News / Species Spotlight / Beautiful Brutes: The Golden Heart Triggerfish (Balistes punctatus) (07/14/16)

Beautiful Brutes: The Golden Heart Triggerfish (Balistes punctatus)

Beautiful Brutes: The Golden Heart Triggerfish (Balistes punctatus)
This seldom seen Eastern Atlantic species is a bit deceptive in its common name, as its namesake heart of gold doesnt refer to any innate kindness or generosity on the part of this fish, but, rather, to the golden-yellow marking flanking its side. Make no mistake, Balistes punctatus is every bit as aggressive as its triggerfish kin once mature.

In the wild, this species is only found around coastal waters of Western Africa, from Morocco to Angola, where they forage about the sandy bottoms and rocks of shallow reefs. Its incredibly rare to see fish from this part of the world in the aquarium trade, as the reefs of the Eastern Atlantic generally have few species desired by aquarists, but, like the African Angelfish (Holacanthus africanus), one of the few other species seen from this corner of the world, the Golden Heart Triggerfish is an aquatic beauty worth seeking out.

Wildly territorial, B. punctatus will select a very particular section of reef to patrol as they search for bivalves and crustaceans within caves and crevices. With a maximum size approaching two feet in length and some wickedly powerful jaws, theres little competition for this beautiful fish within its native habitat.

Aside from the distinctive gold spot on its side, the patterning of this triggerfish consists of an exuberant field of dark-brown polka dots set against a lightly colored background which varies from tan to light grey. The face is also scrawled with an interesting pattern of pale blue stripes, giving this fish an unusual mix of colors and shapes that calls to mind the bizarre appearance of the Clown Triggerfish of the Indo-Pacific.

Relatively little is written about keeping B. punctatus in captivity, but youll want to follow the same guidelines you would for similar species, such as the closely related and highly aggressive Queen Triggerfish. In light of their territorial nature, youll want to provide adequate rockwork and choose tankmates that will stand up to this species boisterous naturethink large groupers, moray eels, aggressive angelfishes, etc. And, given the size this species can ultimately reach, an aquarium measuring 200 gallons or more needs to be provided for adult specimens, though juveniles will do fine in smaller confines for a while.