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FAQs about Bristletooth Tangs, Genus Ctenochaetus Behavior

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Surgeonfishes: Tangs for  Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care

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by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Re: Tomini Tang Twitching    6/28/14
Hi Bob,
I had written you about 2-3 weeks ago about a small Tomini Tang I had in a 10 gallon quarantine for what was at the time, about 6-7 weeks. My concern was that though I never saw anything unusual on his body---outside of some scrapes when I first purchased him, which healed up within a few days---he would frequently shake, and twitch. During that time I did 2 treatments with PraziPro thinking it could be flukes. He seemed quite stressed by the treatment, and afterwards showed no change in behaviour.
<About par for that course>
After consulting with you, I left him in quarantine for another week, and finally added him to 120 gallon reef display, that houses 3 other fish. He seemed very happy swimming all over the tank. He quickly befriended my Royal Gramma with whom he frequently swims, though now my Gobies won't come out
due to fear...
<Just give them time>
but that's not why I'm writing. He's been in the tank about 2 weeks now, and will swim normally and then suddenly fire off like a bullet, shake spasmodically, and then resume to normal swimming.
<Not unnatural... Tangs and other fishes do this in captivity and the wild>
I have also noticed a single white spot on his belly just below his pectoral fin, which has been
there for 3 days.
<Eh! No worries>
There don't seem to be any other markings, and I have never seen him scratch against objects.
Now, I don't think a single spot necessarily means Ich, especially after not showing any physical signs for nearly 2 months, but together with the strange behaviour, this has me worried. Disassembling the rockwork to catch my fish for treatment seems extremely "unappetizing", but also premature at this point until I see some other signs...but I'm wondering what your thoughts are. Might this pass, or is it clearly a parasitic problem?
Is there something i should do? Needless to say, I'm bummed, especially after doing things the "right" way with the long quarantine. Thanks in advance.
Thanks you,
<Patience. Cheers, BobF>
Re: Tomini Tang Twitching    6/28/14

I can't thank you enough for you quick and helpful responses!
It's almost embarrassing how concerned I can get about my livestock, and interesting how a short visit of the online reefing sites demonstrates how many others feel the same way! It's the enormous investment of time, money and energy spent researching, creating and running a system. The ups and downs...not to mention the love of nature, and attachment to our animals!
Cheers to you as well, and have a great weekend!
<Thank you Dave. BobF>

Tang displaying for reflection? 6/30/09
Hi all,
I have had the pictured tang for almost 3 years. It was sold to me as an "Atlantic Blue-Line Tang," but best I can identify it is probably Ctenochaetus cyanocheilus (?).
<Possibly... def. of this genus>
About a month ago I added a larger refugium beside my 210 gallon tank, a 30 gallon tank with back and sides painted black.
Two weeks ago, the tang started hanging out on that side of the main tank, swimming slowing back and forth in full fin display, his (naturally an assumption on sex) lips and dorsal fin turning dark, almost black. He looks as though he is displaying for his reflection in the glass, but he does not charge the glass nor flutter his tail to 'spike' the reflection.
<Likely just "revving" up>
Since the new refugium is about 3 inches away from the main tank, and since I have not completed the cabinetry around it, could the reflection simply be more dramatic with the close-by black background than it was, leading him to believe it to be another fish?
If he isn't charging the glass, maybe this is a mistaken mating display of some kind? Do you think this will stress him out in the long term?
<Mmm... not too likely... given the long time this fish has been in your care in the same setting>
Other than this, his behavior hasn't significantly changed - he still breaks away from that side to graze the rocks, and still comes to the other side of the tank during feeding time. Just curious if any of you have seen similar mild aggressive displays without the full-on attacks.
<Good description Bill... I don't think you have much to be concerned with here. Bob Fenner>

