Like all filefish, it has small scales with tiny prickles. Its laterally-compressed body makes it easy for it to slip through the labyrinth of a coral reef.
It feeds on algae, small invertebrates, coral and anemones.
During the breeding season, the male watches over the clutch, which the female places on a substrate. The prickly leather-jacket has ribbons of skin that allow it to blend in amongst floating algae.