to be working with a diver to provide some shots in the wild. So that is one plus for the book idea. However, I don't know where to go from here. <Hmm, a few real possibilities... School or practical experience (e.g. Junior College, U. extension classes in desktop publishing... Hiring on (not high paying...) to a publishing interest that does editing, printing, binding, sales, distribution...) or "sink or swim" exposure ala buying/using Quark/Express or Pagemaker or such software products (they're not that hard... I've figured them out!)... or the allying yourself to others who have expertise, means to get such into print for your first one or two times out... Am sure all this was/is evident> I apologize for the lengthiness of my response, but I thought it was important to give you a full view of what has led me to this point in order for you to give appropriate suggestions, if you are able. <No worries. Always available to bring more intelligent and caring people into the fields... very satisfying... and self-serving... Gets lonely w/o good folks coming into the fold> It was very kind of you to contact me. I am very appreciative, and will be delighted with any help you are able to offer. So right now, I am asking, "Where do I begin?" :) <Online? Read over Adobe's description of Pagemaker... see if someone you know in the publishing field will let you "hang out"... and do contact Howell Books, Barron's, Microcosm/TFH (will send this msg. along to James Lawrence), even Marc Weiss (he produces some small works as you will see) through his "vital" business... and by any and all means, do KEEP WRITING and honing your photographic skills... I will gladly make any of my image work available to you license free... and any "editorial assistance" I might be able to render> BTW, I have viewed some of the pages on your site. They are very nice, and informative too. Best regards, Theresa Ulrich geocities.com/cowfish_andmore <Thank you for your kind, encouraging words. Be chatting, indeed. Bob Fenner>

Puffer problem Hello Bob, I have been doing freshwater tanks for several years, but I have recently tried my hand at a marine tank. I have a 75 gallon setup with an Eheim 2226,  <Good product> protein skimmer, and 50 pounds of live rock. Last week I added a blue-spotted puffer to the tank, and he developed a mild case of ick (I hear puffers are notorious for this).  <Yes, Boxfish types> To treat it I have been gradually raising the temperature (up to 82 degrees F today) and lowering SPG (down to 1.0195 today). I also added a cleaner shrimp yesterday. The ick already seems better, but this morning I came in to find him hiding in a crater in the live rock with his color looking very bad.  <Curse that Steven Jobs and his misuse of adverbs, make that "badly".> Thinking it was more ick, I got him out and gave him a 7-minute freshwater dip. While dipping him, I gave him a little "physical" and noticed that his right underside has a large purplish swelling spanning the area between his anal and pectoral fin. I noticed a small discoloration in the region shortly after I put him in the tank, but discounted it as an injury or other blemish, since he was eating well and acting happy, and the spot didn't seem to be changing. <Not good> Now he is swollen and not nearly so happy. I am going to try to coax him to eat some medicated food this afternoon; have you got any ideas as to what might be going on?  <Numerous difficulties and an ailing specimen... best to do as little as possible to/with it at this point.... and hope for a self-cure... this species, Ostracion meleagris, is not all that tough, sturdy for use in captivity... and it sounds like this is/was an impaired specimen from the get-go...> The other fish in the tank all seem healthy. Thanks in advance for any insight you might have! Scott <Don't know that I have anything of real use here... of the Ostraciids, these are not my faves... and hard to (re)stabilize once challenged... Would leave the puffer in the main system, hope it feeds, self-cures... but watch, remove if it starts to die. Bob Fenner>

Spotted boxfish Don't know if you still answer questions or not, but its worth a try. I recently obtained a 4 inch spotted (male) boxfish. What is the best ways to get it to start eating. It still seems confused. Its in a 30gal by its self. Haven't tried live food yet. Any ideas. Thanks Darren >> <Oh yeah, still trying to do my bit... online for co.s and on our site we post a slew of questions/comments/replies: Home Page . And I take this is an Ostracion meleagris... and even if not, most all will start feeding if you can offer them a good sized opened mussel or shrimp (as in for human consumption... and once they start feeding, will almost always accept any/all meaty foods. Bob Fenner>

Wrasses and Boxfishes Hello Bob, I have read several things you have written and I was wondering if you could help me with a few questions. I have a 55 gallon tank that I will be setting up as a saltwater tank. I would like to have a reef tank but am unsure the fish I want to keep will be compatible with the corals etc. I am interested in keeping the bird wrasse and or a boxfish/puffer species. Has anyone ever bred either species or tried. How could I provide the best environment for either or both of these species. I appreciate your help and look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your time, Aaron >> Hmm, not the wrasses of the genus Gomphosus, but some of the Boxfishes and other puffer families have spawned (incidentally). No young raised to maturity as far as I'm aware. And thanks for writing... please take a gander and bookmark our website (many articles and book sections, images... ): Home Page re the selection, husbandry issues. Be chatting, Bob Fenner

