Picasso, titan, blue, red tooth, clown, reef masked. These are just some of the names of the many different types of Triggerfish. Here in Lembongan, the most common Triggerfish that we get, are the Titan Triggerfish, Clown Triggerfish and the Redtooth Triggerfish. The most ‘infamous’ of the types of Triggerfish, is the Titan Triggerfish, due to its ‘interest’ nesting habits.
We are going to look at some information about these 3 types of Triggerfish that we get around Lembongan. This information is to help keep you informed and aware about these interesting creatures of the sea.
In locations that are very popular for divers, like Thailand, Egypt and places in south America, the Titan Triggerfish has become famous for the wrong reasons.
The Titan Triggerfish, is one of the larger fish in the Triggerfish family and the meanest looking. The size, looks and how it behaves, have earned this fish the persona of of a bully. This bullying behaviour, in recent years, has extended from other fish, to divers. This aggressive action towards divers, mainly happens at dive sites where there are a lot of divers. Over time, the increasing number of divers visiting a site becomes too much for the Titan Triggerfish and during the nesting time, this Triggerfish sees divers as a threat and tries its very best to protect their eggs.
Nesting of the Titan Triggerfish:
Triggerfish spawning is timed in relation to lunar cycles, tides, and time of changeover of tides. In relation to lunar cycles, eggs are observed 2–6 days before the full moon and 3–5 days before the new moon. Regarding tides, spawning happens 1–5 days before the spring tide. For the timing of tides, eggs are observed on days when high tides take place around sunset.
During actual spawning, eggs are laid on the sandy sea bottom. Eggs are scattered and attached to sand particles. Triggerfish eggs are usually very small (diameter of 0.5-0.6mm. After spawning, both the male and female participate in caring for the fertilized eggs. A female triggerfish stays near the spawning ground, around 5 meters off the bottom, and guards the eggs within her territory against intruders.
Males rarely perform this behaviour. A male triggerfish stays farther above the eggs and guards all the females and eggs in his territory. Males exhibit aggressive behaviour against intruders near the boundaries of their territories.
This protecting of the eggs and the females from intruders is the situation in which some divers have run ins with these Triggerfish. These territories are somewhat of a cone shape that start around the nesting site and grow larger and wider, towards the surface. If a diver enters this cone shape and the Triggerfish deems the diver as a treat, the Triggerfish may try and bite the diver.
Most of the time these bites are just nips on a diver’s fin. While depending, the Triggerfish will watch the diver, erect its dorsal fin and when the time is right, launch rapidly at the diver, take a quick bite, before quickly returning to the nesting area. This process will be repeated by the Triggerfish until they deem the threat has left their area.
A common mistake that divers make during this aggressive action, is to swim up. Swimming up results in staying within the cone shape of the Triggerfish’s territory and their actions will continue. The best thing to do is swim along the reef, close to the bottom until you exit their territory. Using your fins as protection from the aggressive fish is also a good idea.
Things to look out for:
The lunar cycle
If you know it is coming close to a full / new moon or it has just past, be aware of Titan Triggerfish on a dive site that is known for aggressive Triggerfish.
Triggerfish nesting areas
If you see one Triggerfish, close to the bottom, hovering around a small sand patch, as well as another Triggerfish hovering above, this could be a nesting area. The best thing to do, if you think you see this, is to give the fish some room. Put a bit of space between yourself and the area as you pass by, while watching the Triggerfish.
As mentioned before, these kind of behaviour is something new and is only becoming more common in areas that are busy with divers. Due to these areas having more and more divers, it has started to effect the life of the Triggerfish and they find themselves threated by divers and needing to defend themselves. Keep this in mind, the Triggerfish is just trying to protect its family, just as you would do if a nosey ‘giant’ entered your home area, you would try and protect your family.
Lembongan and Triggerfish:
The diver sites of Lembongan are yet to create these common issues with nesting Triggerfish. Yes, it does happen sometimes at some sites at are very popular with snorkelers and divers, but it is only a few times a year, not every lunar cycle. So it is not something to really worry too much about in Lembongan but keep this information in mind when diving in other parts of the world.
The Titan Triggerfish has earned itself a bad name because of these and some divers are uneasy when they see them, but it is only the Titan Triggerfish that shows so much aggression towards divers.
Here at dive sites like Toyapakeh, larger schools of Red Tooth Triggerfish can be spotted dancing together in the blue water. These schools can have a 100+ Triggerfish swimming around together. They are not aggressive as they provide a get sight for divers to see.
The much more colourful and cute Triggerfish, that we get in Lembongan is the Clown Triggerfish. This Triggerfish, spends most of it time, tucked away inside rock formations and coral. Only spotted by divers as they dart from one small cave to another.
Fun fact, the Triggerfish is also related to the Mola. For more information about the Mola, check out our Mola Facts Blog!
Red Tooth Triggerfish
Orange Lined Triggerfish