Blue Tang Surgeonfish

Caribbean Blue Tang, Atlantic Blue Tang

Family: Acanthuridae Blue Tang Surgeonfish, Acanthurus coeruleusAcanthurus coeruleusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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I have the Atlantic Blue Tang, have had since a baby. He is starting to turn blue. I love him. I also have a Sailfin and Blonde Naso tang in the same tank. They... (more)  CONNIE

The Caribbean Blue Tang is delicate in both beauty and care, but is truly a showpiece in the saltwater tank!

The Blue Tang Surgeonfish Acanthurus coeruleus is a gorgeous tang found in the Atlantic Ocean. it is a deep-bodied fish that can get quite large. Typical size is about 9 inches (23 cm), but some specimens can reach a whopping 15 1/3 inches (39 cm) in length.

Though not quite as flashy as the two "Blue Tangs" from the Pacific Ocean, it goes through several pretty color stages as it grows. The juvenile is bright yellow with blue edged fins. It then becomes a pastel blue with yellow in the tail fin, like the 2 to 3 inch adolescent seen above. As it begins to mature it turns blue accented with a yellow or white caudal spine. There can be a great variation in size when these fish change to their adult blue, but it is often at about 5 inches. It is also commonly known as the Atlantic Blue Tang, Caribbean Blue Tang, Blue Surgeonfish, Blue Doctorfish, and Yellow Doctorfish.

Juveniles are solitary and territorial in nature, however as adolescents they will join with their relative the Doctorfish Acanthurus chirurgus and the Sergeant Major Abudefduf saxatilis damselfish to graze on algae and hold a cleaning station to pick parasites and molting skin from the large Green Sea Turtle Chelonia mydas. While the other fish are picking away at the shell area, this tang concentrates mainly on the fleshy body areas, focusing on the turtle’s front and back flippers. They tend to calm down as adults and will live in pairs or small groups, though rarely with more than 10 individuals of their own kind. Adults will also join in large schools mixed with other algae eaters to defend areas with good algae growth.

This Blue Tang is a bit more difficult to keep than some of the other surgeonfish, but its beauty makes it a wonderful marine aquarium addition. It is moderately hardy so is a good selection for an intermediate aquarist, however it has requirements that put it just beyond the reach of a beginner. Close attention must be given to its diet and to maintaining good water quality. They need a minimum sized tank of 100 gallons to accommodate their size and swimming needs. But a larger aquarium that's taller and 6 foot long, 180 gallons or so, will suit these deep-bodied fish best.

They are super active and constant grazers so they need be fed more often than many other fish. The tank should be mature with lots of algae growth and they must have appropriate tank mates to avoid stress. Like all tangs, they need clean stable water to stay healthy. Provide swift water movement in at least one area of the tank for them to exercise by swimming against the current. They swim at all levels of the aquarium during the daytime and will wedge themselves between rock at night.

The Atlantic Blue Tang is best kept as the only surgeonfish that in the tank. It is peaceful with non-tangs, but it should be one of the last fish added to a peaceful to semi-aggressive community tank. It is best not to house them with other Acanthurus or with other Atlantic Blue Tangs. While many juveniles get along, as they grow older, problems with territory flare up. Only in very large tanks, which are hundreds of gallons, can different types of tangs be kept together. Then they need to be of similar temperament and size, but different in color and shape.

For more Information on keeping saltwater fish see:
Marine Aquarium Basics: Guide to a Healthy Saltwater Aquarium


Geographic Distribution
Acanthurus coeruleus
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Acanthuridae
  • Genus: Acanthurus
  • Species: coeruleus
Caribbean Blue Tangs
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School of Fish - Roatan Honduras

This video shows how tangs, and fish in general, travel in schools of several hundred(s) of fish. We believe this may be the Caribbean Blue tang but this is not certain. The video was taken near Roatan, Honduras so it is definetly a Caribbean Ocean fish but the Caribbean Blue tang is seldom seen in groups of more than 10 or so individuals. Although the species of fish is uncertain, it is still a great showcase for the schooling behaviour of fish.

Juvenile Atlantic Blue Tang (Feeding), Acanthurus coeruleus
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Video of a juvenile Atlantic or Caribbean Blue Tangs.

