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FAQs about Rhinecanthus Triggerfishes Disease/Health

Related FAQs: Rhinecanthus Triggers 1, Rhinecanthus Triggers 2, Rhinecanthus Trigger ID, Rhinecanthus Trigger Behavior, Rhinecanthus Trigger Compatibility, Rhinecanthus Trigger Selection, Rhinecanthus Trigger Systems, Rhinecanthus Trigger Feeding, 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

Huma Possible Swim Bladder Issue      6/5/19
Hi Bob and team,
<Hey Siena>
I have a young (barely 1”) Picasso trigger who has been in my system for 5 months and has recently begun exhibiting some concerning symptoms of what may be a swim bladder issue. It’s a bit of a mystery I’m hoping you can help me out with, so I’m providing a wealth of details. Brace yourself for a long read.
Some history: He started in my 50 gal DT and was the lone survivor (no symptoms) of a bacterial outbreak about two weeks after he was added to the system (4.5 months ago).
At this point we quarantined him in a 10gal for 30 days to let the DT bacteria die off, then he lived alone with inverts in the DT for 2.5 months. (No invert casualties, though we were prepared for that, and he did try. But I digress.) After putting some thought into his future, we started working on building a 120 gal system that would be a better environment for him, with the idea of going even larger down the road. Unfortunately its development course forced us to plunder the 50 gal, so we moved him to a 10 gal tank with live substrate, live rock, and wetted filtration media plundered from the DT. It’s up on the kitchen counter because he’s a very personable, curious fish and the only way I feel at all comfortable with having him in such a small tank, even temporarily, is by putting him in the middle of everything so he can interact with us constantly, which he does. He hasn’t exhibited signs of boredom that I’m watching for, like pacing or chasing his reflection. We hit some snags with the 120 gal plumbing, and he’s been in the 10 gal for 2 months now.
Four days ago he started exhibiting some unusual behavior - he usually wakes up when we do and comes out of his rock to demand food, but he started laying upright (belly down) on the sand in the front corner of the tank. It seemed to take him some time to wake up and then some time to gain buoyancy, though he never had any issues staying upright and was moving normally, if a bit sluggishly, once he was up. Two days later he stayed in the rock and only came out for food (Mysis and squid, which we soaked in Prazi that day as a precaution), which he didn’t eat as aggressively as usual. We tried a wavemaker to increase the current, air exchange and stimulation, but it was a bit strong, so we turned it off. This is his second day without eating. He was out today in that front corner and had trouble getting up. He started panicking when he couldn’t move and eventually got up okay, but had trouble controlling his pitch and yaw (up/down, left/right), though he had no rolling issues (stayed upright pretty okay). He bobbed the surface a few times like he was trying to jump or gulp air. Then he floated around with very little control besides staying upright until he made his way into his rock and has been resting there ever since. We’ve tested everything we can think of these past few days: Nitrates/ites zero, ammonia zero, pH ~7.8 which is within the wide range marine aquarium recommendation but slightly low for Huma-specific recommendations - thoughts on this? Salinity 1.022. Out of concern for oxygen content we just added an airstone. Unfortunately we did find out today that the thermometer that came with the tank he’s in reads 4 degrees F higher than it should, and was at 72 degrees the entire time he’s been in it. We’ve slowly raised that to 77.6, a little higher than I usually keep my tanks in response to the suspect swim bladder issue. He has no signs of physical injuries, no discoloration, his color swings are normal (light when he’s asleep, medium otherwise even when resting, less emotive with his colors than normal), breathing is normal speed and heaviness, no signs of parasites. His belly does look slightly bloated, especially considering he hasn’t eaten in two days. I haven’t noticed any abnormal poop, though he’s always seemed to poop when I’m not looking so I can’t tell you he’s actually pooping normally - constipation is a possibility?
<Mmm; not likely.>
To try and eliminate the one additional possible source of issues we did a 50% water change with DI water, instead of our usual tap water treated with Prime. An RO/DI system is on its way. We have three other fish in another tank fed off the same water system, and all have been very healthy except for one clownfish that today just gave a nice stringy white poop. They’re about to get some Prazi soaked food as well.
Of course in all irony, we’re finally in a place where we can move our Huma to a larger system.
<I would do so w/o reservation>
If his current condition is environmental stress/boredom related, this might be a good move. On the other hand it could easily stress him out more. Any recommendations on what next steps to take, medications to use, and at what point we should consider more drastic measures of getting him to eat? (I’ve seen one aquarist literally pick up his trigger and use a syringe to feed… Our Huma isn’t used to handling so this is a last resort option from a stress standpoint.) Also…after our initial round of bad luck we’ve gotten pretty good at shutting down the emotional side of losing fish, but this Huma holds a special place in our hearts and it would kill us to lose him. I appreciate any help you can give!
<I fully suspect the issue here is psychological... being in too small a world. I would be moving this fish, now. Bob Fenner>
Re: Huma Possible Swim Bladder Issue      6/5/19

Side note - he’s always flat out refused to eat anything with veggies in it like our Spectrum pellets, so I’m not optimistic about getting him to eat peas or anything if he’s not even eating shrimp. We’ve been considering forcing him to accept pellets by only feeding pellets for a few days, but we’re soft-hearted fish parents and haven’t gone to those lengths yet.
<Move this fish. BobF>
Re: Huma Possible Swim Bladder Issue      6/5/19

I just reread both of these messages 4 times and holy crap he’s constipated isn’t he?? Running to get Seachem Kanaplex and Epsom salts (I’m skeptical but why not). Also will move towards more drastic measures of getting him to eat anything, preferably peas and garlic.
<You could try a modicum of MgSO4... safe... B>
Re: Huma Possible Swim Bladder Issue      6/5/19

Just caught sight of him again, and now I’m second guessing. He’s a bit emaciated, which is to be expected with no food, and I’m not really seeing the bloat like before. He’s breathing a bit shallow and is on the low color end, and is very weak. He has short bouts where he swims stably, then will rest wherever he stops. I did everything I could to get him to eat, but I can’t tell if he took a few bites or was just twitching wanting to get away. At this point I’m thinking intestinal parasites. At some point I should be considering force feeding, right? I’m sure there’s a tube small enough for a 1” trigger somewhere I could find.
<... Please re-read my responses. B>

Trigger, hlth.         8/14/16
As always let me begin by thanking all of you for your time. I have received help many times from your site and various volunteers.
<Ah, welcome>
I have a 7 year old 60 gallon reef tank. I had a tank wipeout a year and a half ago when I added an new fish to my previously closed system and did not qt him. This was stupid. I believed crypt wouldn't happen to me. All died except for a goby I've had for 5 years now. I waited 8 weeks and tried a new fish and have tried various inhabitants in staggered intervals and they live a month, 4 months, 6 months. But they all perish eventually. I understand now I have crypt (Ich) in my tank.
<Actually, it is very common... that folks have resident, latent infestations of Crypt... It showing clinically with some sorts of excess stress>
I believe the goby is keeping this parasite alive. I am setting up a 20 gallon qt today. I have the goby, a fat and happy clownfish with no symptoms (I've had him 2 months) and a baby Picasso triggerfish (2 weeks)
that arrived emancipated. He eats like a pig, I feed Selcon soaked Mysis 3 times a day (a cube total in a day) as I'm trying to fatten him up. He arrived with fin damage. It is getting worse. His flesh looks like it's deteriorating. One black spot on fin. He's outgoing and vigorous but looks worse everyday. I bought a new testing kit. Ph is 7.8.
<About as low as I'd let it get... Would be bolstering (adding alkalinity) via supplemented water in changes. Am a huge fan of the SeaChem lines here.
No detectable ammonia, no detectable nitrites, no detectable nitrate.
<No NO3? Odd>
I run an amazing Octopus skimmer. For water polishing I have a Aqueon filter with floss I rinse every few days. I run carbon in it once a month.
My questions I'd love help with are; how do I proceed? Does the trigger have Ich/crypt?
<Can't say... w/o sampling, microscopic examination; could be; but there are likely a few secondary issues here>
A bacterial infection? Do I qt all the fish?
<Depends on root cause/s. There may well be "something" awry environmentally... a source of poisoning/toxicity... Metal? Organic? I'd run Polyfilter for a week to look for tell-tale color... and use Boyd's ChemiPure as your source of carbon (and more) to remove potential chemical issues>
What do I do with the cleaner shrimp?
<Leave it in the main system>
How do I treat the fish in qt?
<FIND out, determine WHAT the real issue/s are here first>
I've read a dozen articles and I feel more and more confused. I will do whatever it takes. I have live rock with mushroom
<Some aspect of these may be at fault. Put the words: "toxicity",
"allelopathy" and LR alone and Mushrooms alone in the WWM search tool (found on every page) and read re>
but will empty and do whatever it takes do finally guarantee the health of my fish. Any help is much appreciated by my fish and I. I have not tried to be lazy or ignorant. I love this hobby and enjoy the research and patience required. I fear I've let my inhabitants down.
Thank you,
<The reading now, and then let's chat. Bob Fenner>
Trigger picture        8/14/16

<Mmm; this fish looks starved. Please see WWM re Triggerfish/Balistid foods/feeding/nutrition. Bob Fenner>

Re: Trigger      8/15/16
Thank you Bob for you thoughtful (and quick) reply. I wondered about my Ph and Nitrate numbers as well. I've never messed with Ph
<Not usually necessary... in well set up (whatever this is... w/ adequate hard/calcareous substrates) and maintained (frequent partial water changes, use of skimming, ozone...) and not over or mis fed systems>
but will get a Seachem product for it via Amazon now. I haven't tested for nitrate in a few years. Back then I always had around 40. The nitrate is a new API test. I followed instructions carefully and the water in the vial remained light yellow, not registering any nitrates.
<Mmm; I'd get/use other than this low end colorimetric assay. Not API; see WWM re>
I will do the test again. I run poly filter now. When I rinse it out its a purplish/reddish color.
<Mmm; it may be you have too much iron from somewhere... or this could be indicative of biological coloring>
I will purchase Boyd's Chemipure via Amazon. Regarding the allelopathy; per your advice a month and a half ago for my pop eyed coral beauty I rehomed my Kenya tree coral and now only have blue mushrooms, maybe 50-75 of them. I did a 25% water change and ran carbon. He died 3 weeks later. So I only have one type of mushroom and no other corals. Should I remove the mushrooms?
<I would keep their herd thinned back... perhaps one polyp per five gallons>
Should I get a UV sterilizer?
<Worth considering>
I sent you a picture of my trigger, he does indeed look starved. In the week and a half I've had him I've been trying to fatten him; I am feeding him small amounts often.
A total of 1 mysis cube for the tank a day, with Selcon.
<I would expand this diet; use a high quality pellet food (Hikari, Spectrum) as basic staple.>

Perhaps he had an internal parasite?
<Could be. See WWM re triggers, Rhinecanthus re.. maybe a treatment of Praziquantel, and...?>
I purchased a Tsunami coral insert from Fosters and Smith as I cannot have multiple corals due to allelopathy. Do you have any experience with these faux inserts?
<Not this line, no>
It is supposedly reef tank safe.
<Am almost for sure it would be. The folks at Dr.s F and S are quite capable and careful re choosing products>
Thank you for your time, I am always amazed that you share your expertise with us and cannot express my appreciation enough.
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Picasso trigger in QT tank   10/3/13
<You're an order of magnitude over our limited/stated file size. Surprised your mail wasn't sent to junk>
Hi all at WWM,
I currently have a Picasso trigger in a quarantine tank prior to entry into my 125 FOWLR.  I am glad I added him to the QT tank as within a few days, a growth began to form above his mouth (on his snout/nose?).  There were no signs of an injury, and he seems to be in good health and spirits other than that.  Eats like a pig
<Neat! Part of the translation of the Humu/Hawaiian name... "water pig w/ a needle" (the last in ref. to the dorsal spine)>
and already comes almost half way out of the water to beg for food.  The growth however, continued to grow and I made the call just to wait and observe for a bit to see what happened.  It has been about 3 weeks now and the crusty/pimple like growth is still present.  In addition, when I went to feed him this am, I noticed (couldn't not notice) that he had a large
tape/string like object coming out of his rear.  It reminds me of (or looks like) a very small empty sausage casing.  I have attached pictures of both.
 My questions are, 1.  Any idea what these can be?
<Mark, growth in response to a mechanical injury almost assuredly>
.... and 2. how can I go about treating him prior to removal from the QT? 
<I wouldn't>
Thanks again for any help!
<Move this fish. Bob Fenner>

