Surgeon and Triggerfish

Surgeonfish are a member of the Acanturidae family along with tangs and unicornfish. There are approximately 80 species, all marine fish, and they inhabit the tropical seas preferring the coral reefs. Many members of this species are brightly colored and are relatively small growing to a maximum  length of 6-16inches. They prefer to feed on marine algae with the occasional meal of meat if available.  Surgeonfish often travel and feed in schools, using their single row of teeth to graze as they move along the reef. It has been suggested that feeding in schools is a mechanism for overwhelming the highly aggressive damselfish that vigorously defend their “farms” of algae. The most distinctive characteristic of a surgeonfish are the spines located on either side of the tail known as the “scalpel”. The scalpel is razor sharp and this fish can inflict a deep wound with a quick flick of the tail fin if threatened.

Surgeon fish in the sea

Triggerfish also inhabit tropical and subtropical oceans throughout the world. There are about 40 species and while they are quite beautiful to the eye they are notoriously ill-tempered. Triggerfish have a small but strong-jawed mouth with teeth adapted for crushing shells. The fins of this species are also quite unique. The ventral and posterior dorsal fins undulate from side to side to provide slow speed movement. There are also three spines on the dorsal region, the first being the largest. When the triggerfish is relaxed it is normally retracted into a groove. But when threatened it will slide its compressed body in between the rocks and use the dorsal spine to anchor within, making it virtually impossible for a predator to remove it. The first spine is locked in place by the raising of the short second spine and can only be unlocked by depressing the second “trigger” spine. Hence the name trigger fish .

Let´s keep in touch!

Receive special offers & latest events.


The Key West Aquarium is part of the Historic Tours of America® eNewsletter.