by Buddy Davis and Kay Davis on December 21, 2015

Cowfish live at or near the bottom of warm, tropical waters all around the world. There are approximately 33 different species of the cowfish. Other names for this fish are boxfish, trunkfish, rock shellfish, cofferfish, and platefish.

The body of the cowfish is enclosed in a six-sided bony plate shell. There are openings for their eyes, mouth, fins, and tail, with a very small gill opening. Their head is conical in shape, sloping down to a very small mouth which is filled with strong crushing teeth. The eyes of the cowfish are large. There are two sharp, forward-pointing spines on its forehead like the horns of a cow. That is where its name comes from.

Because of their unusual shape, cowfish move slowly through the water. The movement of the tail is minimal with most of the swimming motion coming from the dorsal and anal fins as well as the pectoral fins.

The color of the cowfish can differ between male and female. They can be pale green with blue spots or change to yellow with blue spots.

Cowfish live among the coral reefs and actually bite off pieces of the coral. They also eat worms, mollusks, and small crustaceans.

The cowfish lays eggs which hatch in two to three days. The larvae begin to develop their hard shell in about a week. They hide under floating seaweed as they mature. The greatest loss of cowfish occurs when they are eggs, larvae, or young fish. Once they reach maturity, they have a protective armored box and have few enemies. In addition to the armor, some species also give off poison.

The cowfish is considered by some to be a delicacy. It is roasted in its shell and said to be delicious.


Tetraodontiformes • Ostraciidae
Lactophrys quadricornis

Length: 8 inches (20 cm)
Weight: 2 pounds (0.9 kg)
Lifespan: Unknown
Special Design Feature: The cowfish is covered in a bony box like a turtle with holes for their fins, mouth, eyes, and vent.
Did You Know? Cowfish have two spines in front that look like horns.


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