August 27, 2014
A bizarre cowfish, which resembles an armour-plated box and spits water when it’s hungry, has gone on display at Hastings’ Blue Reef Aquarium.
The exotic species is also known by a bewildering number of different common names including the humpack turretfish, the helmet boxfish and the camel cowfish.
It is found from East Africa to Indonesia, north to Japan, and south to Australia. There is also a resident population in the Red Sea, which is now believed to be spreading to the Mediterranean, via the Suez Canal.
The hovercraft cowfish is usually found in deep offshore waters over coastal slopes and sheltered muddy and sandy substrates.
It is also occasionally found near shallow algae and seagrass beds and areas of part-destroyed coral reefs, and rocky outcrops.
In the wild it feeds mainly on algae and invertebrates; including worms, crustaceans, molluscs, and sponges.
However individuals in captivity are noted for their habit of coming to the surface and spitting water at passing aquarists to let them know when they are hungry.
Blue Reef Aquarium’s Leanna Lawson said: “It may be only small compared to some of the other boxfish species we have here at the aquarium but it’s got to be one of the strangest looking!
“It’s also potentially one of the most dangerous as it can emit a deadly poison if stressed which can wipe out any other fish nearby. Fortunately this particular individual, who we have nicknamed Jethro, seems to be very chilled out,” she added.
The fish’s unique method of locomotion, called ‘ostraciform swimming’, causes them to look as if they are hovering in the water.
Jethro shares his new home with a common cowfish.