Mini reef aquarium guide. Reef aquarium setup for large reef tanks, Nano reef tanks, Pico reef or MIcro reef aquariums with reef tank lighting, filtration, choosing coral reef animals, and problem solving!
The genus Naso contains several fish sporting a Unicorn!
The Acanthuridae family contains the fish that are known as Surgeonfish, Tangs, Unicornfish, and doctorfish. The popular 'unicornfish' are from the Naso genus, and are called the unicornfish because some of the species have a horn-like projection on the forehead like the one in the video. The name "surgeonfish" is derived from their possessing erectable razor sharp spines called 'scalpels' at the base of their bodies just in front of the tail fin. These spines or scalpels are very sharp and can cut like a knife. They have oval bodies that are very compressed laterally and small mouths adapted for nibbling and scraping small organisms from the rocks and coral. Most varieties of Surgeonfish can be kept together, but sometimes they can be territorial. It is best to add all your specimens at the same time or rearrange the rockwork when adding a new species to an aquarium already containing a resident surgeonfish. Read about each species to learn about its size, adaptibility, beharior, diet, and especially compatibility with its own species as well as any other species.
This video shows an acceptable mix of several tangs with what sounds like pirate music, making it interesting to watch. While it cannot be determined what the tank size is, it does look large from front to back. The Achilles Tang appears to be the largest in the tank, and is sharing nicely with a Yellow Tang, Hippo Tang, Yellow Eye Kole Tang, and a juvenile angelfish that comes in toward the end. All of these tangs from different genus which makes it work. If you watch carefully you will see a snowflake eel appear around 1:11 in the background.
While you may first think this tang is in a tank that is too small for it, be assured this is a temporary visit for filming! The Achilles Tang, Acanthurus achilles, needs about 180 gallons, many places to hide, serious water flow, lots of food for their high energy swimming habits and good oxygen levels. My only experience in a 6' long tank was a fat, happy and healthy Achilles Tang.... until a 4 year old boy decided to slap the side of the tank really hard with both hands! My tang was dead that night, so I suppose a heart attack? These fish are prone to crypt (saltwater ich) and tend to share their white spotted disease freely with their tank mates, so a quarantine tank is essential for these fish.
Video of a cool color variation of a Blue Hippo Tang in captivity.
The Blue or Hippo Tang, Paracanthurus hepatus, is another surgeonfish that needs a lot of room to swim! They need 180 gallons, lots of strong water movement, plenty of veggies and appropriate tank mates. They will become quite belligerent in smaller tanks and will go after other tangs and fish if they feel crowded. They are one of the easier tangs to care for, aside from being the most popular fish sought after by new saltwater aquarists due to the movie Finding Nemo. Sadly, newbies quickly find that their 55 gallon tank is not going to cut it, as the Blue Hippo Tang will grow to 12," besides producing a lot of waste. Their need, like other tangs, to swim very quickly and aggressively means a 6 foot tank is minimum.
Video showing how fish start out after being captured.
This video is breathtakingly beautiful, almost making the most sensible saltwater aquarist want a shoal of Blue Hippo Tangs! When logic kicks in, most of us realize our 180 gallon tank, which should be at least 6 feet long, will really only house one adult! Yes, in the wild they shoal, but the ocean is a really BIG aquarium! They are hardy, and if yours is quite aggressive as an adult as mine became, then it is more than likely a male! Females are much more reserved than males. These fish grow to 12," and need strong water flow, lots of greens and places to hide.
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.
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.
Video in a temporary holding tank to show the size and beauty of the Clown Tang.
One thing nice about this video is that we get such a good look at the Clown Tang! The beautiful multicolor stripes, white belly and lemony yellow fins! These are wonderful tangs with high energy, needing a tank that is at least 250 gallons that is highly oxygenated and very clean! These tangs are for experts only due to their need to be in a very clean tank with serious water movement and filtration that can rival their massive output of poo! The Marshall Islands Clown Tang has a different coloring.
Insanely beautiful Clown Tang from Sri Lanka in acclimation basket.