The Caribbean or Atlantic Blue Tang, Acanthurus coeruleus, is quite feisty as a juvenile. In the wild, they are solitary and protect their area of the reef from some aggressive damselfish! I had a juvenile chase a Solar Fairy Wrasse up and out of a tank! They would spar often, although I never saw this behavior in an adult tang. Gladly, as they get older they mellow out and become quite calm. They lose their yellow coloring and turn a beautiful blue, with some keeping the yellow tail fin and others just turning all blue. They are a nice alternative to the Hippo Tang, which grows to 12!" The Caribbean Blue Tang grows to 9" and need a tank that is 6 feet long, and at least 150 gallons.

Large Atlantic Blue Tang Plays with Reflection, Caribbean Blue Tang (Acanthurus coeruleus)
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Great video of a healthy full grown Caribbean Blue Tang!

This Caribbean Blue Tang, or Atlantic Blue Tang, Acanthurus coeruleus is in a 330 gallon tank, and looks great! The owner wondered why there were scratches in the acrylic only to find that his full grown 9" tang was "playing" with his reflection! The video is a great example of the high energy that tangs have! They need lots of "veggies" like nori and other seaweed sheets to nibble on during the day. This adult has lost all of his yellow and the Caribbean Blue Tang is a much more durable fish from this genus. Minimum tank size is 180 gallons, which is at least 6 feet long.

Caribbean Blue Tang - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gal (379 L)
  • Size of fish - inches: 15.4 inches (38.99 cm)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 79.0° F (22.2 to 26.1° C)
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Diet Type: Omnivore

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Blue Tang Surgeonfish Acanthurus coeruleus was described by described by Block & Schneider in 1801. The genus name Acanthurus means "thorn tail," and the species name coeruleus is Latin for blue, it means “like the sky, blue, dark blue, dark green, or azure.” The common names they are known by describe their color, location, and duties performed by them or their sharp retractable tail area spines. These include Blue Tang Surgeonfish, Caribbean Blue Tang, Atlantic Blue Tang, Blue Surgeonfish, Blue Doctorfish, Yellow Doctorfish, Blue Barber, Blue Doctor, Yellow Barber, and Blue Tang.

These tangs are found in the Western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts, just north of New York, USA, Bermuda and through the Caribbean south to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They are also found half way between South America and Africa on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge around Ascension Island, but not at Saint Helena Island.This species is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Least Concern (LC) due to its wide distribution. Although it is targeted and heavily harvested in some areas as a food fish, it is common and abundant throughout its range.

About the Acanthurus Genus:

This species is a member of the Acanthuridae family of Surgeonfish. It belongs to the subfamily Acanthurinae as a member of the Tribe Acanthurini, in the large Acanthurus genus. Acanthurus is the type genus of the Acanthuridae family and there are currently 38 recognized species in this genus. Containing almost half of the currently 82 Surgeonfish species, this is the largest genus in the family.

Acanthurus are found in the tropical, subtropical, and some temperate waters of the Atlantic and Pacific. The majority of the species occur in the Indo-Pacific Oceans but there are 5 species found in the Atlantic Ocean. The Western Atlantic is home to four of these; the Blue Tang Surgeonfish A. coeruleus, Doctorfish A. chirurgus, Ocean Surgeon A. bahianus, and the Gulf Surgeonfish A. randalli; with the Monrovia Doctorfish A. monroviae occurring in the Eastern Atlantic.

Surgeonfish usually live in large schools or in pairs. Coastal waters, harbors and even estuaries for the young are prime areas for many of these fish. They feed during the day, but at night they sleep in small caves or crevices in the reef.

Typical of their family, many Acanthurus species occur in relatively shallow waters. The clear water and good sunlight promotes lots of algae growth on the rubble, rocks and coral skeletons for the herbivorous species to browse on. Those that are detritivores also occur here, feeding on detritus and diatoms from the substrate, often ingesting sand in the process. Some of the detritivores are also specialized for eating the feces of carnivorous fish. The smallest group of Acanthurus species, the zooplanktivores, swim in the open water feeding on miniscule prey.

Many members of the Acanthurus genus are very colorful, making them popular aquarium inhabitants. On average the species range from small species, such as the Brown surgeonfish Acanthurus nigrofuscus at 8 1/4 inches (21 cm), to the large Yellowfin Surgeonfish Acanthurus xanthopterus reaching up to 27 1/2 inches (70 cm). The smaller Acanthurus species can be kept in a good sized home aquarium but the larger fish, though often featured in public aquariums, are not really suitable for most hobbyist's tanks.

Acanthurus species are often very territorial towards conspecifics in the wild, fiercely defending their area and foods. In the aquarium the attitudes of individual species vary, but they all tend to be aggressive towards their own kind. Some will bully other types of Surgeonfish as well, especially if added after the resident Acanthurus is established, There are even a few "bad boy" species that get so aggressive in the aquarium that they will dominate the tank, attacking all other fish. These tangs are best kept singly in most aquariums, with some possible exceptions when the tank is very large.

About the Blue Tang Surgeonfish:

The Blue Tang Surgeonfish can be found between 6 and 197 feet (2 to 60 m) in depth, but are most often found in shallower waters between 6 and 59 feet (2 to 18 m). Juveniles when small they are most common on reef crests and spurs, and in the area between the reef crest and reef flat. The larger juveniles are more common in the back reef and adults are evenly distributed across zones. Individual species can also vary in inhabit with some spending the majority of their lives on coral reefs, while others primarily inhabit inshore rocky reefs or inshore grassy areas with seagrass beds, mangroves, or algal beds.

They are herbivores that feed primarily on benthic algae including brown algae, red algae, green algae, and blue-green algae, and occasionally on seagrass. They feed during the daylight hours and wedge themselves between crevices and caves at night to avoid predation. Blue Tang Surgeonfish predators are the Bar Jack Caranx ruber, Tiger Grouper Mycteroperca tigris, and the Yellowfin Tuna Thunnus albacares.

Juveniles are found singly, never in groups, and are territorial. As they get a little older, adolescents will join with the Doctorfish Acanthurus chirurgus and the Sergeant Major Abudefduf saxatilis damselfish to defend an area set aside as a cleaning station for sea turtles and for foraging. Once they are adults they live in pairs or form small groups, though rarely with more than 10 individuals, and forage for algae near coral reefs, inshore rocky areas and inshore grassy habitats.

  • Scientific Name: Acanthurus coeruleus
  • Social Grouping: Varies - Juveniles occur singly, adults will be found in pairs or small groups.
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern

Description

The Blue Tang Surgeonfish are deep bodied oval fish with a single caudal spine on each side of the caudal peduncle (base of the tail fin) which folds into a grove. They have a continuous dorsal fin and a slightly protruding mouth to get at algae between rocks. Like other tangs, they have an expected life span of 30 to 45 years (Choat and Axe 1996), though possibly less in captivity. This species has been reported to have a maximum longevity of 43 years in Bermuda (Mutz 2006).

The common length of the Caribbean Blue Tang is about 9 to 9 3/4 inches (23 - 25 cm), but some specimens are reported to grow up to 15.35 inches (39 cm). They usually become sexually mature at 9 to 12 months, or 4” to 5” inches in length, and will be 9.8 inches long by their 5th year if they are male. Unlike other surgeonfish, the male tangs from this genus are shown to be smaller than the females.

This surgeonfish goes through three color stages as it matures. Juveniles up to 2” are bright yellow with a blue iris in the eye and blue edges on the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins. The yellow slowly turns to a bright pastel blue in adolescents between 2.5" to 3.5", however, the tail fin remains yellow. Adult are blue to bluish gray with dark narrow horizontal lines and a yellow or white caudal spine. They vary in shade from light to dark blue.

There is a large variation in size when these fish change to the adult coloration. But it is accompanied by sexual maturity and the coloring of males and females is the same. When frightened the juvenile's yellow body darkens slightly and they form white vertical bars. Adults may also form these white vertical bars while sleeping at night within the rock work.

