Hawaiian Triggerfish (species: Rhinecanthus aculeatus) in Lizard Island Field Guide (Lizard Island Field Guide)
Rhinecanthus aculeatus
Hawaiian Triggerfish

©Andy Lewis: An adult Hawaiian Triggerfish

©Andy Lewis: A Hawaiian Triggerfish near its shelter hole
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Order Tetraodontiformes
Family Balistidae
Genus Rhinecanthus
Species Rhinecanthus aculeatus



Distinguishing features

A medium sized fish with a light brown body and pale underparts. A yellow stripe runs posteriorally from the mouth, and a series of white stripes run diagonally down to the anal fin. Swims using an undulating motion of the dorsal and anal fins.


  • Up to 30 cm (Standard length)

Depth range

  • Depth range data is not yet available.



©Atlas of Living Australia: Australian distribution

Distribution and habitat preferences

Rubble areas on reef flats, and rubble zones adjacent to rocky shores.

Found in most reef habitats around the island.

Local abundance

  • Lizard Island: Extremely common in shallow rubbly habitats


Hawaiian Triggerfishes are usually found singly or in loose groups, roaming slowly over rubble areas searching for their invertebrate prey. They have powerful jaws with large teeth and can feed on a wide range of food items, including molluscs, crustaceans, worms and echinoderms. They are shy fish and will retire into a hole if approached too closely.

This species is gonochoric and sexually dimorphic, with seperate sexes throught the life span and larger males. Triggerfishes have demersal eggs which they lay in a benthic nest which is closely guarded by the female for 3-5days until the larvae hatch.The newly settled juveniles are often found in the high intertidal near rocky shores.

Web resources


  • Bean, K., G.P. Jones and M.J. Caley (2002). Relationships among distribution, abundance and microhabitat specialisation in a guild of coral reef triggerfish (family Balistidae), Marine Ecology Progress Series, 233: 263-272. LIRS catalog number 90019.
  • Bray, R.A., T.H. Cribb and J.-L. Justine (2009). New observations on the genus Hypocreadium Ozaki (Digenea: Lepocreadiidae) in the Indo-West Pacific region, including the description of one new species, Zootaxa, 2110: 22-40. LIRS catalog number 1224.
  • Bray, R., A. Waeschenbach, T.H. Cribb, G.D. Weedall, P. Dyal and D.T.J. Littlewood (2009). The phylogeny of the Lepocreadioidea (Platyhelminthes, Digenea) inferred from nuclear and mitochondrial genes: implications for their systematics and evolution, Acta Parasitologica, 54: 310-329. LIRS catalog number 1280.
  • View all references