The Foxface

The title ‘Foxface’ does belong to a marine fish, one that is fairly commonly kept though I suspect not a top favourite. Why it should be called a foxface I don’t really understand, or maybe it’s just me! I think at best it could be called ‘badgerface’, though the flow of the name isn’t so good.

Anyway it’s a rabbitfish (hey, there we go again!) and the proper name is Siganus vulpinus. Actually it’s the overall family of these fishes that are termed ‘rabbitfish’, why I have no idea. I can’t see the basis for that name either. (A surgeonfish has blades – ‘scalpels’ – near the tail so that makes sense.) I’ll stop nattering.

The fish is usually purchased from the retailers at quite a modest size, say 3 or 4 inches, and is suitable at this point for a fairly small aquarium of 3 feet +. The fish is capable of growing to about 9½ inches (circa 24.25cm) though usually less in captivity, so an initial aquarium size of 4 feet + would be better.

It needs to be noted that the foxface has venomous spines on the dorsal and anal fins. It’s necessary to ensure that the hand or arm does not come into contact with them during maintenance operations. The one I kept seemed to be particularly inquisitive when I needed to put a hand in the aquarium trying to come really close, so my wife kindly used a clean stick to gently keep it at a distance, which did the trick. No mishaps (that is me jumping about holding an arm!) ever occurred. Better safe than sorry.

The foxface is likely to be aggressive towards one of its own kind so it is best kept singularly. They are suitable for a fish only or reef system. As with most fish it needs a secure hole to hide in – having said that the one that I had would jam itself behind the same filter every night, keeping itself in position by curling its body. At first I was very concerned as the colours faded very markedly at night, however I learned that this is a normal situation and the fish was always out in the morning back to normal colouration.

The foxface is easy to feed as they will accept just about anything that is on offer, which usually includes flake, de-frozen brine and mysis shrimp etc. This is fine but it is important to offer food containing algae as well, such as ‘spirulina enriched’ types. In addition, blanched lettuce fixed to a clip is usually accepted. However, it’s always best to offer algae – the fish is likely to take algae available in the aquarium but this is more than likely going to be insufficient. Sheets of algae such as Nori can be purchased and these can be fixed to a lettuce clip and left for the fish to browse on. If there are surgeonfish in the aquarium as well they will also take it. The aquarist will soon learn from experience how much to put in.

In the aquarium the foxface offers colour and a different shape, to an extent anyway, behind the head it is a lovely yellow colour in total, with a long black-topped snout, underneath is a length of white, then black again. Here’s the fish:

Now, why is it called a foxface in a family of rabbitfish…?

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