Picasso Trigger very ill, please help!     4/24/13
Gents, I have a Picasso Trigger that hasn't been very well for the last 2 days. Sitting on the bottom and not moving or eating.
It's hanging in there but only just. I've tested the water both at home and at the local LFS and it all looks fine. I've had the fish for nearly year in a 400 litre tank without any problems. He's probably my favourite fish and I'd be gutted to lose him. Even though the water readings were good, I performed a 40 litre water change. I also treated the tank with Oodinex which has been used previous top treat white spot (though, there is no sign of this on the Trigger). Coincidentally I also lost a Hawkfish recently and these are the first fish I have lost for about 6 months.
<Do you suspect the loss may be related?>
The tank mates, including 3 cardinals, Regal Tank, Lemon Tang,
<These tangs may have slashed the trigger>
<Or more likely the Lion poked it... and the lost Cirrhitid>
 and 2 clowns all appear to be fine. Any advice you could provide would be most welcome. I'm desperate!!! Many thanks, Dan
<I do hope your Rhinecanthus recovers... I would trade the Lion out. Bob Fenner>

Rectangle Trigger not eating   4/2/13
After months of searching, I was finally able to purchase a juvenile Rectangle Trigger, approximately 1.5" long. He ate immediately, and throughout most of tank transfer (where I was using 10g tanks), which lasted
13 days or so. However, since the final day of tank transfer he has been reluctant to eat much at all.
<Not unusual w/ small fishes being moved about; even triggers>
 He is now in my 29g QT that I have dosed with PraziPro, where he has been since the morning of 3/31 - and still won't
eat much at all. I've seen him bite an NLS pellet or two in half, and once or twice he has eaten a very small piece of fresh scallops (previously frozen and then thawed) and a small chunk of frozen Mysis. I soak the food in Selcon every other try, but it never seems to make a difference.
To me, he looks a little thin, and I'm worried that something else is going on with him. I dropped in a live littleneck clam on the half shell last night, and he didn't touch it. On top of that, he has been swimming slowly from one end of the tank to the other, at the top of the surface. I have tried offering him other seafood, but he literally swims right past it.
Water parameters are all perfect, as the water is only a few days old, so I can rule that out. Am I overlooking something here, and is there something else that I can try and convince him to eat?
<This small fish is likely simply frightened, stressed, even perhaps a bit lonely>
 I'd really like to avoid live foods if possible, because I don't want that to be an issue once he is moved
into my 90g FOWLR.
Nick Panaccio
<I would move this animal to the main tank, now. Bob Fenner>

Humu parasite; not   12/31/11
Aloha crew,
I was hoping that maybe you guys could give me some advice on what to do next with this fish.  He has what appears to be an external parasite on his soft dorsal fin (see picture).
<Mmm, I see this white dot>
 Now the fish has been in .21ppm Cu for a week now (since i received him in) and was just yesterday put in a freshwater dip with Methylene blue for 10 minutes.
Still the spot does not seem to be changing.  Any thoughts or idea on where to go from here? 
<Yes... into the main/display tank. This is not likely a parasite at all... but a blem from a reaction/bent fin spine>
He is in QT (although with a few Chromis as well).  I do have an empty tank that i could set up for another QT if you think i should change up the copper with something else (not sure how well copper treats these guys).  What do you guys think?  More of the same (with a few more dips) or something different? 
<Diff... move it>
With Cu in
the system should i be worried about my Chromis becoming infected?
Mahalo for your time and effort, you guys have such a great site.
<A hu'i hou! Bob Fenner>

Rhinecanthus aculeatus Trigger, hlth., nutr.  3/8/2010
We need some advice. We have a twelve year old Rhinecanthus aculeatus Trigger who until a week ago was extremely active and healthy. Last year he broke two teeth and ended up knocking them out.
<Happens, but still... ouch!>
Since then he has eaten fine and been a great fish. Last week the teeth that have been gone a year started to come back in. He got until he wouldn't eat. We saw no signs of infection but treated him with Maracyn for one week. Just in case there was an internal infection. At the end of the treatment he seemed only slightly more interested in food. Now he seems to be having issues seeing. He runs into rocks and isn't eating at all.
His mouth is still swollen but from looking at other postings when a trigger goes blind it is due to vitamin issues.
<Mmm, could well be a "nutritional deficiency" at play here. Do you supplement foods with vitamins, HUFAs, iodide? I would add these periodically to foods, and the water if the fish/es aren't eating>
Is this the case or could some of his vision issues be tied to his recent re-growth of teeth.
<Interesting to speculate. I do not know>
Any information would be greatly appreciated
<Do see WWM re the nutritional items listed here; their supplementation for marines. Bob Fenner>

Re: Rhinecanthus aculeatus Trigger  3/8/10
Thank you for replying. After reading some of the posting about nutritional deficiencies we did go to our local aquarium store and ask about supplements that could be added to the tank. They didn't really have a lot of knowledge about this but suggested that we try "Vita Chem" made by Boyd Enterprises. Is this a good choice?
<It is a good product>
We have dosed the food as well as placing a small amount in the tank. I will go to WWM and look over the suggested supplements list. We will keep you posted. Thanks so much!!!!
<Welcome! BobF>

