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FAQs on Genus Acanthurus Tangs 3

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Related FAQs: Acanthurus Tangs 1Acanthurus Tangs 2, Acanthurus ID, Acanthurus Behavior, Acanthurus Compatibility, Acanthurus Selection, Acanthurus Systems, Acanthurus Feeding, Acanthurus Disease, Acanthurus Reproduction, Powder Blue Tangs, A. sohal, A. nigricans & A. japonicus, Surgeons In General, Tang ID, Selection, Tang Behavior, Compatibility, Systems, Feeding, Disease,

Get along with most anything that gets along with them. Macropharyngodon ornatus.

Surgeonfishes: Tangs for  Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care
New eBook on Amazon: Available here
New Print Book on Create Space: Available here


by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Acanthurus thompsoni, gen. care   12/3/08 Hello, <Salud Frank> My local fish store has a small juvenile Thompson's Tang that I am interested in purchasing. I am unable to find that much information regarding this species. I've only found just a handful of pics. Is this a rare species? <Mmm, not in its natural range, but in the trade, yes... Not a great beauty, and Thompson's doesn't therefore demand much in the way of "diver pay"... so it is most often turned out of fence nets (the predominant collecting technology for reef fish species altogether) in favor of species that generate more revenue... But I've collected in, unintentionally, many times in Hawai'i' and seen it in abundance in the Cooks, Polynesia....> What are their feeding habits? <Feeds continuously during the day on lower areas of rock on small filamentous algae, and likely aufwuchs... associated life... the higher rocks, larger algae are consumed mainly by other Acanthurid species... and still others feed on these materials on the sand> Are they aggressive or timid? <Mostly the latter... rarely get into tussles, unless backed into a corner, attacked, or placed in too-crowded settings> What's the appropriate tank size for this guy? <Mmm... at least a 75 gallon... and a comment re how many to stock... Thompson's is found as individuals, "pairs" and in larger shoals at times... Makes for a more interesting arrangement... if you have room> Any help would be much appreciated. Frank R Meadors <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Orange shoulder tang... no info., apathy?   8/16/07 I have an orange shoulder tang that I bought last week. The mouth is swollen and has gotten worse within the last few days. I wanted to know if this was normal. <Ah, no> Thanks, BE <Not an easygoing species... alpha type... that does not take to collection, shipping, being kept in small volumes... Please use the search tool on WWM re Acanthurus olivaceus, and read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acantdisfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Acanthurus Tangs   12/28/05 Dear Mr. Fenner <James today> I read over your website, specifically on the Acanthurus genus. I have been a reef-keeper for nearly 10 years now, and like many have had my resounding success stories with livestock and dismal failures as well. I have noticed that whenever I have purchased a number of different Acanthurus species over that last several years, they tend not to be long-lived like Zebrasoma tangs. <The nature of the beast.  Some are amongst the most difficult fish to keep.> I'm speaking specifically of ? japonicus and A. Leucosternon. Powder Blues,<The worst of the family.> I understand from some sources consider them touchy, although I had one that lived in my tank for three years and I only removed him because of size and aggressiveness. Even the Powder Browns (an understated beauty) full bodied and strong colored seem to thin way down in captivity, relatively quickly. <A good vitamin enriched diet is most important.> I have one now. Perfect condition when I got him (color, body fullness) he eats like a pig and still has sunken behind the head and body. His color and behavior are still normal and he still eats very well but doesn't look it. Purple and Yellow Tangs in the same tank are fine and healthy. (150 gallon tank -very little aggression between them. They even "school" together) 4 802 power heads in tank for strong water movement. Water parameters are tested regularly and fine. pH, Nitrates, Nitrites, Phosphates, Alkalinity. All fish in the tank are feed Vibra-Gro and Dried green seaweed (specifically for Tangs). Fed once, sometimes twice a day. <Consider using Ocean Nutrition frozen cubes specifically designed for herbivores. Soaking your food in Selcon is recommended.> Is there something else missing diet-wise for this genus ??<As above> Have I come to an illogical conclusion about them ?? Just bad luck ?? <No bad luck.  You are just choosing difficult fish to keep for any length of time.  Water quality is very important also.  Are you using a skimmer?  Do you change at least 10% of the water on a weekly basis or 20% every two weeks?> Please respond if you find the time. I would hate to have this fish die out of my ignorance for information. <Bob Fenner wrote a good article on the Powder Blues in Sea Scope, Volume 21, Issue 1, 2004.  I think they are archived at the Aquarium Systems web site.  Check it out.  James (Salty Dog)> Sincerely Douglas Fix

