Titan triggerfish, Balistoides viridescens, is one helluva fish which patrols shallow reef waters from the Red Sea the Indo-Pacific. A close relative of the clown triggerfish, Titan triggers can grow into quite beautiful fish but there’s a very good reason why we hardly ever see them in saltwater fish tanks.
If you think sharks are scary, you haven’t experienced fright while diving or snorkeling underwater until a Titan has put you in his sights. Divers and underwater enthusiasts known to beware of this ferocious fish and we recently experienced two encounters with this terror that we won’t soon forget.
As you know we are currently spending a lot of time underwater in Bali Indonesia, observing pretty fish and looking for beautiful coral formations. On one of our dives in Tulamben, we were diving a reef at around 30 foot depth making our way down to a deeper reef slope when a Titan triggerfish placed himself right in front of the our underwater camera lens.
This specimen of Balistoides viridescens was about 14 inches long, not quite full grown, but it’s attitude was outsized for its age, but not for its teeth. We snapped off a few shots and began calmly swimming away but our defensive behavior was not enough to appease the beast.
At first the Titan trigger was bold enough to simply posture but as we tried to make our getaway, the underwater bulldog became more aggressive. While we swam away we never took our eyes off the agitated triggerfish, keeping the camera rig between our face and his, and it took a few nip of our fins over the course of about 50 feet before it finally relented.
Alas it would hardly be a week before we had another run-in with the tenacious Titan triggerfish. This time it was our companion Vincent Chalias who was rudely attacked by a much larger B. virridescens while snorkeling in between dives in the shallow waters of Menjangan Island.
The shock of the attack was enough to elicit a frightening shriek
Vincent was minding his own business when an even larger Titan rammed and bit him right in the rib cage. The force of the impact combined with a powerful bite was enough to bruise and draw light blood through a 5mm thick wetsuit. The shock of the attack was enough to elicit a frightening shriek that got the attention of everyone topside, and Vincent suffered another bite right on his derrière before he was finally able to swim away from the demon-fish.
The oceans can be a dangerous place and it’s important to never forget that humans are only temporary visitors underwater. Nowhere is that more clear than when you’re staring down the business end of a creature as bold as the Titan triggerfish, and we’ll be even moe vigilante to steer clear of their territory in the future.