Pinktail Triggerfish (Melichthys vidua)

Get to Know This Unique Triggerfish Species

Melichthys vidua, Raiatea, French Polynesia
zsispeo/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

While Triggerfish, in general, can be difficult to keep in an aquarium, the Pinktail Triggerfish is an exception. It may be a bit difficult to get them to eat when first introduced to the aquarium, but once they figure out that hand fed foods are actually food, they adapt well. This fish has what many people call "personality" as it will follow your relentlessly when you walk by the tank until it is fed.

If this fish is introduced into the aquarium at the end of the stocking procedure it will generally not quibble about the current housing situation as long as it can find a house of its own in the live rock formations in the tank. Including a number of potential "houses" in your live rock formations while aquascaping is always a good idea.

Characteristics

Scientific NameMelichthys vidua
SynonymBalistes nycterisM. vidua 
Common NamePink-Tail Triggerfish, Red-Tailed Triggerfish
FamilyBalistidae
OriginPolynesia, Micronesia, the Philippines, and the East Indies, and on across the Indian Ocean to the coast of Africa.
Adult Size15 inches.
SocialMildly aggressive, interactive
Lifespan10+ years
Tank LevelAll levels
Minimum Tank Size100 gallons
DietCarnivore
BreedingNest builders
CareEasy
pH8.1-8.4
Temperature23-27 deg C (73-81 deg F)

Origin and Distribution

The distribution of this species extends throughout the Indo-Pacific from Hawai'i and the Tuamotu Islands westward through Polynesia, Micronesia, the Philippines, and the East Indies, and on across the Indian Ocean to the coast of Africa.

It can be found from northwestern to central Australia including the entire length of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Pinktail Triggerfish swims in seaward reefs, diving up to 187 feet. It explores in loose groups, spending most of its time in search of foods such as crustaceans, algae, sponges, and detritus.

 

Colors and Markings

This Triggerfish is named for its very pretty "pink tail". The body is so dark it looks black, but in reality, it is a very deep forest green color. The dorsal and anal fins have a translucent pinkish-white appearance marked with dark bands at the outside edges, and the pectoral fins have a yellowish color to them.

Tankmates

The Pinktail Triggerfish is one of the few Triggers that can actually be a pleasure to keep. This Trigger can be shy at first but will become quite docile and outgoing over time.  It is rarely aggressive towards its tank mates unless they are much smaller or introduced to the tank after the Pinktail. If more than one is to be kept in the same tank, it is best to add a male and up to several females at the same time.

Be aware that the Triggerfish feeds on crustaceans and small fish in the wild. Thus, snails, crabs, and tiny or very shy fish do run a danger of being eaten. It's best to choose fish that are about the same size as the Triggerfish and able to stand their ground.

Pinktail Triggerfish Habitat and Care

In the wild, this fish generally inhabits the shallower waters outside the reef that has very rocky, stony or corally terrain where it can hide.

You can replicate this environment in your tank, being careful to avoid including the type of crustaceans and mollusks that are usually Triggerfish food. Pinktails eat a great deal and can leave a bit of a mess, so a good filtration system is essential, as is moderate to strong water movement. 

Provide the Pinktail Triggerfish with plenty of shelter and ample room to roam around. Triggerfish also enjoy rearranging rocks and plants in their environment, so select substrates and plants that can stand up to being shifted around.

It's important to know that, while Pinktail Triggerfish can survive in a smaller tank, bigger tanks make for happier, more docile fish. This species is bright and curious, so a habitat with lots of space to explore and plenty of interactive elements can be a big plus. It can also be great fun to watch your Pinktail Triggerfish as they rearrange their space, check out their tankmates, and observe your actions and reactions.

Pinktail Triggerfish Diet

Pinktail Triggerfish are voracious eaters and will eat almost any meaty food. It's helpful to choose harder foods, however, as their teeth continue to grow throughout their lifetime and chewing keeps the teeth from overgrowing.

Choose options such as frozen vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, Spirulina-enriched brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, Krill, or frozen sponge or mollusk-based foods. Chopped squid is also a good option. If possible, feed your Triggerfish twice or three times a day. Be sure to provide a varied diet so your fish can obtain a full range of nutrients. 

Sexual Differences

There are no visually obvious sexual differences between males and females. 

Breeding the Pinktail Triggerfish

In the wild, Pinktail Triggerfish pair up, build nests, and guard their eggs against predators. In captivity, however, they are very hard to breed. Recently, a new type of food has been developed for Triggerfish larvae which may make home breeding a bit easier. 

More Pet Breeds and Further Research

In general, Triggerfish can be tough to manage: they're typically aggressive and somewhat hard to keep. The Pinktail Triggerfish is probably the only Triggerfish species that are appropriate for a beginner. If you're a more advanced aquarium owner, however, and want a challenge, you may want to try keeping more than one Triggerfish species. If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other pet saltwater fish breed profiles.