Black Boxfish, Ostracion meleagris Shaw 1796

Other Names: Black Box-fish, Ornate Boxfish, Spotted Boxfish, Whitespotted boxfish

A male Black Boxfish, Ostracion meleagris, on Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Source: Rick Stuart-Smith / Reef life Survey. License: CC by Attribution


Males and females differ in colour: males are blackish on the back with white spots, a bluish head and sides with bright yellowish spots, and a yellow stripe (often broken) on the upper edge of the box-like carapace. Females and juveniles are entirely dark brown to blackish or greenish, with white spots on the head and body.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Ostracion meleagris in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 Apr 2024,

Black Boxfish, Ostracion meleagris Shaw 1796

More Info


Houtman Abrolhos area, Western Australia, to the Monte Bello islands and offshore reefs of north Western Australia, Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea, and the far northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, and reefs in the Coral Sea, to at least Swansea, New South Wales; also Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean, and the Lord Howe Province in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere, the species is widespread in the tropical Indo-Pacific.

Inhabits clear coral reefs, from the surge zone to about 30 m, often on reef crests and reef slopes. Juveniles shelter among boulders, often with urchins.


Dorsal fin 9; Anal fin 9.
Carapace quadrangular in cross section, spines absent; back gently convex, median dorsal ridge absent; dorsal profile of snout more or less straight, no bony protuberance above upper lip; caudal fin rounded.


Feeds on a range of invertebrates including ascidians, molluscs, polychaete worms, sponges and crustaceans; also consumes algae.


The specific name is from the Latin meleagris (= guinea fowl) in reference to the “innumerable” white spots on the body, that resemble the colour pattern of a guinea fowl.

Species Citation

Ostracion meleagris Shaw, in Shaw & Nodder 1796, The Naturalist's Miscellany Vol. 7: pl. 253. Type locality: Southern Ocean (= South Pacific)


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Black Boxfish, Ostracion meleagris Shaw 1796


Allen, G.R. 1993. Fishes of Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 44: 67-91

Allen, G.R. 1997. Marine Fishes of Tropical Australia and South-east Asia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 292 pp. 106 pls.

Allen, G.R. & Russell, B.C. 1986. Part VII Fishes. pp. 79-103 in Berry, P.F. (ed.) Faunal Surveys of the Rowley Shoals, Scott Reef and Seringapatam Reef, northwestern Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 25: 1-106

Allen, G.R., Steene, R.C. & Orchard, M. 2007. Fishes of Christmas Island. Christmas Island : Christmas Island Natural History Association 2 edn, 284 pp.

Allen, G.R. & Swainston, R. 1988. The Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia. A field guide for anglers and divers. Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls.

Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170 figs 1-2

Goldberg, A.S., Duffield, A.M. & Barrow, K.D. 1988. Distribution and chemical composition of the toxic skin secretions from trunkfish (family Ostraciidae). Toxicon 26: 651–663

Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp.

Hutchins, J.B. 1994. A survey of the nearshore reef fish fauna of Western Australia's west and south coasts — The Leeuwin Province. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 46: 1-66 figs 1-6

Johnson, J.W. 2010. Fishes of the Moreton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia. pp. 299-353 in Davie, P.J.F. & Phillips, J.A. Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Moreton Bay. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 54(3)

Koide, Y. & Sakai, Y. 2021. Feeding habits of the white-spotted boxfish Ostracion meleagris reveal a strong preference for colonial ascidians. Ichthyological Research 68: 461–470

Kuiter, R.H. 1992. Tropical Reef-Fishes of the Western Pacific, Indonesia and Adjacent Waters. Jakarta : PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama 314 pp. pls.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1996. Guide to sea fishes of Australia. A comprehensive reference for divers and fishermen. Sydney, NSW, Australia : New Holland Publishers xvii, 434 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. & Tonozuka, T. 2001. Pictorial guide to Indonesian reef fishes. Part 3. Jawfishes - Sunfishes, Opistognathidae - Molidae. Seaford, Australia : Zoonetics, pp. 623-893.

Matsuura, K. 2001. Ostraciidae, Aracanidae, Triodontidae, Tetraodontidae. pp. 3948-3957 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds).The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Matsuura, K. & Tyler, J.C. 1998. pp. 229–230, in Paxton, J.R. & Eschmeyer, W.N., ed. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. 

Oxley, W.G., Ayling, A.M., Cheal, A.J. & Thompson, A.A. 2003. Marine surveys undertaken in the Coringa-Herald National Nature Reserve, March-April 2003. Townsville : Australian Institute of Marine Science 59 pp. 

Oxley, W.G., Emslie, M., Muir, P. & Thompson, A.A. 2004. Marine surveys undertaken in the Lihou Reef National Nature Reserve, March 2004. Townsville : Australian Institute of Marine Science i-vii, 1-67 pp.

Parmentier, E., Solagna, L., Bertucci, F. et al. 2019. Simultaneous production of two kinds of sounds in relation with sonic mechanism in the boxfish Ostracion meleagris and O. cubicusScientific Reports 9: 4962.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1990. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 507 pp. figs.

Randall, J.E., Allen, G.R. & Steene, R. 1997. Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 557 pp. figs.

Russell, B.C., Larson, H.K., Hutchins, J.B. & Allen, G.R. 2005. Reef fishes of the Sahul Shelf. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory Supplement 1 2005: 83-105

Shaw, G. in Shaw, G. & Nodder, F.P. 1796. The Naturalist's Miscellany, or coloured figures of natural objects; drawn and described from nature. London Vol. 7 pls 231–254, unnumbered pages. See ref at BHL

Thomson, D.A. 1969. Toxic stress secretions of the boxfish Ostracion meleagris Shaw. Copeia 1969: 335–352

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37466019

Danger:Poisonous skin secretions

Depth:1-30 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:25 cm TL

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CAAB distribution map