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Black Longnose Sailfin Tang

Longnose Surgeonfish ~ Black Longnose Tang<br /> Black Tang ~ Black Surgeonfish

Family: Acanthuridae Picture of a Black Longnose Sailfin Tang or Longnose Surgeonfish, Zebrasoma rostratumZebrasoma rostratumPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Frank Schneidewind

   The Black Longnose Sailfin Tang is a difficult fish to photograph, unless it is swimming in front of some bright decor!

   With just one quick look there is no question why this surgeonfish is called the Black Longnose Sailfin Tang. It is a definite eye catcher with the jet black coloring contrasted by a white spine or scalpel. Like all seven of the sailfin tang species, when the fins of this tang are fully extended its height is about the same as its length, giving it a disk-shaped appearance. Unlike its close relatives however, its has a very long snout. Though all the Zebrasoma species are noted for having an extended snout, the snout on this fish is in fact about 30% of its body length.

   Due to its limited natural range, the Black Longnose Sailfin Tang is rather rare in the trade and quite a bit more expensive than the other Zebrasoma specues. However like all the sailfin tangs it makes a wonderful addition to the aquarium, especially a community aquarium. It is relatively peaceful and will get along with a wide variety of like minded tank mates, but should be the last addition to the aquarium. It must be kept singly as it does not mix with others of the same genus. Bold in nature, it will quickly adapt to aquarium fare and is easy to care for once it is settled. One of the hardiest of the surgeonfish, it is highly disease resistant and responds well to treatment.

   There are some things that the Zebrasoma species have in common with all the surgeonfishes and tangs. They like plenty of water movement to provide an oxygen rich environment rather than a placid aquarium. They are quick and agile swimmers so will need lots of swimming space along with plenty of crevices among corals/ rocks to retreat into and for sleeping at night. Being voracious algae eaters, an aquarium with good algae growth will provide for their nutritional needs as well as making them excellent candidates for a reef environment.

For more Information on keeping marine fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Marine Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Zebrasoma rostratum
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Acanthuridae
  • Genus: Zebrasoma
  • Species: rostratum
Black Longnose Sailfin Tang, Zebrasoma rostratum
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Video of Black Longnose Sailfin Tang in store tank first 1.5 minutes.

The Black Longnose Sailfin Tang in this aquarium is active and hunting for food. They do need lots of macro algae and foods with spirulina. These tangs are best kept one per tank, however in a tank that is hundreds of gallons, they can be kept with other tangs that are less aggressive and a different shape and color. Do not house with Sohal Tangs, as these tend to kill all other tangs in most tanks by the time they are full size. The Black Longnose Salifin Tang's snout is actually longer than other Zebrasomas and their scalpel at the caudal peduncle is white! A very attractive and expensive fish for the advanced aquarist!

Black Longnose Sailfin Tang, Juvenile Zebrasoma rostratum
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Juvenile tang in captivity.

This juvenile Black Longnose Sailfin Tang is only 2" and has not yet developed the all black coloring. They are very active, even as very small babies and they need quite a bit of room. A 100 gallon tank will work until this little guy is about 4 to 5" long, then it must be upgraded to a 180 gallon tank. This tank size is due to their activity levels, large, deep bodied size, and mass food intake that can be provided with lots of live rock. Their behavior will remain peaceful towards other fish except other tanks, and behavioral problems develop if the tank is not large enough.

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Habitat: Natural geographic location:    The Black Longnose Sailfin Tang was described by Gunther in 1875. They have a much smaller area of distribution than the other Zebrasoma species. They are found in the South Pacific near a few of the islands chains: the Line Islands such as Palmyra; the French Polynesian island groups of Marquesan, Society, and Tuamoto out to the Pitcaim, America Samoa, and Cook Island; Christmas Island; and Ducie Islands.
   In their natural habitat they are found at depths between 26 to 115 feet (8 - 35 meters). They live singly or in pairs in lagoons and on protected reefs, feeding primarily on filamentous algae. Juveniles are solitary and very secretive, dwelling in coral gardens. They are very similar to the Twotone Tang Zebrasoma scopas, and co-occurs and interbreeds with them in some areas.

