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FAQs about the Sailfin Tangs, Genus Zebrasoma Behavior

Related Articles: Genus Zebrasoma, Sailfin Tangs

Related FAQs: Zebrasomas 1, Zebrasomas 2, Zebrasoma Identification, Zebrasoma Compatibility, Zebrasoma Selection, Zebrasoma Systems, Zebrasoma Feeding, Zebrasoma Disease, Zebrasoma Reproduction, Yellow Tangs, Purple TangsStriped Zebrasoma TangsSurgeons In General, Tang ID, Selection, Tang Behavior, Compatibility, Systems, Feeding, Disease,

Surgeonfishes: Tangs for  Marine Aquariums
Diversity, Selection & Care

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by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Purple tang growth rate discrepancy     1/6/19
Hi Bob, if you don’t answer fish questions on FB feel free to ignore this, I enjoy being your friend so I can see all your excellent dive photos.
<Hey Bri; better to do such here; easier to refer, share, archive>
Basically, I just find this situation interesting, non-urgent, and somewhat unusual (meaning few folks have any insight). I’ve had two purple tangs in a 130 gallon tank for about a year. They typically shoal and coexist peacefully (for the time being). They both eat and are always out and about, but one is clearly dominant and one is clearly submissive, and this has been a constant dynamic.
<Yes; to be expected. See this in the wild and captivity>
What’s interesting is that over the past year or so I’ve had them they’ve gone from roughly the same size to the dominant one being perhaps 3 times larger than the other now.
<This also>
What’s even stranger is they both eat like pigs everyday, the smaller one is not being prevented from eating in anyway. I wonder if it could be due to gender, or chronic low level stress, or maybe some kind of health problem, or a combination of factors, but so far I can’t solve it, and the difference seems to be continuing to increase.
<"Stress" is the best term here. The dominant one affecting the play of hormones through nervous expression here>
So I essence, I was wondering if in your experience this is a thing that happens?
<Oh yes>
I know that purple tangs are sexual dimorphic, in so far as ultimate size, but I didn’t expect it to manifest this quickly or to this extent. I figured I’d see if you felt I needed to intervene in some way (remove one or remove one and treat in some fashion), of if you had other thoughts.
<Mmm; well, both can stay here... but, the smaller one would grow much more, faster if placed in a system where it's the solo Zebrasoma>
Alright man, keep up the awesome diving!
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>

Sail in discoloration. Tang beh., no info.       7/21/14
My sail<f>in tang has sudden gotten weird looking. One side of his body is almost white and the other side is getting large areas turning white none of it looks raised so I don't think its rich.
<? Rich?>
Any ideas would be appreciated .... its hard for me to get a picture of him. He is also seeming to want so swim in front of the filter outtake and not eating as well as he usually does.
<... could be many things here... water quality, fright... You offer no real data. Read here:
scroll down to Zebrasoma... behavior FAQs and onward. Bob Fenner>

Sailfin Tang/Behavior 2/17/11
Hello all,
<Hi Andy>
I have had this Pacific Sailfin Tang for the last year and a half. The tang is about 5 to 5 1/2 inches long and it is in a 75 gallon tank, but, as of next week the Tang will be going to a new home of a 125 gallon tank because it is getting to big for my tank.
<Good move.>
But, my question is for the last 2 days this Tang has been making a bed in the sand by putting it's nose up to a rock and using it's tail to move the sand. This Tang has made a bowl shape in the sand 3 1/2 inches deep and 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Is it possible for a Tang to make a bed as other fish do?
<I've seen this behavior before. Are there plenty of safety retreats for the tang?>
If so does this fish spawn?
<Has never been observed spawning in home aquariums that I am aware of.>
And again if so should I not move the Tang until this behavior has stopped?
<Make the move, the tang will enjoy larger quarters.>
Thank you
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Question: Black Tang is spinning. Hlth., env.   9/27/08 Hi, I have had a Black Tang (Z. rostratum) in a 60 gallon <Too small a volume for this species> reef for two years. I grew him from 1.5" to 3.5". I wanted a bigger home for him to grow out, so I very carefully drip acclimated him to a 175 FOWLR tank that houses a Bird Wrasse, Chrysurus Angel both 7" along with 6-7 small "dither" fish. The tang did fine and was eating for 3-4 days, then I noticed he was hiding for a couple of days and not eating. Apparently, the Wrasse was bulling the Tang into hiding, and not eating! <Happens> I thought the only thing to do to save the Tang was to carefully acclimate him back to his previous home, which I did. The Tang was swimming well when I took him gently out of the 175. After he was back in the 60, he began swimming erratically for the first day, then for the last 4 days, he has swimming in tight even circles under an overhang in the back of the tank during the day, but he does seem to sleep peacefully at night. He is not eating, and has light whitish discoloration, over his eyes, and front third of his body. No ulcers, redness, parasites, ragged fins. He is getting a little thin. The other peaceful fish in the tank are fine, nobody goes near him. Water parameters in both tanks are 1.023, 20 nitrates, <I'd be reducing this> 0 amm., 0 nitrites, light cycle 11hrs, temp 77F, plenty of water movement, and dissolved oxygen. I have made two 35% water changes in the last week. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Does this sound like an over stressed fish? <Yes... the best single-word description> I'm stumped after 40 yrs. of fishkeeping. Thanks, Jack <Mmm, well... this fish still needs larger quarters... Bob Fenner>

