Will triggerfish eat hermit crabs?

Answered by Stephen Mosley

Triggerfish are known to have a taste for hermit crabs. While it is true that there are some triggerfish species that are considered “reef safe” and are less likely to eat coral, they are still predatory fish and have natural instincts to hunt for food.

Triggerfish have strong jaws and teeth that are designed for crushing and eating hard-shelled prey, such as crustaceans. Hermit crabs, with their protective shells, can be tempting targets for triggerfish. The triggerfish may try to pry the hermit crab out of its shell or crush the shell to access the soft body inside.

It is important to note that not all triggerfish species have the same dietary preferences or behaviors. Some triggerfish species are more herbivorous and may be less likely to actively seek out and eat hermit crabs. However, there is still a chance that even these species may eat hermit crabs if given the opportunity.

If you have a reef tank and are considering adding a triggerfish, it is important to be prepared for the potential consequences. This means being aware that the triggerfish may eat your hermit crabs and potentially other small invertebrates, such as shrimp.

One way to mitigate the risk is to provide hiding places or shelters for the hermit crabs and other small creatures in your tank. This can include caves, crevices, or pieces of live rock that can offer protection from the triggerfish. However, it is important to note that triggerfish are skilled at finding prey, so even with hiding places, there is still a chance that the triggerfish may locate and consume the hermit crabs.

Another option is to carefully select the species of triggerfish you add to your reef tank. Some triggerfish species are known to be more reef-friendly and less likely to eat small invertebrates. Examples of reef-safe triggerfish species include the Blue Throat Triggerfish (Xanthichthys auromarginatus) and the Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum). However, even these species may exhibit predatory behaviors, so it is still important to exercise caution.

While triggerfish that are considered “reef safe” may not eat coral, they can still pose a threat to hermit crabs and other small invertebrates in your tank. It is important to be prepared for this behavior if you decide to add a triggerfish to your reef, and take appropriate measures to protect your hermit crabs and other vulnerable tank inhabitants.