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    The Surge of Large Acanthurus Surgeonfish, Too Large?

    Aquarium size and Tangs, or Surgeonfish, has always been a debate. They are active swimmers and constant grazers, but despite the aquarium size issue the hobby has grown to love these colorful herbivores. Recently members from the Acanthurus genus that were once rarely encountered have become available and in demand. Some of those that have […]

    Aquarium size and Tangs, or Surgeonfish, has always been a debate. They are active swimmers and constant grazers, but despite the aquarium size issue the hobby has grown to love these colorful herbivores. Recently members from the Acanthurus genus that were once rarely encountered have become available and in demand. Some of those that have risen in popularity are listed below, with maximum adult sizes taken from Fishbase.

    • Acanthurus dussumieri (21.2″ / 54cm)
    • Acanthurus fowleri (17.7″ / 45cm)
    • Acanthurus bariene (19.7″ / 50cm)
    • Acanthurus maculiceps (15.7″ / 40cm)
    • Acanthurus mata (19.7″ / 50cm)
    • Acanthurus leucocheilus (17.7″/45cm)

     

    Acanthurus mata

    Acanthurus mata in the aquarium of Mike Clifford

    These fish do not necessarily require more room or care than the prized Sohal Tang (A. sohal) or Achilles Tang (A. achilles). But they are generally larger (body mass) and can outgrow aquariums rapidly– they are also “new”. I’ve found inexperienced aquarists purchasing them locally largely because they lack the size-reputation that some staple and well known tangs have.

    Some have tried to quantify aquarium size and stocking using metrics (See Jay Hemdal’s article in the past issue of Practical Fishkeeping). There may be some merit to this, however, the variables are extremely large and unknown. Unobservable inputs and estimations require knowledge, experience and most of all discretion. Discretion that aquarists must use when stocking any live animal.

    In my experience and observations with the fish listed above, even in the most open aquascapes that maximize swimming space these species will quickly outgrow a 200g tank. They may never reach the maximum sizes that FishBase cites. However,  even at 10″ they are powerful swimmers and in small areas can even be clumsy. If you’re considering a beautiful, but large Acanthurus make sure you have the space for it. I am no “Tang Police” but it’s no secret that certain fish require special care and requirements; Acanthurus species are no different.

    2 Comments

    1. Nicholas Sadaka
      July 9, 2009 at 11:10 AM | Permalink

      I have to say that this is one of the decisions I most regret in my time keeping fish. My 125 gallon reef tank with 30 gallon sump has been in existence for about 7 years and was pretty much fully stocked after the first year. I certainly did not know then what I know now and since my parents partially financed the tank, they decided they wanted a pair of the cute little 50-cent piece sized blue regal tangs along with the still very small yellow tang we already had. Of course at that size it was absolutely fine, but we certainly never had any intentions to upgrade the tank and I didn’t know enough to say no at the time. Fast forward 7 years later, they are all pretty close, if not full sized. We are all VERY attached to all of them and I would never DREAM of taking any of them to an LFS where they might go to someone who puts them in a worse situation. They are all VERY healthy looking, but regardless, I can tell they are scrunched. There is definite aggression between the two blues, although none between the blue and yellow. So much between the blues though that one jumped into an overflow (of course it was the smaller of the two). I felt lucky that it didn’t find it’s way to the floor instead, but I still have a lot of guilt over it. It was VERY hard pulling it out of the overflow…I had to drain it and pull it out with my hands (only covered by ziplock plastic). I was very lucky neither the fish nor I was hurt, but we were both very traumatized by the incident. Aggression has died down again, but I feel like it’s only a matter of time. These are fantastic fish-beautiful, interesting, personable and many other things, but this is too crowded. I don’t know what the size restraints should be, but if you are an animal loving aquarist like I am, please learn from my mistake-this is DEFINITELY not enough room for 3 tangs of any type.

    2. mcliffy2
      July 10, 2009 at 9:14 AM | Permalink

      I agree, which is why my Mata that is pictured will be finding a new home soon in the 10s of thousands of gallons range 🙂 I won’t be stocking any such large tang again. I’ve seen their territories in the wild, and would honestly say that anything less than a 10’x5′ space is too small for these beasts.

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