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FAQs about the Powder Brown and White Cheek Tangs Identification

Related Articles: Powder Brown Surgeonfishes, Genus AcanthurusNaso

Related FAQs: Powder Brown Tangs 1, Powder Brown Tangs 2, & FAQs on: Powder Brown Tangs Behavior, Powder Brown Tangs Compatibility, Powder Brown Tangs Selection, Powder Brown Tangs Systems, Powder Brown Tangs Feeding, Powder Brown Tangs Disease, Powder Brown Tangs Reproduction, & AcanthurusAcanthurus Tangs 2Acanthurus Tangs 3, Acanthurus ID, Acanthurus Behavior, Acanthurus Compatibility, Acanthurus Selection, Acanthurus Systems, Acanthurus Feeding, Acanthurus Disease, Acanthurus Reproduction, Surgeons In General, Tang ID, Tang Behavior, Compatibility, Systems, Feeding, Disease,

What's in a (Common) Name?: Confusion

Japan or Whitecheek or Powder Brown: Acanthurus japonicus: http://fishbase.org/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=23375&genusname=Acanthurus&speciesname=japonicus

Whitecheek or Powder Brown: Acanthurus nigricans (nee glaucopareius) http://fishbase.org/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=6011&genusname=Acanthurus&speciesname=nigricans

Yes... both species are called Powder Brown AND Whitecheek... in the pet-fish interest (not in science)

Surgeonfishes: Tangs for  Marine

Diversity, Selection & Care
New eBook on Amazon: Available here
New Print Book on Create Space: Available here

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Powder Brown Tang ID   1/21/11
Hi, I been referring to this website for many years now, would appreciate your assistance on identification. Thanks
My tang does seem to look like nigricans but it has a rather long white tone on its mask
Acanthurus nigricans (glaucopareius), or A. japonicus?
<The latter. Bob Fenner>

Re: Powder Brown Tang ID   1/21/11
Thanks for speedy reply
<Welcome Steven. BobF> 

The Conscientious Marine Aquarist - 2nd Edition - mistake? Which Acanthurus looks like it has a white cheek? A gold rim? You tell me.   9/17/09
<Hello David!>
I recently purchased the book "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" (2nd edition) by Robert M. Fenner. On page 330 of the book, he gives the Acanthurus nigricans the common name Powder Brown Tang and the
Acanthurus japonicus the common name White-faced Tang. He then goes to describe the extreme differences in hardiness of the two (one being hardy, and the other often not lasting even 3 weeks in a home
My question is: did he mix up the two fishes by any chance? Online and in other books, the fish are respectfully paired with the opposite common names (Acanthurus nigricans is commonly named White-faced or Gold-rim Tang, and Acanthurus japonicus is commonly named Powder Brown Tang) AND opposite descriptions (elsewhere, the Acanthurus nigricans is said to be hardier than the Acanthurus japonicus). Since I am interested in getting one of the two variety, it is important to me to read correctly the hardiness and differences between these two fish.
<There is a never ending disc. re common names period; a minor one with these species. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/GoldRimSs.htm>
Looking purely at the scientific names, does Fenner believe the Acanthurus nigricans is hardier (more robust in the home aquarium environment) than the Acanthurus japonicus, or is the opposite true?
<A. japonicus is far more aquarium suitable, hardy>
Thank you. I truly enjoy reading this book! :)
David L.
<Thank you for your input! Bob Fenner>

Re: The Conscientious Marine Aquarist - 2nd Edition - mistake?  9/17/09
Dear Mr. Fenner,
I am honored that you unexpectedly replied to me directly. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences!
David L.
<Thank you in turn David... A bit more re "common names"... And these fishes in particular... Which to you looks like it has a white cheek? A gold rim? Me too. BobF>