Tang spots     2/16/08 Hi Crew, <David> I previously posted ...but after over 2 weeks the "issue" keeps returning. <I see> I have a 3"-4" Scopas Tang that I've had for about 2 months. Starting about 3 weeks ago he displayed flashing, periodic scratching, heavy breathing, then several faint soft-edged spots just in front of his tail( in order of symptom appearance). First it was only on one side, but within a couple of hours it was on both sides. The spots progressed into a larger "patch" made up of the spots. The patch/spots only appear above his tail.( see pic) <I see this> I quarantined all of my fish and treated with QuickCure ( Formalin & Malachite Green). Within minutes of the first dose the Tang looked much better - normal color and patch seemed less apparent, less labored breathing. 3 days of QuickCure ... filter in. Next day the patch returned ( approx same location)! Complete tank cleaning and 3 more days of treatment. Again, Tang looked much better - one might even be tempted to say he looked "cured". Again, insert carbon filter ...24 hours ...white spot, same location ...with labored breathing! Other 3 fish removed to a second QTank ( no signs of disease). So, I've started the 3rd round of treatments with QuickCure. Today is day 2. <I would cease this exposure... too toxic, not likely to effect a cure> My question is ...is this Ich or Velvet or some other nefarious ( I threw that in for drama) parasite? See attached picture. The patch has been more distinct, but that's what he looks like today. Ich, Velvet, Other ...? <Other> Suggestions on treatment alternatives? <Time going by, careful observation> A beer to the one who successfully gets this Tang "cured";) <Oh!> A sincere thanks for your time and thoughts. David <This tang is damaging itself by "flicking" the tang on this, its favorite side... likely in response to its own reflection (internally, inside the tank). Try placing a piece of paper on the side it seems to stay most on "jousting" and be patient. Bob Fenner>

Sailfin Nipping at Corals 8/15/06 Dear WWM crew: <Hi> I have a Zebrasoma Desjardinii that has started picking at my Devil's Hand Leather, one of my Favorites spp., and a couple of my Xeniids. <Not unheard of, but not very common either.> I keep my fish well fed with various foods (Nori, Spirulina enriched brine shrimp, Ocean Nutrition's Formula 2, and live brine shrimp gut loaded with phyto/Selcon/Cyclop-eeze, etc.), so I'm at a loss as to why my prized, mainly-herbivorous, "reef safe" tang would start eating my corals. <Forget the brine, even gut loaded.  Still not very nutritious, will probably be better off using Mysid.> I don't want to have to relocate the fish, since I have had him for over a year, and have grown attached, if you know what I mean. <Sure> I was hoping you could give me your thoughts/recommendations regarding my situation. <Well, you're battling instinct here, so it's going to be hard to change his behavior.  However this behavior could indicate a nutritional deficiency here, I would try switching up his diet some, forget the brine, switch to Mysid, and maybe try a few different brands of food, New-Life being my personal favorite, and see if it helps minimize this behavior.> Thanks in advance, Adam 72 gallon 80 or so lbs. live rock pH 7.9-8.0 ( I know... :( I'm working on this) NH3 - zero NO2 - zero NO3 - zero to trace Ca - 450 Alk - 4 meq/L PO4 - less than .1 Fish - 1 Red Sea Sailfin about 4'', 3 yellow tangs around 2 '', 1 blue throat trigger 2'' Corals/Sessile inverts - 3 Xenia spp., 1 Frogspawn, 1 favorites spp. brain,  many mushrooms and Zoanthids, 1 long tentacle plate, 1 devil's hand leather Other - 1 brittle star, 1 serpent star, 1 sand sifting star, 1 sally lightfoot crab, 10 or so blue leg hermits, 30 or so Astrea snails Lights - 260W Coralife PC's, half 10K, half actinic Filtration- Sealife Systems model 125 wet dry, Sealife Systems NV150 skimmer Pumps - Wet dry - Surge M5000 (around 650 g/hour), skimmer- Rio 1700 (around 350 g/hr), and a JBJ 2500 powerhead in the tank w/ a Hydor spinning nozzle on it (about 530 g/hr). <This tank will quickly become overcrowded with the current livestock you have.  The stress of this environment may also be contributing to this undesired behavior.> <Chris>

