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Ostracion meleagris is known by several common names including Blue Boxfish, Black Boxfish or simply Spotted Boxfish due to its drastically different coloration between males and females. There are at least two known subspecies of this fish. Although they can get up to about 1 inches, they normally do not grow over about 6 inches. A pair can be kept together as long as the aquarium is large enough to accommodate both.
Though coloration is variable, males will usually have blue sides with black or orange spots and the top of their body is black with white spots. Females (and juveniles) have a brown or black body with numerous tiny white spots from head to tail.
Boxfish, Cowfish and Trunkfish are all very closely related to each other. All have bodies that are box or pyramid-shaped. Although they may resemble some puffers, these fish do not "inflate" when stressed like puffers do.
Coloration, habitat and body shape may vary but all of these fish generally have pointed snouts that they used to pick prey items out of rockwork and crevices. They feed on invertebrates like some corals and polyps, crabs, shrimp, mollusks, worms and similar prey. They can be fed a varied meaty diet of fresh or frozen prey in the aquarium as long as the food is appropriately sized for their relatively small mouths.
These fish are not Reef Safe. Many will eat corals, especially smaller-polyped corals and polyps. They can usually be kept with most peaceful tankmates but should not be kept with aggressive tankmates or very active swimmers that can stress these passive weak-swimming fish.
If stressed, these fish can release a toxin into the water that can be harmful to itself and other tankmates. Always remove a struggling boxfish or cowfish into a separate quarantine tank if stressed and monitor their interactions with their tankmates closely. Avoid putting them in a tank with large, aggressive, or very active tankmates.
Visit That Fish Blog for more information from our marine biologists and guest authors on Boxfish, Trunkfish and Cowfish as well as a Species Profile on Longhorn Cowfish.