  • Size of fish - inches: 15.4 inches (38.99 cm) - They typically reach about 9 3/4" (25 cm), but can grow up to 15.35 inches (39 cm).
  • Lifespan: 30 years - In the wild surgeonfish can typically live 30 to 45 years, possibly less in captivity.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Blue Tang Surgeonfish is moderate in care as long as certain parameters are met. This is a good sized fish that will reach around 9 to 12" in the first 4.5 years of life, depending on whether it's male or female. It is best kept singly and needs a minimum sized tank of 100 gallons, though a taller 180 gallon aquarium would suit this active, deep-bodied tang best. If your tang ends up being one of those 15” specimens, a move to a 250 gallon tank would be in order.

Due to the tank size and the need for good water quality, it is suggested for an intermediate aquarist. The aquarium should be at least 6 months old so that it is stable and will have the algae growth needed for the tang to graze from. This fish is peaceful with non-tangs but should be one of the last fish added to a peaceful to semi-aggressive community tank. Adding it to a peaceful community reef tank is fine since it will get along with other non-tang fish. Clean water, three feedings a day, and a stress free environment will keep it healthy and happy for a long time.

All Surgeonfish are wild caught and newly imported tangs can suffer from a mix of internal and external parasites, poor handling and housing, and a lack of nutrition. When selecting your fish, for the best success in keeping it long term, there are a few important things to consider. Make sure it has been in captivity for a while, it should be lively and actively picking at the decor. The coloring should be good and in shape, a pinched stomach is not necessarily a problem and can often be resolved with a good feeding regime. But be cautious if the upper body behind the eyes is sunken in when viewed from the front. All Tangs should be isolated, quarantined for a couple of weeks after purchase so they can rest up. This also gives you an opportunity to observe and treat them for possible diseases before introducing them into your main system.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Foods and Feeding

Adult Caribbean Blue Tangs are herbivores. In the wild they primarily eat benthic algae including brown algae, red algae, green algae, and blue-green algae, and they occasionally feed on seagrass. They are an especially great addition to a reef where they will continually graze on algae growth. It is important that you feed your surgeonfish a mixed diet that mostly consists of high quality vegetable based foods.

In the aquarium these tangs will quickly accept substitute foods, especially algae. After acclimation they will usually eat all kinds of foods including flakes. Offer vegetable based flake, pellet, and frozen/thawed foods with spirulina. Dried macro algae, like Japanese Nori or other algae sheet types, can be put on an aquarium clip for browsing in between feedings. Providing a small amount of meaty foods like brine shrimp, mysis, plankton, and krill will help add calories for bulk, especially as juveniles. Soak foods in Vitamin C to help prevent several diseases they are susceptible to. Feed them at least three times a day.

Some aquarists treat their tangs to broccoli and zucchini or Romaine lettuce and spinach, which can be floated in the aquarium for grazing. Although these are fine treats, they may not have the dense calories that the staples of natural algae or prepared foods provide. Having a small 10 gallon tank to grow macro algae in is a great idea so the aquarist can have a constant supply of “free food” for their little “sea cow.”

  • Diet Type: Omnivore - Though considered an omnivore, its diet consists primarily of algae and weeds
  • Flake Food: Yes - Food should have spirulina and be high quality, color enhancing foods are also helpful.
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes - Sinking pellet with spirulina and be high quality.
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet - Brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, or other protein sources can be offered occasionally.
  • Vegetable Food: Most of Diet - Vegetable foods, especially algae, should make up the bulk of the diet.
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet - A small amount of meaty foods help add calories for bulk, especially as juveniles.
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - hey need at least three feedings a day, with algae sheets for ongoing grazing.

Aquarium Care

A large tank is important for the Caribbean Blue Tang and it needs clean, stable water conditions. Surgeonfish, in general, are not as forgiving as some other fish when it comes to water quality. Because it needs a lot of food, there is a large bio-load on the aquarium and a smaller tank will foul quickly. Regular water changes done bi-weekly or monthly will help replace the trace elements that the fish and corals use up. A suggested guideline is to keep up with your water testing, which will tell you when your tank needs a water change.

