Profile of the Black Triggerfish

Black Triggerfish on coral reef background. Molokini, Maui, Hawaii.

The intriguing Black is one of the least aggressive and can be kept in a bigger tank with ease. These clever fish can not only learn to feed from your hand, but they can also communicate in a variety of ways. The key to keeping this species happy is to provide them lots of swimming room, intriguing rock formations to investigate, and tankmates that can manage a bigger semi-aggressive community member.

Breed Overview

Common Names: Black Triggerfish, Black Durgeon, Bursa Triggerfish, Hawaiian Black Trigger

Scientific Name: Melichthys niger

Adult Size: 14 inches

Life Expectancy: 5 to 6 years


Family Balistidae
Origin Tropics around the globe except the Caribbean
Social Aggressive
Tank Level All levels
Minimum Tank Size 90 gallons
Diet Omnivore
Care Moderately difficult
pH pH 8.1 to 8.4
Temperature 72 to 78 F

Origin and Distribution

The Black Triggerfish is circumtropical, which means it may be found in waters all around the world at similar tropical latitudes. It lives off the coasts of Hawaii and Polynesia, as well as in the East Indies and the Indian Ocean. It's also found off the southern coast of Africa, in the Indo-Pacific, and in the Red Sea. In the tropical Atlantic Ocean, a similar species of fish may be found.

Each Black Triggerfish has its own home amid the coral and rock formations just beyond the reef in the wild, but they will emerge and assemble in big schools near the top of the water to feed on current drifting zooplankton and algae.

Colors and Markings

There are faint, light blue-turquoise colored lines on the face and around the eyes. There are prominent white lines running down the base of both the soft dorsal and anal fins. In the natural, the body seems to be black, but once out of the water and with some light on it, you can see that the body is a dark blue to blue-green hue with horizontal patterns.

This species, like all Triggerfish, has a hard spiky dorsal fin that is generally held flat against the fish's body in a particular groove, but may be locked into place if needed. The Triggerfish utilizes its spine to keep itself in place when resting, making it difficult for predators to drag them out of concealment. The spine may also be utilized to ward off predators and as a weapon. To avoid unpleasant contacts with your pet Triggerfish, use gloves.

Triggerfish are also distinguished by their ability to vocalize. Black Triggerfish may make "put put put" sounds or growls; these noises are amplified by their swim bladder.


Although the Black Triggerfish is one of the less aggressive triggerfish, it is still a terrible option for reef tanks. This species will consume reef invertebrates and nibble at corals (even sea urchins). It is a predatory species that will assault and consume smaller, more docile fish. As a result, Black Triggerfish should be kept in fish-only aquariums with larger species that can stand up to them. Unless you have a mated pair, only keep one Black Triggerfish at a time. Moray eels, snappers, angelfish, and tangs are all acceptable tankmates. However, because Lionfish are slow-moving and have long, appealing fins, Black Triggerfish should not be kept alongside them.

Habitat and Care

The Black Triggerfish is a highly active fish that requires plenty of space to swim about and hide. In fact, this species is considerably more likely to be hostile in a smaller tank. Set up a variety of "reefs," live rock, and hiding spots for your Black Trigger Fish in your huge, fish-only tank.


An omnivore that can be fed a mixed diet of carnivore-friendly shrimp, squid, clams, fish, and other meaty meals, as well as marine algae and vitamin-rich herbivore foods. Feed these fish three times a day, approximately as much as they can eat in five minutes. Triggerfish may be trained to feed from your hand at the tank's surface, but be careful since they can bite painfully.

Sexual Differences

There are no obvious sexual differences between the male and female Black Triggerfish.


Black Triggerfish find partners, deposit eggs, and fertilize them. The eggs are then "glued" in a nest dug into the seafloor until they are ready to hatch. They will hide their eggs with broken shells if the substrate is too hard. Both men and females defend the eggs, however females do a better job of it; both males and females are aggressive when guarding their nest. In captivity, black triggerfish are not bred.