Niger Triggerfish (Odonus niger) – Redtooth Triggerfish

Have you ever noticed that it’s usually the most attractive fish out there that have less than a stellar reputation? Well, the Niger Triggerfish (Odonus Niger) is no different! Just Google ‘badly behaved marine fish’ and you will come up with a list of articles in which the Niger Triggerfish is described as either ‘troublesome’ or full of character’ and you know what they’re trying to say! In this article Niger Triggerfish (Odonus Niger)-Ultimate Care Guide We’ll look at all the care needs and information you’ll need to keep one of these amazing Saltwater Trigger Fish.

The truth is the Niger Triggerfish is a marine fish that has its issues; it can be unpredictable in its behavior. But it is also a fish that is full of personality and fun behavior. It is certainly not an out-and-out trouble causer like many other members of the Triggerfish family are. This and its wonderful appearance make it worthy of exploring more! 

Niger Triggerfish Characteristics and Care

The Niger Triggerfish is probably most commonly known for its magnificent blue coloration, lyre-shaped tail, and two long red teeth that protrude from its upper jaw. These teeth which can be seen even when the mouth is closed have led to it being nicknamed the Red Fang Triggerfish.

Care wise the Niger Triggerfish requires a large aquarium and to be housed with other marine species that can hold their own against this unpredictable predator. They are generally not reef safe.

Scientific NameOdonus niger
Common NamesRedtoothed trigger, niger trigger,
OriginAustralia, Fiji, Indonesia, Sri Lanka
Care Guideeasy
Tank Size150 Gallons Plus
Reef SafeWith Caution
Size7-10” Max In Aquariums
Cost$50 +

Niger Triggerfish Colour and Appearance

The color of the Niger Triggerfish will vary depending on several factors. These include range, mood, food type, water parameters, and lighting. When housed in aquariums with high output lighting they will appear blue and in low output lighting teal green. They are generally, however, thought of as being an electric shade of blue.

Body wise the Niger Triggerfish can grow up to 12 inches in the home aquarium and has a shape resembling that of an American football. They also have a lyre-shaped tail, small pectoral fins, and no pelvic fins at all. Swimming and steering are mainly done with the dorsal and anal fins. A mucus covers their entire body which not only enables them to swim faster but also protects them parasites.

In the upper jaw, the Niger Triggerfish has two long red teeth that protrude downwards. These can be seen even when the fishes mouth is closed and are razor sharp. They are often said to look like they are grinning. It should be noted, however, that whilst most Niger Triggerfish develop red fangs, not all do.

The habitat of the Niger Triggerfish 

The Niger Triggerfish (RedToothed Trigger) is often found in schools along the reef channel and long slopes where the strongest water currents are. To prevent themselves from being swept away they take refuge between rocks and crevices where they lock themselves in using their tail as a hook and their dorsal fin as a wedge.

Niger Triggerfish are indigenous to the Indo-Pacific, South Africa, Red Sea, Great Barrier Reef, and New Caledonia. In their natural habitats, they can grow up to a spectacular 18 inches.

niger triggerfish

Triggerfish Behavior and Temperament

Undoubtedly the Niger Triggerfish is one of the lesser aggressive species in the Triggerfish family. This does not, however, mean they are pushovers who will, metaphorically speaking, roll over and let you rub their belly. The Niger Triggerfish is still capable of being aggressive with other fish and the human hand!

In their natural habitat, Niger Triggerfish will form schools that live in relative peace with one another. This, however, is unlikely in the home aquarium as their size (12 inches) would require a vast gallon count to house multiple enough to form a school. The chances are, more than one in a home aquarium will result in fighting.

Having just one in a home aquarium is well worth the effort and time you will need to put in to ensure that they and other inhabitants are all suited to each other. Niger Triggerfish are fun and interesting with incredible personalities. Some owners report them as being akin to the Oscar in that they will waggle for attention and food. Do not, however, let that fool you into hand feeding a Niger Triggerfish as arms and fingers are likely to receive a bite!

Within the aquarium, Niger Triggerfish will make use of every single inch and will often be found swirling sand around in a search for buried food. They also like to rearrange their homes, moving sand and rock around and biting rubber and plastic ornaments/plants. Be aware Niger Triggerfish are also known to spray water so care should be taken when placing electrical equipment.

Excellent and very maneuverable swimmers the Niger Triggerfish move their fins with a rather exotic type of propulsion that can be said to resemble that of a propeller. They also use these fins as a form of protection and a way to ensure a safe refuge!

Located on the dorsal fin are spines which not only ensure that they stay within the rocks and crevices they are hiding in, but can also be erected to warn predators off. This very action of erecting their dorsal spines is where the Triggerfish family got its name from as the action is said to resemble a trigger being pulled. Niger Triggerfish, believe it or not, can also speak to show aggression by grunting loudly at each other.