  • Fish only tanks:
    • Large Tanks 100 gallons and over should have regular water changes of 20% monthly. Once water is aged and the tank stable, it can be changed 20% to 30% every 6 weeks depending on bioload.
  • Reef tanks:
    • Large Tanks 100 gallons and over, once water is aged and stable can be changed 10% bi-weekly to 20% monthly, depending on bioload.

For more information on maintaining a saltwater aquarium see: Saltwater Aquarium Basics: Maintenance. A reef tank will require specialized filtration and lighting equipment. Learn more about reef keeping see: Mini Reef Aquarium Basics.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly - Water changes of 10% every 2 weeks in a reef setting or 20% monthly in a fish only tank.

Aquarium Setup

The Caribbean Blue Tang can be kept in a fish only tank or a reef environment, though it may nip at some large polyped stony corals (LPS). Like other surgeonfish, it needs a stable and established tank which is at least 6 months old. This fish is very active, constantly on the go picking at on algae on the decor. A minimum sized tank of 100 gallons is suggested, but they usually do better in larger aquariums because they like lots of room to swim. A larger 180 gallon tank that is taller and 6 feet long is even better for their deep-bodied shape and swimming needs. If it is a female and may reach 15 inches in length, planning for a 250 gallon tank would also be wise.

They will swim in all levels of the tank. The tank should be well decorated with rocks/corals arranged with plenty of crevices and caves for them to hide in at night. Provide open areas on the upper levels for them to swim with no obstructions. An area of strong linear water flow is appreciated for them to swim against a current. Any substrate is fine, and although moderate lighting can work, a stronger lighting will help encourage algae growth. When kept in a reef these factors need to be considered more specifically for the needs of the coral.

Tangs produce a lot of waste, so the larger the tank, the easier it is to keep clean. A strong skimmer and good filtration is recommended for long term health. The temperature they prefer is 72° to 79°F (22° to 26°C), normal ocean salinity with a specific gravity of 1.023-1.025, and a pH of 8.1 to 8.4. All of these parameters need to be stable and should not fluctuate.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 100 gal (379 L) - They usually do better in larger aquariums because they like lots of room to swim. A 180 gallon tank that is taller and 6 foot long is suggested for long term maintenance, may need up to 250 gallons for larger 15" specimens.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Live Rock Requirement: Typical Plus Hiding Places - Hiding places are needed to help reduce stress and for them to hide in at night.
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting - Lighting is needed to provide algae growth on live rock. They are found in areas with sunlight.
  • Temperature: 72.0 to 79.0° F (22.2 to 26.1° C)
  • Breeding Temperature: - unknown
  • Specific gravity: 1.023-1.025 SG
  • Range ph: 8.1-8.4
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Strong - Provide an area of the tank with strong linear flow.
  • Water Region: All - They will swim all over the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

The Blue Tang Surgeonfish is best kept singly and as the only surgeonfish that in the tank. While they are found in small groups in the wild, they exhibit no tolerance for their own kind in captivity unless you have a tank the size of a public aquarium. It is also wise to not house them with other Acanthurus genus tangs due to the similarity in shape, which will bring out aggression. They will also not do well with other types of tangs unless the tank is very large. Even then they must be of different shapes and colors, but with the same temperament.

The Caribbean Blue Tang is peaceful with non-tangs, however, it should be one of the last fish added to a peaceful to semi-aggressive community tank. It can be kept with relatively peaceful fish and smaller semi-aggressive fish. Clownfish and anthias are perfect tank mates that will keep it happy, calm, and disease free. Other peaceful fish, even small gobies will not be bothered by this tang. Large angelfish that are not algae eaters, but peaceful planktivores, can be fine but should be added to the tank before the tang. Do not house with aggressive damsels, especially while the tang is young. Triggers are usually too aggressive, unless they are planktivores.