Tang throwing up  12/16/05 Hi, <Hello there>         I have been very grateful for the answers you have provided with me before and the quick responses in the past so thank you.  But now I have a new question that I am sorry that I did not look thoroughly for in the already answered questions because I feel that time is of the essence. <Mmm... faster than writing and waiting for a response...> I have a sailfin, about three inches, who used to eat like a hog.  But last night I saw him throw up the seaweed and food that he had at about five minutes before. <Happens...>   So I gave him a closer look and it seems like he is getting pretty thin.  Do you have and idea of what this could be and or possible cures? <If you've had this fish only a few months it is probable that gut-based parasites are at work here...>   He is not breathing heavy and seems calm and their are no visual infections on him, not to say that there aren't any internally. <Bingo> Also I was at the closest pet store, it seems like all of the good ones are at least an hour away, and they had a medicated food by Jungle, I was wondering is this does anything and/or if it is considered an actual medication where LR and inverts can be harmed?   <Marginally harmed... and worthwhile. Do seek out one of these medication-laden foods or make your own... that contains the anti-protozoal Metronidazole, aka  Flagyl... Covered on WWM.> Thanks for all of your help.  And happy holidays. -  Dave    <And to you and yours. Bob Fenner>

Zebrasoma Aggression  10/21/05 Hi all <Hi Ignatio.> I have an established 100 gallon reef tank with 8 juvenile fishes <What type of fish? Could be a little could be a lot. Big difference between juv. Chromis compared to juv. angels or juv. triggers.> healthy and one of them is yellow tang. 1 week ago I add 1 purple tang and unfortunately the size is smaller than yellow tang <Too small of a tank volume for these 2 fish, both psychologically and physically. Also in the same genus (Zebrasoma) a genus which has a nasty disposition to each other I might add.>, up to now the yellow tang is always chasing the purple tang <Expected.> but fortunately no sign of torn fins in the body of purple tang and up to now the purple tang wants to eat and fat (I feed them twice a day). <Still not 'healthy' for the purple to be subjected to such aggression.> Note: when I feed them, the yellow tang is not bothering the purple tang, he just allowed the purple to eat together. <During this short time the purple is not the priority to the aggressor.> Do you think this problem will disappear between a month? <No, if you're a gambling man you would bet on this to get worse with time.> what should I do concerning it is very difficult to capture the purple tang. <Monitor them, if the aggression persists ultimately you will have to separate. Two adults Zebrasomas will likely not get along in this tank size, especially since one has been established for so long.> Thank you & best regards Ignatio <Your welcome and good luck, Adam J.>
DBL The Fun, Extra Email
Sorry it has been posted by James <You sent it in twice?>... forget my mail <Whoops already answered it. Well at least you get 2 different views.> Thanks for your support <Your welcome.> Best regards Ignatio <Adam J.>
Re: Zebrasoma Aggression Follow-up - 10/24/05
Hi Adam <Hello Ignatio.> Thanks for your reply,  <No trouble.>  so it's been 2 weeks the purple tang in my aquarium and it still wants to eat and fat and the color is still bright nothing damage in the body and the fins.  <A good sign.>  The yellow is still chasing the purple when they meet each other and the purple still try to get a "place" in the tank and try to swim under the rock. <Mmm, yes expected. Keep an eye on them if they do not 'calm' within the next two weeks you may have to remove one or the other.> I read about the purple tang in your site, and it says that purple tang usually has a belligerent behavior rather than other Zebrasoma, so what do you think about mine?  <This is normally the case but in the case of your yellow tang it size and age on its side.>  Still got a chance to survive for a long period?  <Possibly but the odds are not in your favor, even if an 'uneasy truce' is formed now you could see problems as both become adults.> Best regards Ignatio <Hoping everything works out for you, Adam J.> 

Tang Conflict Hi Bob, <Anthony Calfo in your service while Bob prospects in Australia to find a place to hold the wildest "fish nerd" parties this planet has ever seen... which shouldn't be hard to find. How much space do you really need for six people, a book of Mad Libs and a half gallon of Jack Daniels?> I have 65gal tank with about 100 lbs. of live rock. Currently I have four fish in the tank: A yellow tang 4.0' A blue tang 3.5' A flame angel 2' A coral beauty angel 2.5' I would like to add a purple tang(3") to this group, however my LFS guy told me it is not such good idea to add purple tang, because it will possibly kill the yellow tang. Is this true? Always appreciate your commons and suggestions. Thanks, Wayne <I agree...it is good and conservative advice. Mixing Zebrasoma species is done successfully, but just as often ends up in sever damage or fatality from aggression. You are fortunate enough having the two dwarf angels not killing each other. Diversify my friend with very different fishes to reduce the chance of aggression. How about a colorful wrasse, instead? Many nice species that stay small... do review the family in the WWM archives. Kindly, Anthony>

Zebrasoma Tang compatibility I think I just read that purple tangs and yellow tangs do not get along, Is this true? <Yes, it is difficult to mix various species of the genus Zebrasoma; yellow tang, purple tang, Sailfin tang, desjardinii tang, etc.> I have a 135 with 175 lbs of live rock and various small fish and corals and a yellow tang that my wife says needs a purple tang buddy! is this going to be a problem? <Quite possibly. It would have been better to introduce them both at the same time, but even then can be a problem. The yellow tang has already claimed your tank as his territory and will attempt to drive off other similar feeding competitors. -Steven Pro>

Tang Aggressiveness Hello. I have a few questions about tangs. If I were to get a purple or yellow tang, it would go in my 55g tank. If I want to add a copperband, an Anthias, or a partner for my clown, would the tang beat the new comer up? <Quite possibly. Are you aware of how difficult the Anthias and copperband are to maintain?> The tang will be about 3-4", while the copperband will be about 2-3", the Anthias 2-3", and the clown like an inch. Do you see any problems in adding these fish in down the road after the tang? <Better to add the tang last.> Thanks. Also, on a side note, how big does a cubicus boxfish need in terms of tank size? <150 gallons would be good.> Would a 20gal long or high be enough for it, <Not even close.> and maybe one more fish? Any boxfish good for a tank this size? <Do not put anything in a 20 that will grow larger than 3". -Steven Pro>

- Desjardini Tang Coloration Question - Hello WWM, I have had a Desjardini tang for about a year. He is approx. 5"L. Anyway, the last couple of months after I feed sometimes he develops a large dark brown spot at his anal area. One time he had a spot that was very large covering 1/2 of his eye area. He has no health issues that I can see, he is always very active, hungry & parasite free. In the morning I generally feed formula 2 & Spirulina flake food. For dinner I feed a diet of frozen pygmy angel formula ( 3 - 4 times a week ) for the greens, frozen "Prime Reef", cut squid . and frozen angel formula( for my French angel as well ) & Mysis shrimp. I also use Selcon 2 x a week. I have not found info related to this issue & I hope you can lead me in the right direction. <Is likely just a mood-affected change in coloration. Many fish can do this, and what is typical is called a night/fright pattern that can be observed in the middle of the night or when the fish is under excessive stress/fright. Sometimes these color changes mean other things, but what that is specifically, no one knows yet. I wouldn't be concerned... your tang is likely expressing a preference for food.> Thank you ! D. Mack <Cheers, J -- >

Scopas tang Hello, <Hey Rob, MacL here with you tonight> Just a quick question about the Scopas.  I did a search and couldn't find exactly and thought that I would ask the question directly.  I got my Scopas about 2 months ago and noticed recently that he was changing colors from a dark brown to a sort of light grey color. <Scopas do change colors, so it could be just normal. However I always caution people because there are things that stress the fish which can make it change colors as well. Its best to make sure there is nothing else causing him stress and then keep a close eye on him.> Is this normal?  He eats fairly well (Mysis, emerald entree, zooplankton, Cyclop=Eeze and sushi Nori).  All water parameters are good, and I do water changes twice monthly.  He is in a 90g with a coral beauty, royal Gramma, 2 clowns and a Klein's butterfly.  I appreciate you taking the time to answer the question....Thanks!  Rob

