Blue Reef On Alert For Toxic Boxfish
Thursday 12th March, 2015
Marine experts at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay are taking extra precautions with their latest arrivals - a quartet of bizarre baby boxfish.
The baby boxfish, which get their name from their curious box-shaped bodies, are being looked after in the aquarium's nursery area, alongside a quartet of equally unusual-looking long horned cowfish.
Closely related to boxfish, cowfish get their name from the horn-like protuberances at the front of their heads.
As well as being among the most unusual of tropical marine species, boxfish are also among the most potentially deadly.
If attacked or threatened, the slow-moving fish will emit a highly poisonous toxin from its skin which is capable of wiping out any would-be predator within minutes.
“Boxfish are covered in hard, plate-like scales which give them their strange, square shape and also protect them from being eaten,” said Blue Reef Aquarium’s Lucy Hackett.
“However if this doesn’t work they exude a poisonous toxin through their skin which is so deadly they are sometimes known as the ‘neutron bomb’ fish!
“Thankfully they are actually very placid and friendly but we still have to treat them with extra care to ensure they stay happy!
“Initially the boxfish will stay in our nursery tank. The plan is that after a couple of months they will then be large enough to go into the main coral reef display area,” she added.
Boxfish and cowfish are found in reefs throughout the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean as well as the south eastern Atlantic Ocean.
Young boxfish are bright yellow in colour but as they get older the colours gradually fade and adults, which can reach close to half a metre in length, are a dull gray-blue colour.
They mainly feed on algae, but will also eat sponges, crustaceans and molluscs.