For colour, beauty and sheer drama, there’s noth­ing quite like a tang.

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Contents -

Here’s a riot of colour for your reef tank – come to the tang party and meet the best­dressed guests in town.

If there is a group of fish that aquar­ists con­sider to be com­pul­sory ad­di­tions to the ma­rine aquar­ium, it’s the mem­bers of the fam­ily Acan­thuri­dae. We know them col­lec­tively as tangs but they also go by the name sur­geon­fish or, for at least one genus, Uni­corn­fish.

tangs are not only beau­ti­ful, they have the po­ten­tial to be highly use­ful in many aquaria. What could be bet­ter than fish that not only look amaz­ing, but also earn their keep?


the Acan­thuri­dae fam­ily con­tains more than 80 species be­long­ing to six gen­era. five of th­ese – Acan­thu­rus, Ctenochaetus, Naso, Para­can­thu­rus and Ze­bra­soma – have species that are com­monly avail­able in the hobby.


tangs and sur­geon­fish get their com­mon name from the spe­cialised scales lo­cated on the cau­dal pe­dun­cle that can in­flict se­ri­ous wounds due to their scalpel-like sharp­ness. th­ese are used to threaten ri­vals, de­ployed in a de­fen­sive role, or used to de­ter other species from en­ter­ing ter­ri­to­ries.

the spines of some species, such as the regal tang, Para­can­thu­rus hep­a­tus, have been shown to be mildly ven­omous, but not all Acan­thurids have been in­ves­ti­gated and many are cer­tainly not.

Diet & feed­ing

Most tang species are her­biv­o­rous, feed­ing on al­gae in­clud­ing macro, fil­a­men­tous, cal­care­ous, di­atoma­ceous and even blue-green forms. Some are rather spe­cific in the alga they con­sume, whereas oth­ers are more gen­er­alised her­bi­vores. One genus, Ctenochaetus, the bristle­tooth tangs, have brush-like teeth that have evolved to ef­fec­tively re­move de­tri­tus and al­gal films from hard sur­faces.

Pro­vid­ing a diet of suf­fi­cient qual­ity and quan­tity to re­verse weight loss is es­sen­tial dur­ing the im­por­tant early days and weeks of aquar­ium life for a newly im­ported fish. tangs of­ten ar­rive look­ing very skinny and nor­mal reef aquar­ium ra­tions may not be suf­fi­cient. So the onus is on the aquar­ist to en­sure the fish con­cerned re­ceives enough calo­ries not only to sus­tain it, but also to al­low it to re­cover lost body mass

for­tu­nately, for most species the pro­vi­sion of both par­tic­u­late di­ets such as frozen brineshrimp and My­sis and dried seaweed on clips can al­low th­ese fish to gain weight quickly and keep it on.

Reef com­pat­i­bil­ity

for the most part, tangs are con­sid­ered reef safe, par­tic­u­larly when they are well fed.

rogues oc­cur, how­ever. I have ex­pe­ri­enced a regal tang that ac­tively con­sumed zoan­thids and clam man­tles, but such cases are rare. Usu­ally, tangs are a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence in coral-rich aquaria be­cause they per­form a use­ful role in the preven­tion and con­trol of nui­sance al­gae.


Many Acan­thurids suf­fer greatly when in­fested with pro­to­zoan par­a­sites such as ma­rine vel­vet (Amy­loo­d­inium) and ma­rine white spot (Cryp­to­caryon).

Al­though cer­tain species seem par­tic­u­larly re­sis­tant to such in­fec­tions, there are oth­ers for whom an out­break should be ex­pected – it might take days or weeks, but it’s com­ing. For species such as the Regal tang, P. hep­a­tus, Yel­low-eyed tang, C. strigo­sus, and the Pow­der blue tang, Acan­thu­rus leu­coster­non, pre­cau­tions should ide­ally be taken be­fore in­tro­duc­tion.

For me, UV ster­ilis­ers are es­sen­tial for th­ese species – per­haps for all tangs – as they help to lower the over­all num­bers of par­a­sites and al­gae at the free-float­ing stage of their life cy­cle. Quar­an­tin­ing is use­ful, but hav­ing some­thing work­ing for you in the dis­play tank is just as im­por­tant in my opin­ion.


Tangs are ter­ri­to­rial. Some tangs are very ter­ri­to­rial. Si­mul­ta­ne­ous in­tro­duc­tions help to re­duce ter­ri­to­rial ag­gres­sion be­tween species that are likely to clash, though some species will dom­i­nate an aquar­ium even­tu­ally, re­gard­less of how diminu­tive and ap­par­ently timid they ap­peared when first in­tro­duced. Draw up a stock­ing list and try to add the most ter­ri­to­ri­ally ag­gres­sive species last.

ABOVE: Dif­fer­ent-look­ing tangs can live to­gether com­fort­ably.

BE­LOW LEFT: Nat­u­rally tangs live in large num­bers.

BE­LOW cen­tre: In­dian Ocean or Des­jar­dine tang.

BE­LOW right: Yel­low-eyed kole tangs are de­tri­tus eaters.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.