Clown Triggerfish: Exciting, Beginner-Friendly Aquarium Fish

Alison Page

Alison Page


Clown Triggerfish

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Clown triggerfish are a striking species known for their vibrant coloring and unusual behaviors. These gorgeous fish can make an excellent addition to a tropical marine aquarium with appropriate companion fish. Despite being highly aggressive and territorial, Clown triggers are pretty easy to care for and are considered beginner-friendly, provided you have a tank large enough to accommodate them!

Keep reading to learn more about caring for these amazing fish and find out whether a Clown triggerfish is a suitable fit for your tank!

The Clown Triggerfish – At a Glance

Clown Triggerfish Info
Scientific NameBalistoides Conspicillum
Common Name (species)Clown triggerfish, Yellow Blotched triggerfish, Clown tiger, Big-spotted triggerfish, Clown trigger
OriginIndo-Pacific, specifically East Africa, Indonesia, Samoa, southern Japan, and New Caledonia
Care LevelBeginner-friendly if you have a large aquarium
Lifespan8 years in the wild but can survive for up to 20 years as an aquarium pet
TemperamentAggressive and territorial
Minimum Tank Size200 gallons
Temperature RangeTropical 76° to 82° Fahrenheit
Salinity1.020 to 1.025
pH Range8.1 to 8.4
Filtration/Flow RateModerate flow rate and well-filtered water
Water typeSaltwater
BreedingBreed in harems in the wild but cannot be raised in captivity
CompatibilityCompatible with large, aggressive species. Not reef-safe as they eat inverts and can damage corals.

Species Overview

Clown Triggerfish are part of the Balistoides family, which boasts nine distinct species.

In addition to their striking looks, Clown triggers have a unique, entertaining swimming style. When these amazing creatures swim, they mostly use their dorsal and pectoral fins instead of their tailfins. But when they need to move quickly, the Clown triggerfish uses its tailfin to zoom forward with amazing speed.

The Clown trigger’s natural habitat stretches from coral reef fringes into the open ocean, ranging across the Indo-Pacific region from the South African coastline to the western Atlantic. The fish inhabit shallow reefs and deeper waters down to around 250 feet.

One of the standout features of the Clown triggerfish is its set of eight teeth – four on top and four below. These teeth aren’t just for eating, but they serve multiple roles. Continuously growing, the trigger’s teeth are essential for crunching the hard-shelled invertebrates that form much of the fish’s diet. The fish also use their teeth to grip onto rocks, providing an anchor point when resting in crevices at night and escaping predators.


As Clown triggerfish mature, their appearance changes markedly. As juveniles, the fish have a black, white-spotted body and a yellow snout and back. However, as the fish reach adulthood, their yellow markings recede, morphing into a lattice pattern on their dorsal region. The fish have a distinct white stripe beneath their eyes, while the only remnant of their yellow hue is found around the mouth. The white spots grow larger and more irregular in shape.

Interestingly, the vibrancy of their Clown trigger’s colors can vary day-to-day, reflecting their mood and health status.

One vital thing to know about the Clown trigger is that these are large fish! Adults can reach 1 foot 8 inches long, so you can see that you will need a very large tank to accommodate one of these guys!

Clown Triggerfish Lifespan

Clown triggerfish can live for around eight years in the wild but often survive for up to 20 years in captivity if provided with an optimum living environment and the correct diet.


Clown triggerfish are diurnal, spending most of their day cruising around their habitat looking for food and defending their territory. These are solitary fish that must be kept singly because of their aggressive, highly territorial nature.

These fish are said to have a dog-like personality and can make very entertaining pets. In fact, you can sometimes train your Clown trigger to eat food from your hand and perform simple tricks!

We recommend acquiring a Clown trigger at a small size as the fish generally recover faster from shipping, have a better chance of staying peaceful toward their tank mates, and are easier to train when feeding.

Temperament and Tank Mates

Clown triggerfish are notorious for being highly aggressive and territorial. As juvenile fish, they can be compatible with most other species. However, once they begin to grow, many tank mates will simply be regarded as a potential food source.

You must not keep these fish with any small, peaceful, slow-moving fish species or invertebrates. Clown triggers must live with other fish of a similar temperament, such as large puffers, angel fish, tangs, or groupers. That said, Clown triggers have been known to attack sharks, eels, and even lionfish, so you must choose tankmates extremely carefully.

In addition, Clown triggerfish are not considered reef-safe. That’s largely because they cannot be kept with invertebrates, but because of their size, they tend to damage corals.

Clown Triggerfish Care Guide

Clown Triggerfish

In this part of our guide, we explain how to care for Clown triggerfish in your aquarium.

Tank Size

As previously mentioned, these are very large fish, growing to measure over one foot in length, so you need a fish tank of at least 200 gallons to accommodate one. If you intend to keep other fish in your setup, you will need an even bigger aquarium. Clown triggers are highly territorial, and if they don’t have sufficient space, fights will almost certainly break out.

Although these fish don’t jump, we recommend a tank with a lid or cover slide to prevent dust and other debris from falling into the water. Also, keeping the tank covered helps to stop evaporation that could skew your water parameters.


