The crosshatch triggerfish (Xanthichthys mento) originates from the Pacific Ocean, and is found in the marine aquarium trade. The crosshatch trigger is a good choice for aquarists who like triggerfish, but want a species that gets along well with a variety of tank mates. Among marine pets, triggers are considered hardy and easy to care for.
The crosshatch triggerfish reaches up to 12 inches in length. They are patterned in yellow and blue. Males have red-rimmed tail fins and females have yellow-rimmed tails. Triggerfish get their name from their ability to lock their first dorsal spine with their second dorsal spine. If a triggerfish gets spooked it will hide in a crevice, engage its trigger, and become almost impossible to extricate. Triggerfish can swim backwards, which aids them in their speedy retreats. Crosshatch triggers have sharp, ever-growing teeth and thick, leathery skin. They are much taller than they are broad. Their eyes are set on top of their heads and their mouths are up-turned. Both physical attributes help the triggerfish eat while swimming.
Xanthichthys mento is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Eastern and Western Pacific Ocean. They're most populous along the coasts of isolated islands and on the open ocean side of coral reefs. Triggerfish travel in large schools in deep waters. In the wild they eat zooplankton exclusively, which they pluck out of the water as they swim along.
Because triggerfish are deep sea animals they need a large habitat. The larger the aquarium the better, but one triggerfish could be kept in a 55-gallon tank. Multiple crosshatches should be housed in at least a 90-gallon aquarium. Living in deep water, they don't require very warm temperatures. A range of 72 to 78 degrees F is ideal. Their pH parameters are fairly strict -- between 8.1 and 8.4 is best. Maintaining a specific gravity of 1.020 to 1.025 and a water hardness between 8 and 12 will help keep these fish healthy. Minimal light is required for crosshatches, which in the wild live at depths of 10 to 330 feet. Crosshatch triggers need caves and rocks to rest in at night and to hide in when they feel threatened. Expect tank elements to get rearranged if they're not anchored down.
Suitable Tank Mates
As schooling fish, Xanthichthys mento can be kept singly, in pairs, or in groups of one male and two or more females, but two males should not be kept together. Crosshatches tend to ignore their tank mates more than anything, and should get along well with reef fish, especially large docile fish and small aggressive fish. Small, docile specimens, like chromis and small cardinals, may be seen as a tasty treat by a triggerfish and their cohabitation should be avoided. Because they're not benthic feeders, crosshatches tend to leave sessile invertebrates in peace. Crosshatches are more mild-mannered than other triggerfishes and so are compatible with many fish that other triggers are not, such as butterflyfish, tangs and wrasses. Triggerfish should be added to the aquarium last, otherwise they may guard the tank from intruders, considering the entire tank their territory.
Keeping and Caring for Crosshatch Triggerfish
Even though they eat only one food type in the wild, crosshatches will accept a variety of meaty foods in an aquarium setting. Squid, krill, clams and small fish cut into small pieces are devoured quickly. Eating hard-shelled shrimp helps triggerfish wear down their ever-growing teeth. Because crosshatches eat continuously in the wild, they should be fed multiple times per day. The crosshatch's distinct personality is part of what compels aquarists to own them. Each fish has its own character and they tend to display this more than other marine aquarium habitants. They're also active swimmers who are quite amusing to watch as they patrol the tank and run for cover if they get spooked.
Madeline Masters works as a dog walker and professional writer. In the past she has worked as a fitness columnist, fundraising copywriter and news reporter. Masters won two Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Awards in 2009. She graduated from Elizabethtown College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.