Another photo for Bob 4/19/09
Hey Bob, Grant here. I just got another good picture of a fish, thought I'd pass it on to you. If you feel like using it, feel free, it's a nice crisp shot of a powder brown. If you happen to want a LARGE image of it, that is a 4700x3200 pixel shot that I just resized but no cropping, so it would be really easy to resend a very large but still very clear shot.
<Ah, very nice>
I send in a picture once every month or two, but I realize that isn't what the website is for, so if you don't want them, tell me and I'll quit sending them :) No hurt feelings on my end, I just figure you might see one you like and be able to replace a blurry or "poor" photo that you've had to use.
<Will gladly post with credit to you. Thanks for sending this along. BobF>

Tangs ok, I'm not trying to compare your book to Scott Michael's Marine Fishes (or your knowledge to his) but, you always say that A. japonicus is hardier than A. nigricans and he switches the two, is this some mistake or is it just a difference of opinion ( of course this assumes that you have spoken to each other and that you know about his views on these two fish, which are probably not the case... ) Curiously yours, Yaron Aronowicz <<Geez, don't know... I would ask Scotter... as well. His works are very careful... and there are MANY differences of opinion in our huge fields here...  But on this specific, I do consider (okay my confidence limits are high enough), know the White Cheek, Acanthurus japonicus to outlive (historically... not one hobbyist with limited experience, but thousands of specimens...) the Powder Brown, A. nigricans (formerly glaucopareius)... by a HUGE margin...  Bob Fenner>>

- Tang Switcheroo - Hey guys, I recently bought a A. japonicus from Marine Depot. Well it turns out they sent me A. nigricans  because mine has only the little white mark under the eye and no orange on the tail. My question is since the one they sent me is much harder to keep what can I do to ensure its health? <Well... I'd go as far as either shipping it back or refusing payment... this type of livestock switch while possibly just human error, is not in your best interest.> It has been eating a lot of algae from my live rock but I am having trouble getting it to eat anything else. I have tried Mysis shrimp, brine, and chopped krill. It has ignored the first two and just kept spitting out the krill. What else can I try?? <I'd stick with the algae for now... you can get it in sheets - Nori, for rolling Sushi, etc. - is an excellent choice.> One weird thing I noticed is when I go near the tank it will come up, look at me and swim near the glass, but when I put food in the tank it turns almost white with black stripes and races from one side of the tank to the other!! What does this mean?? <The color change is just a fright pattern - most fish take a couple of weeks to get used to their new surrounds. No worries.> Thanks for all your help! Derrick <Cheers, J -- >

Re: Acanthurus Nigricans vs. Japonicus Dear Bob, as said in one of previous emails, I have bought your book and it is always a very good advice when I have to look for something. Your site and your book has been for me the reason that I stayed and did not leave the hobby of seawater aquarium. I really thank you for this, you and the crew, who have been really helpful. Now, back to action: In your book you state very clearly that we want the Acanthurus Japonicus (White Faced Tang) and not the A. nigricans (Powder Brown Tang) and you give all the reasons why this is so. Lately I read the book "Marine fishes" written by Scott W. Michael. In his book he names the Japonicus as "Powder Brown Surgeonfish" and the A. nigricans as the "Whitecheek Surgeonfish", which is the opposite denomination. He also writes that the A. nigricans is "similar but more durable than its close relative A. japonicus". Do you think this a typing mistake or there are really controversial opinions about these two fishes? <The common name issue is one mainly of Scott's (we're friends) predilection for using scientific common names (the names folks in the sciences typically use) versus my use of common common names (ones generally agreed upon by aquarium hobbyists). The survivability issue is likely one of mistaken identity, but perhaps Scott's experiences vastly differ from mine> I am really interested in this because I really like a lot A. japonicus and I am considering it to be my next purchase. By the way, it is possible that he fights with my Blue Tang, who lives already 1 year in my tank? <To some extent yes. Should be okay if the newcomer is smaller by an inch or more and the tank is more than one hundred gallons. Bob Fenner, just back from Hawai'i> Thanks, Thanassis from Greece