New tank and longhorn box fish Hi there, My friend had a 65 gallon tank with a clown trigger and a Niger trigger. Each were about 6" in length. She was selling the whole thing. I have always been interested in a saltwater tank but we moved so much I always put it off. Anyway I agreed to buy the tank. One day later the fish were sick and the tank sprung a leak. She put them in a 20 gallon and called me. I decided to take down my 55 gallon tropical tank and put everyone in a 20 gallon and convert my 55 to salt. I have an undergravel filter with two powerheads running in reverse, and a Skilter filter . ( a back filter with a protein skimmer. It was hers.) We were hurrying as fast as we could, I freighted some calcite down from anchorage for the substrate, and mixed up a batch of water, the clown trigger died and in desperation we threw the Niger in and hoped for the best. He has since perked up and seems to be weathering the changes. The tank has been up for four days now. This is not how I wanted to go about this project, but here I am. The very next day a lady called me and wants me to take her longhorn cow fish. It is rather large, too big for her tank. She currently has it in a 29 gallon with many filters. It is about 12" or more. Apparently it has a continual case of ick. She keeps Greenex in the tank to keep it in control. After my tank breaks in she wants me to take it. I have many questions. (understatement) Will it get along with the Niger trigger? Will the ick clear up in a bigger tank? I have read about it releasing toxins, mainly when it dies, how do you deal with that? You are probably shaking your head by now, but any ideas and help would be appreciated. Thank you for your time, Cindy Haralson >> Hmm, well, the Puffer/Boxfish might go... but do cure the ich problem (through dips/baths, real copper use, not the Greenex (copper and malachite), in a separate system... the toxin issue is a tough one... but for what you have... I would be inclined to try... Take a read through the treatment et al. printed materials stored here: Home Page  Bob Fenner

Ostraciid toxin Hi Mr. Fenner, I am Monty Coty (Fish Whisperer from AquariaCentral.com and Aqualink.com) and was curious as to a quoted reference where you stated:  Robert M. Fenner wrote in his "The conscientious marine aquarist" (page 322) that he "witnessed three episodes of whole tanks being poisoned with this (long horned cowfish) species, one from a dead specimen in a filter, another from a harassed individual, the third from the careless introduction of shipping water into the display system."  I have made the longhorn cowfish my "idol" of marine fish, and have a website featuring Goodyear, the Incredible Cow at: www.fishwhisperer.homestead.com/fish.html  I have been long since publicly questioning allegations of the longhorn cow's release of toxins when stressed. I have never had a longhorn cow display this behavior. Indeed, I have kept a longhorn successfully with an aggressive panther grouper, an aggressive clown trigger, and Goodyear is currently in a community with a Picasso trigger and yellow tang. I had to remove the clown trigger because after a period of less than a year, he became aggressive to the cow, partially destroying his rear pectoral fin. I could see the cow was visually disturbed, and always turning to keep faced towards the clown trigger. After two attempts at isolation of the clown and reintroduction, I have since permanently removed him from the community tank. The cow is far more relaxed, and this is very evident to myself and two colleagues whom I have had help "monitor" the tank.  Also, once there was a rock fall when all the rock and fish were being removed for a move. The cow became so scared/startled that he began "wobbling" extremely fast across the tank (60 hex), bouncing of the sides so hard you could hear him thudding. I would think if ever a longhorn cow would excrete a stress-toxin, this would have been the opportunity.  I want to ascertain that I do not just "toss" fish in community tanks with no wherewithal of proper research, but I have taken "monitored risks" to observe individual personalities of fish in relationship to their compatibility. Assuredly, this plays an important factor albeit there are certain constants with all species. At any rate, the longhorn cow in the trunkfish family has shared the accusations (unfairly, I believe) of releasing toxins readily like certain members of the boxfish family.  I don't question the release of toxins which seep from the liver of deceased longhorn cows readily upon their passing, but would like further confirmation from an esteemed individual such as yourself that you do indeed support as an absolute fact that the longhorn cow itself positively excretes a lethal stress toxin. I am not addressing other cowfish, specifically the longhorn cow. A response from you would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much for you time and consideration.  Sincerely, Monty F. Coty >> Good and glad to make your acquaintance Monty. Do agree with your observations re Boxfishes... they're neat. Intelligent and personable. And others statements about their apparent variability as species and individuals to produce, excrete ostracitoxins... A few references re the topic: Brock, V.E. 1956. Possible production of substances poisonous to fishes by the boxfish Ostracion lentiginosus Schneider. Copeia 1956, 195-196. Michael, Scott. 1998. Swimming boxes. Boxfish are interesting to keep, but choose their tankmates carefully to avoid disaster. AFM 3/98. Thompson, D.A. 1964. Ostracitoxin: an ichthyotoxic stress secretion of the boxfish Ostracion lentiginosus. Science 146:244-245. Thompson, D.A. 1969. Toxic stress secretions of the boxfish Ostracion meleagris Shaw. Copeia 1969:335-352. Be chatting, Bob Fenner