Trigger dental work?  2/9/10
Howdy crew, I purchased a Picasso Trigger about 2 weeks ago from an LFS and it may not have been a good purchase, as I think his teeth may be overgrown.
<Does appear so>
I asked if they would feed him for me so they dropped in some flake food and he ate it. I should have been concerned then about the flake food, but I've dealt with them in the past and not had problems.
The trigger gets excited when I drop in krill, silversides, clams, or squid in the tank and he will stay near the puffer to clean up his scraps.
He hardly seems to be actually eating anything though (except some flake that I bought to try to get him to eat something) and seems thinner than when I got him. He looks different than pictures of Picasso's I find on the
net, almost like his mouth is stuck open. Also when he comes up to the top to get the flake I hear a clicking noise which I'm attributing to teeth clicking. I've read that triggers grunt, but I definitely don't think I could call this noise a grunt.
<Balistids also make noise by articulating their dorsal spines, pectoral girdles>
If the teeth are overgrown, is it possible to do any dental work similar to what is done to puffers?
<Oh yes>
I think I'd rather try to do something than let him slowly starve to death.
-125 gallon tank/ 170 total water volume
-5" porcupine puffer
-4" Picasso trigger
-12" snowflake eel
-all water specs are good and everyone is active
-no signs of aggression between anyone
Thanks for your help!
I'm really sorry the pics are so bad, hopefully they're enough to see what I'm referring to.
<They are of use. Please read here re a S.O.P.:
Bob Fenner>

Picasso Trigger dying  1/02/10
Hey there, Happy New Year!
<And you Gary>
I have a 4" Picasso Trigger who is my main show piece in my tank along with
Hippo tang - 6"
Yellow Tang - 5"
2 Clownfish - 1"
Foxface - 5"
Damsel - 2"
100+- lb live rock
100 live sand
A couple days ago the Trigger retreated under a rock and hasn't been himself, his belly looks pinched, labored breathing, and all and hasn't eaten in a couple days.
<Mmm, how long have/had you had this fish? Was it treated prophylactically in recent times?>
I moved him to QT this AM (2/3 new water 1/3 tank water) and he has taken a turn for the worse, tried to hand feed shrimp and krill but no luck. I added Vita Chem to the QT to try to get some vitamins in him and regularly soak food in it and add to tank weekly. Once in QT I noticed his top fin shows some signs of fin rot although not in a terrible way. I originally thought it could be him getting picked on and fin nipped but just not sure the other inhabitants would be able in inflict that kind of damage to him over just a couple days and have never seen anyone nip at the trigger. At this point he was lying on bottom of the QT sideways barely breathing
<Typically "frightened" behavior for most Balistids>
so I figured one last ditch effort to save him and treated the QT with 1/2 dose of Para Guard by Seachem. I didn't want to go full dose in case he was sensitive to it and in case I was wrong about the fin rot diagnosis - its just so hard to tell. His belly is pinched and at one point in the QT (about an hour ago) he was completely upside down but still breathing. I added a little more vita Chem to hopefully boost his system but just not sure if its too late to do anything else. I covered the QT with a towel to keep the light low so he can recover (the QT is in the kitchen which gets a lot of natural light). When I did that he reacted to it and righted himself and is sitting up in the bottom (still in bad shape) but haven't checked on him in 20-30 minutes.
Water Parameters
Ammonia - 0
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - 10
PH - 8.2
Calcium - 450
The clowns and yellow tang are new to the tank, about 2-3 weeks.
<Not that it might be directly of consequence, but were these new specimens quarantined?>
He has not regularly hidden under rocks except when I first got him and now, he is usually always roaming the tank when I wake up. Any help or advice you can offer will be great, I have been "reading on" all over WWM for clues and diagnosis but ran out of good leads on this one.
<Mmm, well, there might be something internal, "brought in" with this fish, at root/cause here... With what little you've presented, I myself am inclined to suggest returning the Rhinecanthus to the main system... Much less stressful than the quarantine system. You might gain solace, insight through reading here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FishInd3.htm
the fourth to last tray... on Trigger Dis., the various genera of Balistids Health FAQs files. Bob Fenner>
Re: Picasso Trigger dying -- 01/03/10

Thanks for the reply - I got him about 3 months ago (he unfortunately passed this morning or sometime during the night in QT).
I thought about moving him back last night but thought it might stress even more to make another move. I actually did QT the clowns and Tang for 2 weeks before adding to the show tank.
Still stumped and bummed but the silver lining is I can now convert my FOWLR to Reef...thanks again
<Thank you for this follow-up Gary. Some fish groups more than others... but Triggers/Balistids do at times "die mysteriously"... who can say... from "too much stress?". Perhaps types of internal complaints. I would not have this incident sway you from trying another Rhinecanthus sp. sometime down the road. Cheers, BobF> 
Re: Picasso Trigger dying  1/4/10

Thanks again for the reply Bob - just ordered your book (long overdue but looking forward to the read)
Gary Nash
<Ahh! Am sure you will enjoy, gain by its perusal. Cheers, BobF>

Trigger sad, Poor Environment 1/29/08 Hello, <Hi> I searched through a lot of posts here and found similar problems, but not exact. I know it's small but this is in my office at work so I cant' go with a big tank. I have a 20 gallon high with about 20 pounds of live rock and a Picasso trigger a little less than 2 inches. <Doomed in this sized tank.> I run an Aquaclear 200, Red Sea Protein skimmer, Aquaclear 20 powerhead and 80 watts of lighting. The water tests fine and I do frequent changes. <"Fine" is relative, exact numbers next time please.> The tank is blooming with life, Copepods, Arthropods, Inverts of various types, Macro algae (came on the rock) which attests to the quality of the water. Ok that's out of the way. My Trigger was in the tank with to Damsel mates. Two weekends ago, I came in and observed the trigger acting skittish and hiding. The blue Damsel was acting like he took over the tank like the Alpha male. I assume they duked it out and the Trigger lost. <Probably, the damsels are very aggressive.> For a few days I observed his cowardliness and did some research and discovered that they must have had a tick. I placed the damsel in my quarantine tank and the Trigger came out of hiding soon after. The other damsel started to give him a hard time and he did they same thing. I removed the second damsel. <He is not healthy so he is low man in the pecking order.> Now he doesn't eat that I can see (food goes right past his face with no reaction) and doesn't swim around much at all. <Not good.> Mostly he sits in his hole, or wiggles slowly with his nose against the glass like he is sad now. His lack of eating is worrying me now since he was a hardy eater. I just bought a small tank raised Clown to put in there with him for company. <Also can be quite aggressive, are members of the damsel family.> I'm not worried if things don't turn out too good for the Clown. <Bad news for the clown.> What do you think might be his problem, and do you think he will die soon? <Yes, if kept in a 20 gallon tank he will not last long, it is just not a suitable environment for him and you are seeing it begin to take it toll.> Thanks in advance for your help. Keith <Welcome> <Chris>

Huma Huma Trigger with a swollen jaw... over and mis-stocking, and?   11/6/07 I have had a my Huma Huma Trigger for about a year and to date he has been relatively healthy. Approximately 3-4 moths ago, he survived Ich which affected my entire tank. <Does... the fishes> Recently I have noticed that each morning, his eyes appear to be "bugging" out of his head and later in the day he appears back to normal. <Okay> The last few days, I haven't seen any problem with his eyes, but his jaw is swelling. It looks as if he went a couple of rounds with a boxer and lost. <Good description> I've searched around on the site, but haven't found much help. Can you offer any direction? <Mmm, well... could be an after affect of whatever chemical/medication exposure this fish suffered... Perhaps this is coupled or instead due to some nutritional deficiency, water quality anomaly, ingestion of some noxious organism, genetic predisposition...> Tank info: 50 gal <Too small... for this species> with two Pacific Blue Tangs, one Niger Trigger <Ditto and incompatible with the Odonus> and One Lunar Wrasse. <And too small for this Thalassoma as well> {I used this tank as a hospital tank when I had a huge ich problem. Main tank is 170 gallons.} All appear healthy since we defeated Ich. <How?> I was considering transferring all of the fish back to the main tank and placing some schooling fish in this tank when my Huma starts having this issue. All of the fish including the Huma are very active and eating well. He will even nip my finger if I put it on the surface of the water. He doesn't act like he's sick, but sure looks that way. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide. <Well... you do need to move all out to larger quarters... I would try bolstering their immune systems via supplementing their foods... and hope. Bob Fenner>

SICK Huma Huma Trigger; research, patience  3/1/07 Hello, I really hope that you can help me.   <Hello, and so do I. GrahamT with you today.> I purchased an established tank about 2.5 months ago.  The tank is a 46 gallon bow front with 10 lbs of live rock.   <Far less than useful. A *generalized* "rule of thumb" is 1:1 lbs/gallons. More is better...> The tank had a 2" yellow tang, a 3" yellow tang, a 4" Foxface and two damsels.   <Too little room for these species, excepting the damsels.> It has a Penguin 250 filter, a Penguin 350 filter and a SeaClone 100 protein skimmer.   <This protein skimmer is regularly touted as one of the frequently regretted purchases among hobbyists...> When we moved the tank we kept about 2/3 of the water.   <Very good idea.> After setting up the tank we had the water tested and found out that it was extremely dirty (no detectable nitrite or ammonia, but over 200 ppm nitrate).   <Wow! Could have a lot to do with stirring up the substrate, or even lack of water changes on the previous owner's part...> We proceeded to do 6 water changes in about a two week period bringing the nitrate down to 80 ppm.   <Still very high, and likely stressing out your inhabitants.> After the last water change the smaller yellow tang died.   <Mmm, what is your water source for the water changes?> The next day the larger yellow tang would not eat and was hiding.   <Not a good sign...> A day later the large yellow tang died.   <Oh, even worse.> The guys at the fish store told us it was probably due to the stress of moving them and all the water changes.   <Mmm, would not disagree, but without knowing more about the mix you used for water changes...> I waited two weeks and then purchased a Huma Huma Trigger. <D'oh! Did the nitrates come down below 40ppm? Had the damsels seemed to look better? (I know they may have looked fine the whole time) I hope this purchase was based on better water conditions, and not JUST time gone by.> A week after that I purchased a Flame Angelfish.   <I have to say, this sounds like someone wants to "fill" their tank, rather than stock with appropriate selections and care for them as appropriately. Patience and research is key to success in this hobby.> It has been two weeks since I introduced the Huma and now it has also stopped eating and is hiding.   <This is very abnormal behaviour. Triggers are notorious for the voracity. Unless this is a very small specimen (under 1.5") then I suspect your water quality has gotten away from you again.> Could this be bacterial?   <Anything is possible, but current water test results are necessary in assisting you.> I don't have a QT tank yet, do you have any suggestions on what I can do to save this fish?   <Take some water tests. Consider upgrading the filtration and liverock compliment. Also, you didn't mention whether you employ live sand or bare-bottom.> Also, the Flame Angel has a white spot on her lip that has been there since I purchased her.   <Hmm... you should NEVER buy a fish that shows symptoms of disease. Put a modest deposit on it and the LFS should be happy to keep it QT'd until it looks better.> The fish store said it was probably Lymphocystis and that it should go away on it's own.   <Could, but proper nutrition and water conditions help more than time will.> However after a week it looks like it is just getting worse and she now has a cloudy eye and a frayed tail.    <I think you need to get some test results and reflect on your purchases. You have to keep in mind that these animals depend on us and require us to know their needs, or else what is the point in keeping them? I used to work at a retail fish store and we regularly refused business from customers that we knew/suspected were buying fish over and over again only to kill them through ignorance/negligence and laziness. I will quote a phrase I use often: Many folks leave the marine hobby in failure due to their lack of understanding and its subsequent devastating consequences. Fish may be purchased with problems you don't see and aren't responsible for. My intention is not to place blame or to make you feel inadequate or inferior. Most of us have made this mistake, or worse ones. We all (hopefully) learn from our mistakes. I think that most of the crewers here at WWM will agree that they hope to prevent the unfortunate side-effects of improper selection and lack or research that they themselves (myself included) have caused. The information you need to be a successful hobbyist is out there (or here!) and you owe it to you and your fish to use it.> Foxface and damsels are still doing good.  HELP PLEASE! <Use the Google search tool here for your Centropyge loriculus's symptoms, and you will be directed to a FAQ list of those symptoms. -GrahamT>