Blue tang will not turn blue I have a Beautiful 10 month old blue tang. I caught her in the Gulf of Mexico. She is still a beautiful shade of yellow with all fins outlined in electric blue. I feed all the usual algae, etc. she eats it all. should I be adding something else to her diet ... or does it just take longer to turn blue because she is captive <Mmm, good question... Have seen this species of quite different sizes retaining juvenile color (maybe three plus some inches overall) and OTOH in adult colors at smaller size in the wild... I would not be concerned here... this fish will turn as the saying goes. Bob Fenner>

Achilles Tang Good day, I am in the process of (6 months into) setting up my 180gallon tank. I have been in the salt-water hobby for over 3 years now, and this is my latest upgrade. My setup consists of the following; 180gal Softie tank, about 200lbs of live rock, 40gal custom sump w/10 fuge (Chaeto growing wonderfully), Iwaki WMD40RLXT circulation pump, ETSS 750 dual injector Skimmer, Japanese Iwaki MD40RLT Skimmer Pump, Dual-250watt PFO MH w/XM 10K bulbs, IceCap 660 w/2 46.5" Super Actinics & 2 46.5" Actinic White, MAG 18 on dual SCWD's, 25watt Sterilizer, 2-250watt Titanium Heaters.  <Sounds like no expenses were spared.> As for livestock, I have a 3" Sailfin Tang, a 3" Yellow Tang, 2" Blue Velvet Damsel (darn girlfriends, anyways!), 1" Yellow Tailed Damsel, 1" Coral Beauty and 2 small decorated gobies. As for corals, I have a large Yellow Spaghetti Leather, 6-head Green Torch, 5-head Hammer Coral, several various Zoos and various mushrooms. I want to start thinking ahead now, to ensure that I can have the best possibilities for raising an Achilles Tang as my "Show Piece" fish (about a 4-6" specimen), hopefully to add him within about a 6 month time frame. I understand this fish requires very good quality water, as well as room to swim, which I would hope my 180 would afford him. <The 180 will be large enough for the Achilles. I recommend doing 10% water changes weekly to keep down nutrients and replenish trace elements that were used/lost. A healthy diet is also important. By the sound of your system and all things being done right, you won't have a natural food supply other than clippings from the Chaeto, so I suggest supplementing the dried algae soaked in Selcon. This will help very much in building up the fishes immune system along with his overall health. Good luck. James (Salty Dog)>  I would appreciate any suggestions you may have. I am hoping that I'm on the correct route, but most definitely eager to learn more.  <Do read the FAQ's on tangs on the Wet Web Site.> 

Re: Marine Help Thanks for your help Bob, <You are welcome>         Though I was afraid I was going to lose the Star so I took it back to the LFS and got a refund. As for the Regal Tang it started breathing really heavily one day and hiding a lot. When I woke up the next morning it was dead. <Not uncommon for this species... for whatever reason/s not a very suitable aquarium choice> My one Clown fish started doing the same thing but looks like it is recovering (I hope....). Now my tank has gone really cloudy and a lot of algae is growing on the rocks and ornaments. I tried doing a large (50%) water change last night and cleaning the rocks and ornaments off. It's cleared a bit but not completely clear. I don't know what's going on here. Will a skimmer and some live rock help with these problems? Regards Eric <Yes, if the rock is cured already, it and the skimmer will help tremendously. Have you read on WWM re "Water Quality?"... you should. Bob Fenner> Feeding A Finicky Tang I just purchased an Achilles Tang, because I could not resist. <Can't blame you- they are gorgeous fish and great to have if you can meet their needs> It is about 4 inches, beautiful color, and in my quarantine tank for 4 days (will stay there for 4 weeks). <Excellent! A key to success with this fish!> It gobbles up Nori, but nothing else.  I have tried frozen brine, Mysis, and Cyclop-eeze all soaked in garlic or Selcon.  But he still only eats the Nori, should I be concerned?  Is there anything else I can do? Thanks for your help! <Well, the fact that he is eating is a great sign! Nori is marine-based, so it does provide valuable nutrition. However, you do want to get him eating as many different foods as possible, of course. I would look for a source of my favorite macroalgae, Gracilaria, which is an excellent supplemental food. You can get a starter supply from e-tailers like Indo-Pacific Sea Farms or Inland Aquatics. You can easily cultivate it yourself with a little effort. In the meantime, just keep trying a variety of frozen foods. Hopefully, he'll come around at some point. Keep it up! Regards, Scott F>