Cowfish toxicity We have a 39gal tank; somewhat established. things have been pretty stable until the last few days. ammonia & nitrites were slightly elevated (.25) so we did a 10% water change, hoping our watery residents would perk up. The cow fish was declining to eat and the yellow tang and yellow-eye tang were also moping. unfortunately, the cow died today and the yellow tang is developing browning splotches like bruising. We are monitoring water conditions closely. any ideas?" And your reply really helped; Unfortunately, between then and now, we have lost the entire tank, except the sailfin tang, which is acting very strange and is not eating either. To sum up: on the 19th, we lost the cowfish, the baby mandarin and everybody started acting strange. on the 23rd, we lost the yellow tang. on the 24th, we lost the yellow eye and the Jawfish. This morning, we lost both damsels, the mandarin and the Cuban hog. The only things left in the tank are the sailfin, 4-5 snails, blacklegged crabs, white burrowing starfish, flower anemone and 4 corals. They all appear to be doing well, in fact the leather coral is putting out an off-shoot. We took a water sample to our local distributor and they are as stumped as we are! The only thing off in the tank is nitrates. We have about 49 lbs of live rock, and have everything set up in an eclipse tank. I have no idea what has gone wrong, or where we go from here!!!!! The only thing we don't have is a protein skimmer ... which won't fit inside the eclipse hood (I brought one home tonight and tried it). Do you have any advise ... ideas .... ????? We don't intend to give up, but just don't know what to do next. Terry  >> Sorry to hear of your losses and ongoing troubled situation. Yes, I have some definite ideas of how to remedy the circumstances that are causing you trouble. First, the Cowfish's passing is likely tied in intimately with the other fishes' stress, and you need to dilute, remove the toxic residue left by the Cowfish... Through a very large (50%) water change, placing a bag of activated carbon or Polyfilter in your Eclipse mechanical filter area, and rigging up the protein skimmer you have... The last will likely require that you cut the top to accommodate the skimmer (I assume it is a hang-on type)... Please get someone there to help you if you feel uncomfortable with any of these steps. Bob Fenner, who says, do the water change and chemical filtrant addition now.

Cowfish I am very new to the salt water wonderland. My very first purchase has been a cowfish. It is only a baby, he looks just like the one on your web site. My questions is: I bought another cowfish but this one is so different looking than my first one. The second one is almost white with some purple and the horns are much longer and a lot more sharper looking (very pointy) They seem to be getting along fine after 24hours. Also my first cowfish has such a great personality. Everyone who comes to my home just loves him. Do you know where I can find out more about the cowfish and the different species?  >> Hmm, well these are probably both the species, Lactoria cornuta... though there are other Cowfishes that look similar. Perhaps the best way to learn about these animals is to use your computer search engines (like Ask.com) and put in questions like "What do Puffers eat?". Boxfishes are puffers that have hard outer bodies... and don't "puff up"... And follow wherever the search engines lead you. There are no "all puffer" books that include much husbandry information as far as I know. Bob Fenner

