The Honeycomb Rabbitfish (Siganus stellatus) is also known as the Brown-spotted spinefoot. They were originally described by Peter Forsskål in 1775. The genus has had somewhat of a history but the classification is recognized today. All Rabbitfish have extreme color changing abilities and this certainly contributed to the confusion with many species being described several times in different locations.
Rabbitfish obtain their name from a superficial resemblance to Rabbits, having large eyes and a small mouth. Personally the resemblance is hard to see but the name is there. The Honeycomb Rabbitfish has a roughly oval body with a pointed mouth. During the day the body and fins are usually a light brown color with a large number of darker brown spots forming rough honeycomb patterns. In Tanzania the dorsal fin has a yellow edging on the spines of the dorsal and the caudal fin is edged in white. At night the body is mottled with darker brown and yellow patches over the honeycomb pattern. Under lights at night they quickly revert to their daytime colors. They grow up to 40 cm in length but around 30 cm is more common.
The spines contain poison glands that can cause great pain but are unlikely to be fatal to any healthy adult. The treatment for the poison if envenomated is hot water as hot as one can take it for 60 to 90 minutes. The poison is made up of protein chains which break up under heat.
IN THE WILD
The Honeycomb Rabbitfish is normally seen swimming low over the reef or rubble areas in-between the reef. In Tanzania the adults have become a rare sight due to overfishing. Often the juveniles are seen swimming in grassy beds or near mangrove area where they form small shoals. Occasionally adults are also seen in grassy beds. When threatened they raise their dorsal fin for protection. The adults are either seen singularly or in pairs. They are usually seen above 15 meters but the specimen in the header image was photographed at around 21 meters. It is rare to see them this deep however.
Honeycomb rabbitfish are found from East Africa up to the Red Sea and across to the Andaman Sea.
The Honeycomb Rabbitfish feed on benthic algae. These benthic algae are collected by local fishermen in Tanzania and Kenya and are placed in fish traps as bait. This can be seen in the image two down.
There seems to be little research done on their breeding habits, given that they form pairs breeding is likely to take place in this fashion. The eggs are adhesive.
The Honeycomb Rabbitfish is caught by fishermen in traditional basket fish traps pictured below as well as in gill nets in Tanzania. This heavy drain has dented the population levels on much of the Tanzanian coast. The more mature fish are a rare sight these days outside of the marine parks. They are also caught by dragging nets across the bottom which causes great damage to the reef and rubble areas.
Attempts have been made in China to switch them to freshwater in order to farm them but whether these hace proved successful or not is unsure.
The Honeycomb Rabbitfish are not commonly kept in aquariums. Usually only the brighter colored rabbitfish are kept in aquariums. There is a very good article on keeping rabbitfish here.