The Doubleband Surgeonfish is an attractive eye-catcher with its striking spine circle, and as an adult with the development of its shoulder stripes!

   This surgeonfish is one of the few surgeonfish with a beautiful but changing coloration from juvenile to adulthood. The vibrant coloration on its caudal peduncle surrounding the spine makes it is easy to determine the source of the common name ‘ Spinecircle Tang’. However the most used common names, ‘Doubleband Surgeonfish’ and ‘Lieutenant Surgeonfish’, are derived from the black mark just above the pectoral fin which develops into two short dark stripes in the adult.

   The Doubleband Surgeonfish is a good choice for the home aquarium. They go through an interesting color change from juvenile to adult and are favored because they don’t get as large as many others in the same genus. They are moderately easy to care for as long as they are provided with a good environment and their nutritional needs are met.

   Like all surgeonfish and tangs, the Doubleband Surgeonfish likes lots of water turbulence rather than a placid aquarium. Be sure there is lots of swimming room and plenty 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. A voracious algae eater, it can be also be kept in a reef environment. They can be kept with a variety of tank mates including some of the other genus’ of surgeonfish, though they will be aggressive towards others of their own kind.

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

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Acanthuridae
  • Genus: Acanthurus
  • Species: tennentii
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Habitat: Natural geographic location:

  The Doubleband Surgeonfish or Lieutenant Surgeonfish was described by G{uuml}nther in 1861. They are found in the Indian Ocean from East Africa to Sri Lanka and Islands of southern Indonesia. It co-occurs with its close relative the Orangespot SurgeonfishAcanthurus olivaceus in Bali.
   In their natural habitat adults are usually found alone or in small groups at depths of 3 to 82 feet (1 – 25 meters). They inhabit lagoons and shallow reef terraces among coral rocks and rubble and sandy areas overgrown with algae.
   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.


   These fish are not listed on the IUCN Red List.


   An adult Doubleband Surgeonfish or Lieutenant Surgeonfish is very similar looking to other Acanthurus species as far as size and facial features. They have a disk like shaped body with a spine that is like a scalpel on either side of the caudal peduncle. The adults from Sri Lanka and Bali are described as a whitish-gray coloring overall with darker “bands” behind the gills and right before the tail fin. The bands are black and the “spine” on the caudal peduncle is surrounded in black and trimmed in bright blue. Other adults from Maldives are describe as basically a tan with darker accent lines outlining the body. The spine is circled in a bright blue and that blue also outlines the anal fin. On all specimens the forked tail fin will grow streamers as the fish ages and they have continuous dorsal and anal fins.
   Juveniles have a yellowish-gold body as opposed to tan or whitish-grey. The caudal fin is also yellow, the eye is black, and the dark marking just above the base of the pectoral fin is crescent shaped.

Length/Diameter of fish:

   Adults reach 12.2 inches (31 cm), though in captivity most will only reach about 10 inches (25 cm).

Maintenance difficulty:

   The relatively small size of the Doubleband Surgeonfish or Lieutenant Surgeonfish lends itself to being a great addition to the marine aquarium. It is also quite hardy; adaptable to a wide variety of foods, 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.
   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)


   The Doubleband Surgeonfish or Lieutenant Surgeonfish are primarily herbivores. In the wild they graze on benthic algae, detritus, and diatoms. 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 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.


   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 100 gallon (379 liters).
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 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 Doubleband Surgeonfish or Lieutenant 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 and their personality is not overly aggressive with most tank mates. Though they are aggressive towards others of their own species, they will tolerate other genus’ like the Zebrasoma, Paracanthurus, Naso, and Ctenochaetus. They can also handle themselves just fine with more aggressive fish like triggers, large wrasses, and puffers.
   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 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.

Sex: Sexual differences:

   No sexual difference is noted for this species, though the males may be larger.


   The Doubleband Surgeonfish 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.


   The Doubleband Surgeonfish or Lieutenant Surgeonfish is often available at retailers and it is possible to order one. They are priced around $40.00 USD and up.