Surgeonfish are great in a reef environment to help control algae. But with this species, the Large Polyp Stony Corals (LPS) are said to possibly be in danger of nipping unless the tang is kept well fed. They may eat the algae at the stony base, however, which is different than “eating” the coral. Invertebrates are safe, though there have been rare reports where a tang may nibble at the mucus of a clam, causing it to stay closed.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive - Peaceful to non-tang fish.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: No
    • Peaceful fish (gobies, dartfish, assessors, fairy wrasses): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (anthias, clownfish, dwarf angels): Safe
    • Aggressive (dottybacks, 6-line & 8-line wrasse, damselfish): Monitor - Avoid housing with aggressive damsels while the Atlantic Blue Tangs are juveniles.
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (tangs, large angels, large wrasses): Monitor - Do not house with other tangs unless the tank is hundreds of gallons, nor with aggressive angelfish.
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (lionfish, groupers, soapfish): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (seahorses, pipefish, mandarins): Monitor - Mandarins will not be bothered.
    • Anemones: Safe
    • Mushroom Anemones - Corallimorphs: Safe
    • LPS corals: Monitor - Underfed tangs may nip at the polyps.
    • SPS corals: Safe
    • Gorgonians, Sea Fans: Safe
    • Leather Corals: Safe
    • Soft Corals (xenias, tree corals): Safe
    • Star Polyps, Organ Pipe Coral: Safe
    • Zoanthids - Button Polyps, Sea Mats: Safe
    • Sponges, Tunicates: Safe
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe
    • Starfish: Safe
    • Feather Dusters, Bristle Worms, Flatworms: Safe
    • Clams, Scallops, Oysters: Monitor - A rare tang will take a liking to the slime clams produce.
    • Copepods, Amphipods, Mini Brittle Stars: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

Unlike other surgeonfish, male tangs from the Acanthurus genus may be much smaller than the females.

Breeding / Reproduction

For the last couple of decades there have been efforts in French Polynesia to collect the larvae of some species as it settles, and then rear the young. Also breeding a few species such as the Yellow Tang Zebrasoma flavescens, Regal Tang Paracanthurus hepatus, and the Naso Tang Naso lituratus has been attempted. But neither of these methods have had sufficient success for commercial production. The difficulty starts after the eggs hatch. In the pelagic larval stage they are very small and easily damaged, followed by a very long planktonic larval stage, and then the fry are very slow growing.

The Atlantic Blue Tangs reaches sexual maturity at 9 to 12 months, when they are approximately 4 to 5” long. Spawning is signaled as their bodies go from all blue to a pale blue front and dark blue back end. In the wild they congregate in spawning aggregations, with groups reported to be as large as 6,000 to 7,000 individuals off southwestern Puerto Rico. This species also spawns in pairs, where the male holds a territory near the substrate and develops a "white-faced" color for a very short period of time (Domeier and Colin 1997).

Spawning starts in the late afternoon or early evening, before the sun sets. The males will aggressively persist courtship until a female agrees to spawn with them. They both swim quickly towards the surface, then simultaneously release their eggs and sperm in open water.

The fertilized eggs are 0.8 mm in circumference and are buoyant, or pelagic, due to a little droplet of oil. After 24 hours the clear larvae are a thin, flat diamond shape. They have a triangular head and silver belly, and move through the open ocean feeding on minute plankton. After they reach 2 to 6 mm they develop dorsal fins, anal fins and scales/ Around 1/2” (13 mm) they develop a caudal spine which they use for protection.

These tiny fry drift towards the ocean shore line where they morph into small juveniles. Their silver coloring turns brown, their diamond shape turns round, and their snout elongates preparing them for feeding off the reef. Within a week they turn yellow and are 2” in length. They join the community and are now guarding their own patch of the reef. See the description in the Breeding Marine Fish: Tangs for more about how they reproduce in the wild.

  • Ease of Breeding: Unknown - Surgeonfish are difficult to rear, yet some progress is being made in captivity.

Fish Diseases

The Acanthurus species are generally hardy once acclimated. However they do need a proper environment and tankmates, and the water quality needs to be pristine and stable, or they can suffer any disease that captive saltwater environments have to offer. They will succumb to illness quickly in a less than optimal environment. Common ailments include bacterial diseases, Head and Lateral Line Erosion HLLE (called Hole-in-the-Head Disease in other species), and parasitic infections such as protozoas (including Cryptocaryon), worms, etc.