Discrepancy between WWM and Michael's Marine Fishes book Dear Bob, <Timon> On http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acanthurTngs.htm you have a picture of Acanthurus japonicus and A. glaucopareius (nigricans). You state that japonicus is the "white face tang" and hardy and that nigricans is the "powder brown tang" and not hardy at all. <Yes> In the book "Marine Fishes, 500+ essential to know aquarium species", Scott Michael calls the japonicus the "powder brown" and the nigricans the "white cheek" and states that the japonicus has a poor survival record and that the nigricans is the hardier choice. Clearly one of you has them confused, and both of you have me confused :) <I have addressed this query before. The fish in Scott's work I believe is switched. The "Cat" Tang, aka Powder Brown, Acanthurus nigricans (formerly glaucopareius) does indeed have a dismal survival history in aquarium use, and is indeed called the Whitecheek Tang by science... and A. japonicus the Japanese Tang, but the Whitecheek to the petfish interest... sigh> Having recently acquired the japonicus I would really like to find out if it's the japonicus or nigricans that has a good survival record. Kind regards Timon Haringa   <The two species are distinct... easily discerned. Bob Fenner, who encourages you to look at these species on fishbase.org>

Re: Discrepancy between WWM and Marine Fishes book Hi Bob, <Timon> In that case I am glad I made the right purchasing decision. <Me too> I purchased only one out of fear for aggression but would really like to have more of this stunning species. Is there any chance of two or three living peacefully in a 400 gallon reef tank or would that just be plain stupid? <In this size system more than one should be fine.> Thanks Timon  

Tang ID. Picture attached of Tang in question. Was sold to me as a Lipstick tang "Naso lituratus", I'm thinking that I may be fortunate that it is more to the name of a A. japonicus, but it doesn't have the white "cheek" marking as described, The rest of the coloring doesn't look like it would be the a. nigricans either. Attached is a couple pics of it, since its color does vary a bit in the body. Mainly, seems when it gets startled, also, aprox. 3.5-4".  <You are correct... this is not a Naso sp. tang. IT IS either A. japonicus or A. nigricans. Both of these fish are commonly referred to as "powder brown" or "gold rim" tangs. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/GoldRimSs.htm  A. Japonicus is the far better aquarium fish, and I suspect that is what you have. To verify, look also for the characteristic yellow tail bar of A. nigricans. Hybrids are thought to occur between these fish and A. Leucosternon (powder blue), and it is possible that this is one of those or just an unusual morph. These fish often display unnatural looking colors under stress, so a positive ID may only be possible if the fish reaches peak health.> Please disregard the algae spots, that at least seems to be going away, as last week it was pretty much sheet, instead of spots. Midnight sleeper goby and Red Sailfin Blenny seem to have been working overtime. Additional tankmates: firefish goby, pair of cleaner shrimp, yellow tail damsel, and false percula clown. Temp 76, Salinity 1.023, ph 8.3, alk 325, ammonia 0,nitrite 0, nitrate 20 and falling, was 40 a week ago. Would be appreciated if you could id this tang for me. Hoping it is more suited for the 48"L tank, it is eating anything from Frozen Brine, Zooplankton, Marine flakes, and devours seaweed salad.  <Your tank mates sound fine, and this tang should help clear up any algae problems. Any 48" tank will be too small for this fish. It may do OK for a few months, but it will soon out grow it. These fish appreciate strong water movement (at least 15x tank volume) for both high oxygen saturation and the swimming stimulation. I am not sure about the ppm scale for alkalinity, so please consult your kit instructions and maintain it in the high end of the normal range. Also, I would avoid significant amounts of brine in any fishes diet. Ocean nutrition frozen "pygmy angel formula" is one of my favorite tang foods for it's high marine algae content. Lastly... I hope that this fish was quarantined. All tangs are high Ick risks and often take tankmates with them when they cause an outbreak. Best Regards. AdamC.><<Is japonicus. RMF>>

Surgeonfishes: Tangs for  Marine

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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