STAFF at the Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire Oaks are taking special precautions when handling their newest arrivals – a colony of bizarre boxfish.
The fish, which get their name from their curious box-shaped bodies, will form part of the new Coral Cave feature at the aquarium.
As well as being among the most unusual of tropical species, boxfish are one of the most dangerous.
If attacked or threatened, the slow-moving fish will emit a highly poisonous toxin from its skin, which is capable of wiping out any would-be predator within minutes.
“Boxfish are covered in hard, plate-like scales which give them their strange, square shape and also protect them from being eaten,” said Blue Planet curator Andrea Redfern.
“However, if this doesn’t work they exude a poisonous toxin through their skin which is so deadly they are sometimes known as the ‘neutron bomb’ fish.
“Thankfully they are actually very placid and friendly but we still have to treat them with extra care to ensure they stay happy!”
She added: “Initially the boxfish and cowfish will go into a separate tank within the cave area of the new feature. The plan is that after a couple of months they will be large enough to go into the main coral reef display area.”
In addition to the boxfish and cowfish, Coral Cave will be home to a variety of tropical marine species, such as angelfish, puffer fish, parrotfish, blue spotted stingrays and epaulette sharks living in and around a bustling coral reef.