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Pet Rating System: 1= Lowest 5 = Highest
Our Rating - We have given the Cowfish a lower pet rating because they are not the easiest of saltwater species to keep. They are particularly vulnerable to ich (a parasite) and if stressed or dies they can release a toxin in the tank that will kill the other tank mates. However, their inquisitive personality and cuteness can make them a fun addition to your tank. They are one of our favorite fish in our aquarium!
THIS IS NOT A CHEAP HOBBY AND LOSS OF FISH IS COMMON!
Our care sheet is designed for the first time aquarist about the basic requirements of a cowfish and setting up a saltwater aquarium for their new friend.
Cowfish can be aggressive or territorial towards other fish in a tank but are slow swimmers and have a hard time catching their victim. For this reason, we do not recommend keeping them with Seahorses. They can also be destructive to some polyps and feather dusters with their constant picking. They are considered reef safe because they generally leave hard corals alone. Anything that moves in the sand or waves in the flow of water is susceptible to their curiosity. They pick at snails, hermits and other invertebrates. They can become quite large and are considered pigs as they are constantly picking and eating. Your cowfish will enjoy a varied diet of tiny mysid shrimp, live algae to pick at their leisure, and flake. Be careful not to overfeed, they will pretend they are hungry any time you approach the tank. Feed them daily or every other day switching mysid and flake. Be sure to turn off the pump when feeding as they will not be able to catch their food in the water flow of the tank.
On a brighter note, they are very entertaining and definitely unique! Watch as your cowfish's favorite pastime is blowing sand trying to uncover delicacies under the sand. They also use their cute little mouth (beak) to pick up very small rocks or shells in their endless search for food. They can be trained easily and will eagerly eat out of your hand! They are very intelligent and one of the more interactive fish in a saltwater aquarium. They love to interact with you.
Cowfish are susceptible to Ich which is a parasite fish mostly get when they are stressed. The parasites appear as little white bumps or pimples all over the fish but are most obvious on the fins. It is very important not to buy fish that show symptoms of this parasite as it can spread rapidly and is difficult to treat. Check out the link below for more info on Ich.
The following care requirements are for keeping a Cowfish.
We recommend keeping one cowfish and a couple of other docile but fast swimmers such as gobys. Never keep them in anything smaller than a 20 gallon aquarium, however, we recommend at least a 40 gallon tank (saltwater fish require at least 10 gallons per fish). Please purchase the best filtration system you can afford....as with any saltwater aquarium, filtration is very important! pH levels should be between 8.2 and 8.6 and the temperature of the water should be between 80 and 84 degrees. When purchasing your fish, be sure they are brightly colored, have no broken horns, show interest, have no white spots or other diseases, and have clear eyes. Ask the store to put the bag into a dark paper bag for the ride home...this reduces their stress level. When acclimating to the aquarium, place the clear bag into a darkened aquarium, turning off the lights. Leave for 15 minutes, add a little tank water to the bag making sure not add store water to your tank....wait 15 minutes. Do this procedure about 2 more times. Net your fish to keep store water out of your tank. Add to tank and enjoy!
Important: Cowfish swim slowly and can easily be sucked into an overflow or into a pump. Keep water flow at a low level and put guards on your intakes to prevent injury to your cowfish.
Visit our care sheet for cowfish aquarium set-up
Many saltwater fish found in pet stores are illegally caught using cyanide squirts which are deadly to the coral reefs, fish and ecosystem. Be sure to request that your local pet store purchase legally caught or captive bred fish. For more info on destruction of coral reefs see links to articles at the bottom of this page.
Articles about reef destruction: