Spotted boxfish (Ostracion meleagris) were reared in April and May of 2014 from wild collected eggs at the Reef Culture Technologies hatchery. This species is fairly common on Hawaiian reefs where it primarily feeds on tunicates, sponges and algae. Males are attractive with dark blue black-spotted sides and a brown white-spotted dorsal back. This fish has a reputation for being difficult to keep in aquariums and will release ostracitoxin when stressed.

Female adult Spotted Boxfish (Ostracion meleagris) on a reef in Hawaii.
Female adult Spotted Boxfish (Ostracion meleagris) on a reef in Hawaii.

O. meleagris eggs are slightly oval, contain a cluster of yellowish oil globules and measure about 1.5 mm in diameter. Hatching occurs after 3-4 days. The bulbous, dark pigmented larvae measure about 2.1 mm at hatching. O. meleagris larvae start feeding after about 4 days, undergo flexion between 10-15 dph and start juvenile transition by 30 dph. Live feeds during the larval phase consisted of copepods and newly hatched artemia. 40 dph O. meleagris juveniles readily feed on live artemia and frozen foods. O. meleagris larvae are easy to raise.

Spotted Boxfish (Ostracion meleagris) larvae reared in the laboratory.
Spotted Boxfish (Ostracion meleagris) larvae reared in the laboratory.

Interestingly, stressed or dead 90 dph O. meleagris boxfish juveniles do not release toxin. It appears that this species – like the cultured juvenile cowfish previously reported – does not develop the ostracitoxin-producing bacteria (Vibrio sp.) when raised from eggs in captivity. Captive breeding boxfishes and cowfishes without toxin is a big step toward making these unique fishes more suitable for aquariums.