Bristletooth is acting spastic: Tang Behavior: Little Useful Information 5/27/2009
<Hi Henry>
Sorry to keep asking so many questions.
<No Problem.>
My tank is doing OK, I have had some problems with Phosphate. Today I brought a sample to the LFS, he said it looked like 2!
I got a Phosban reactor and did a 20% water change. All other water specs are good.
<What is 'good'? Actual numbers help us diagnose what the problem is.>
I have 9 fish, all are good but the Bristle Tooth Tang.
<How big is this tank?>
He is swimming erratically, and seems to be constantly lunging at food that's not there?
<Could he possibly be seeing his reflection in the glass?>
What could be wrong?
<You can start reading here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ctenocha.htm  for information about your Tang.>
<Beyond that, I need more information that what you have provided. How big is this tank, what is in the tank, filtration, etc..>
Re: Bristletooth is acting spastic: Tang Behavior: 5/28/2009

<Hi Henry>
Thanks for your reply. I will try to provide more info.
<Ahh, good, thank you.>
The tank is 72g bow front w/15g sump, a AquaC Urchin Pro skimmer, a Mag12 return pump w/ 2 Koralia 600gph in tank, sump has Chaeto and as of yesterday a Phosban 150 reactor w/ Phosban & carbon, lighting is 2 Current Sundial 150W HQI w/actinics (12hr Act. / 7hr MH). Water temp - 78.5, SG - 1.024, pH - 8.4, CA - 480, KH - 10dKH, PO - 2.0, NO - 5.
<Aside from high phosphates, it sounds fine.>
Stocking is 1-Yellow Tang, 1-Bristletooth Tang, 2- Pajama Cardinals, 1- Banggai Cardinal,1-Tomato Clown, 1-Blue Damsel,1- Blackcap Basslet, and 1- Coral Beauty Angelfish.
<Overstocked for a 72 gallon. Are you certain that another fish isn't beating up on the Bristletooth?>
Also have a combination of about 10 soft and hard corals. Tank has been running 2 1/2 years. I have had Bristletooth about a year. He has never acted like this before, physically looks good. The only thing I can think of is I did a 24hr period with no food recently?
<No, that won't hurt them at all.>
He swims in very quick darting movements, sometimes almost like exhausted, sits bobbing vertically?
<I would isolate this fish in a separate tank for a few days and observe.  Some of the symptoms you describe could be associated with a disease like Velvet, but to be frank, if it was, the fish would likely be dead by now, so I suspect some other cause, either bullying by another fish or some sort of poisoning, perhaps by the toxins released by your soft corals.>
Other tank mates are fine.
<Which again makes it unlikely that this is a disease. I would still isolate this fish as a precaution and observe.>
Hope this helps, Henry

Fish Behavior, Ctenochaetus strigosus    10/8/08 I know there are many articles on fish behavior but known (new homonym for "no one" I guess. RMF) have answered my question. I have a year old 180 gallon reef tank. Water parameters are excellent. Ammonia, nitrite and Nitrate are at 0. The temperature fluctuates between 80 and 82 degrees. all of my fish look great. I have 2 ocellaris clownfish, 5 pajama Cardinalfish, 1 Sixline wrasse, and 2 Firefish. I just added a beautiful Kole tang and he looks beautiful except for his occasional scratching on rocks. <Natural... do this to extents in the wild as well> He eats like a pig and I see no signs of any distress. Is there something there and it has not reared its ugly head yet or is this somewhat typical of the Kole tang. <The last> No other fish are showing this scratching or other signs of distress. They all eat wonderfully. I have read your articles and took every precaution on quarantining fish and corals. So I am perplexed. Is this behavior like us scratching our back or something? <Akin> Nothing is wrong we just needed to do it or do they do this because they are seeing a reflection? <Possibly a component> Thanks for any advice. Cullen <I would not be concerned here. Bob Fenner>

