Classification and Identification:
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Actinopterygii = Osteichthyes (Ray-Finned or Bony Fishes)
- Order: Perciformes (Perch-Likes)
- Family: Acanthuridae (Tangs, Surgeonfishes, and Unicornfishes)
- Genera: Acanthurus, Ctenochaetus, Naso, Zebrasoma, Prionurus
The most significant feature that identifies members of the Acanthuridae family is the presence of spines on the sides of the caudal peduncle. Each side bears either a single, sharp, hinged spine, or one or two immobile, keel-like, razor sharp plates, thus the related name "surgeon" fish. Side-swiping an aggressor with these scalpel-like spines is how they defend themselves, and one should use caution when handling them as well. Deep cuts can be inflicted, and the potential for a minor to serious infection to arise from an injury warrants paying close attention to a wound, and treating it properly.
The majority of members in this family remain 7 to 12 inches in length, but those of the Naso genus grow as large as 16 to 18 inches, withHowever, the Unicornfishes (named for the single horn-like spine on the front of their heads) reach an average length of 15 to 20 inches, with the Naso unicornis species sometimes growing to 24 inches
Characteristics and Compatibility:
Tangs and Surgeonfishes generally do not get along well with fish of the same species or sex, especially when kept in a small aquarium system. Some species will often pick on other nonrelated fishes that are similar in shape, color, size, and behavior. Most are best kept singly with other single non-related species. Because of the somewhat aggressive nature of these fish, most are best kept in a moderately-aggressive to aggressive fish species tank community.
Providing the Proper Habitat:
Depending on an individual fish's average size, a large enough aquarium with ample room to move around and lots of places to hide to keep away from other fish are best for their well being. If you have a Tang or Surgeonfish that has been a long time resident in an aquarium, and later you add another or several new fish of the same or similar species, stand back and watch the fighting begin. If you do try to keep several of the same or multiple species together, it is helpful to introduce them into the aquarium all at the same time.
Most Common Tang and Surgeonfish Ailments:
A vast majority of Family Acanthuridae
fishes are highly susceptible to these ailments.
Diet & Feeding:
Tangs and Surgeonfishes are herbivores that in nature live upon various types of alga that thrive in the more sun lit shallower waters of the reef. They have unusually long digestive tracts to digest the plant matter they consume. These fish are constant feeders and spend most of their day grazing. A habitat with an ample growth of algae present is best for them, which in turn helps to keep the algae in an aquarium cropped and in check.
Suitable Tank Foods:
If the aquarium does not have a plentiful source of algae, these fish can be fed a varied diet of dried and frozen herbivore foods that contain marine algae and the blue-green alga Spirulina. Their diet can also be supplemented with fresh vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini and leaf lettuce. Nori (natural dried seaweed) is also a good supplemental food source, and some Tang & Surgeonfish species will occasionally pick at meaty fares as well. Periodically soaking foods in Selcon or another type of liquid vitamin helps to provide important vitamin replace that may not be completely obtained from some tank fed fares.