Status:    These fish are not listed on the IUCN Red List.

Description:    The Black Longnose Sailfin Tang has a disk like shaped body similar to all surgeonfish, but it is more similar in appearance to the Twotone Tang Z. scopas and the Yellow Sailfin Tang Z. flavescens with a closely shaped body. When the fins of the sailfin tangs are fully extended, the height of these fish is about the same as the length. They also have extended snouts, but unlike the other Zebrasoma species the snout on this fish is exceptionally long, in fact it is about 30% of its body length. The coloring is from a very dark brown to a jet black with faint irregular bluish lines running horizontally along the body. In some areas it is known to hybridize with the Brown Sailfin Tang Z. scopas.
   On each side of the caudal peduncle is a single white spine or "scalpel" used for defense or dominance. When not in use the spine is folded down into a groove. Caution needs to be exercised when handling surgeonfish as a cut from its scalpel can cause discoloration and swelling of the skin with a high risk of infection. The pain lasts for hours then still ends up having a dull ache.
   It is possible, though unknown if the dark brown variation is a juvenile coloration.  

Length/Diameter of fish:    Adults can reach up to about 10 inches (25 cm), but captive specimens are generally recorded up to 8.3 inches (21 cm).

Maintenance difficulty:    The Black Longnose Sailfin Tang is a great addition to the marine aquarium and very easy to maintain, but due to their rarity and high price tag they are usually kept by advanced aquarists. It is quite robust and can handle a wide range of water parameters. However it will do best in an environment that provides consistency, not only in water conditions and quality, but also in decor and fellow inhabitants. It can be housed in a fish only tank or in a reef environment as it will not harm corals or invertebrates. It is highly disease resistant and responds well to treatment when ill.
   There are some Acanthuridae members that are delicate and will require more specific care, but most will respond well if you employ a few technical considerations. All surgeonfish need an aquarium with plenty of aeration, a strong current will help to provide good oxygenation. Provide plenty of space, especially for adult specimens, along with lots of rocks/ corals with crevices for retreating and for sleeping. This decor will also lend itself to algae growth which surgeonfish enjoy grazing on, making them a valuable addition to a reef environment.
   Surgeonfish and tangs are continuous feeders and they need to be provided a proper diet. They are susceptible to nutritional disorders which may cause color loss and LLD (lateral line disease). Supplementing their diet with the addition of vitamin C to their food or adding a vitamin supplement directly to their water can help to avoid or aid in reducing these ailments. They are also susceptible to bacteria resulting from organic buildup which deteriorates water quality. Consequently they will need vigorous filtration, protein skimming, and regular small water changes.
   Many of the Acanthuridae members are very colorful, active, and attractive to aquarists. But they do not produce as much skin mucus on their bodies as other fish and can be susceptible to diseases such as Marine Ich and Marine Velvet. Surgeonfish are definitely a candidate for quarantine when you first receive them. They can be treated successfully with medical care or copper drugs, but because they have an important microfauna in their digestive system, prolonged or continuous use of a copper treatment is not advisable.
   In the wild a cleaner wrasse (Labroides sp.) will help them by taking parasites from their bodies, however these wrasses are extremely difficult to sustain in captivity. Alternative fish such as Neon Gobies (Gobiosoma spp.) or cleaner shrimp can help them by providing this cleaning service in the home aquarium.

