Striped Burrfish “Chilomycterus Schoepfii”

striped burrfish

Striped burrfish are an often overlooked member of the family Diodontidae, which also includes porcupinefish and balloonfish. They can be found throughout the Indo-Pacific region, including Hawaii to Southeast Asia and New Zealand. They live in deep reef habitats among rubble or sand patches down to 100 meters.

Striped burrfish are typically solitary, but sometimes they can be found in pairs or small groups. They feed on benthic invertebrates like sea urchins, mollusks, and crustaceans. They are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs.

Striped burrfish have an unusual defense mechanism against predators: if threatened or captured, the fish can inflate by swallowing water and then forcing it out through their gills in one explosive burst. This inflation of its body makes them too large for many potential predators to consume. They are typically about 30 centimeters in length, but can inflate up to 50 percent of their body size when threatened.

When Striped burrfish are inflated, they have a striped pattern on the dorsal side that resembles coral or sea snakes, which may deter some potential predators from attacking them. However, striped burrfish also have a sharp spiny dorsal fin, which can cause painful injuries to potential predators.

The inflated fish is typically white in color, with the stripes appearing more prominent when they are close together. Striped burrfish inflate by contracting their muscles and using gases stored from food eaten earlier in the day. They are able to inflate their bodies up to twice of its normal size, which can take several minutes.

They will deflate after about an hour once they have calmed down, but often do not return to their original shape after being inflated for a long period of time due to muscle fatigue.

Origin and descriptions

striped burrfish

Striped burrfish are one of the many species that exist in tropical waters. They can be found throughout the Indo-Pacific region, usually living near rocks or coral reefs at depths between 100 and 300 feet deep.

They have small eyes which makes it difficult for them to see being as they tend to live near rocks or coral reefs. They also have a long dorsal spine that they use for protection.

Stripes on the Burrfish’s body help camouflage them from predators which makes them difficult to spot in their natural environment. They are also known as “thickheads” because of their extremely large heads. They can grow up to 18 inches long.

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Species profile

striped burrfish

The striped burrfish (Chilomycterus schoepfi) is a species of fish in the family Diodontidae and are in the genus Chilomycterus, which contains six other species of burrfishes. They are found mostly on reefs and seagrass beds, often buried under rocks or coral fragments. They feed primarily on benthic invertebrates, with sponges being a primary prey item.

They are found in the Western Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea on patch reefs. Striped Burrfsh can reach sizes of up to 51 cm (20 inches) long and weigh as much as 680 grams (24 ounces).

Scientific name

The scientific name of the striped burrfish is Chilomycterus schoepfi.

Color and appearance

The striped burrfish is a brownish to reddish color and has no scales. Their pectoral fins are very long with dark tips, and the pelvic fins are positioned quite posteriorly. They have a very rough, spiky appearance with three to five dark bands across their bodies which distinguishes them from similar species.

Their heads are scaleless and very spiky like their body. They have no swim bladder but can inflate themselves with water to make them heavier in order to flip over rocks or coral heads that they live under.

Striped Burrfish is protected under the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, Schedule II.

They are brownish to reddish in color with no scales, have very spiky appearances with three to five dark bands across their bodies, and have no swim bladder.

They are found in the Western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea on patch reefs where they can reach sizes of up to 51 cm (20 inches) long.

Range and habitat

Striped burrfish are found in the Atlantic Ocean along the coasts of Brazil, Africa, and Florida. They prefer to live at depths between 0 – 600 feet (0 – 183 meters) but can also be seen close to shore as well. They can be found living on reefs, in seagrass beds, and even on sandy bottoms of the seafloor.

They are extremely adaptable and can live in a variety of different habitats including reefs, seagrass beds, and sandy bottoms of the seafloor. Their ability to survive across such habitat types allows them to thrive despite changing environmental conditions.

Their color patterns also act as camouflage allowing them to blend into their surroundings.

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Striped burrfish can grow to an average size of 30 inches (76cm). They have a unique body shape and are easily identified by the large dorsal spines on their back.

Tank size

The size of the tank required to house striped burrfish will vary based on whether you are housing only one or a group. Since they can be territorial towards their own species, we recommend having at least 30 gallons for each fish that you plan to keep in your aquarium.

If you wish to house multiple striped burrfish together, we recommend at least 90 gallons per fish.

Life cycle

The striped burrfish has a rather complex life cycle, with multiple stages. The eggs hatch into larvae after several weeks at 20–24°C (68–75°F). These planktotrophic (i.e., open-sea swimming) larvae form part of the zooplankton for about 30 days before settling on the seabed and undergoing metamorphosis into juveniles.

Juveniles grow rapidly, reaching a length of 19 to 20 cm (about 70mm) by the end of their first year; sexual maturity is reached at about 40–41 cm (15.75-16 inches) in length.

