Eyestripe Surgeonfish

Pencilled Surgeonfish ~ Dussumier's Surgeonfish<br /> Ornate Surgeonfish ~ Hawaiian surgeonfish

Family: AcanthuridaePicture of an Eyestripe Surgeonfish or Pencilled Surgeonfish, Acanthurus dussumieriAcanthurus dussumieriPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Greg Rothschild

   One of the larger Acanthurus species, the Eyestripe Surgeonfish will grow to a length of 1 1/2 to just under 2 feet!

   The Eyestripe Surgeonfish or Pencilled Surgeonfish is one very big fish and not for the average aquarium. It has a nice personality, is a hardy fish, and gets more beautiful as it gets larger. As it reaches full adult size, it does not change into a drab color, but keeps the beauty it is named for. Rare and expensive, this pretty specimen is more suited to a large elite show aquarium, where it can be well worth the expense.

   Like all surgeonfish and tangs, the Eyestripe Surgeonfish likes lots of water turbulence rather than a placid aquarium. It can be kept in a fish only tank as long as there is plenty of swimming room and lots of rocks/ corals with nooks and crannies to hide in. It is not too picky about foods once it gets settled, and like most surgeonfish this can be accomplished by initially offering a good macro algae. Gracillaria works well as most tangs can't resist it. Though they can be kept with a variety of tank mates, they will be aggressive towards others of their own kind. They may also fight with other surgeonfish or tangs, especially new additions to their aquarium.

   The Eyestripe Surgeonfish also makes a great addition to the reef environment. With eating habits similar to the Ctenochaetus species, such as the Yellow-eyed or Kole Tang, they will sift or 'suck' the sand looking for detritus, along with having a voracious appetite for algae.

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


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

Habitat: Natural geographic location:   The Eyestripe Surgeonfish or Pencilled Surgeonfish was described by Valenciennes in 1835. They are found in the Indo-West Pacific from East Africa to the Hawaiian and Line islands, in southern Japan down to the Rowley Shoals, and the southern Great Barrier Reef and Lord Howe Island. Not found in most of the central Pacific. They enjoy clear reefs, coastal areas, and lagoons at depths from 13 feet all the way down to almost 430 feet (4 -131 meters).
   In their natural habitat adults are usually found alone in outer reefs in waters deeper than 10 meters, though occasionally seen in small groups in shallower reefs and sandy bottom lagoons. Juveniles are initially quite wary, hiding in crevices among rubble and rocks, but soon the need for feeding draws them into small mixed groups. Seeking protection in numbers, these groups will consist of surgeonfish and various other like sized fish that will feed on the bottom and roam the edges of shallow reefs. Larger juveniles will begin teaming up with others of their own species.
   One of the larger Acanthurus, this species of surgeonfish is utilized as a food fish.

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

Description:    The Eyestripe Surgeonfish or Pencilled Surgeonfish are highly variable in color depending on the locality where each fish is found. The body can range from a grayish color to a Hawaiian variety that has yellow around the edges of the body with purple highlights. They have thin wavy lines on the face and gill cover, and an orange band over the eyes. A Great Barrier reef version sports irregular blue lines and a yellow head with more blue spots and lines. The caudal fin is blue with dark spots, sometimes with a lighter yellow area at the base, and is moon shaped in adults. On each side of the caudal peduncle is a single spine or scalpel, covered with a whitish sheath on a black patch. Juveniles are usually not as colorful as adults. They have a dusky colored body, yellowish dorsal fins, and the base of their caudal fin is whitish. This species can live up to 28 years.
   The characteristic yellow band through the eye can also be seen on some very similar species, the Ringtail Surgeonfish A. blochii, Elongate Surgeonfish, A. mata, and Yellowfin Surgeonfish A. xanthopterus. But the Eyestripe Surgeonfish can be distinguished from these others by the dark spots in the center of its caudal fin and the lack of a yellow edge on its pectoral fins.

Length/Diameter of fish:    Adults reach 21.3 inches (54 cm).

Maintenance difficulty:    The Eyestripe Surgeonfish is quite hardy; it is adaptable to a wide variety of foods, is fairly disease resistant, 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.
   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.
   Some surgeonfish and tangs can be territorial, sometimes just with their own kind and sometimes with other species. 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. 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.
   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.

Diseases that Surgeonfish and Tangs are susceptible to:
Marine Ich (white spot disease), Marine Velvet
and Lateral Line Erosion (LLE)

Foods:    The Eyestripe Surgeonfish or Pencilled Surgeonfish are primarily herbivores. In the wild they eat the surface film of fine green and brown algae and some diatoms, and detritus from the sandy substrate. (In species examined their diet consisted roughly of 81.3% vegetable, 17.5% detritus, 1.3% zooplankton including Foraminifera, and some diatoms). These particular tangs have a gizzard-like stomach and eating habits similar to the Ctenochaetus species such as the Yellow-eyed Tang C. strigosus. They will sift or 'suck' the sand looking for detritus.
   In the aquarium the majority of their intake will be vegetable matter, but they do need some meaty foods as well. Provide lots of 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 at least three times a day.
   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.
Minimum Tank Length/Size:
   A minimum 50 gallon (190 liters) for a juvenile surgeonfish, 150 gallon (570 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.
Temperature:
   This species lives in tropical areas. Temperatures between 76 -82° F (24 - 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 Eyestripe Surgeonfish or Pencilled Surgeonfish 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 aquarium, however they are aggressive towards others of their own species, so are best kept singly. They can also get territorial, especially if a new tang is added after it is established.
   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 Naso Tang, Yellow Tang, and a Hippo Tang with out 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. Take care to observe the temperaments of all surgeonfish and tangs (including this one), as some can be nasty!

Sex: Sexual differences:    No sexual difference is noted for this species.

Breeding/Reproduction:    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.
   Though the Eyestripe Surgeonfish has not yet been bred in captivity, this species has been observed spawning in pairs in the ocean. The pair will rise to the surface to release their gametes, and then quickly dart back to the substrate.
   For more information on breeding and the development of the fry, see: Marine Fish Breeding: Tangs.

Availability:    The Eyestripe Surgeonfish or Pencilled Surgeonfish is quite rare at retailers. It is possible that it may be ordered though that will often depend upon the season. It is available on the internet from time to time but is quite expensive, starting at about $250.00 USD and up.

Authors: Carrie McBirney and Clarice Brough, CFS

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