The sohal surgeonfish or sohal tang, Acanthurus sohal, is a Red Sea endemic which grows to 16 inches in the wild. Its striking blue and white horizontal stripes have made it what many consider the “poster fish” for the Red Sea reef environment. It is a valued aquarium fish.
Like other tangs, the sohal tang is compressed laterally, making it extremely maneuverable and fast along the reef. It has a horizontal, blade-like spine along the base of the tail on both sides, which folds into the fish, pointing toward the head. As a means of defense, tangs flick the spine at other fish or intruders, causing physical harm. The surgeonfish are named for this scalpel-like spine.
Its primary diet consists mostly of vegetable matter but occasionally includes the flesh of other animals. Sohal tangs have been known to nip clam mantles and munch on soft large-polyp and small-polyp stony corals.
Its range includes all reef environments in the Red Sea, up to at least 90 feet in depth. It is one of the most aggressive tangs, and combined with its large size for a tang, is a dominant fish along the Red Sea reef.
In the aquarium
The fish is considered a crown gem along reef tank aquarium enthusiasts. It is very hardy to disease and water quality in a fish tank, and acclimates well to captivity when it is provided at least 100 gallons of space. It lives over eight years, is a voracious eater, and is flashy in appearance. It is in strong demand and is expensive.