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Tangs & Rabbitfishes

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General Information

Tangs (Surgeonfishes) & Rabbitfishes are characterized by their high profile, laterally-compressed oval or oblong bodies, long dorsal and anal fins, and eyes set high on the head. They are all herbivores and have small mouths equipped for scraping up algae and other vegetation. It is typical among coral reefs worldwide to see these fishes grazing in large schools.

Surgeonfishes get their name from the sharp, scalpel-like erectile spines at the base of the tail that they use for defense as well as territorial disputes. The Latin name for the family, Acanthuridae, comes from two Greek words meaning “tail spine”. There are usually brightly-colored makings, considered warning colors, around these spines. Rabbitfishes, rather than having a tail spine, have spines on the dorsal and anal fins that are venomous. Rabbitfish species are usually caught for food, rather than aquarium use, in the tropics.

Aquarium Care & Feeding

All species must have vegetable matter (algae) in their diet, although they will adapt to dry and frozen foods. Tangs and Rabbitfishes need to be fed several times each day, especially if there is no edible algae growing in the aquarium. Young fishes grow quickly and will starve if denied proper nourishment. Tangs in aquaria usually attain only half the size of their wild counterparts.