Blonde Naso Tang

Elegant Unicornfish ~ Orangespine Unicornfish<br /> Indian Orangespine Unicornfish

Family: Acanthuridae Picture of a Blonde Naso Tang, Elegant Unicornfish, or Indian Orangespine Unicornfish - Naso elegansNaso elegansPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Pavaphon Supanantananont
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The blonde naso tang is a must in every large aquarium.   Anonymous

   This beautiful 'Blonde' Naso Tang is every bit as hardy as its Pacific counterpart, only more rare and a bit more expensive!

   Both the Blonde Naso Tang, and its close cousin the Naso Tang N. literatus are called the Orangespine Unicornfish. This comes from the pair of spines surrounded by a bright orange area on either side of the caudal peduncle. These are some of the most attractive and distinctive of the unicornfish with strong patterning and color accents. The Blonde Naso Tang, originating from the Red Sea and Indian Ocean is more rare as it is not quite as widespread as its very similar counterpart the Naso Tang, which has a black dorsal fin rather than yellow and is found in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

  The Blonde Naso tang, also known as the Elegant Tang, is a very personable pet fish. Once it is comfortable it can even be trained to accept foods from its keeper's hand. A little shy at first, it can be hard to acclimate to aquarium life. Provide it with lots of room to roam around in and some live rock with naturally growing algae and/ or blanched lettuce and brine shrimp to entice it to eat. Once eating it can be offered a variety of algae based aquarium fare for its basic diet, along with some meaty foods. Being a peaceful fish with an amicable nature, it will get along with most other marine fish. Though it can be kept with a variety of tank mates this species has been known to get aggressive with other surgeonfish, especially those of its own genus. Unless you have a huge (hundreds of gallons) system, it is best to house just one Naso tang to a tank.  

   Like all surgeonfish and tangs, the Blonde Naso Tang likes a lot of water turbulence rather than a placid aquarium. Being very active during the day they need a large tank with plenty of room to swim about but will also need rocks/ corals to provide some cover and to sleep in at night. As they are primarily herbivores they generally ignore invertebrates, but lush natural algae growth will be greatly appreciated and nicely suited for a reef environment. Once they get acclimated and become accustom to aquarium foods they are quite hardy and long lived.

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


Geographic Distribution
Naso elegans
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Acanthuridae
  • Genus: Naso
  • Species: elegans

Habitat: Natural geographic location:   The Blonde Naso Tang, also known as the Elegant Tang or Indian Orangespine Unicornfish, was described by R{uuml}ppell in 1829. Widespread throughout the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, they are found in the south to Durban, South Africa and east through the islands of the western Indian Ocean to Bali in southwestern Indonesia. There are no reports of them in the Gulf of Oman, Persian Golf, or India. They were previously considered to be a color variety of the Naso Tang N. lituratus, which is widespread throughout the Western and Central Pacific.
   In their natural habitat they are found at depths between 16 - 295 feet (5 - 90 meters). They occasionally occur singly or in pairs, but most often in small and occasionally large groups above coral rocks and rubble in coastal and inner reef flats and reef slopes. Juveniles occur in groups, sometimes mixed with other similar sized acanthurids among shallow rocky reefs.

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

Description:    The Blonde Naso Tang or Elegant Tang has an elongated body shape with a narrower caudal peduncle, features that distinguish this genus from other Acanthurids. Unlike other unicornfish they do not develop a protruding horn. They have a grayish brown body with a strong yellow line running from the back of the mouth up to the eye. The snout and in front of this line is black, and the lips are orangish. There is a pale yellow area just above the eye that continues back on to the dorsal fin, becoming a broad horizontal strip along its entire length. Just below this yellow stripe is a narrow black stripe underscored with a bold white stripe. The ventral and anal fins are dusky colored. All three of these fins are thinly edged in white on the outer margin. The caudal fin develops beautiful elongated filaments or streamers from each corner.
   Like all Naso species, they have the ability to quickly and dramatically change, depending on mood or environment. When excited or hiding in the reef their body can become almost black with gray splotchy patches.
   Its name 'orangespine' is derived from the two fixed spines or "scalpels" surrounded by bright orange on either side of the caudal peduncle. Having one or two fixed blades are what places the Naso genus in the subfamily Nasinae. 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. These fish are best captured using a double bag under water, rather than a net.

Dr. Jungle asks,... "Will the real 'Naso Tang' please swim forward!'

Picture of a 'Blonde' Naso Tang or Indian Orangespine Unicornfish - Naso elegans
Naso elegans

Blonde Naso Tang
Indian Orangespine Unicornfish

   The Naso Tang Naso lituratus is found in the western and central Pacific. Its counterpart the 'Blonde' Naso Tang Naso elegans, is found in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.
   Other than place of origin, these two differ primarily in color. The most obvious difference is a yellow dorsal fin on the Blonde Naso Tang.
   The Blonde Naso Tang was previously considered to be a color variety of Naso lituratus, but is now described as a separate species. However, some authors still consider them to be the same species.

