The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Rhinecanthus aculeatus
Rhinecanthus aculeatus
(Lagoon Triggerfish)
Marine Fishes

Copyright Info
Rhinecanthus aculeatus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Common name: Lagoon Triggerfish

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Body compressed with elongated head.  Blue line above upper lip.  Small mouth with yellow area surrounding mouth and extending to base of pectoral fin.  Dark thick black banding near lateral line with smaller banding extending ventrally.  Dorsal fin III (23-26), anal fin 0 (21-23), pectoral fin (13-14).  From Randall (2005) and Allen et al. (2003). 

Similar species: Queen triggerfish (Balistes vetula) lacks diagonal white ventral markings.

Native Range: Blackbar triggerfishes are distributed in the Indo-Pacific from East Africa to Hawai’i and French Polynesia and south Japan to east Australia and Lord Howe Island.  From Allen et al. (2003).

Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: In Florida, one individual was observed off Jupiter in 2006 (REEF 2008). 

One individual was spotted by a citizen scientist off Ft. Lauderdale in April, 2018 and removed a few days later by personnel from REEF and Frost Science.

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Rhinecanthus aculeatus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL200620181Florida Southeast Coast

Table last updated 4/23/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: The species inhabits shallow lagoonal reef flats typically dominated by sand to a depth of about four meters.  It is very common in the native range and feeds on a variety of benthic organisms including fishes, sea urchins, crustaceans, polychaetes, gastropods, ostracods, sipunculids, and algae.  It is also very territorial and will engage in intra- and interspecific border fights, sometimes making pig-like grunts when disturbed.  The species is haremic with male territories overlapping with approximately two or three female territories.  Both males and females maintain territories for long periods, with some documented over eight years.  Pair-spawning occurs around sunrise and females care for the demersal eggs until hatching.  From Klausewitz (1974), Kuwamura (1991, 1997), Myers (1999), Chen et al. (2001), and Randall (2005).

Means of Introduction: Probable aquarium release.

Status: Reported from Florida.

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

References: (click for full references)

Allen, G., R. Steene, P. Humann and N. Deloach.  2003.  Reef Fish Identification.  Tropical Pacific.  New World Publications, Inc., Jacksonville, Florida and Odyssey Publications, El Cajon, California.

Chen, T., R. F. Ormond and H. Mok.  2001.  Feeding and territorial behaviour in juveniles of three coexisting triggerfishes.  Journal of Fish Biology 59: 524-532.

Klausewitz, W.  1974.  Littoral fish from the Maldive Islands. 4. The triggerfish family, Balistidae (Pisces: Tetraodontiformes, Balistoides).  Senckenbergiana Biologica 55: 39-67.

Kuwamura, T.  1991.  Habitat segregation, coexistence or interspecific territoriality between two triggerfishes, Rhinecanthus aculeatus and Sufflamen chrysopterus, with notes on distribution of other balistids at Sesoko Island, Okinawa.  Galaxea 10: 65–78.

Kuwamura, T.  1997.  Evolution of female egg care in haremic triggerfish, Rhinecanthus aculeatus.  Ethology 103: 1015-1023.

Myers, R. F.  1999.  Micronesian Reef Fishes.  A Field Guide for Divers and Aquarists.  Coral Graphics, Davie, Florida.

Randall, J. E.  2005.  Reef and Shore Fishes of the South Pacific.  New Caledonia to Tahiti and the Pitcairn Islands.  University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu.

Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).  2008.  Exotic species sighting program and volunteer database.  World wide web electronic publication. www.reef.org, date of download March 10, 2008. 

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Morris, James A., Jr., and Pamela J. Schofield

Revision Date: 3/22/2021

Peer Review Date: 4/29/2009

Citation Information:
Morris, James A., Jr., and Pamela J. Schofield, 2024, Rhinecanthus aculeatus (Linnaeus, 1758): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=2766, Revision Date: 3/22/2021, Peer Review Date: 4/29/2009, Access Date: 4/23/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [4/23/2024].

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