Although they can be quite durable, Surgeonfish are prone to skin diseases. They produce less body slime than other saltwater fish and have been termed “dry skinned” fish by some. This makes them susceptible to Marine Ich or White Spot Disease Cryptocaryon irritans and Marine Velvet or Velvet Disease Oodinium ocellatum. Both of these are parasites. Surgeonfish are also susceptible to nutritional disorders which may cause color loss and HLLE (head and lateral line disease) which may be caused by poor water quality, unsuitable habitat conditions, lack of endogenous (internal) vitamins, and activated carbon.

Symptoms of Marine Ich are constant scratching, culminating with lots of white dots. Some refer to them as "Ich Magnets" because they are the first fish to exhibit signs of illness. Marine Ich results in the fish suffocating from the parasites blocking their gills, keeping them from providing oxygen. Marine Velvet is a parasitic skin flagellate. Symptoms are a peppery coating giving a yellow to light brown "dust" on body, clamped fins, respiratory distress (breathing hard as seen as frequent or quick gill movements), cloudiness of eyes, glancing off decor or substrate, and possible weight loss.

In the wild a cleaner wrasse (Labroides spp.) 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.

For treatment in captivity, the best routine is a quarantine tank. Provide a stress free environment with good quality foods, places to hide, and a quiet area for the aquarium. For external parasites you can slowly increasing the temperature of your tank to at least 82° F (28° C). That will prevent the parasite from completing its life cycle which includes the attachment to fish. A further combination of the higher temperatures with medicated food will provide timely relief. Some tangs are sensitive to copper because they have an important microfauna in their digestive system, so prolonged or continuous use of a copper treatment is not advisable. It is also said that pellets soaked in garlic may help fend off Marine Ich.

Parasites on marine fish kept with live rock or in any type of reef environment can be extremely difficult to treat. Typical treatments like copper and formalin solutions, as well as quinine based drugs are harmful to other marine creatures. However drugs such as metronidazole provide an effective and safe treatment for several protozoan and anaerobic bacterial diseases. Metronidazole works by ceasing the growth of bacteria and protozoa. Metronidazole is an antibiotic for anaerobic bacteria with anti-protozoal properties. This drug is reef safe, and medications are either added to the water or mixed with the fish food. Some available products that contain metronidazole include Seachem Metronidazole, Seachem AquaZole, Thomas Laboratories' Fish Zole and National Fish Pharmaceutical's Metro-Pro.

Providing a vitamin supplement (including vitamin C) can help provide for their nutritional needs, and vitamin C can help reduce Lateral Line Erosion (LLE). Enriching foods can be done by soaking dried pellets with liquid vitamins or adding vitamins to frozen and fresh foods. Although somewhat less effective, adding a liquid vitamin into the water can also work. Some hobbyists also report success with supplemental foods such as previously boiled or frozen zucchini, broccoli, spinach, and leaf lettuce. Some hobbyists also report success with offerings of supplemental foods such as previously boiled or frozen zucchini, broccoli, spinach, and leaf lettuce. For more information on diseases that saltwater tangs are susceptible to, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

Availability

The Blue Tang Surgeonfish, also called the Caribbean Blue or Atlantic Blue Tangs, are typically available all year round in pet stores and online. However, they may vary in the size available and the prices will range depending on the size. Though they are moderately expensive, they are one of the less costly tang species.

References

Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Carrie McBirney
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Lastest Animal Stories on Caribbean Blue Tang


CONNIE - 2007-09-13
I have the Atlantic Blue Tang, have had since a baby. He is starting to turn blue. I love him. I also have a Sailfin and Blonde Naso tang in the same tank. They get along so well.

Reply
nykira - 2011-01-21
Why do they change color?

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Jacob C. - 2010-06-24
This is my favorite fish, they're so beautiful. I am making a Caribbean native forty gallon breeder tank. Please tell be good details about this fish, so far we have most of our things to be ready to cycle, we'll be ready for a blue tang in a week or so. Send a comment describing this fish's qualities and character. I want to know everything there is to know about this wonderful Caribbean beauty!

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Fay Grigg - 2006-01-20
Have just purchased Atlantic Blue Tang and I love him, he has settled in well and feeding at present mainly on spurulina, nori and seems to be accepting cyclop-eeze not interested in pellet food yet.
He is an adult fish and gets on with all the other fish.

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