Trumpetfish belong to the Aulostomidae family and the Aulostomus genus. Strictly a marine fish, there are three species within the family: the Atlantic trumpetfish, the Atlantic cornetfish and the Chinese trumpetfish. They’re found in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian and western Pacific oceans. They live in seagrass beds or among coral reefs that range between 2 to 25 meters deep. They require vertical structures in their habitat to move about safely and to hunt. Their bodies are elongated and laterally compressed. Their head is triangular-shaped and their snout is long and small, similar to their pipefish and seahorse cousins. The shape of the head and snout help to create suction for consuming small prey fish and invertebrates. Elastic tissues help the mouth to stretch and consume prey that is larger than its mouth. There’s also a small barbel on their chin. Trumpetfish can reach to about one meter in length, and their heads make up a third of their body.
These carnivorous predators have a unique hunting strategy where they will float vertically upside-down among the coral branches, sea fans, pipe sponges or grassy beds. They sometimes even shadow larger, herbivorous fish to keep themselves concealed. As they sway back and forth with the currents, their coloration helps to further camouflage them among the branches. This way, the trumpetfish is able to sneak up quietly over unsuspecting prey. Atlantic Trumpetfish even have specialized color cells called chromatophores that allow them to alter their color. These color changing abilities are used during the courtship dance as well. Similar to seahorses, male trumpetfish are the ones who carry the eggs. The female transfers the eggs to a male during courtship, and then the male will fertilize the eggs in its pouch until they hatch.
They are completely harmless to humans and interesting to observe. While they are becoming more popular in the aquarium trade, trumpetfish aren’t captured as frequently as other fish species. This is likely because they grow to be too large for most home aquariums, and they can be difficult to feed. They are edible, but not consumed as often. The conservation status of Atlantic Trumpetfish is hard to determine. The adults are rarely spotted when scuba diving, so this fish may naturally be rare in the wild.