SICK Huma Huma Trigger; research, patience (pt.2) 3/2/07 Graham, <Hello again.>      Thank you for your response.   <You are welcome! Is what we do...> I really do want to keep these fish alive and I feel horrible that I was probably the cause of their death.   <Woah! Don't be so quick to hate yourself here. You don't know what the water conditions were when you purchased the system. You may have practiced some patience, but in the end some of us need to make mistakes to know their consequences.> I did purchase "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" book when I first got the tank (before I added anything or did any water changes) and have read it cover to cover twice.   <A good read, no doubt.> In the book it mentioned that there was no real proof that high nitrates caused fish any harm and that most "fish only" systems run at high rates.   <This is true, there is no research into the mortality of captive species that are housed in systems with too high Nitrates. We do know, however, that the concentrations at sea are at or near zero and that this is the environment we try hard to reproduce. I would look at 40ppm as a "ceiling" for your FOWLR, with an occasional peak into the 50's or 60's. This doesn't mean that your fish won't be stressed about these levels, just that they might get to that point before a water change. The other end of the spectrum is where we work to keep the bio-load at a point where Nitrates are maintained below 15ppm for FOWLR. It is possible to do with well, regimented feeding and the addition of natural process (Refugium, DSB) that abate these toxins. (All laid out in "TCMA")> After seeing no visible signs of infection on the tangs (i.e., no reddening, color change, etc) after they died I assumed the guys at the fish store were correct by saying that they probably died due to the stress of moving them and all the water changes.   <This is possible, but hard to confirm. Either way, I find myself wondering if you have some contaminant in your system. Have you looked over our link on toxic tank syndrome? ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/toxictk.htm ) I ask because, though damsels are very very hardy, triggers are pretty tough in their own right.> This was the reason I purchased the huma and flame <Flame angels are notoriously finicky about water conditions and stress easily. A much more tolerant cousin is the Coral Beauty (Centropyge bispinosa).> (I also did multiple water tests before purchasing these two fish and everything checked out fine, <Relative. Numbers, if you have them, are far more useful to me.> except the nitrates were still high) <D'oh!>.  I have since taken the flame back to the fish store because I did not want her to get worse and die.   <A tough decision on your part. I think the right one.> They are going to try to rehabilitate her.  The Huma has gotten worse, so I purchased a hospital tank (10 gallon) filled it with water from my main tank and put the Huma in that tank to begin treatment for a bacterial infection.   <What are his symptoms again? Other than not eating, I don't remember you mentioning any outward signs. > I does not look like he is going to make it.   <Have you considered treating with Lifeguard marketed by Instant Ocean? ( http://www.jlaquatics.com/phpstore/store_pages/details/medicine.php?product_ID=md-aslg016) I mention it because it's a broad spectrum and rather gentle treatment. Unfortunately, it is new enough that I don't have experience with it, and there have been only a few blurbs that I've read lately on it's use. On the good side, it seems very promising!>   Two questions:  1.  I don't plan on purchasing anymore fish for a VERY long time, but if the Huma lives I need to know if it will be too crowded for him....  My 46 gallon tank now has a Foxface (4") and two damsels (1").  I am planning on upgrading to a 125 galloon tank next year.   <If you are sure about the timing of the 125-gallon, then you should be ok. Wait! You never mentioned how big he is! Under 4 inches, he'd be ok for a year or so. > How many fish could I keep HEALTHY in my 46 gallon tank for the next year?   <For clarification: You have two damsels and a Foxface? With these inhabitants, and the trigger, you are well (if not over) stocked.> Could I add the Huma back in or should I try to upgrade to the 125 gallon now? <Would wait for a change in behaviour from the trigger. You have moved him around quite a bit in the past few weeks. That reminds me: did you ask whether the trigger was caught or tank-raised?>      2.  What can I do to get the nitrates down?   <Well: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratennr.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/denitrification_erfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nutrientcontrol.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/no3probfaqs.htm ...would help you gain an understanding of the various opinions and techniques regarding nitrates and the exportation/conversion.> (I use tap water for water changes and condition it with PRIME and add CYCLE.  Salt used is CORAL LIFE)   <Mmm... do you test your water before and after mixing? It is possible that you have some unknown metals or other contaminants in your tap water. I would consider trying to eliminate that area of possible contamination by purchasing a small, effective De-ionizer http://www.aquariumguys.com/tapwaterfilter.html . If you can afford the up-front, then you could try an RO, but I like the DI for it's low initial cost and you can set it aside guilt-free if your tap water is actually fine after buffering. As far as Prime and Cycle go, I'm not sure what you are trying to achieve by their use in this instance. Prime is a dechlorinator/ammonia reducer, and useful in cleaning up (to some degree) tapwater before using in a freshwater setup. You may find it makes you feel better about using tapwater, but I think you should invest in a better form of treatment here. Cycle, IMO, is not worth trying, and I'm not sure what you are hoping for in it's use. If you are medicating with anti-bacterials in a QT then you will be killing off your nitrifying population, adding them back is not how you counteract this, but with water changes. Frequent water changes. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quaranti.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/QuarMarFishes.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bestquarfaqs.htm > I have done about 10 - 20% water changes in the past 2 months and they have gone down from 200ppm to between 80 and 60 ppm but have not budged from the high 80-60ppm. <See above.>      3.  If the Huma lives how long should I keep him in the hospital tank before moving him back to the main tank?   <No less than 4 weeks, but preferably 6-8. You don't even know what he has, so premature introduction to the display system may be, well, premature.> Also, is there something more I can do for him besides treating him?   <Keep his environs pristine.> I am currently using a broad spectrum anti-biotic because we have no idea what is wrong with him (no color change, no spots) <See if you can entice him to eat live brine. Maybe he's just too soon from the wild?>      Thanks again....I am still learning and I just don't want to be the cause of anymore death. <A worthy cause. I applaud you for trying and for pledging to be a saviour to your buddies. Spend some time reading here on WWM and you may find something that jumps out at you. In the meantime, provide excellent water quality, nutrition, low stress levels and keep testing. -GrahamT>

