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Related FAQs: Striped Sailfin Tangs, Striped Sailfin Tangs 2, & FAQs on:  Striped Sailfin Tangs IdentificationStriped Sailfin Tangs BehaviorStriped Sailfin Tangs CompatibilityStriped Sailfin Tangs SelectionStriped Sailfin Tangs SystemsStriped Sailfin Tangs FeedingStriped Sailfin Tangs DiseaseStriped Sailfin Tangs Reproduction, & the Genus Zebrasoma, Zebrasomas 2, Surgeons In General, Selection, Tang Behavior, Compatibility, Systems, Feeding, Disease,

Relate Articles: Striped Sailfin Tangs, Zebrasoma desjardinii & Z. veliferum by Bob Fenner, Tangs, Surgeons, Doctorfishes, family Acanthuridae, Yellow Tang, Zebrasoma flavescens, Purple Tangs, Z. xanthurumAcanthurus, Ctenochaetus, Paracanthurus, Prionurus, Algae Control

A Large Striped Sailfin Tang, Zebrasoma veliferum


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

Amongst the Surgeonfishes; the genus of Sailfins (Zebrasoma) and Bristletooths (Ctenochaetus) rank supreme in terms of their algae scraping penchant and general easygoing nature. Not all Sailfins are alike however, and the two closer related Striped Sailfins (Z. veliferum and Z. desjardinii) should be reserved for only very large systems; both growing to more than plate-sized dimensions.

            The above being stated; these are still great FOWLR to full-blown reef fishes; being fancifully-shaped, colorful and well-marked; intelligent, active and functional as palatable (not all of course) filamentous algae eaters.


            Easily done; and we’ll provide some pix of the look-alike congener.

Below at left are one and two inch juveniles. Further down a six incher in Fiji, and lastly a ten inch one in Hawaii.



Zebrasoma desjardinii, the Indian Sailfin Tang is easily told apart if you look at the head area and observe the spots on the face and unpaired fins; or the light color vs. dark of the tail of Z. veliferum… and the two have separated distributions; Z. veliferum found in the West to Mid-Pacific, Z. desjardinii in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea.

Below, a four and ten inch Z. desjardinii.


Compatibility; Stocking:

            Zebrasoma tangs get along with most all other fishes; other than ones that they perceive as filamentous algae food competitors. This list mainly includes other Surgeonfishes and Rabbitfishes (family Siganidae); but they may well go after algae-eating blennies and such. Better to stock the Sailfin Tangs one to a system, and if wanting other Surgeonfishes, make these of other genera and stock them first.

As with all marine fishes they are best acquired and stocked when small; three inch specimens being ideal, with ones smaller and larger being less adaptable. Due to their territoriality, Tangs period are ideally amongst the last fishes placed.


            I use five criteria when judging the acquisition of Zebrasoma; body conformation, size, color, behavior, and the length of time they've been in captivity.

1) Body Conformation: Appearance of a sunken stomach is not of itself an accurate indication, but healthy, freshly collected specimens of tangs appear well rounded. The upper body, above and behind the eyes should not be "shrunk in", or show loss of color.

About the scalpel-like caudal peduncle spines or "tangs": Often enough, conscientious collectors will snip off caudal peduncle spines of surgeons to prevent net fouling and damage from crowding/fighting. Don't be alarmed at this; they will grow back. Be careful yourself if/when netting these fishes! The "tang" is easily fouled on fine netting. Better to "drive" Tangs into a submerged doubled plastic bag underwater.

2) Size Range: The minimum purchase size for the genus for me is two inches in length for adaptability, maximum at five. Ideal is about three.

3) Color: From studying you should know the "normal" looks of a healthy specimen. Color ought to be intense and uniform. Zebrasoma display quite different stress, fighting, nighttime markings, and often-becoming barred, blanched in color. Avoid stressed specimens, and any showing red, eroded, or blotchy markings.

4) Behavior: Sailfin tangs that have been captured, transported, acclimated and kept properly are active and curious about their environment. Avoid sulking, sedentary individuals having "private parties" at the bottom or top of their aquarium.

Is the specimen feeding? On the types of foods you'll be offering? Make sure before taking it home.

5) Time in Captivity: A good week or two should go by before taking new Surgeons from your dealer. This period serves at least three critical functions; cleansing the fish of external parasites, acclimating it to aquarium conditions, testing to see if it can/will recover from capture/transport/captivity traumas.


            As mentioned and pictured above, this fish gets BIG, and is by day a constant roamer. I would not plan on keeping a specimen in anything under a hundred gallons, better twice, plus this volume. Along with this, Tangs need high dissolved oxygen and appreciate a dearth of accumulated nutrient. Hence you’ll want to apply plenty of circulation (in-tank is best, via pumps, powerheads) and complete filtration, regular maintenance.


            Z. veliferum consumes all kinds of algae in the wild; Greens, Browns, Reds, micro and macro; even a modicum of blue greens (bonus!). Do make sure and include some purposeful (not terrestrial) algal food in their daily diet. My choice is to use a highly nutritious pelleted variety as a staple; and to augment this twice daily with defrosted, frozen foods of choice. An algae clip is of great use with these fish to ensure they have constant grazing fodder.


            As with their entire family, it is best to avoid copper exposure and instead opt for alternative means to combat Protozoan complaints. Metal and dye administration often leads to non-feeding, and worse, to killing off their necessary gut fauna.


            All Sailfin Tangs can make good aquarium additions if you have the room; the striped species need even more space; but otherwise are superb tankmates for large FOWLR to reef set-ups.

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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