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Masked Rabbitfish

(Siganus puellus)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Easy   • Temperament: Peaceful   • Maximum Size: 10"
• Minimum Tank Size: 150 gallons   • Water Conditions: 74-80° F, dKH 8-12, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.020-1.025
• Diet: Herbivore   • Origin: Indian Ocean, Australia, South China Sea
• Family: Siganidae   • Species: Foxface-Rabbit   • Aquarium Type: Reef Compatible

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Native Habitat and Species Information

Masked Rabbitfish native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

The Masked Rabbitfish (Siganus puellus) is found in it its native habitat living in shallow, coral-rich lagoons and seaward facing reefs of the Indo-West Pacific region, generally at depths of 10 to 100 feet. While they are found primarily in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific, they can be found in the South China Sea to the Gilbert Islands, north to the Ryukyu Islands, south to the southern Great Barrier Reef and New Caledonia, and Tonga.

Juvenile specimens form large schools, often mixing with other Rabbitfish and Tangs, where they patrol the open reef flats and in lagoons, especially in areas dominated by Acropora corals. However, as an adult they will form isolated pairs and move to deeper waters, typically along seaward facing reef slopes and drop-offs at reef edges.

Their body is yellow-orange coloration with dorsal grading from a pale blue to white, with the body being covered with wavy blue lines that are vertical to the anterior and horizontal to the posterior. The eyes are masked by a prominent blackish stripe that extends from the bottom of the mouth to the top of the head, with gives them their common "Masked Rabbitfish" name. As this black stripe passes through the eye it becomes spotted with black dots over top a blue background.

This species is sold under a variety of names within the aquarium hobby including: the Masked Rabbitfish, Decorated Rabbitfish, and Masked Spinefoot. Unlike some of the other Rabbitfish commonly sold in the hobby who do well in aquariums as small as 75 gallons, the Masked Rabbitfish is more of an open water species who will need a an aquarium of 150 gallons or more as an adult in order to thrive.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Masked Rabbitfish in the home aquarium.

When keeping the Masked Rabbitfish within the aquarium environment hobbyists will want to focus on providing plenty of live rock for grazing, ample swimming space and compatible tank mates. Similar to open water Tang species, the Masked Rabbitfish moves up and down large areas of seaward facing reef slopes in the wild grazing on algae over a large territory. They need a large enough aquarium to adequately simulate a scaled down version of their life in nature within an aquarium environment.

Ideally hobbyists will want to keep them in an 8 foot long tank like a 240 gallon or larger; however, a 6 foot tank like a 180 or 150 gallon is sufficient on the low end. This is not the species to keep in smaller 4 reef tank as an adult, as with time they will become more and more aggressive towards tank mates and any polyp or stony corals that are present.

Despite picking on corals when kept in aquariums that are too small and confining or when under fed, the Masked Rabbitfish is very much a reef compatible fish when properly fed and housed. It is quite flexible in regards to tank mates, with the only exception being other Rabbitfish or a group of their own kind. They do best when kept in a pair in larger reef aquariums.

When kept in a suitably sized aquarium, this species will not bother smaller tank mates, and are large enough as an adult to handle being kept with larger aggressive community fish like large Angelfish or even predatory fish like Groupers or Triggerfish. Predators are aware of the venomous dorsal spines of their and will tend to leave them alone.

Lastly, it should be said again that this species can eat large amounts of algae from rocks, like green hair algae and filamentous algae. Thus they need to be kept in tanks that provide plenty of grazing opportunities or provided supplemental feedings of dried algae or seaweed. It should also be noted that do not eat every type of algae, so those with nuisance algae problems will need to verify that the Masked Rabbitfish will eat the specific type of algae that is taking over the tank if purchased for the sole purpose of clearing up a algae plague.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to feed and provide proper nutrition for Masked Rabbitfish.

Masked Rabbitfish are a herbivore species who consume large amounts of marine algae, seaweed and some marine plants. They will do best in aquariums with plenty of live rock to provide them with algae grazing opportunities, in addition to a herbivore based commercial foods diet. Hobbyists will want to provide them a quality flake or frozen food designed for marine herbivores, along with plenty of dried algae or seaweed. In the wild they will eat large quantities of marine plants like Caulerpa and other similar macro-algae, thus they cannot be kept in aquariums containing most marine plant species.

This species is sought after by many reef aquarium hobbyists as they are adept keeping the reef free of excess algae growth. However, if they are not able to satisfy their appetite with commercial herbivore foods and supplemental algae grazing, they will often nip at polyp and stony corals. If you witness this species nipping at corals it is best to provide them with additional dried seaweed or algae, which should curb any aggression towards corals.


All Rabbitfish have venomous spines.

The Masked Rabbitfish like all Rabbitfishes, has venomous spines on their dorsal, pectoral and anal fins. While not fatal to humans, their sting can be extremely painful. Most injuries to hobbyists occur when they attempt to handle the Rabbitfish without wearing gloves. Hobbyists should use plastic collection containers while wearing gloves if they need to catch or move Rabbitfish.

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