Our new Atlantic tripletail fish moves slowly and swims flopped on its side like it is sickly, hiding among floating debris in the ocean. The mottled brown fish waits to strike any prey that swims too close, foolishly thinking it is harmless.

Like a dressed-up zombie in a Halloween haunted house, the tripletail is an ambush predator that treats every day in the wild like its own Halloween.

The 18-inch, 2-pound fish is so good at its acting that educators at the top of the Giant Ocean Tank often get asked by worried visitors if it is OK. 

Atlantic Tripletail fish swims in the GOT
Our Atlantic tripletail fish swims in the Giant Ocean Tank.

Found at the water’s surface in the GOT, never venturing far from one of the two platforms, the tripletail is one of many fish – including 300 smallmouth grunts and five Atlantic needlefish (but that will be addressed in a future blog) – added recently to the GOT.        

The 3-year-old tripletail fish came from an aquarium in the Azores, where a colleague who used to work on Central Wharf now works, according to Mike O’Neill, supervisor of the GOT. [Also Facebook Life Living Fossil Aficionado!] 

It is a very personable fish that will stare you right in the eyes when you dive in the GOT, Mike said. It gets its name because its dorsal and anal fins extend out from its body so it looks like it has three tails.

Mike O'Neill, supervisor of Giant Ocean Tank

Mike O’Neill, supervisor of Giant Ocean Tank

In the wild, it likes to swim among and blend in with debris floating at the water’s surface, hoping to be overlooked by its prey.

But here at the Aquarium, divers are target training the tripletail to a white life preserver to know when it is time to eat.        

The Swimming Dead

Visitors often ask if this fish is healthy, concerned about its ungraceful swimming style. But it’s all part of the tripletail’s MO.

Atlantic tripletail fish in GOT