Picture of a Naso Tang, Lipstick Tang, or Pacific Orangespine Unicornfish - Naso lituratus
Naso lituratus

Naso Tang
Pacific Orangespine Unicornfish

Length/Diameter of fish:    Adults reach 17.7 inches (45 cm).

Maintenance difficulty:    A little shy at first, it can be hard to acclimate to aquarium life. Provide it with lots of room to roam around in and some live rock with naturally growing algae and/ or blanched lettuce and brine shrimp to entice it to eat. Once eating it can be offered a variety of algae based aquarium fare for its basic diet, along with some meaty foods. The Blonde Naso Tang can be quite hardy, long lived, and easy to maintain as long as sufficient space is provided.
   They must be housed in a large tank as too small of an environment can stunt their growth and they can develop 'behavior problems'. A healthy unicornfish will be swimming the length of the tank during the day. If you see any sulking, hiding behavior, this is an indication of stress. If their reason for sulking is not resolved or they are stressed for too long they may not recover. They can handle a wide range of water parameters but will do best in an environment that provides vigorous water turbulence along with consistency, not only in water conditions and quality, but also in decor and fellow inhabitants.
    All of the species in the Naso genus 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. Fortunately the Blonde Naso Tang is very tough and is are not as likely to develop Marine Ich as many of the other species. Just the same, they 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 sp.) or cleaner shrimp can help them by providing this cleaning service in the home aquarium.

Foods:    The Blonde Naso Tangs are primarily herbivores. In the wild they feed mainly on benthic algae, leafy brown algae like Sargassum and Dictyota. Provide lots of algae, prepared frozen formulas containing algae or spirulina, and flakes. Japanese Nori or other seaweed can be adhered to the aquarium glass with a vegetable clip. It will also feed on some frozen brine and mysis shrimp, mosquito larvae, grindal worms, tubifex, and Enchytaeidae. Live rock with heavy algae growth will be greatly appreciated as it will allow this fish to constantly scrape with its rasping teeth. Feed at least 3 times a day in smaller amounts instead of a large quantity once a day. This will keep the water quality higher over a longer 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 Blonde Naso Tang is very active and constantly moving, it will spend a good deal of its time in the open water. They may jump out of an open aquarium, so be sure to have a lid. 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:
   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 a large tank with plenty of space for swimming, especially for adult specimens, along with lots of rocks/ corals to provide some cover and for sleeping. This decor will lend itself to algae growth which these fish will enjoy grazing on.
Minimum Tank Length/Size:
   A minimum 60 gallon (227 liters) will work temporarily for a juvenile as they are rather slow growers, but an adult will need a minimum 125 gallon (473 liters). Keep in mind that too small of an environment can stunt their growth and they can develop 'behavior problems'.
Light: Recommended light levels
   In nature it is found in sunlit zones. 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.
Temperature:
   This species lives in tropical areas. Temperatures need to be kept between 75 - 79° F (24 - 26° C).
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. Provide strong movement in at least one area of the tank.
Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom
   It will spend time in the open water constantly moving and grazing. It will sleep in crevices at night.

Social Behaviors:    The great thing about the Blonde Naso Tang is that they are fine in a reef setting with inverts and corals, and they will graze on the algae. On rare occasions they have been known to nip on both hard and soft corals, but this problem can be easily dealt with by simply feeding them more. A generally peaceful and amicable nature also makes them an excellent addition to a community aquarium. This tang however, is one of the more aggressive of the Naso species. Though it can be kept with a variety of tank mates it has been known to get aggressive with other surgeonfish, especially those of its own genus. Unless you have a huge (hundreds of gallons) system, it is best to house just one Naso tang to a tank.
   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.
   At times you may put surgeonfish and tangs together with different genus' as long as there are no similarities. For example a large tank can house a Unicornfish, a sailfin tang, and a Hippo Tang without incident. 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:    The male of this species will have trailing caudal streamers or filaments.

Breeding/Reproduction:    Some species of surgeonfish have spawned in public aquariums and there have been a few scattered reports of spawning in home aquariums, but regular spawning and the rearing of the young has not yet been reported.
   Though the Blonde Naso Tang has not yet been bred in captivity, they have been observed pair spawning in the ocean. A pair will rise to the surface to release their gametes. The eggs are pelagic with an extended larval phase, which probably accounts for the vast distribution of the Unicornfish.
   For more information on breeding and the development of the fry, see: Marine Fish Breeding: Tangs. Picture of a Naso Tang, Lipstick Tang, or Orangespine Unicornfish - Naso lituratus

Availability:    The Blonde Naso Tang, also known as the Elegant Tang or Indian Orangespine Unicornfish, are regularly available at retailers. They are priced starting at around $50.00 USD and up.

Author: Clarice Brough, CFS
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Lastest Animal Stories on Blonde Naso Tang

Anonymous - 2010-01-25
The blonde naso tang is a must in every large aquarium.

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