The Clown Tang or Lined Tang, Acanthurus lineatus, comes in various color morphs depending on location. This beautiful fish is from Sri Lanka and has much more blue and what looks like even green and orange in their coloring which is different from the yellow and blue Marshall Island variant. If you have a 250 gallon tank or larger with great filtration, low nitrates, serious oxygenation, and you are an expert aquarist, I highly suggest picking one up! The basket is used for several days to acquaint the fish with others in the tank and make sure it is feeding properly before adding to the main display. GORGEOUS!
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The Acanthuridae family contains the fish that are known as Surgeonfish, Tangs, Unicornfish, and doctorfish. The name "surgeonfish" is derived from their possessing erectable razor sharp spines called 'scalpels' at the base of their bodies just in front of the tail fin. These spines or scalpels are very sharp and can cut like a knife. They have oval bodies that are very compressed laterally and small mouths adapted for nibbling and scraping small organisms from the rocks and coral.
Most varieties of Surgeonfish can be kept together, but sometimes they can be territorial. It is best to add all your specimens at the same time or rearrange the rockwork when adding a new species to an aquarium already containing a resident surgeonfish. Read about each species to learn about its size, adaptibility, beharior, diet, and especially compatibility with its own species as well as any other species.
Description: The surgeonfish belong to the Acanthuridae family. They are a very ancient fish, with fossils dating back more than 50 million years to the Tertiary period (Eocene). Today they are found in all the tropical seas of the world, with the exception of the Mediterranean. Most are found in relatively shallow waters, especially where the water is clear and the rock, rubble, or dead coral is exposed to good sunlight providing good algae growth. Coastal waters, harbors and even estuaries for the young are prime areas for these fish. Many of these surgeonfish are small enough for a home aquarium. Species that inhabit the open ocean are fewer, but are found in larger numbers. Most of these surgeonfish get quite large with some species reaching up to almost 40 inches (101 cm). These larger fish are not suitable for a home aquarium but will often be featured in public aquariums. Surgeonfish live primarily in large schools or in pairs. They primarily ingest plant matter with most grazing on the reef, but will also pick at the detritus, and there are some that feed predominantly on zooplankton. At night they sleep in small caves or crevices in the reef.
Genus/Species: The Acanthuridae family consist of 6 genera and about 72 species. The name 'surgeonfish' is derived from a unique attribute of this family. These species are clearly distinguished from other fish by the spine or spines located on the base of the caudal fin, on the caudal peduncle. These spines are either foldable or fixed, are blade like, and are quite sharp. You need to be very careful when handling these fish to avoid a painful cut. A cut from these scalpels 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 a good idea to use a fine meshed net when catching them to keep them from getting stuck in the net. The popular 'unicornfish' are from the Naso genus, and are called the unicornfish because some of the species have a horn-like projection on the forehead. The term 'sailfin tang' is most often applied to the popular species in the Zebrasoma genus. The Ctenochaetus genus are often referred to as 'Bristletooth' or 'Combtooth' tangs, due to their nature of feeding.
The Acanthuridae family is divided into three subfamilies. Ichthyologists use the caudal peduncle and spines as distinguishing characteristics to place each member into one of the three sub-families.)
The subfamily Ancanturinae includes four genera: Acanthurus, Zebrasoma, Paracanthurus, and Ctenochaetus. The fish from these genera are very popular and many are brightly colored. They all have a single caudal spine which folds into a grove on the side of the caudal peduncle. Many have bright colors outlining these spines which serves as a warning coloration. These fish will use their spines when feeling threatened or endangered. They spread their fins out and then dart forward, whipping their tail at the aggressor. When the tail fin twists, it bends at a sharp 80° angle causing the spine to become erect and flip out, creating a slashing type action. It is thought that the spines on some of these species may be venomous, but detailed studies have been unable to determine this.
The subfamily Nasinae has one genus: Naso. These fish have one or two fixed blades on each side of the caudal peduncle.