Tangs Fighting Hi Bob it's Carmen from Cleve again. <Hi, You've got MikeD here today> Just wondering if you could give me some advice.<I can try> I bought 3 small regal tangs about 6months ago. They all got on really well as they were slightly different sizes. But now as they are bigger the smaller one is fine, he just leaves the area if the bigger ones go near him, however the other two bigger ones are similar size now and they constantly bicker and chase each other.<This is actually normal, and the reason most books suggest one per tank> Their fins are slightly tattered and they now have small scratches on their bodies from fighting amongst the rocks. Their coloration has faded slightly compared to the smaller more peaceful one. I know this is territorial behaviour, but I was just wondering if this will continue or will they eventually work out their disputes.<Often the dispute ends with one fish left alive> Should I remove one?<I'd remove TWO> But then they will just start on the smaller one, wont they???<Yes, Ma'am, eventually> What do you suggest. There are plenty of other areas that they could go hang out, however they keep fighting over the same rock, where they did once just all sleep peacefully in.<What you see in a sale tank or a huge tank is one thing, but the books are pretty specific about one per tank as they grow larger. This is why.> Thanks, waiting your reply.<Sorry it isn't the one you wanted. Good Luck!> Carmen Achilles Tang Hi, I am interested in purchasing an Achilles Tang I saw at a local store.  My concern is that it is a grayish color as opposed to the black color you always see in pictures.  It is a beautiful fish, but is there any thing I should be concerned about?  << Achilles Tangs are not for beginners, and I would be reluctant to purchase one.  They often do poorly in captivity.>> Should I shy away from it?  << Color loss is not a good sign.  But here is what I would do.  If the pet store has had it for at least two weeks, and you see them feed it, and it eats; well then I would say it is okay to chance.  Otherwise I would wait until you find one that meets those three criteria items. >>Any advice would be great.  Thanks in advance. Dave << Adam Blundell>>

Florida Sea Grant seeks permission to use a photo from your site To Mr. Robert Fenner: <Ms. Zimmerman> Florida Sea Grant, a federal research partnership of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the state of Florida, seeks permission to use the following photograph in a technical research publication titled "A Histological Atlas of Florida Surgeonfish." The publication, which will be distributed on CD-ROM, describes the gross and microscopic anatomy of native surgeonfish, as well as provides information on their natural history and diet. It is intended to serve as a reference to veterinarians, fish pathologists, mariculturists and other professionals who raise these wild-caught species in captivity. A purchase price has not yet been established. However, Florida Sea Grant is a nonprofit organization that seeks only to recover materials costs of its publications and productions. We anticipate producing approximately 200 copies of the publication. Proper credit will be given to you. The photo which we have downloaded from WetWebMedia.com portrays a juvenile Acanthurus coeruleus. You may view an unpublished draft of the publication at: http://flseagrant.ifas.ufl.edu/private/Histo The specific page is: http://flseagrant.ifas.ufl.edu/private/Histo/Introduction/intro_blue.htm If you choose to grant us permission, please let me know how I should credit the photo. Thank you very much, Dorothy Zimmerman <Ah, consistent with our posted "content use policy" on WWM, you're welcome (indeed encouraged) to make use of any/all of my content for educational purposes. Please make it known if you need/want larger, different format scans for your use/s. Bob Fenner> Dorothy Zimmerman Communications Coordinator Florida Sea Grant www.flseagrant.org Thank you sir, very much! Dorothy <You are certainly welcome. Bob Fenner>

