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Choosing a Rabbitfish

Rabbitfish (Siganidae) are a small family of fishes that are occasionally available to hobbyists. They are primarily herbivorous and typically found in pairs and small schools, browsing among some algae. They are also found in along the reef and in areas of high vegetation. These fishes are found mostly in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Of the 13 known species of rabbitfish, only four are common in the aquarium trade.

Rabbitfish all have a characteristic compressed body, oval in shape, small scales and a prominent head and body. The slope of the forehead mimics that of a rabbit. They are relatively hardy but, nevertheless should be kept at relatively high water quality conditions such as those necessary for a reef. A stable pH of about 8.3, 78 degrees Fahrenheit, more or less, and low levels of pollutants should keep them healthy for a long time. Give them a good supply of algae and other vegetable matter and flake food. They should have enough to graze on throughout the day.

Rabbitfish tend to be aggressive towards members of their own kind, although when given adequate space can keep themselves out of trouble. They are relatively hardy as saltwater species go and good for beginners since they can tolerate a wider range of water quality conditions than many other fish.


Be aware that several species of rabbitfish have spines that can inject a small amount of venom into the handler. Avoid contact with the spines of the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins.

Several species of rabbitfish are suitable for the home aquarium. The one-spot foxface (Siganus unimaculatus) is a favorite for its coloration. It is predominantly yellow-brown or bright chrome-yellow with a white head region. A broad black band passes through the eye and meets with the band that runs along the body region.

The barhead rabbitfish (Siganus virgatus) typically schools when it is a juvenile, but it adopts a more solitary lifestyle as it matures and will become aggressive towards others of the same species. The fish is beige-yellow with a series of blue lines on the head and vertical black bands that pass through the eyes and gill slit.

The goldlined rabbitfish (Siganus lineatus) is a predominantly Indian Ocean species that lives in schools along reefs. They graze on algae and sponges and need a constant supply should you decide to keep one. They can be kept with others as long as they are amply fed.