Kole Tang Run in with Tunze'¦.once an accident, twice a mistake, but more get a clue?   7/25/06 Hi there: <Hello> My Kole Tang has been a super tough guy since I got him in December or so. Always big and fat and eating. But on day 2 for reasons unknown I had to free him from the overflow intake.  Hmmm... Then in January, he twice was stuck to the intake of a Tunze 6060 rotating on Sea-Swirls.<Poor guy> That was odd indeed.  Second time he was on it for a while, seriously tattooed on one side. <Hmmm I probably would have done something creative to keep the fish from the intake and overflow the first time there was a problem. Perhaps the pumps are to strong or the fish weak for some unknown reason.> Recovered from that though too. <Lucky fish>I target fed to make sure he ate well and frequently, at least 3x a day. Starting maybe in March, I'd say every couple weeks I'd arrive home to see that the scales were missing in a splotch on one side, almost always on his left side.  In fact, I think always'¦.that is the side he was stuck on that last time on the Tunze. <I wish you were kidding but I have a feeling you're not. Seriously you need to do something to keep that poor fish off the intake of that pump. 4 months every 2 weeks'¦. so the poor fish has been injured at least 8 times in the last 4 months, not including his original 3 injuries. How many times does it have to happen before you do something about it?> Anyway, I'd always target feed and he'd always eat and it would always clear up within a couple of days. <Very resilient. It's great that you are taking such good care of him after he is injured but some prevention would go much further. One of these days the poor fish will not be so lucky.> I'm thinking, tough guy. <Perhaps initially but every time he gets hurt he is probably getting weaker, with a good chance of some permanent damage to that left side.> Now I am not so sure. Tonight he is deep within the rockwork, not breathing hard, but hiding.  I can see that the scales are missing between his eyes right on his head, and a bit on the side of his mouth. Hard to tell much else as it's dark in there, even when the lights are blasting away!  Not a chance of getting a picture. Most worrisome is he didn't come out when he saw me or when I fed the tank and that is an absolute first. <Indeed, not a good sign.> That has me concerned in the morning he'll be gone. <As you should be, there is a good chance he could be. I would try turning the lights off and doing a water change.> When I say the scales are missing is I see white flesh. I figured wounds somehow against the rocks or maybe he picked a bad fight, though with whom given my stock I haven't a clue.  He should be the boss. <Hard to say given you have not listed the tankmates. Less dominant fish will often pick on injured or weakened fish.> Anyway, white flesh is apparent now on his head similar to in the past when always on his body. <Perhaps this was his last run in with the power head intake. If not and he survives you need to do something with that Tunze intake> Any ideas what this could be or what I could do??? <Sounds to me like he had yet another run in with the Tunze. If you can gently get him out of the tank, you could try putting him in another tank to recover'¦.. a hospital tank where he is safe from the Tunze and other fish. Set it up similarly to a quarantine tank with hiding places. Keep the lights off and water quality good. If he survives PLEASE do the poor fish a favor and do something with that pump intake. Build a mesh basket around it or place a sponge over it. We do this all the time in seahorse tanks. It's really not a big deal. It may not be esthetically pleasing and the sponge will need to be removed frequently to be cleaned, but at least the fish will be protected from further trauma. This may sound harsh, but needs to be said'¦ once an accident, twice a mistake but really 3 and on up times is irresponsible to say the least. You really should have done something a long time ago. It is your responsibility to protect the creatures in your care from  harm as best you can.  Leslie.>
Re: Kole Tang Run in with Tunze'¦.once an accident, twice a mistake, but more get a clue? (continued) 7/25/06
No, you have totally misunderstood.  I don't know how you misread that but sorry for my part. <I apologize for the misunderstanding> Anyway, the Tunzes are out.  I now have modified MaxiJet 1200s on the swirls, he's never had a problem with them. <That's good to hear> These wounds are not the wounds he had when stuck in the pump, and began to appear months after those incidents, which have not recurred. This is not a pump issue. Something else is going on. I have a pic now at www.ostrows.us/sickkoletang.jpg I'm wondering if there is some parasite or bacterial disease that could do this? <It's possible but hard to say for sure. Those are good-sized white patches/wounds. It is really hard to tell from the photo if they are actually wounds with broken skin or white patches. In my experience white patches of bacterial and parasitic etiology are not usually that size when first noticed. There is usually some indication something is going on earlier, before the patches get to that size.> Tankmates: 2 green Chromis, 1 royal Gramma, 1 percula, 1 hepatus, 1 scribbled rabbit, 1 mandarin goby, 1 Flame hawk. He's the biggest except for the Rabbitfish. <I am going to guess that perhaps he injured himself on the rock or was injured by the venomous spiny rays of the Rabbitfish. If he seems to be holding his own in your display tank and none of the other fish are bothering him I would leave him where he is and keep a close eye. In addition I would recommend a water change, maintaining stable and pristine water quality as well as the addition of a vitamin like Vita Chem to a healthy varied diet. I would also add some Bets Glucan to his food. You can get this at most health food stores. Beta-glucan is a potent immunostimulant that provides important health benefits for fishes. Research indicates that it helps prevent infections and helps wounds heal more quickly; it is safe to use in conjunction with other treatments and has been proven to increase the effectiveness of antibiotics; is known to alleviate the effects of stress; and to help fish recover from exposure to toxins in the water (Bartelme, 2001) . For more information on Beta Glucan for aquarium fish, please see the following article: http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issues/sept2003/feature.htm If he does not appear to be doing well in your display tank and the other fish are harassing him. I would remove him to a hospital tank and follow the above directions. If the wounds appear to be getting worse you may want to consider the addition of medication. I hope this helps, Leslie>
Re: Kole Tang Run in with Tunze'¦.once an accident, twice a mistake, but more get a clue? (continued) 7/29/06
Guess who is all healed ... again. <Wow, that's amazing and great to hear.> I'm half expecting that within 10-14 days he'll have whatever "it" is even worse, and that is going to be hard indeed to witness. I sure hope I'm wrong, <Me too.> but this has been on a steady schedule and progressive. <Hopefully this is the end of it. As previously recommended do keep up with the water quality please do try the previous suggestions for Beta Glucan and Vita Chem. Best of luck to you and Mr. Kole, Leslie>
Kole Tang Run in with Tunze, once an accident, twice a mistake, but more get a clue? (continued 7-31-06)
I'm using Selcon regularly. <That's great! Vita Chem has additional nutrients. It might be nice to rotate the 2 supplements. Rotating supplements is another way of varying the diet so your fish get a variety of nutrients.> I have Beta Glucan around (are you Puffer Queen in another world?) which I have used in an anti-Ich food recipe that works wonders for me. <Nope, not the Puffer Queen in any world, more like the Seahorse Queen in this world. I do have Puffers though (not in the same system as my seahorses> Maybe I'll try that. <That should be fine as long as there are no medications in your anti-Ich food recipe. Take care, Leslie>
Re: Kole Tang Run in with Tunze, once an accident, twice a mistake, but more get a clue? (continued 7-31-06)
Thanks.<Your welcome> There are medications in the Ich recipe. I'd just use Beta Glucan for this, though an antibiotic is going to be tempting if it happens again, given the seeming risk of infection with that size wound. Hopefully your Ich recipe does not contain any antibiotics, since Ich is a parasite and antibiotics will have absolutely no effect on it. The problem with the indiscriminate or inappropriate use and inadequate dosing of antibiotics and other medications is that this causes the organisms to build up resistance creating super strains of organisms. These resistant organisms do not respond to the traditional medications in the traditional doses thus making treatment difficult and limiting treatment options. I am sure you have heard the expression "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." There is a great couple of article about disease prevention in the marine aquarium please do have a look at this here.... http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mardisease.htm Take care and best of luck with your Tang, Leslie>