Sailfin that doesn't seem to sleep Hello, I am new to the saltwater world and have a question. I have a 75 gallon saltwater tank, lots of rock and places for my "New Friends" to hide. I have 1 hippo Tang, 1 mimic Tang, 2 small clowns, 3 small green Chromis, 1 red knob star, 2 cleaner shrimp. All the fish will go to sleep and rest when I turn the lights out except the sailfin. She/He is new to the tank about 3 days now but I can see her swimming in the dark tank. I turn the lights out in the room the tank is in also, so it is dark, but she seems to not sleep like the other fish, is this normal? She is fine all day eats like a pig, mixed diet swims all day seeming very happy. Also how many fish can you have in a 75 gallon tank, and does size matter of the fish added, [example] do three small fish equal 1 larger fish. Thanks in advance for your help. I am trying to learn as much as I can, I always ask as many questions as I can at the store that I get the fish from, but sometimes they do not know the answers and I hope I getting the correct information to keep a healthy happy tank.  <There is no rule of thumb for stocking levels. So much depends on the activity of a fish and how large the fish can get along with surface area of the tank and so on. I pasted a link that you can read on this subject. As far as the tang not sleeping, I've also had a couple tangs that displayed this behavior. It went away after four or five days. I left a "night light" on so the tank was not completely dark. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/morestkgfaqs.htm  Good luck. (Salty Dog)>
Sailfin that doesn't seem to sleep
Thanks for your reply. I have to take her back to the store as now she is fighting with my two other tangs. I guess it is just like people all have different personalities, and this one is just not so nice. She wants the whole tank to herself, she is big so maybe she would be happier in a larger tank. She is so beautiful but this morning ate the fin of my mimic tang. Thanks again for your reply.  Deb <Deb, this is a perfect example of why tangs need a large tank. You did the right thing by taking him back. James (Salty Dog)>
Sailfin that doesn't seem to sleep
HI James,<Hello Deb.  AMEN.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks for your reply. I told the people at the store that I bought the   Sailfin, that she should not be in less then a 100 gallon tank due to her size.  I was given the wrong information by the employee and the poor fish had to pay   for it as she was again moved and stressed out. I also learned my lesson that I  will always do my own research on the fish that I like, to make sure I can  provide the proper conditions for them. It seems that everyone I speak to tells  you something different about tank requirements, fish requirements, I am getting  so confused as I am new at this whole thing. I am just going to read, read, and  ask lots of questions. This is a wonderful site, I have been reading the posts  and have been learning so much. Thanks for your help and replies. Deb

Sailfin Tang Harassment (6-14-05) Hi guys, <Hi there, Leslie in for the guys this morning> I have recently finished setting up a 60G marine aquarium, and have gleaned LOADS of useful advice from your site over the past few months, so many thanks! <Glad to hear you are finding the site helpful and you are most welcome.> I've read your FAQ's regarding tangs, and am hoping you can perhaps confirm my suspicions about recent behavior in my tank. <Sure, I will be happy to see what I can do.> I have a couple of Percula Clowns, a Spanish Hogfish and a Flame Angel, all of whom seemed to be getting on fine. The water parameters are fine. The SG is a bit low at 1.021 at the moment but tends to fluctuate with evaporation and water top up. <1.021 is OK and some fluctuation is to be expected> Had an outbreak of Hair Algae, and bought a Sailfin Tang to attempt to battle it. <Algae outbreaks are common in newly set up tanks. Have a look at the Algae Control in Marine Systems article and associated FAQs here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/algaeconMar.htm> Anyhow, recently I haven't seen my Flame Angel much, and his fins seem a little torn. Also, the previous king-of-the-castle Spanish Hogfish is NEVER to be seen, and is very very timid. He hides under rocks all of the time and also seems to have what looks like a small red injury near his tail fin. <Please do keep a close eye on these fish injuries for any signs of infection. You may need to medicate them. It would be a good idea to boost their immune system as well as keeping their tank very clean. I would recommend doing some extra water changes until the injuries have healed. In terms of boosting their immune system the addition of an immunostimulant like Beta Glucan and some vitamins like Vita-Chem Marine would be beneficial. Here is some info on how the Beta Glucan works and how to administer it'¦.. http://www.marineaquariumadvice.com/beta_glucan_biological_defense_modulator.html> Am I correct in assuming that the Sailfin Tang could be randomly bullying the others? <Yes, I would tend to agree.> I am tempted to remove him since the strange behavior seemed to have started around the same time that I added him. <I think that is a good plan. The tank is really too small for a Tang > When I asked my LFS if he would be OK in a 60G aquarium they said he would be OK but after reading some of your FAQ's I am not so sure. Any help that you could give would be greatly appreciated; I think I want to remove him in the next few hours! Chris.   <I think you have made a good decision Chris. You might want to consider an algae eating blenny like a Lawnmower Blenny to help with your algae problem. Suspicions confirmed :)! HTH, Leslie>

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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