Bursa Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus verrucosus)

Bursa Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus verrucosus).

Bursa Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus verrucosus).

The Bursa Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus verrucosus) known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Black Patch Triggerfish or Blackbelly Triggerfish occurs on coral reefs throughout the Indo-West Pacific and in Hawaii. Its range extends from the Seychelles and Chagos Islands to south Japan, Vanuatu, and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.   In Australia it is recognized from the offshore reefs of north-western Western Australia and from the northern Great Barrier Reef to northern New South Wales.   A probable aquarium release was reportedly observed near Boca Raton, Florida in 1995.

Bursa Triggerfish are most commonly found around the edges of shallow, sandy bottomed reef flats on both the lagoon and seaward sides; among macroalgae, rubble, corals, and seagrasses at depths from 3 to 100 feet where they feed on fish, tunicates, mollusks, crustaceans, sea urchins, and some corals.

Juveniles migrate to the reef flats at high tide and return to the subtidal zone during low tides. They are often collected from holes where they shelter.

The Bursa Triggerfish has a laterally compressed body with a protruding snout with large lips and three rows of forward curving spines on the side of the body at the caudal peduncle.   The dorsal and anal fins are similar in shape and the first dorsal spine can be locked into place, allowing the fish to wedge itself into holes and crevices. When locked, the first spine can be collapsed by pressing on any of the smaller spines.

Bursa Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus verrucosus).

Bursa Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus verrucosus).

The Bursa Triggerfish is brown to light blue in color, milky white below the lateral line, and grayish brown above a large black circular splotch on the abdomen. The face is half yellow and half white with a red, pencil thin moustache and a colorful yellow, blue, and army green mask across the eyes.

The Bursa Triggerfish is best housed in a mature FOWLR aquarium of at least 125 gallon capacity with a sandy of fine coralline gravel substrate and copious amounts of live rock for them to hide among.

Adult Blackbelly Triggerfish are shy but become territorial and highly aggressive towards other triggerfish.  They have strong teeth and jaws and will readily eat smaller fish, invertebrates, and corals.   They are definitely NOT reef safe and should only be housed with other aggressive species in a community tank.

Rhinecanthus verrucosus have not been bred in an aquarium environment.

In their natural habitat, Blackbelly Triggerfish are carnivores that feed on fish, tunicates, mollusks, crustaceans, sea urchins, and corals.   In an aquarium environment they should be fed a varied diet of fresh or frozen shrimp, squid, clams, fish, krill, hard shelled rock shrimp as well as some marine algae and vitamin-enriched herbivore foods.

The Bursa Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus verrucosus) is readily available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts from a variety of online suppliers and specialty fish shops at reasonable prices that vary according to size and area of collection. Approximate Purchase Sizes: Small: 1″ to 2″; Medium: 2″ to 3″; Large 3″ to 4″. Medium size prices from Indonesia start at $69.99, and from Phillippines $79.99.

Bursa Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus verrucosus).

Bursa Triggerfish (Rhinecanthus verrucosus).






Minimum Tank Size: 125 gallons
Aquarium Type: FOLR
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 72-78° F, dKH 8 – 12°, pH 8.1 – 8.4, sg 1.020-1.023
Max size: 9″
Color Form: Orange, Tan, White, Yellow
Diet: Carnivore
Compatibility: Reef NO
Origin: Indo-West Pacific and Hawaii
Family: Balistidae
Lifespan: 8 – 10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

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