Kole Tang aggressive only AFTER feeding 8/19/05 First let me say that I can't tell you how much I appreciate the site and the insight.  THIS is what the Internet is for!  I've perused countless times and am still amazed by the level of expertise.  The info on the site is so comprehensive, I really never thought I would have to submit a question, but alas, I've been stumped on this one. <Yikes!> Any input on this one would be appreciated. I have a 75gallon FOWLR which current tank mates include: Kole Tang, Copperband, Foxface, Bi-Color Blenny and one Chromis. The tang is the largest of the fish, with the Copperband just underneath him in size. The tang was the last fish that was added, and he had a hard time getting used to the surroundings. (I'm confident he wasn't out of the ocean too long before I got him) <Likely so> Prior to the tang, the Copperband, Foxface and Chromis (and sometimes the blenny) schooled together. Really. Coolest thing I've ever seen. I'd never seen different species all get along so well. <Yes... a lesson here... that cooperation rules> I added the tang, and it was rough going for a while. But after a couple of weeks, he too now schools with the other fish. However, in the last couple of days, I've noticed that right AFTER feeding, he will chase the Copperband. They get into some pretty high pursuits. The Copperband does not respond with any aggression, he tries to mind his business, only darting when the tang makes a lunge for him. I feed about an hour and a half before the lights go out. The next day everyone is again cool. Until after feeding when, like clockwork the tang now chases the Copperband. <Interesting> I should note, that the tang is chasing head first and is not throwing his tail end towards the Copperband. Nor, is his "switchblade" drawn. This is with many different types of food thus far. Thanks in advance for any advice! Steve <I don't think there is any real cause for concern here... just the Tang asserting itself, perhaps communicating. Bob Fenner>