Acanthurus japonicus, nigricans... Bob: Could you please take a look at this one. You and Scott Michael are stating precisely the opposite thing on these Tangs. Thanks, Steve. <Sure> Very helpful, thanks so much for the quick reply!  I'll bite the bullet and cross off a few of the smaller fishes.  If you don't mind I have a couple of additional questions.  The other tang I like is the Acanthurus japonicus--based on the pictures I've seen, it seems really beautiful in an understated way.  Is it good looking in real life as well? <IMO, yes. And much hardier than the similar-appearing A. nigricans> I'm wondering about that one as an alternative to the Atlantic blue.  Would that be suitable for this size tank and peaceable tankmates I have in mind? <Should be> Also, your site clearly identifies the japonicus as the better, sturdier fish over the similar looking nigricans.  But Scott Michael's book says the opposite about these two.  Is this just one of those cases of experts disagreeing? <I don't think so... It appears either Scott made a mistake (unusual for him) or the publisher or editor got organisms/pix switched around. But will cc Scott here for his input.> Or did Michael's book somehow get them switched?  Just puzzled to find two very credible sources so emphatically saying the opposite thing!  thanks again! <Thanks for asking. Bob Fenner>

Achilles Tang Suitability Bob, <Steve Allen pitching in this evening.> So is this going to be a problem?  Its sort of hard to se which question your answering (will it work or if the tang will kill it?)  my bad. Scott <Well Scott, it is unlikely that the Achilles Tang will eat the cleaner shrimp. However, your tank is too small for this fish. You really need more like 180G. It grows to 9 inches. Quoting Scott W. Michael in "Marine Fishes": "..one of the more demanding of the Acanthurus clan. Needs a large aquarium, plenty of unobstructed swimming room, and prefers turbulent water flow. In a small tank, it will nervously pace back and forth along the front of the tank and gradually pine away.">

Achilles tang Hello, I really am intrigued in the Achilles tang and am wondering if I could keep one. <Not an easily kept species. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/badacanthurusaq.htm and the linked FAQs>   My tank is 75 gallons, water is great, have a UV sterilizer,  about 30 pounds of live rock (keeping to a minimal until get permanent skimmer), I cleaner shrimp, a few snails and hermits, and one purple tang.  Will this work or will the other tang kill it. <Not likely in this setting, but Achilles are very prone to parasitic disease, hard to keep fed in small volumes...> Thanks for your advice and think your site is awesome. Scott <Thank you. Bob Fenner>

- Acanthurus lineatus  - Dear Bob, <Actually, JasonC here today...> I am really interested in purchasing a Lined Surgeonfish.  My dealer gets them regularly and right now has a 5 inch individual.  He has been there for about 3 weeks.  He is very fat and has great coloration.  When I go up to the glass he becomes very curious and checks me out.  I have been there a few times to observe him and every time he is eating algae and Mysis shrimp.  If I purchase him, he will be placed in an 90 gallon FOWLR aquarium with a 3 inch Yellow Tang.  Water quality is excellent and the water movement is about 12 times turnover.  There are a ton of hiding spots for him and the other tang to hide.  Do you see problems with them getting along in this size of tank? <Yes... these fish are well known to be hyper-aggressive in captivity and with growth. Additionally need a lot of space, more than a 90 gallon tank will provide.> If size is a problem I will be upgrading to a larger tank in the next year. <Then I'd wait to get one of these until then... keeping in mind that it still might very well kill many of your other fish.> There is a lot of algae growing in the tank and I will give them Nori soaked in Zoe and maybe Mysis at least twice a day. Thank you for your advice. Sam Reef (Real name) <Cheers, J -- >

