Clown Triggerfish, Balistoides conspicillum (Bloch & Schneider 1801)

Other Names: Big-spotted Triggerfish, Big-spotted Trigger-fish, Clown Trigger-fish

A Clown Triggerfish, Balistoides conspicillum, at Madang, Papua New Guinea. Source: Jan Messersmith / License: CC BY Attribution-ShareAlike

A striking black triggerfish with large white spots on the lower side, a yellowish to whitish reticulated pattern on the back, a pale band in front of the eyes, orange lips, a pale caudal peduncle, and a black caudal fin with a broad pale yellowish vertical band. Juveniles are black with large white spots, a yellow snout and a yellow patch on the middle of the back.
Video of a Clown Triggerfish in the Maldives.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2019, Balistoides conspicillum in Fishes of Australia, accessed 11 Jul 2020,

Clown Triggerfish, Balistoides conspicillum (Bloch & Schneider 1801)

More Info


Ashmore Reef, Timor Sea, offshore reefs of Western Australia, reefs of the Northern Territory, and the northern Great Barrier Reef, Queensland and reefs in the Coral Sea, to Port Stephens, New South Wales, with juveniles south to at least Botany Bay; also at Christmas Island in the eastern Indian Ocean, and Lord Howe Island in the Tasman Sea. Elsewhere the species occurs in the tropical, Indo-west Pacific.
Inhabits clear coastal to outer reefs, near steep drop-offs, usually with rich coral growth. Juveniles are secretive, often sheltering in small caves with rich invertebrate growth.


Dorsal fin III + 25-27; Anal fin 21-27; Pectoral fin 15; Vertebrae 18.  Head with a prominent groove in front of eye; enlarged scales above pectoral-fin base and just behind gill opening forming a flexible tympanum; 3-4 rows of small anteriorly projecting spines on caudal peduncle; mouth terminal; caudal peduncle compressed; 39-50 rows of plate-like scales.


Overall black with large white spots on the lower half, a yellowish reticulated pattern on the back, a white or yellowish band across snout in front of eye, orange-yellow lips, and a broad vertical pale yellowish band on caudal fin.


Feeds on a range of benthic invertebrates, including sea urchins, crabs and other crustaceans, molluscs and tunicates.


A highly prized aquarium fish.

Species Citation

Balistes conspicillum Bloch & Schneider 1801, Systema Ichthyologiae: 474. Type locality: Mauritius


Bray, D.J. 2019


Australian Faunal Directory

Clown Triggerfish, Balistoides conspicillum (Bloch & Schneider 1801)


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. & Erdmann, M.V. 2012. Reef fishes of the East Indies. Perth : Tropical Reef Research 3 vols, 1260 pp.

Allen, G.R., Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Randall, J.E., Russell, B.C., Starck, W.A., Talbot, F.H. & Whitley, G.P. 1976. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Lord Howe Island. Records of the Australian Museum 30(15): 365-454 figs 1-2

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

Bloch, M.E. & Schneider, J.G. 1801. Systema Ichthyologiae Iconibus ex Illustratum. Berlin 584 pp. 110 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

Grant, E.M. 1975. Guide to Fishes. Brisbane : Queensland Government, Co-ordinator General’s Department 640 pp.

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)

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.

Larson, H.K., Williams, R.S. & Hammer, M.P. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293.

Matsuura, K. 2001. Triacanthodidae, Triacanthidae, Balistidae. pp. 3902-3928 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.

McCord, C.L. & Westneat, M.W. 2016. Phylogenetic relationships and the evolution of BMP4 in triggerfishes and filefishes (Balistoidea). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 94, Part A: 397–409.  Abstract

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.

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.

Whitley, G.P. 1937. Further ichthyological miscellanea. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 11(2): 113-148 figs 11-13 

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37465031

Depth:1-75 m

Fishing:Aquarium fish

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:50 cm TL

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map