Balistoides conspicillum

Common Names: Big-spotted triggerfish, clown tiger, clown trigger, clown triggerfish, yellow blotched triggerfish

Type Locality: India

Range: Indo-Pacific: East Africa south and east through Indonesia to Samoa, north to southern Japan, and south to New Caledonia

Taxonomic Troubles: Originally described as Balistes conspicillum. The name is sometimes misspelled Balistoides conspicillium.

Size: 50 cm (20 inches).

Preferred Water Chemistry: Tropical marine.

Difficulty: An extremely hardy species once it starts feeding. It can be recommended to beginning marine aquarists provided they understand the fish’s requirements for big tanks. This is not a fish for a 55- or even a 90-gallon tank!

Tank Setup: The aquarium for this species must be huge, with a 180-gallon being the absolute smallest that can be considered—and this being only if the fish is kept by itself, there is massive filtration, and regular large water changes are performed. This species is

Feeding: A carnivore. Once acclimated to captivity, specimens will take just about any meaty fare. Always feed meat from marine species, and never offer live fish, as this will only fuel the trigger’s aggressive habits.

Breeding: Although there have been aquarium spawnings, the details of raising the fry have not yet been figured out.

Fish Description

A verbal description of the coloration of this species cannot begin to convey its unusual beauty. What appears as clown-like garb is probably countershading camouflage, with the large white spots under a dark top making this rather garish fish much less visible on the reef than one would think.


Most triggers are pretty nasty, and this one is particularly so. It is also interestingly colored, and it can become a real pet, interacting with you through the glass. While the fish may well be willing to take food from your hand, it is also more than able to take a bite out of that hand with its sharp teeth, which are used to eat such crusty prey as sea urchins and crabs. Hundreds of these fish are sold as tiny specimens, but they quickly outgrow all but the largest tanks.

In terms of hardiness, ease of care, coloration, and personality, this is a great choice for a marine ornamental, but its almost 2-foot adult size restricts it to oversized aquaria, and its territoriality and aggressiveness are such that almost all specimens wind up having to be kept as their tank’s sole inhabitant. And its aggression isn’t reserved for tankmates—heater tubes, filter tubing, and acrylic tank panels can all succumb to the fish’s brute strength, powerful jaws, and sharp teeth. They’ve even been known to scratch glass aquarium panels. As a dog-like pet alone in a giant tank, the clown trigger will not fail to please. But in a community setup, it is almost guaranteed to disappoint.