Picasso triggerfish (Rhinecanthus assasi)

Picasso triggerfish
Loading more images and videos...

Picasso triggerfish fact file

Picasso triggerfish description

GenusRhinecanthus (1)

Named after the inspirational cubist painter, Pablo Picasso, the Picasso triggerfish (Rhinecanthus assasi) has a beautiful, colourful appearance and strikingly patterned body. Generally tan or yellowish in colour and becoming whiter underneath, the Picasso triggerfish is adorned with vibrant stripes, including a tapered, blue-edged brown bar, yellow band and blue line running from the eye to the gill. Four narrow blue bands, separated by black, run between the eyes and across the top of the head (2). The eyes of the Picasso triggerfish are positioned high on the head, the snout is long and pointed, and the mouth is directed slightly upwards, with short, strong jaws (3). The lips are bright yellow, with a narrow, pale blue line and a dark reddish-brown streak extending from above the upper lip towards the pectoral fin. A broad circle of orange encompasses a large black spot close to the anus, and spines at the back of the body have narrow black stripes with ovals of bluish-white (2). The skin of the Picasso triggerfish is extremely tough, with modified plate-like scales armed with small spines or tubercles on the outer surface, giving it a roughened texture. Three rows of small, forward curved spines are found towards the rear of the body, and the pelvic fins are replaced by spine-like protrusions (2) (3) (4).

Also known as
Arabian picassofish, Red Sea triggerfish.
Length: up to 30 cm (2)

Picasso triggerfish biology

Little is known about the biology of the Picasso triggerfish; however, it is thought to feed on small benthic (bottom-dwelling) invertebrates (5). It is also likely that the Picasso triggerfish exhibits similar breeding behaviour to other species of triggerfish, depositing eggs in the water during a spawning period, which attach to coral until they hatch. The young fish float close to the surface as they develop, usually in among seaweeds and around flotsam (3).   

The Picasso triggerfish is a member of the Balistidae family (the triggerfish), and like other triggerfish, it is renowned for the unusual locking mechanism of the spines in the first dorsal fin, which allow the fish to lodge itself immovably into crevices between rocks and corals. When the fin is erect, the longest dorsal spine is locked into place by a much shorter, second spine, which slides forwards, holding it in position. The first spine can only be lowered again if the second is slid back out of place; something which can only be achieved by depressing a third spine, known as the ‘trigger’ (3) (6).  


Picasso triggerfish range

The Picasso triggerfish is found in the Western Indian Ocean, from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf (2) (5).


Picasso triggerfish habitat

Adults of the Picasso triggerfish inhabit sandy and rubble areas of coral reefs, while the juveniles of this species are commonly found on reef flats (3) (5).


Picasso triggerfish status

The Picasso triggerfish has yet to be classified on the IUCN Red List.


Picasso triggerfish threats

There are no known threats to the Picasso triggerfish.


Picasso triggerfish conservation

There are no known conservation measures in place for the Picasso triggerfish.

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To find out more about conservation in the region, see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish, or the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.
Pectoral fins
In fish, the pair of fins that are found one on each side of the body just behind the gills. They are generally used for balancing and braking.
Pelvic fins
Fish, the pair of fins found on the underside of the body.
The production or depositing of eggs in water.
A small, rounded, wart-like bump on the skin or on a bone.


  1. UNEP-WCMC (November, 2010)
  2. Randall, J.E. (1995) Coastal Fishes of Oman. Crawford House Publishing Pty Ltd, Bathurst, Australia.
  3. Aiken, K.A. (1975) Chapter 15: The biology, ecology and bionomics of the triggerfishes, Balistidae. In: Munro, J.L. (Ed.) Caribbean Coral Reef Fishery Resources. International Centre for Living Aquatic Resources Management, Manila, Philippines.
  4. Fischer, W. and Whitehead, P.J.P. (1974) FAO Species Identification Sheets for Fishery Purposes. Eastern Indian Ocean (Fishing Area 57) and Western Central Pacific (Fishing Area 71): Volume 1. Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, Rome. Available at:
  5. FishBase: Picasso triggerfish (Rhinecanthus assasi) (November, 2010)
  6. Schultz, K. (2004) Ken Schultz’s Field Guide to Saltwater Fish. John Wiley and Sons, Inc, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Image credit

Picasso triggerfish  
Picasso triggerfish

© Kitagawa / e-Photography / SeaPics.com

SeaPics.com Inc.
77-6425 Kuakini Hwy.
Ste C2-200
Kailua Kona,


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Picasso triggerfish (Rhinecanthus assasi) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is featured in Jewels of the UAE, which showcases biodiversity found in the United Arab Emirates in association with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top