Boxfish Hi Bob. I have two boxfish - one a longhorned cow and the other a blue  dotted boxfish. The longhorned cow came down with appears to be some kind of  a bacterial infection when in my 180g tank. I isolated him in a quarantine  tank(20g) and he has been there since the middle of November, ' 99. The blue  dotted boxfish came out of another reef tank due to cloudy eye and was put in  same quarantine tank. The cloudy eye cleared up and the fish inherited the  same problems as the longhorned cow.  The disease appears to be eating away at their insides. First they loose  their color from a short distance behind their fins and it spreads across the  bottom of the fish, up through the opposite side and to the front and over  the nose. I have treated with Nitrofurazone (Furan-2), Nala-Gram which  contains Naladixic acid and salt, Formalite I and later Formalite II, and  currently am using copper safe along with Formalite II.  Believe it or not, they are still alive, eating well, and don't seem to be  getting worse. The longhorned cow lost one fin entirely and it is growing  back very slowly. The outside of their bodies in the effected areas now  appears to be a very dark, scaly, rough texture.  After three months of treating them I am beginning to feel like no matter  what I do, or how much I spend, I cannot cure them. Is there anything you  could recommend to me that would help? Sue >> A few things... on the possibility that this might be a nutritional disorder, do start administering a vitamin and iodine mixture to their food before feeding (you can make this mix up from human consumption sources or from pet-fish outlets). And do consider (this may sound quacky, but it has worked wonders), adding some chopped, fresh garlic to the food mix... This material (Allium sativum) has shown anti-parasitic properties, in particular with puffers...  Bob Fenner, who says "don't give up".

Boxfish Thanks so much for the quick response. I never imagined I would hear from you this soon. The addition of iodine scares me as I have no idea of proportions. I feed the fish a mixture of frozen bloodworms, frozen brine shrimp, Ocean Nutrition Formula 1, Formula 2, and Prime Reef. I thaw the frozen foods, mix in enough dry to make it very thick and add either Selcon or Kent Zoe (which should handle the vitamin recommendation.) I have Lugol's iodine but I am certain that is far too strong to add. Should I use regular iodine like we would put on a cut on our finger? I do have iodine additives that I add to tank when I'm not adding Lugol's. If you can spare the time to just give me a hint of the amount of iodine and should I use Lugol's? Also, can I feed this to all of my tanks. Is it a good practice to feed all fish regularly with this diet? My sincere thanks. (My longhorn and blue dot boxfish thank you also.) Sue  >> Yes to either the dilute Lugol's (make a serial dilution of just a drop of stock solution to a couple of ounces of clean R.O., Distilled water) and a drop of this dilute solution in turn on the food. I would just add the iodine to the tanks for your other livestock... as they drink in quite a bit of seawater continuously... and the dosage is quite small. Do try the garlic... very therapeutic/cathartic. You, and the Boxfishes (family Ostraciidae) are welcome, Bob Fenner

Boxfish I forgot to ask about quantity of chopped garlic added? tks. >> >> The actual dosage is much less important than just getting some into them... Some folks have even force fed their tetraodontid puffers with apparent success. Bob Fenner

Is yellow cubicus good with other fish? The cow fish is in the family with the cubicus and puts out poison. Is the Cubicus poisons? I have a Foxface, yellow tang, scooter blenny and my  cleaners. Will I be able to keep a cubicus? If so, how many should I have  in a tank? Lena Byers >> To a lesser degree, the Cubicus Boxfish does/can release ostracitoxins into the water. One to a tank is a good idea. Bob Fenner

Ostracion cubicus Hey Bob I just inherited a couple of fish with a used tank I purchased. One is a cute, tiny little boxfish. I think he might be a Ostracion cubicus but am not sure. He does not quite match the photos of Ostracion cubicus on the Net or in your book- (the Conscientious Marine Aquarist) however he is yellow with little black spots and is about the size of a single dice (ya' know, the thing you shoot craps with). The major difference between my fish and the photos of Ostracion Cubicus I've found is: my little guy has an almost invisible, nonexistent tail. If you peer super close you can see a tiny, clear fin moving madly back and forth. In the photos of Ostracion Cubicus they all seem to have a noticeable tail the same yellow/black spotted color as the body.  My question is: could this just be a very young Ostracion Cubicus that has yet to grow a bigger tail or is there another boxfish species that is also yellow with black spots? The guy I bought the aquarium and fish from called it a Boston bean which I believe is a somewhat generic name for baby boxfish and puffer species.  Thanks, Randy >> Hmm, could be a juvenile Ostracion cubicus... of possibly Lactophrys bicaudalis (the "official" "Boston Bean"), caught out of the Atlantic... Take a look at any fish reference work detailing the Caribbean... Is this your fish? When small they're orange to yellow with smaller dark dots than the "Cubicus, aka Yellow Boxfish"... Bob Fenner

Boxfish I love boxfish, especially the yellow cubicus, but I don't know how large they grow. Can you recommend one that won't get too big, say over 5 inches or so? Thanks, Anna >> If you feed Boxfish (puffers) sparingly, they will grow slowly... the whole family (Ostraciidae), gets more than a few inches (5+)... Bob Fenner

Boxfish My local fish store recently lost almost all of their fish in their  salt tank (125 gallon) which included my box cowfish. I had read that  boxfish can emit poison if harassed too much, among things such as  cleaner wrasse which this tank included two of these. The tank was  fine the night before, but on opening the next day most of the fish were  dead including the two cow box fish. water tested normal , so I was  wondering if the box fish could have poisoned the tank, but left a few  fish still alive. The fish left were two cleaner wrasse, Mexican  wrasse, six stripe wrasse, and a black molly. I f the box fish truly  poisoned the others, would there be anything to look for or test for.  Any feedback would be great. >> Very intriguing post. Yes, the cause of loss could have been Ostracitoxin... from the Boxfishes (family Ostraciidae)... and the real/best clue is indeed the tally of what was left alive... these fishes have greater tolerance even than the puffers themselves... Now, a test for the presence of the toxin? There are biochemical and physical chemistry tools that could (if you act quickly, as the material degrades) lead you definitively to an answer... If you have ties with a college or not, call them and speak with someone in the chemistry or biochemistry depts. about these (Mass spec.) possibilities. What does the system water smell like? Frequently there is a trace of 'phenol' odor... But, of course, the cause of mortality could be a myriad of other things... Bob Fenner

Boxfish Bob I'm planning to purchase a yellow cubicus boxfish from you, but I need to know if they are poisonous or not? If so, what is the chance of releasing the poison in my tank? How do I keep such a fish? I have an established tank with tangs, angels, cardinals, clowns, and inverts. Thanks, Alan >> Yes, this (and all other Ostraciids, boxfish/puffer family) animal is/can be made to release toxins from its skin if "upset"... but is not a tremendous risk overall (compared with other potential sources of mortality) if your tank is large, well filtered... and bereft of mean, bullying fish livestock... more of a concern to me would be the likelihood of damage caused by the Boxfish (Ostracion cubicus) nibbling on your invertebrates. Bob Fenner

Trunkfish Dear Mr. Fenner, Please forgive any intrusion as I seek some information on Ostracitoxin and it's effects. In particular I had a female spotted trunkfish (Ostracion meleagris) in a reef system. Unfortunately the fish suddenly died last night and as a result it killed most of the other fish (minus the clowns and invertebrates). I am currently faced with having to breakdown and sterilize the whole system which can be quite stressful to the other reef dwellers in the tank. Would you possibly know if it is possible to filter out the toxin with activated carbon or by some other means or am I faced with the daunting task of sterilizing the whole system? Also, is the Ostracitoxin poisonous to humans through touch or contact with the water? Thank you in advance for any help you may give. >> Ohh, very sorry to hear of your losses... the toxin is somewhat like a short half-life nuclear blast analogously... the organisms that are going to die, generally do so in short order... And yes to the activated carbon having a discernible effect.... I would not tear the whole system down. I'm sure you have probably effected a large water change already, but will list this as a second priority (after the possibility of removing livestock to another system ASAP) for browsers. Ostracitoxins are not toxic to humans from skin exposure. Bob Fenner

Cowfish of a different color, not Oz Hi, I recently bought a whitish/yellow boxfish with black spots on it and I have noticed that it is starting to turn dark gray. Should I be worried? Thanks, Derek >>  This is probably an Ostracion cubicus, and they do grow into a gray phase. Take a look at a large marine fish reference work, and you'll understand if what you're looking at is "natural". Bob Fenner

Question: I have a mature 75 gal tank with both soft corals and fish and have a few misc. questions that the books don't seem to agree or comment on.

  1. I would really like to get a cow fish. The big question, will the cow fish eat the corals and the shrimps?
  2. I am about to purchase Chevron Tang and would like to know if it safe to add another tang at a later date.
  3. I am considering getting a school of Anthias, any recommendations outside of the Dispar?

Bob's Answer: Hey Blithe, you're right, most books are not in agreement... and if you ask me, many are obviously written by folks who have precious little practical or scientific experience... Yep, the Lactoria (cowfish) will gladly munch all crustaceans and some of your corals. Other tangs, even another Ctenochaetus should mix okay with the Chevron. Just make sure they're larger or much smaller. Need to know more about you, your system to make broad generalizations re: the Anthiinae. There is a huge range of survivability in the group (as large as any other fish family), but I don't want to unduly influence browsers to try expensive fancy basses. Take a gander at Scott Michael's new book for some pointers re: these miniature basses.

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