What is a Queen Triggerfish?

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  • Written By: Todd M.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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The queen triggerfish, Balistes vetula is a large, aggressive member of the Balistidae family that is known for its vivid coloring and hostile temperament. This species is distributed along coral reefs throughout the Western Atlantic Ocean from the coast of Canada to southern Brazil, as well as portions of the Eastern Atlantic. Queen triggerfish are considered a popular gamefish by sportsmen and are easy to care for in an aquarium under proper conditions.

A mature queen triggerfish reaches a maximum length of 24 inches (about 60 centimeters) and can weigh as much as 12 pounds (about 5.5 kilograms). The fish is named for a pair of sharp spines that run along its back that spring out when it is confronted with danger. This species can be identified at a distance by the bright blue lines that outline its head and fins. The green and orange coloring of the fish's body becomes noticeably brighter when the fish is hunting or has spotted a predator.

Queen triggerfish can be found in small schools scouting over coral reefs and rocks but prefer to swim alone. They feed primarily upon mollusks and other invertebrates, including scallops, starfish, sea urchins, shrimp and small octopi. These fish limit their territory to depths of 15 to 100 feet (about 5 to 30 meters).


The striking coloring of this reef dwelling fish makes it a popular species amongst collectors of tropical fish. Like most members of the Balistidae, this species is extremely hardy, but the aggressive nature of the queen triggerfish makes it a difficult fish to integrate with other fish. The ideal environment for this fish is a 500 gallon (about 1900 liter) aquarium containing plenty of plants and rocks to hide in, but the fish can tolerate a 125 gallon (about 475 liter) aquarium if there are few other fish to compete with. This fish can be domesticated with careful feeding and maintenance, and some owners eventually tame their queen triggerfish to feed directly out of their hand.

In the wild, the aggressive spirit of the queen triggerfish makes it a popular gamefish. This species is known for putting up a fiercer fight than most reef dwelling fish and is quick to strike a hook baited with fresh squid or shrimp. The meat of this fish is considered a delicacy when it is properly prepared, but the liver of the queen triggerfish contains a compound that is toxic to humans.


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