Clown triggerfish are large carnivores that generate a significant amount of waste, so you must install a suitable filtration system to keep the water clean and safe for your fish.

Water Parameters

Clown triggerfish do best in an environment with stable water parameters that replicate those in their natural habitat.

These are tropical fish that need a water temperature of between 76° and 82° Fahrenheit, with a pH in the range of 8.1 to 8.4, water hardness of 8 to 12 dKH, and salinity of 1.020 to 1.025.


These are active, aggressive fish that explore every inch of the aquarium, so you must leave plenty of open water swimming space that is not obstructed by decorations.

To replicate their natural habitat, you will need to fill your tank with live rock, leaving crevices large enough for the fish to take shelter in.

Note that Clown triggers are powerful fish, and they will move and unsettle coral, rock, and decorations, so you need to securely fasten your tank contents to prevent damage to your aquarium and injury to your other fish.

These fish are not reef-safe, and they will damage your coral.


You don’t need any special lighting for Clown triggerfish, but they do benefit from 8 to 10 hours of light every day to mimic a day/night cycle.

What Do Clown Triggerfish Eat?

Unlike many carnivorous fish, the Clown triggerfish is relatively easy to cater to and will eat pretty much anything you provide. In the wild, the fish prey on crustaceans like crabs, shrimp, clams, and mollusks.

We recommend providing your triggerfish with a varied diet that includes hard-shelled foods to help keep the fish’s teeth from becoming overgrown. Foods such as krill, clams, shrimp, and silversides are all good choices, and the fish will usually accept frozen seafood, including fish and squid.

It’s best to put the food directly into the aquarium rather than trying to feed the fish on a feeding stick because they will bite.

How Much and How Often Should You Feed Clown Triggerfish?

We recommend feeding your triggerfish two or three times per day. These are large, active fish that are constantly hungry!


Although Clown triggers cannot be successfully bred in a home aquarium, there are reports of these fish being commercially raised, which is good news for their wild populations.

Wild Clown triggerfish assemble in mass gatherings at established spawning grounds. Here, the males build nests and then put on displays to attract a female. The fish become increasingly aggressive throughout the mating season as males squabble over breeding territories.

Once the male has successfully attracted a female, she lays her eggs in the nest, and the male fertilizes them. The mated pair then guards the nest for around eight days. Throughout that time, the female triggerfish blows bubbles around the eggs to oxygenate them and prevent the formation of fungus.

As soon as the eggs hatch, the female leaves the spawning ground or seeks out another male.

Health and Disease

Clown Triggerfish

Clown triggerfish are pretty hardy creatures, although they can be susceptible to a few common tropical saltwater fish diseases, including the following:

Marine Ich (Cryptocaryon irritans)

White Spot disease, also known as Ich, is a common ailment that affects various types of freshwater and saltwater fish. The source of this condition is a parasite that attaches to the fish, resulting in small white spots appearing on the fish’s body, fins, and gill covers. Infected fish will often rub against the substrate and solid objects within the tank in an attempt to rid themselves of the irritating parasites. It is crucial to act promptly to treat Ich with medication and water changes to prevent the disease from spreading to your other fish.

Marine Velvet (Amyloodinium ocellatum)

Fish infected with Marine Velvet develop a yellowish-brown or rust-colored film on their skin and often become lethargic and lose their appetite. Early detection is key to successfully treating this parasitic disease with over-the-counter medication.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections, including mouth and fin infections, can be caused by poor water quality, injury, or stress.

Luckily, you can treat most bacterial infections with over-the-counter medication, but you need to address the cause of the infection to prevent it from recurring.

Parasitic Infections

Clown triggers can be attacked by various internal and external parasites, including worms, flukes, and lice.

Most of these parasites can be dispatched successfully with species-specific drug treatment, but you must identify the specific parasite correctly for the medication to work.

Disease Prevention

When it comes to aquarium fish diseases, prevention is definitely better than cure. When you buy a new fish, always keep it in a quarantine tank for at least three weeks before introducing the newbie to your main display aquarium.

That’s especially important with Clown triggerfish since the vast majority are wild-caught and could be carrying parasites and other potentially infectious diseases. Only move your new fish into your main tank when you are sure they are free from infection.

Clown triggers are generally very active fish with beautiful bright colors. If the fish are not in good health, their colors fade, and they become very lethargic.


Clown triggerfish are mostly wild-caught and are generally priced according to their size. For example, you can expect to pay $150 for a specimen measuring around an inch in length, whereas a 6-inch fish will set you back up to $600 or even more, depending on its quality.

Final Thoughts

Clown triggerfish are relatively easy to care for, as long as you give them a correct diet and provide optimum living conditions.

Although these are beginner-friendly fish, they are also very large, needing a huge aquarium with plenty of open water swimming space as well as rockwork where they can hide. In addition, Clown triggers are highly territorial and very aggressive, which makes choosing suitable tank mates somewhat challenging.

These fish are carnivorous, needing a diet of hard-shelled foods to help prevent their teeth from overgrowing. That said, in comparison with other carnivals, the clown trigger is pretty easy to cater to.

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