Huma Huma help 1/2/07 hello. <Hello, Graham here.> I have had a catastrophe... and want to help save my last fish... I purchased some turbo snails from the local pet store and after introducing them to my 75 gallon tank all my fish started scratching. I added Sea Cure and that was the end of my marine life. I lost 2 clown 2 damsel 1 yellow tang and my emperor angel.. now my trigger is left but he is still scratching away at his side. he has his whole belly red and flakey now. what can I do ? My tank was all zeros for no2, no3 and ammonia and a ph of 8.0-8.2.... I now have him out of the tank and in a quarantine.. he seems to be fine but he is scratching his skin really bad...I an dosing him with sea cure BTW. <Very hard to diagnose a problem like this when you can't see it. Send a high-resolution .JPG that has been either compressed in an image editor or to a .ZIP file. (Make sure the file is no bigger than 500k, but preferably under 100k) If you cannot send a pic, I recommend you try to work out an identification from our FAQs using the search tool.>                                                           Thanks                                                          Josh <Welcome.> <P.S. Bob F. : Please jump in if you see a red flag I'm missing! -Graham> <<Mmm... copper poisoning... removing the copper, hope, time going by... RMF>>

A buddy's Picasso in distress....  - 04/05/2006 <Sab> I had a quick question for ya....  I have a buddy at work (CC'd here) with a 2" Picasso in a 40g tank with two other fish; <Gonna get crowded...> water parameters all sound great, am going to double check for him in case his test reagents are old/faulty.  Sounds like a decent setup given the inhabitants' current size; also, the tank's in good shape/health aside from this little trigger.  He's been in the tank for 5 months and has started showing signs that he might be blind. <Does happen> He tries to go for food and fails to find it.  He apparently acts as though he wants to eat, just can't see/get the food.  The only things I can think of that might be issues are nutritional problems and toxic metals (copper, etc). <These are the most common...> I think we've ruled out the latter though.  The fish are fed on frozen krill, Mysis, brine shrimp, and flakes.  I've suggested he start trying some frozen/thawed human-consumption fish/shellfish meats, foods soaked in Selcon, maybe some Spectrum pellets, but I'm just not sure if nutritional   issues would blind a fish? <Yes, can/do>   I've read so in a couple of places, but....  is there anything else that I'm missing?  Other things that cause blindness in fish/triggers? <Likely the third most common "cause" are pathogenic/parasitic problems... next, too-bright/continuous lighting...> Am currently recommending quarantining the critter so he won't have competition for food and trying to get something into his little concave belly.  Any other thoughts? Also, Brent, the link for the conference is http://www.wmc2006.org - hope to see ya there! -Sabrina <Oh, yes. And do send along a close-up pic of this fish's eyes if you can. Bob Fenner>
Re: A buddy's Picasso in distress.... blindness
- 04/05/2006 thanks to both of you.  I'll get a close-up of his eyes soon.  as far as lighting goes, i have a 50/50 skylight/actinic on a timer (no reef/coral set-up), so i don't think that's it. <Me neither... Bob Fenner>

Questions on Huma Huma Hello- I have a question about my Huma Trigger. I just got the fish a few days ago, it has a whitish rash on its body and has been ramming himself into the wall of the tank, the bleached coral, the thermometer, you name it. Is it trying to scratch an itch or is it just attacking these things? <Hard to say... all your suggested possibilities might be the one... or a combination of the reasons for this animals apparent aberrant behavior. Might also simply be something that disagrees with it in the way of water chemistry. What other sorts of life do you have in the system? Or consequent with capture, handling damage... Or an internal disorder...> Also I have 3 damsels with this guy. Are they safe, they seem to be happy for now. The Trigger is quite small. <Safe for now.> Last question. I am wondering if there was a good scavenger fish that I could get that would clean up after the trigger. He is very messy. I know that if I get a shrimp or a crab it would end up being an expensive snack. Any suggestions??? <Please see our site re marine scavengers, starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marscavart.htm following the links, FAQs from there> I have a 32 gallon tank with a Fluval 304 filter <Yikes... this is a small system for what you have now, and smaller as the fishes grow.> Thanks for any help Jason
<Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Picasso Trigger We have had our Picasso Trigger for around 5 months now and he has been slowly developing a 'bump' on his nose. <Yes, I see from your image. Bizarre> Recently, in the last week his bump has begun to swell and he is beginning to get quite lethargic. Earlier in the piece, he used to 'scratch' his head on the rocks but there is no obvious scratching on his skin. None of the other fish in the tank seem to be affected. At first we thought that it might have been bruising as he bumps his head on the top of the tank when we feed him. He's eating a diet of frozen mussel, oyster and spinach with some dry flake food. We also give him fresh mussel as well. We've tried to give him a little bit of garlic (recommended to us by the shop we've bought all our fish through) but he doesn't seem to be improving. <No... I suspect this is a fluid-filled tumor or cyst within the animals internal skin...> Our other fish in the tank include a yellow tang, 2 blue/green chromos, a Percula Clown and a Black and White Humbug. We also have a few local shrimps to help keep the tank clean and they sometimes sit on his nose 'cleaning' him. The tank is 600 litres and recently set up and our regular testing shows that the water is good and we change it regularly with local fresh sea water. I have attached a photo of 'Trig' and we hope that you may be able to have a look at it and perhaps recommend what may be wrong with him. He's by far our most interesting tank inhabitant and we'd hate to lose him. The shop don't know what it is and all the diseases that we read about don't seem to come close to his condition. If you're not sure, can you recommend someone who may know. Thanks for your time ... <Thank you for writing, and sending the image. I have a long-standing keen interest in triggers/Balistids (for many years thought I was going to make them my life's study, do my doctorate on their systematics...)... so have always had ancillary interests in their biology. Have only seen these sorts of tumorous growths on a couple of other occasions. Unfortunately, nothing I'm aware of can be done to reverse or remove this "bump"... Though sometimes such growths resolve themselves spontaneously, of their own accord. I would keep the animal as well as can be, soaking its foods in a vitamin and iodide mixture twice a week... in the hopes that it will self-cure. Should this animal perish, do consider donating to university (zoology department) or through your veterinarian to a specialist. Bob Fenner>