The Kole That Won't Keep His Mouth Shut! Good day Wet Web Crew:) <Scott F. at your service today!> I was wondering why my Kole tang always has his mouth opened but he shuts it when he grazes on the algae. He's a pig, eating algae on my live rock. Does the open mouth while he's swimming mean anything? <Well, I was looking at my Kole just now- and he tends to keep his mouth open, or at least, opening an closing- most of the time, and he's very healthy...Unless you detect an injury, and the fish is not feeding, I'd have to say that this is a more-or-less normal trait of these endearing fishes!> I've enclosed a picture of him. Truly one of the prettiest fish ever brought to the fish tank. <Agreed! I love 'em myself! Just learn to recognize a fish with a damaged mouth, and you'll be assured that you're on the right track here...See the "Ctenochaetus Tangs" section on WWM for some pics...Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Re: Starting again Mike, Took your advice and added some hermits etc. (no Kole yet ... mixed views in my LFS, some people say no, they are very aggressive with other tangs, other people say the opposite!). Pulled out loads of Caulerpa, tank looks good. Signs of it beginning to grow back but I'm cutting the food down to see if the tangs etc will have a go at the fronds as they start to emerge. Thanks for the advice ... good stuff as ever. Brian <Brian, I am glad to hear that everything is starting to work out.  Kole tangs can be aggressive sometimes but, I have found that generally they are not.  Remember, there is more than one way to keep a reef tank and that there are many different opinions out there.  Happy to hear all is getting better. MikeB>

Ctenochaetus binotatus Hi <Hello> I picked up a very small tang last weekend. He/she is about an inch, and bright yellow with a blue rim. <An inch? Wow, small> Astoundingly for one so small he looked in good shape, perky and feeding, and now he's in QT in a 20 long tank with some Sarcophyton frags. All is looking good, he's taking flake, nibbling on the algae in there, and no signs of disease. If anything happens the softies go out, salinity goes down fast.  Anyway, he's looking good. At first I assumed Acanthurus pyroferus, but now I'm thinking Ctenochaetus binotatus after looking on FishBase. My question is, how quick will he grow, and how big/old when he will start to change colour? <Good questions (as I don't really know...)... but likely will be a good three inches a year from now, five in two years... in your good care... and not grow much beyond this. Bob Fenner> After QT he's off to a 250 litre. regards, Wayne 

Bristle-Tooth Surgeon Fishes Hello from sunny Fla!  I just recently saw a reference/link to a page you wrote on WWM about The "Bristle-Tooth" Surgeon Fishes.... I saw that you wrote that the Tomini is the most difficult to keep. What makes you say this? <Just the current sense, sample size of specimens... I rate all the Ctenochaetus highly for survivability, adaptability to captive conditions in general> I have one that I had sent from Utah about 4 months ago.. he is doing fabulous.. eats well.. and is a model citizen, except for a little occasional picking on my lawnmower blenny. <Typical... these fishes, groups do some such interaction in the wild... eat the same foods...> I think this is because they share an interest in algae, and algae based food. It's never violent.. just a few pushes, which the blenny just sits there, turns his head to the side, and takes it. Thank you so much, if you have time to respond to this, Carole. <Thank you for your input. Bob Fenner> 

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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