Foods:    The Black Longnose Sailfin Tang are primarily herbivores. In the wild they feed almost exclusively on filamentous algae which they scrape from hard surfaces. This genus can store fat in their body cavities so may go through periods of non-feeding.
   In the aquarium the majority of their intake will be vegetable matter, but they do need some meaty foods as well. Provide lots of marine algae, prepared frozen formulas containing algae or spirulina, frozen brine and mysid shrimp, and flake foods. Japanese Nori or other seaweed can be adhered to the aquarium glass with a vegetable clip. An occasional live rock with micro and macro organisms will be greatly appreciated. Culturing macro algae like chaetomorphia in the tank is also a great idea. Feed 3 times a day in smaller amounts instead of a large quantity once a day. As continuous grazers, they will benefit from this and it will also keep the water quality higher over a longer period of time.
   Providing a vitamin supplement (including vitamin C) can help provide for their nutritional needs, and vitamin C can help prevent or reduce Lateral Line Erosion (LLE). This can be done by soaking dried pellets with liquid vitamins, adding vitamins to the food, or adding a liquid vitamin into the water. It is also said that pellets soaked in garlic may help fend off Marine Ich. Some hobbyists also report success with supplemental foods such as previously boiled or frozen zucchini, broccoli, spinach, and leaf lettuce.

Maintenance:    A quick and agile swimmer it will spend a good deal of its time in the open water and moving in and out of crevices. Frequent water changes are not necessary, rather normal water changes at 10% biweekly or 20% monthly are fine.
   For more information see, Marine Aquarium Basics: Maintenance

Aquarium Parameters:
   All surgeonfish/ tangs are quick agile swimmers and need lots of open areas. To feel secure they also need rocks/ corals with many nooks and crannies to hide in and to wedge themselves into at night for sleeping. This fish will not bother corals or inverts but it will graze on algae, so it highly useful in a reef environment. However keep corals glued down, as their quick speeds may topple a coral or two. They thrive well in tanks with algae growth.
Minimum Tank Length/Size:
   A minimum 60 gallon (208 liters) for a small juvenile, a 100 gallon (378 liters) for an adult.
Light: Recommended light levels
   It nature it is found in sunlit areas. It can be kept under normal lighting conditions in the aquarium, but can also be kept under very bright light as long as some dimly lit spaces are provided.
   This species lives in tropical areas. Temperatures between 74 -82° F (23 - 28° C) will serve them well.
Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong
   All surgeonfish and tangs thrive with good water movement, need lots of oxygen, and love to have the water rushing over their gills at times. Provide strong movement in at least one area of the tank.
Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom
   It will spend time in the open water and darting in and out of the rocks/ corals. It will sleep in crevices at night.

Social Behaviors:    The great thing about the Black Longnose Sailfin Tang is that they are fine in a reef setting with inverts and corals, and they will graze on the algae. They can also be kept in a fish only community tank with peaceful tank mates. This fish is mild tempered and gets along with most fish except others of their own genus.
   Surgeonfish and tangs can be territorial, sometimes just with their own kind and sometimes with other species. Introducing a new surgeonfish into an aquarium that already houses one or more is usually a problem. It is best to initially introduce several species together rather than adding a new one later on. Though a large aquarium can help alleviate many problems, be aware of the social behaviors of any species you are considering to prevent compatibility problems.
   You may successfully pair this tang with different genus' as long as there are no similarities. One example of mixing genus in a large tank without incident would be to house a Naso Tang, Yellow Tang, and a Hippo Tang Adding them together initially works best. When adding a new member to an established group, changing the rock work will often alleviate any aggression to the "new guy". A little chasing will occur, but usually nothing detrimental.

Sex: Sexual differences:    For most of the Zebrasoma species there is no sexual differences noted, but for this species the males will have white setae (hair-like bristles) in front of their peduncular spines.

Breeding/Reproduction:    The Black Longnose Sailfin Tang has not yet been bred in captivity. Some species of surgeonfish have spawned in public aquariums and there have been a few scattered reports of spawnings in home aquariums, but regular spawnings and the rearing of the young has not yet been reported.
   For information on breeding and the development of the fry, see: Marine Fish Breeding: Tangs.

Availability:    Due to its limited distribution and collection, the Black Longnose Sailfin Tang is rarely available. When they are available they are quite expensive, starting at about $250.00 USD and reaching up to around $500.00 per specimen.

Authors: Carrie McBirney and Clarice Brough, CFS
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