Humu Humu Trigger died Saturday Hi all.. Anthony and all <greeting, my friend> sad sad...but Magnum died Saturday morning after his situation got worse on Friday. <alas... sorry to hear it but I admire you for your great efforts> he seemed to do fine on Thursday evening, after he got stuck to the air pump that morning. <great stress I'm sure> We saw the deterioration on Friday but there was nothing we could do, and we had small hope that he would get better. deep inside you know when a fish is dying. I really miss this cute fish and I wished he'd survived but we think the injury was too much.......or maybe even got infected inside in any case...after spending the last 2 weeks caring about this fish' health he became kind of like my little care project, meaning...you want to protect it and want it to have a good life.... <yes... and its death is not in vain... you have learned so much and other Q&A readers have benefited from the insight as well, rest assured> I just wanted to say thanks to all who have helped and given advice......too bad the last injury was too much Wendy <always welcome... best regards in this hobby/life to you. Kindly, Anthony>

HELP - Sluggish Picasso Trigger Hello, Over the past few days I have noticed changes with my Pecos Trigger.  Until recently the trigger has been very active, but now he has been spending a lot of time sleeping under the rocks.  I have even noticed him swimming past the power filter inlet and allowing himself to be sucked against the grate. Today when I go home from work I found him upside down lodged behind the overflow.  At first I thought he was dead but when I moved the box he swam away.  I checked my levels and found the following: Nitrates:            20 Nitrites:             0 Ammonia:         0 PH:                   8.8 Obviously I have allowed my PH to get way out of control so I instantly added the first dosing of marine buffer to get it back under control.  I have looked over the trigger and see no signs of other disease.  Would the PH be causing him to act sluggish and reduce the level of activity?  Any advice is appreciated. Stacey Hippen <Hi Stacey, Your pH is *high* at 8.8.  Are you sure it wasn't 7.8? Adding buffer to 8.8 water would raise it far too high. Of concern to me is your nitrate level.  I would perform adequate water changes to get your water to 8.3-8.4 pH and lower your nitrates to start. You might also try looking up your trigger at WetWebMedia.Com in the Google search engine to see if there is something you are missing.  Craig>

Trigger needs glasses Good Morning Guys                                                             Thanks for such an informative sight. I have a question concerning a Picasso Trigger, which has been part of the family for about 5 years. He has always been the picture of health and very responsive to my being in the room or nearby. Now here's the problem. He has what appears to be a vision problem. When I walk up to the tank he can see me. I know this because he comes running at feeding time. He comes to the top of the tank to feed but seems as though he can't see the food. The food can be right in front of him but he can't find it! The only way to feed him is by hand! So it seems as though he can see at a distance but not up close. He also has become very clumsy and disoriented at times. (i.e. running into the coral) I really would appreciate your thoughts on this. He has lost weight. Is this a result of not being able to find the food or is something else going on? Thanks again for your time. Randy S.  < Try soaking his food in a vitamin preparation such as American Marines Selcon.  Unfortunately this is a problem with many large/old captives. You won't be able to completely restore his vision but just keep it from getting worse.  Also make sure you are keeping up on your regular water changes.  Hope this helps, Cody>

Picasso Trigger Hi there, I have a small question regarding my baby pico.  I've had him for a month and he's been doing great, swimming all over, eating like no other...  This morning I saw a two small brown spots on the tip and side of his nose/mouth.  They eventually disappeared, but I don't know what they were.  He picks on the rocks all the time, searching for food and the other day I saw him scratch himself against the rocks.  Could the spots be just from his daily pickings?  I have 2 damsels in a 55 gallon with all the goodies, and I do a 25% water change weekly.  Any info/advice would be great.  Thanks Jon  <Just keep a close eye on him for know as these fish are very tough.  You need to quarantine all new fish in a separate tank for at least 3 weeks before adding them to your main tank.  For more info on quarantine and the trigger read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quaranti.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/triggers/rhinecanthus/index.htm Best regards Cody>

Trigger Losing His Sight? Good Morning Guys <Scott F. your guy today!> Thanks for such an informative site. I have a question concerning a Picasso Trigger which has been part of the family for about 5 years. He has always been the picture of health and very responsive to my being in the room or nearby. Now here's the problem. He has what appears to be a vision problem. When I walk up to the tank he can see me. I know this because he comes running at feeding time. He comes to the top of the tank to feed but seems as though he cant see the food. The food can be right in front of him but he cant find it! The only way to feed him is by hand! So it seems as though he can see at a distance but not up close. He also has become very clumsy and disoriented at times. (i.e. running into the coral) I really would appreciate your thoughts on this . He has lost weight. Is this a result of not being able to find the food or is something else going on? Thanks again for your time. Randy S. <Well, Randy- hard to say...There actually is "nutritional blindness", generally brought on by (surprise!) dietary deficiencies. There are other possibilities, too: The fish could have had some sort of trauma to its eyes...? You should observe carefully...Make sure that the environmental conditions are stable and of high quality...This is an unusual occurrence, but it does happen...Usually, however, lack of response to environmental stimuli is indicative of some sort of water chemistry issue, in my experience...Hang in there, and take action as needed...Regards, Scott F>

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>

- Lumpy Humu - Aloha WWM Crew, <Aloha.> Much mahalos for the wonderful service you provide.  I can't thank you guys enough for all your help.  I have a baby Humu which has a line (bump) that run from one side of his jaw to the other side (see attached pics). <Interesting.> I gave him a couple fw dips and quarantined him for a couple weeks before placing him into my transition tank (30gallon).  I was going to put him into my main display tank when I noticed the strange bump. All the levels in the tank are normal and I have been feeding him vitamin soaked food ever since I got him. What going on? <Really hard to say... I've seen similar lumps on related triggers like the Rhinecanthus aculeatus and your R. rectangulus but am still not sure of the origin. Think it could be one of two things: a subcutaneous swelling, perhaps from wedging itself into a tight spot. The other option, which is less inviting is a tumor. Both happen... and there's not really a whole bunch you can do for either one. I would just continue to keep the fish like any other pet and perhaps the lump will go away and perhaps you will name it Lumpy... as long as it's eating, you're both doing alright.> Thanks again,
<Cheers, J -- >

Triggerfishes for  Marine Aquariums

Diversity, Selection & Care

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