The subfamily Prionurinae has one genus, Prionus. These fish have three to six fixed blades on each side of the peduncle. They are also found in cooler waters.
The spines on the two sub-families with the fixed blades are used in a similar manner to that of the Ananturinae. Extensive studies on these two have found that either the spines or their surrounding tissues are poisonous. Damage sustained from the spine of a prionurid surgeonfish resulted in death for all injured fish. (Baensch, 1994).
There are five main genus of Surgeonfish suitable for the aquarium:
Acanthurus - The genus Acanthurus consists of 36 known species. This is the largest of all six genus in the Acanthuridae family, and the species are found in all three oceans.
Ctenochaetus - The genus Ctenochaetus consists of 9 species. They are often referred to as the 'Bristletooth' or 'Combtooth' Tangs, due to their nature of feeding. They have several rows of small flexible comb like teeth (up to 30 teeth) along with a protrusive pouting mouth. These teeth are adapted for lifting and sifting through various types of algae and detrital material off of rocks, sand, and other surfaces and then they use their mouth to suck the food up. In the aquarium you will often see little lip marks on the glass where algae used to be from this feeding behavior. Unlike most of the other tangs of the Acanthuridae family who posses 9 dorsal spines, the Ctenochaetus have only 8 dorsal spines (the first one being very small). The most popular and available species in this genus are the Yellow-eyed TangCtenochaetus strigosus and the Chevron TangCtenochaetus hawaiiensis. Its diet makes it a great complimentary companion for other peaceful surgeonfish such as those in the Zebrasoma genus that eat the larger filamentatous algae. Several species in the genus Ctenochaetus exhibit a change in coloration from juvenile to adult, though most other surgeonfish don't change color as they get older.
Naso - The genus Naso consists of 19 species. The most popular characteristic of this genus is the development of a lump or single horn-like projection on the forehead of some of the members of the Naso genus, giving them the designation of 'Unicornfish'. However many of them don't develop horns at all, and some only develop horns on the male fish. Other characteristics include an elongated body shape, a narrower caudal peduncle with two scalpels or spines on either side that are fixed rather than retractible (with the exception of three species having only a single spine), three pelvic fin rays, and a single continous dorsal fin starting at the head and extending the length of the body. They generally swim in large schools and feed on zooplankton. The exception is Naso literatus, the "Lipstick Tang", which feeds on algae and usually lives in pairs. They are among some of the hardiest and most peaceful of the surgeonfish, the biggest obstacle to maintaining them in an aquarium is their very large size, ranging from one to over three feet. Most are suitable only for a public aquariums. The Lipstick Tang N. literatus is again the exception, as it can fit in quite well in a large home aquarium.
Paracanthurus - There is only one species in the genus Paracanthurus, and it is probably the most popular of the tangs. It is the Blue TangParacanthurus hepatus, also known as the Regal Tang or Hippo Tang.
Zebrasoma - The genus Zebrasoma consists of 7 species. They are popularly called the 'sailfin tangs' because when their fins are fully extended the height of the fish is about the same as its length, giving it a disk-shaped appearance. The sailfin tangs are found in every ocean of the world. These relatively small surgeonfish are the hardiest of the marine aquarium inhabitants. They make good aquarium inhabitants as they are peaceful and get along well with a wide variety of other fish. They are curious, active, and very personable; and they are voracious algae eaters making them excellent candidates for a reef environment. Some favorites that are regularly available are the Yellow Tang Z. flavescens, Pacific Sailfin Tang Z. veliferum, and the Twotone Tang Z. scopas.
Care and feeding: Many of the surgeonfish can be robust aquarium inhabitants in a proper environment that is well maintained. Most make a good tank mate for the community setting as wells as a great addition to a reef, where they will continually graze on algae growth. They should be fed several times a day. In the wild, algae is their main food source and they are continually browsing. They should be offered vegetable based prepared foods, brine shrimp, blood worms, chopped clams, plankton, and krill. Such foods as Japanese Nori, Romaine lettuce, or spinach can be floated in the aquarium for grazing. See each species for more detailed care.