- Powder Blue Blues - Hi Crew, I know you hear this constantly but I just want to reiterate how much I appreciate the information you provide! Three days ago I purchased from my LFS the (soon to be) latest additions to my 180 gal aquarium: a ~2" Foxface Lo, a ~2" Purple Tang and a ~4" Powder Blue Tang.  Currently these three fish are in my 20 gal hospital tank (Salinity=1.024 SG, Ammonia=0.25 PPM, Nitrite=0.25 PPM, Temp=81 ?F, Mardel CopperSafe Chelated CuSO4, Whisper 30 filter + sponge filter + ~15 lbs live rock).  The problem is the Powder Blue Tang is beginning to develop some type of wound (lesion/abrasion/fungus?) in about three areas (photos attached).  Two spots are approximately pea-sized and one is slightly smaller than a dime.  These patches appear to be slightly raised or to have a few bumps within a discolored area (possibly as if a repeated abrasion). I would not describe these areas as having a "cauliflower appearance". The Powder Blue also occasionally shakes and swims in quick circles. <I wouldn't be so concerned about this as much as I would be about these 'wounds'.> My LFS suggested this is not a reason to worry as it could just be "shaking off" a parasite or minor infection that will soon be cured by the copper. <Do believe the opposite, that the shaking is just a natural behavior and the spots are a reaction to the copper. If I were you, I'd discontinue the copper treatment unless you are sure there is a good reason for it, i.e. Cryptocaryon [ich] or similar parasitic problem. Many tangs react poorly to copper and it should only be dosed at very low levels. I realize the Powder Blue is a notorious ich magnet but it would be best to observe the problem first rather than just treating the tank with something that may do more harm than good at this point.>  Although I would not describe this fish as having a voracious appetite, it does appear to be eating (Spectrum Thera+A anti-parasite food, Nori and homemade food with Selcon).  The three fish do not appear to be the least bit aggressive toward each other.  I do not see a single ich spot on the Powder Blue but the Purple Tang appears to have a substantial case of Cryptocaryon. <I'd separate these and treat them individually - not only for the reasons I just listed, but also because a 20 gallon tank is rather small for these three fish.> Do you have any idea what is wrong with my Powder Blue Tang, if this is anything I should be concerned about and, if so, how to cure this?  Could the Copper be irritating this fish? <Possibly - would be my first guess.> I noticed my (Red Sea) Copper test kit is not made for chelated Copper but I did add the recommended amount of CopperSafe to previously copper-free water so I am hoping (at least initially) the copper concentration is correct.  My Copper Test kit measures 0.3 PPM Cu (exactly what the kit recommends as the "optimum copper level") but I have read that the proper ionic concentration is 0.15 PPM.  Can any correlation be drawn for chelated copper concentrations when using a Copper test kit intended for measuring ionic copper? <No - wrong test.> Thanks again for the help! Greg Wyatt <Cheers, J -- >

- Powder Blue Blues, Follow-up II - Thank you for the response. <My pleasure.> I sent you a follow-up picture of this Powder Blue last night with a more serious problem so we will probably be crossing emails. <Indeed, have seen this photo and replied.> This fish now has a large, fleshy hole on top of its head. <Yeah, no good...> I have added Maracyn and Melafix to the hospital tank in hopes of combating this but I am not really certain of the cause so I hope to get your input once you see the picture. I have another problem as I have only one hospital tank so I really have no way of separating the Powder Blue Tang and the Purple Tang.  Luckily, these fish appear to not be the least bit aggressive. <Still, much can happen when you're not watching and more so once one of the two begins to weaken.> The purple tang has now gone from being completely covered with ich and black spots to having only very few remaining spots. <You do realize that these parasites have life cycles - they often disappear only to return at a later time in greater numbers.> So it now appears that my choices are to remove the copper and deal with ich or to leave the copper and possibly be damaging the powder blue. <Is what I would do.> There are two hermit crabs that are still alive in the hospital tank (discovered them in the sand a few days ago) so I hope this is an indication (although not very accurate) that copper levels are not overly high. <As I stated yesterday, hermit crabs are tough and will tend to make it long beyond other inverts in the presence of copper. You might also look for something that might be absorbing the copper.> Please recommend what I should do - copper or not.  I guess another option is to remove the Copper and add Ich-Cure (Formalin & malachite green).  Would this be a better alternative? <The malachite-malachite green is probably better for tangs - the coppers tends to knock out a useful bacteria in their digestive systems which then exacerbates the fish's problems. I would concentrate on water quality for the moment, and really consider getting a second quarantine tank so you can guarantee no one will pick at this wound.> Greg
<Cheers, J -- >  

Surgeonfishes: Tangs for  Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care
New eBook on Amazon: Available here
New Print Book on Create Space: Available here


by Robert (Bob) Fenner


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