Sailfin Tang, Zebrasoma veliferum

Image Caption: Shizhao/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The sailfin tang is found in lagoons and around reefs from depths of 3 – 200 feet. The range of this species is widespread throughout the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific. It is a very popular aquarium fish, aggressive towards other sailfin, but peaceful to other fish. Best if kept in a large tank of 180 gallons or more.

The largest sailfin tang on record is 15.7 inches in length. The body is shaped similar to a disc with a tall dorsal fin and large anal fin. It has a long snout with large pharyngeal teeth. On each side of the tail base is a sharp spine called a scalpel, it is used for defense and to establish dominance. The spine will be folded into a groove when not in use.

The body of this species is striped with alternating, wide, pale yellow and slimmer, darker bands. The dark bands contain yellow dots and thin stripes. There are two dark bands containing yellow dots that run vertical on the body, one through the eye and the other just behind the eye. The head is white and covered in yellow dots; the tail is yellow. Under stress this species can darken in color and will expand the dorsal and anal fins to resemble sails. The juvenile has the same markings as the adult but the yellow coloring is more vivid.

The diet of the sailfin tang is determined whether it is in captivity or not. In the wild this species will feed on algae, plants, seaweed, and other vegetation.

In captivity the sailfin tang will eat smaller fish within the aquarium. To prevent this, an ample supply of marine seaweed and algae should be placed in the tank. Other food should also be given three times per week in the form of dried seaweed–weighted to sink to the bottom of the tank.

The sailfin tang will breed in pairs. The male can mate with several females during the spawning season. The coloration of the male will change to attract the female. The female will only breed once in a month.

The larvae will feed on the yolk of the egg for three days. After which plankton will be the food source. As this fish develops, the body will become transparent and is called an acronurus larva. While maturing the sailfin tang will slowly take the form of the adult.

In the wild this species can live up to seven years, but in captivity may live longer.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Perciformes

Family: Acanthuridae