A birdbeak burrfish (Cyclichthys orbicularis) in the waters of Indonesia. (Photo by Michael Aw/The Photo Library-Sydney/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat preferences and utilization vary widely within this order. Most species are marine, but at least 20 occur in freshwater systems. Spikefishes are bottom dwelling in relatively deep waters. Triplespines also live on the bottom but on shallow marine and brackish water sand flats and mudflats. Box-fishes frequent coral or rocky reefs in relatively shallow water; others occur on sea grass flats and algae beds. Large post-larvae or young juveniles of some species are pelagic and are part of the diet of tunas and billfishes; others enter estuaries. Triggerfishes also are associated with coral or rocky reefs but may be found on rubble and sand flats. Some species are pelagic or semipelagic, the latter dwelling in the water column but seeking shelter in holes on the bottom or along walls. Filefishes and leatherjackets are quite wide ranging in their habitat use. Many species are associated with coral or rocky reefs; others with sponge reefs, sea grass flats, algae beds, or rubble and sand flats; and still others dwell in the water column. The threetooth puffer is a benthic, deep-slope-dwelling fish. Marine and brackish water pufferfishes occur on coral and rocky reefs, on rubble, sand, mud, or sea grass flats; on algae beds; or in the water column. Freshwater species tend to be benthic. Porcupinefishes occur on coral and rocky reefs, usually to seaward, and also utilize caves and holes in relatively shallow water. They also frequent reefs dominated by sponges. The molas are pelagic fishes that prefer the upper depths of the open ocean but also venture inshore, especially near deep-slope habitats that experience upwelling of deeper, cooler water.

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