Boxfish Family Photos and Information – Ostraciidae

The Boxfish Family – Ostraciidae

Spotted Boxfish, Ostracion meleagris, a representative member of the Boxfish or Ostraciidae Family.

The fish of the Boxfish or Ostraciidae Family are a group of relatively small fish that do not exceed 45 cm (18 inches) in length and are known in Mexico’s fishing areas as peces cofre. This relatively small Family includes the Boxfish and Cowfish with thirty-nine global members divided into twelve genera, of which seven species are found in Mexican waters, five in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific. 

The Boxfish are slow swimmers that generate propulsion normally using just their anal, dorsal, and pectoral fins; the caudal fin is used only on rare occasion when high speed is required. They have characteristic wide bodies that are nearly completely closed in very rigid rectangular boxes made up of bony plates. Their boxes have openings for the mouth, eyes, short gill slits, fins, and a flexible caudal peduncle. They have small terminal mouths with fleshy lips and less than 15 conical teeth on each jaw. Their fins are small and devoid of spines and they have no pelvic fins. They vary in color but are generally gray, blue, or green to yellowish-brown with darker or lighter lines, bars, spots, reticulations, or symmetrical hexagonal patterns. They reside within rocky and reef structures and on open sandy bottoms and seagrass beds at depths up to 300 feet. They have a social structure consisting of a harem of three or four females and one male. They reproduce via pelagic eggs and pelagic larvae. Due to their protective external shell and toxic slime, which can kill other fish, they are unsuitable for use in aquariums. They have the ability to remain motionless for long periods relying on camouflage for defense. They feed on algae, soft corals, crustaceans, sponges, truncates, and worms. A few of the larger species, predominately from the Caribbean, are of commercial interest. They are typically taken with traps and are considered an excellent food fish. Some species have Ostracitoxin in their skin.

There are six members of the Boxfish or Ostraciidae Family, four from the Atlantic and two from the Pacific, are currently presented in this website:

Scrawled Cowfish, Acanthostracion qluadricornis
Smooth Trunkfish, Lactophrys triqueter
Spiny Boxfish, Lactoria diaphana
Spotted Boxfish, Ostracion meleagris
Spotted Trunkfish, Lactophrys bicaudalis
Trunkfish, Lactophrys trigonus