Many of the 80 or so members of the tang and surgeonfish family have wide ranges across tropical seas, but this uniquely spotted species is restricted to Madagascar, the nearby East African Coast, and the Mascarene Islands. As few fishes are exported from these places, it has seldom been seen in public aquariums.
Also known as the Elegant tang, or Indian orangespine unicornfish, the Blond naso is a member of the surgeonfish family. Two bright orange spines can be seen extending from the base of the tail. These spines are said to be “as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel”, hence the name surgeonfish. This species was once thought to be a different color variety of the Lipstick tang, Naso lituratus, but is now considered its own species. The Blond naso is primarily a herbivore and can be found in coral reefs throughout the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
The Blue hippo tang, also known as the Palette tang, or Hepatus tang, is a popular member of the Acathuridae family. This omnivorous fish can be found in small schools throughout the Indo-Pacific region and was made famous when featured as the character “Dory” in the Disney / Pixar movie, “Finding Nemo”. Like other members of the surgeonfish family, the Blue hippo tang is armed with a sharp spine at the base of its tail. This species, however, has an added weapon in the fact that the spine is armed with a venom gland, which can inflict a bee-like sting to its victim.
Although a vast number of saltwater fishes flourish in Asian waters, relatively few are restricted to them, otherwise being found also in Australia, East Africa, Hawaii, and other parts of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Found only from the island of Sulawesi and the Philippines, north to Okinawa and Southern Japan, the Powder-brown or White-faced tang is truly an Asian fish. It can be mistaken for the more widespread, but harder to keep, Gold-rimmed tang A. nigricans, which has less white on its face.
The Chocolate surgeonfish is also known as the Mimic tang because as a juvenile it is yellow or cream colored and is thought to mimic several species of pygmy angelfish. As it matures, the yellow coloration changes to become more chocolate brown. The mimicry is thought to be a protective strategy that allows the tang to feed without being attacked by damselfish competing for the same food sources. Like other species of surgeonfish, the Chocolate surgeonfish bears a sharp spine on either side of the base of its tail.
While many surgeonfish draw attention with brilliant colors, this gray fish stands out for its bizarre shape, appearing as if it had a “nose”. Feeding on algae and plankton in the wild, it enjoys lettuce and other leafy greens in aquariums. It can be found in schools from the Red Sea to many islands in the Pacific, including Hawaii, where it is a traditional food fish. Like other surgeonfish, it has defensive “scalpels” on its tail, but they are especially noticeable with this species because they are blue.