News / Species Spotlight / Highly Underrated Fish - Red Tail Triggerfish (07/16/14)

Highly Underrated Fish - Red Tail Triggerfish

In the Wild

Xanthichthys ringens is a species endemic to the Tropical and Subtropical Western Atlantic Ocean, including the Caribbean. These triggerfish are commonly called Sargassum Triggerfish because the young of the species frequently live in sargassum patches; generally solitary or in small groups. As they grow, they migrate into deeper water on reef slopes, usually between 70 and 250 feet.

Their morphology indicates that they are likely planktivores, though some literature suggests a diet of motile inverts (urchins, shrimps and crabs). At depth, in some locations, they are the most common fish.

X. ringens has a max recorded size of just under 10". It is frequently mistaken for Xanthichthys lineopunctatus which has a much wider range gets larger and has different patterning on its side, but is otherwise very similar.

In the Aquarium

Xanthichthys ringens common name is Red Tail Triggerfish, a name much more familiar to most hobbyists. These are part of the Genus Xanthichthys, a group widely considered to be the best (but not only) triggerfish choice for reef aquaria. Their diminutive adult size, extraordinary hardiness and "reef friendly" diet make them pretty safe. Although, as they get larger, they are likely to eat small ornamental shrimps.

Red Tail Triggers are known as moderately peaceful fish; I have even seen instances where they are maintained in a small group after being added when small to a large aquarium. Once established, they can become territorial with new additions, especially new additions that resemble triggerfish. They can also be aggressive during feeding times.

Feed them a variety of foods at least twice per day. They will usually take well to pelletized food, but will generally be healthier and happier if you mix in some meaty foods. They become very tame after a short while and hand feeding them can be very enjoyable, for both you and the fish.

Scott W. Michael, Marine Fishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2001).
Quality Marine Internal References: Eli Fleishauer, Adam Mangino