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Boxfish (Cowfish)

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seabass
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Boxfish (Cowfish)

Kofferfisch_(Ostracion_cubicus)_02.jpg

Boxfish, also known as Cowfish, are unique fish that are best kept by an experienced aquarist with non-aggressive fish in a large fish only with live rock (FOWLR) aquarium, as they are often not considered completely reef-safe.  Despite their slow swimming nature they can be capable jumpers.  These fish can release a toxin (called ostracitoxin) from its mucous glands when they are threatened, stressed, or die, which can kill its tank mates.  Sudden movements, sounds, or even bright lights can cause a Boxfish to release its toxin.  Even advanced aquarists have lost tanks full of expensive fish due to Boxfish toxin.  However, note that Trunkfish such as the Horn Nosed Cowfish, Long Horn Cowfish and Camel Cowfish are a lot less likely to cause harm to other tank inhabitants.

 

Boxfish can be aggressive towards fish of its own species (keep two females if keeping a pair in a sufficiently large tank).  Avoid keeping with aggressive fish and even cleaner species.  Provide a sandy substrate with plenty of live rock with caves and crevices for shelter and filtration, but with plenty of open swimming area.  Additional mechanical and chemical filtration (activated carbon) is recommended for these hearty eaters.  These fish are often sold while still quite small (and cute).  However, they require lots of feeding and space, and many species can grow quite large.  Don't purchase for a smaller tank with the intention of upgrading down the road.

 

Boxfish are omnivores.  Feed a varied diet two to three times a day, but no more than it can eat in a minute or two.  When first introduced, it might refuse food for a week or two; try feeding live gut-loaded brine shrimp or bloodworms.  It should then be acclimated to chopped squid, clams, krill, mussels, and herbivore preparations.  Being a slow swimmer, it might lose out to faster fish, so make sure they are getting enough food.  Feed thawed frozen marine preparation containing meaty foods and herbivorous preparations (including dried seaweed, or even frozen peas).  While they may accept dry preparations, don't offer floating food, which might cause them to swallow air causing buoyancy problems.

 

Scribbled Boxfish (Ostracion solorensis)

Max Size: 5"

Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons

Care level: Expert Only

Temperament: Peaceful

Reef Compatible: With Caution
Origin: Indo-Pacific, Australia

Species Notes: May eat snails, ornamental shrimp, and smaller fish.

Female_Reticulate_Boxfish_(Ostracion_solorensis)_(6055995923).jpg

 

Shaw's Boxfish (Aracana aurita)

Max Size: 8"

Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons

Care level: Expert Only

Temperament: Peaceful

Reef Compatible: No
Origin: Indo-Pacific, Australia

Species Notes: Known for wiping out entire tanks when stressed.

Shaw's_Cowfish.jpg

 

Thornback Cowfish (Lactoria fornasini)

Max Size: 9"

Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons

Care level: Expert Only

Temperament: Peaceful

Reef Compatible: With Caution
Origin: Indo-Pacific, South Africa

Lactoria_fornasini_2.jpg

 

Whitespotted Boxfish (Ostracion meleagris)

Max Size: 10"

Minimum Tank Size: 120 gallons

Care level: Expert Only

Temperament: Peaceful

Reef Compatible: With Caution
Origin: Central Pacific, Hawaii

Species Notes: A male and female or two females can be kept in the same aquarium together; but two males will fight.

Whitespotted_boxfish_Ostracion_meleagris_photo_Randall_J_E.jpg

 

Camel Cowfish (Tetrosomus gibbosus)

Max Size: 1'

Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons

Care level: Expert Only

Temperament: Peaceful

Reef Compatible: With Caution
Origin: Indo-Pacific, Red Sea

Species Notes: Less likely to cause any harm to other tank mates.

Humpback_Turretfish_-_Tetrosomus_gibbosus_2.jpg

 

Horn Nosed Cowfish (Ostracion rhinorhynchos)

Max Size: 1' 1"

Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons

Care level: Moderate to Difficult

Temperament: Peaceful

Reef Compatible: With Caution
Origin: Indo-Pacific, Australia

Species Notes: The Horn Nosed Cowfish is considered much hardier than others of its kind.  Often considered reef safe, large specimens may eat ornamental shrimp and crabs.

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Cubicus Boxfish (Ostracion cubicus) a.k.a. Yellow Boxfish

Max Size: 1' 6"

Minimum Tank Size: 125 gallons

Care level: Expert Only

Temperament: Semi-aggressive

Reef Compatible: With Caution
Origin: ndo-Pacific, Red Sea, Africa

Species Notes: May nip at tubeworms.

Kofferfisch_(Ostracion_cubicus)_02.jpg

 

Longhorn Cowfish (Lactoria cornuta)

Max Size: 1' 8"

Minimum Tank Size: 250 gallons

Care level: Expert Only

Temperament: Peaceful

Reef Compatible: With Caution
Origin: Indo-Pacific

Species Notes: May nip at tubeworms.  Less likely to cause any harm to other tank mates.

Lactoria_cornuta.002_-_Aquarium_Finisterrae.JPG

 

Scrawled Cowfish (Acanthostracion quadricornis)

Max Size: 1' 10"

Minimum Tank Size: 150 gallons

Care level: Expert Only

Temperament: Peaceful

Reef Compatible: With Caution
Origin: Atlantic

Scrawledcowfish.jpg

 

Photos by image.png.764b7df6a2818ad7ca0b4ddd2d888742.png

 

Saltwater Fish Index

 

Edited by seabass

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