Niger Triggerfish Care Needs

Niger Triggerfish are in general a hardy species that do not succumb to the many sources of mortality such as poor water conditions and lack of food. This does not, however, mean that they have no care requirements. Aquariums should be large, at least, 180 gallons for one specimen and water parameters should be kept at an optimum. Good circulation and aeration of the water are necessary with oversized protein skimmers being recommended.

Ensure you has a filter that is big enough to manage the waste that triggerfish can produce. They are very messy eaters and produce a large amount of waste. Check out our review of Best Filters For Large Fish Tanks.

Generally not thought of as reef safe as they are a threat to crustaceans, corals, and small fish, the Niger Triggerfish needs a setup with preferably freestanding rock that is not layered against the back of the tank and lots of hiding spaces. This is especially important when they are juveniles and not as bold as they will grow up to be. Ensure that any decor you do use is secure so that it cannot be toppled by this species that likes to redecorate its aquarium.

When picking a specimen for your tank, ideally just one, although they will get on in small numbers such as three, you should choose one that is outgoing and feeding. This will ensure that it will more than likely settle well into your aquarium and make it as an inhabitant. Don’t, however, be put off by things such as torn fins and blemishes as Niger Triggerfish are tough and will soon recover from these things. As a side note, Niger Triggerfish respond well to copper medications.

Once you have picked your specimen or specimens, you should acclimate them to your aquarium by using a freshwater and pH drip. Once in the aquarium, they will need monitoring closely to ensure that they settle and do not go rogue on you. All Niger Triggerfish can be unpredictable with one being easy going and another an absolute terror! It is worth noting that you should never let your guard down completely with the Niger Triggerfish as they do become more bold and aggressive as they age and grow.

We use the API Saltwater Complete Test Kit to monitor the water qualites to make sure they are perfect for all our fish.

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Feeding wise the Niger Triggerfish requires several large meals a day especially when they are newly introduced to the aquarium. Keeping them well fed may mean they will show less predatory aggression to other fish and can stop them from eating any corals. Well fed and cared for Niger Triggerfish will grow quickly.

Diet and Feeding

This species of marine fish will eat just about anything that you put into the aquarium. They are omnivorous, however, so require a diet that is a mix of planktivorous and carnivorous. Ideal foods include krill, clams, mysis, seaweed, crab, fish, invertebrates, mussels, octopus, and algae-based foods.

Please note that is highly important that Niger Triggerfish are fed foods such as clams on the half shell on a regular basis so as to prevent their teeth (fangs) from overgrowing. Not doing this will result in your fish needing its teeth grinding down which can be extremely stressful.

Breeding and Sexual Differences

There is no external way to sex a Niger Triggerfish making ensuring you have species of differing sexes virtually impossible. This means that breeding in captivity is extremely rare.

When Niger Triggerfish do breed, they meet up at mating grounds where the male will set up a territory, build a nest, and then change coloration to attract a mate. Once spawning has taken place, the male will guard the eggs whilst the female looks after them.

Suitable Tankmates For Niger Triggerfish

It is definitely not a good idea to keep more than one Triggerfish species in an aquarium as the most likely outcome will be aggression and fighting. If you must keep more than one Triggerfish, make it an odd number (three is ideal) and all the same species.

You must research potential tankmates carefully and to make sure you introduce them in the order of least aggressive to most aggressive.

Other tank mates will be hard to find due to the Niger triggerfish having an unpredictable personality. Similar sized fish such as Tangs are a possibility and you may have more success if you either add the Niger Triggerfish last or as a juvenile. Adding last will help prevent your Niger Triggerfish establishing territory first and becoming aggressive.

There have been times when we have seen Niger triggerfish in a mixed aquarium with invertebrates but this has been in a very large aquarium and when the triggerfish were juveniles and well fed. Generally, these fish should be kept in a fish only display especially when they mature if you want to be totally safe. Invertebrates and other reef inhabitants such as crabs and shrimps will often become food for this trigger. When they are fully mature they are very powerful fish and can destroy corals in one bite but many people say they stay away from corals and anemones.

Other Triggerfish like Clown Triggerfish should 100% never be kept in a reef tank. The Niger Triggerfish is one of the only triggerfish that you should ever attempt to keep in a tank with invertebrates.

Suitable tankmates are Large Puffers, Groupers, Large Wrasse, Rabbit Fish, Mature Morish Idols, Eels, Large Angelfish, large Damsels, Lionfish, and other larger semi-aggressive fish.

Final Thoughts

Although the Niger Triggerfish is thought of as an easy to moderate care level fish it is clear that it is not for the novice in marine fish keeping. There are just too many variables in its ever-changing personality to make it so.

That does not mean, however, you cannot aspire to have one or build up your marine care skills to having one, in fact, you really should! The Niger Triggerfish, after all, really is one of the beauties of the ocean, filled with personality and delights. They are, in my humble opinion, one of the most desirable fish out there that would make a great show-stopping addition to any marine aquarium!

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