Striped burrfish form pairs and both sexes care for the eggs; they defend their territory from predators and aerate clutches of eggs with the fins. The larvae are pelagic (i.e., open-sea swimming) and can swim as far as 100 km in a day to find suitable habitat; this ability to disperse is thought to be the reason why populations are relatively stable despite intense fishing pressure.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

The striped burrfish has a reputation for being highly aggressive. However, their aggression is limited to other closely related members of the family Triacanthodidae and smaller fish that are considered food sources.

They will show aggressiveness towards their own kind if they have been housed together in extremely close quarters or when the mating season approaches.

Striped burrfish care

striped burrfish

Striped burrfish can be cared for in a saltwater aquarium with or without an under-gravel filter. They will not do well if they are kept over a soft substrate, as it tends to injure their barbels and cause infections.

With the right tank parameters, they also need places where they can hide from view at times. If they are not given enough hiding spaces, such as rock caves and crevices, then their stress levels will increase.

Striped burrfish diet

Striped burrfish are omnivores. They will eat both algae and meaty food in the wild, so they can be fed a diet of pellets or flakes with some seaweed added to it. A good high-quality pellet food should also have natural color enhancers added to it, such as shrimp extract.

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The addition of a high-quality algae supplement is also essential, as it provides many different vitamins and minerals. The food should contain either spirulina or chlorella algae species, which are very nutritious for fish.

In the wild, striped burrfish eat any type of meaty food they can find that has fallen to the bottom of the ocean, so they will also eat shrimp or pieces of fish in captivity. They should be fed at least twice a day, but it is best to feed them more often if there are other burrfish in the tank with them.

Tank mates

Striped burrfish are not considered to be reef safe, as they have been known to eat other ornamental fish. They may also harass invertebrates in captivity because of their size and need for hiding spaces.

They should only be kept with other large predatory species that will leave them alone or can be kept in a tank with plenty of hiding spaces. A minimum sized aquarium for one striped burrfish would be 220 gallons, but larger is always better.

Water conditions

Striped burrfish are not picky when it comes to water conditions, which makes them easy fish for beginners. They can thrive in either freshwater or saltwater aquariums with a specific gravity of around one point five and a pH between eight and nine.

They prefer alkaline waters because they originate from coral reefs in the wild, so a significant amount of calcium and alkalinity should be added to the aquarium. The addition of live rock is also recommended because it provides natural filtration for the fish by allowing beneficial bacteria to grow on its porous surfaces.

The temperature should stay between seventy-seven degrees Fahrenheit and eighty degrees, which can be achieved with an under-gravel or hang-on filter. Striped burrfish are nocturnal so lighting should be dimmed at night to simulate a natural day/night cycle for them.


striped burrfish

Striped burrfish have been bred in captivity, so they are not endangered or difficult to breed. They can be bred with a spawning mop placed over a flat surface and the parents removed after the eggs have been fertilized.

The fry will hatch about thirty-six hours later, at which point brine shrimp should be fed to them. The fry can be fed this for up to a week, and then they should start being weaned onto finely crushed flake food with added algae and spirulina.

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The fry can also be fed rotifers and live baby brine shrimp to speed up their growth, but the food should only be given in very small amounts so that they do not spawn again too soon.


Striped burrfish can live up to ten years in captivity, but five is more common.

Parasites and diseases

Striped burrfish are susceptible to a number of parasites and diseases, including white spot disease. They will become weak if they contract it so the cause should be eliminated as soon as possible.

They can also get bacterial infections from being injured or having their barbels cut during feeding, which is why careful attention needs to be paid when they are being fed.

Striped burrfish can be treated with antibiotics if they contract a bacterial infection, but this should only be done under the supervision of an experienced fish veterinarian. They also require regular water changes to keep their aquarium clean and free of waste build-up that can lead to diseases or parasites.

The most common disease striped burrfish contract is Ich, which can be treated with the addition of one and a half teaspoons per ten gallons of salt.


Striped burrfish have no predators in the wild, but they are prey for some large fish that live on coral reefs.

In their natural habitat, striped burrfish have few or no predators to worry about, so they can be very bold and aggressive animals. This is not true in captivity because of the size difference between them and other fish, which can make them more cautious.

Does it make good pets?

No. Striped burrfish are not good pets for beginner aquarists because they require a lot of room and specialized care. They should only be kept with other large predatory species that will leave them alone or can be kept in a tank with plenty of hiding spaces.

A minimum sized aquarium for one striped burrfish would be 220 gallons, but it is better to keep them with other large fish so that they have a group of friends.


The striped burrfish is an interesting species of fish. It has a beak-like snout that it uses to dig into the substrate and feed on small invertebrates.

They are rare fish that lives among the reefs of Australia. Unfortunately, it’s now at risk due to habitat loss and overfishing. This means we need to act now!