The cooler, more hip cousin of the Triggerfish, the Filefish has a sweeter attitude while still displaying the same bright colors and unique shapes as the Triggerfish. Like the Triggerfish, the Filefish has a long dorsal spine that will help to lodge it in place when it is under attack or preparing to sleep. In addition, they will bite human hands if owners are rough and not careful. Interestingly, Filefish do not have scales arranged in a regular series like most other fish. This gives them a prickly or almost furry feeling, like running your fingers along a file, which is how they received their name. While they are generally more tolerant and easy going than the Triggerfish, it is still not recommended that you keep more than one per aquarium. They can become aggressive without provocation. In addition, Filefish are opportunistic omnivores and may take to nibbling on your other fish.

Sub-Species for Aquariums:

Prickly Leatherjacket – Certainly beautiful and one of the rarer Filefish, the Prickly Leatherjacket resembles a floating piece of coral. Its wide body is light colored and nearly translucent, with thin dark colored stripes. But what makes this fish so striking is the ragged appearance of its fins, making it look as though it is a piece of living coral.

Orange – Often also called the American Whitespotted Filefish, this is one of the more common fish found in pet stores. This fish is somewhat plain in comparison to others, with an orange-yellow body and small white-ish spots.

Harlequin – While the Harlequin Filefish is the most readily available of the Filefish, it has a strict diet of Acropora polyps and will not survive long in captivity if not provided with its ideal diet. The Harlequin Filefish has a teal blue body with bright orange spots covering it from nose to tail.


Filefish are a great deal shyer than their Triggerfish cousins, preferring to run and hide when confronted rather than taking on an aggressor. Because of this, they need to be kept in tanks that provide an environment in which they can camouflage themselves. They will feel most comfortable around plants and reefs that complement their coloring and allow them to feel as though they can swim unmolested. They are not picky about water conditions. They do require reefs and corals with crevices in which they can lodge themselves at night


Most Filefish are omnivores and require a diet full of vegetables and protein. Brine shrimp, frozen fish or shrimp meat are all excellent food options. If your Filefish appears to be a bit down, try feeding it some clam or crab meat. An excellent treat is the addition of a leaf of lettuce. Be sure that your Filefish is receiving regular vegetable foodstuffs as it is a necessary part of their every day diet.

Some Filefish have specific dietary requirements and it is important that you research the dietary requirements of your specific Filefish before purchase. Some may only eat ocean grasses, while others exist entirely off coral and polyps. It’s up to you to know what to feed your fish!

Size: 20 Inches
Freshwater/ Saltwater: Saltwater
Diet: Omnivore
Reef Compatibility: 6
Tank Mate Compatibility: 3
Lifespan: Dependent

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