clown triggerfish

Clown Triggerfish

Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum )

Also known as the bigspotted triggerfish, Clown Triggerfish (a member of the Balistidae family) are demersal marine fish commonly found on dives in the Indo-Pacific. They aren’t usually shy of divers, but will retreat if you get too close.

Similan Islands Clown Triggerfish

Balistoides conspicillum

Distinguishing Features

With its dramatic colouration, you won’t miss the clown triggerfish if you ever come across it whilst diving. Although mostly black, the bottom half of its body and belly is covered with white spots, reminiscent of leopard print. The clown triggerfish has an oval-shaped body, laterally compressed, and a large head. Don’t be deceived by its small mouth; it hides strong teeth.

The yellow blotch at the base of the caudal fin and network of faint yellow pattern on its head makes this fish an interesting and stunning creature. The anal and dorsal fin are also yellow towards the base, but change to blue and fade to black, giving them a ‘feathery’ appearance.

Clown triggerfish grow up to 50 cm in the wild.


The clown triggerfish is widely distributed throughout shallow tropical and subtropical waters in the Indo-Pacific Ocean and can also be found in the Caribbean.

Adults live on sloping reefs up to 75 m depth, whereas juveniles stay around sheltered caves and overhangs.

Feeding Habits

Clown triggerfish have quite a varied diet, based on molluscs, echinoderms and crustaceans, which they crush using their strong teeth. They are voracious eaters and spend the majority of their time foraging for food amongst the coral.


Unlike many other fish, the clown triggerfish digs a shallow crater, or nest in the sand, where the female lays her eggs. The males then fertilize the eggs and both sexes guard the nest aggressively, with no hesitation in attacking divers who get too close.

When the eggs hatch, the larvae simply float away on the ocean currents.

Life Cycle

Clown Triggerfish are solitary creatures and spend most of their lifetime alone, except when they come together for mating. They defend their territory aggressively and can frequently be seen attacking other fish if they venture to close.

Clown triggerfish factoids

  • Clown triggerfish is a ciguatoxic fish and rarely eaten by humans.
  • Some divers have reported seeing clownfish devouring a whole bed of pearl oysters.
  • Juveniles do not adapt well to captivity and there is a high mortality rate in clown triggerfish that are kept in aquariums.

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