Inhabits coral reefs, inshore grassy or rocky areas. Forms small groups. Mainly diurnal . Feeds entirely on algae (Ref. 5521). At Fernando de Noronha Archipelago in southwestern Atlantic, juveniles hold cleaning stations together with the doctorfish (Acanthurus chirurgus ) and sergeant major (Abudefduf saxatilis) and graze algae as well as pick molted skin and parasites from green turtles ( Chelonia mydas ). This behavior is preceded by a characteristic inspection usually followed by feeding nips on the turtle's skin (head , limbs, and tail), as well as on the carapace. The most inspected and cleaned body parts are the flippers. The spine on both sides of the caudal peduncle may inflict painful wounds (Ref. 5217).
Click on the language to view common names.
Common Names in Creole, French:
Siwizye, Sous-G, Sous-gé
Common Names in Creoles and Pidgins, French:
Common Names in Danish:
Bl, Blå kirurgfisk
Common Names in English:
Blue barber, Blue doctor, Blue doctorfish, Blue tang, Blue tang surgeonfish, Blur tang, Yellow barber, yellow doctorfish
Common Names in French:
Chirurgien bayolle, Chirurgien bleu
Common Names in German:
Common Names in Mandarin Chinese:
蓝刺尾鱼, 藍刺尾魚, 黃刺尾魚, 黄刺尾鱼
Common Names in Papiamento:
Common Names in Polish:
Common Names in Portuguese:
Acara, Acara-, Acara-úna, Acaraúna-azul, Acaraúna-preta, barbeiro, Barbeiro-azul, Peixe-Cirurgi, Peixe-cirurgião, Peixe-doutor
Common Names in Russian:
Common Names in Spanish:
Barbero, Barbero azul, Cirujano, cirujano azul, Doctor, Médico, Navaj, Navajero, Navajón, Navajón azul, Sangrador azul
Species Acanthurus coeruleus
Distinctive Features: The blue tang
is a high-bodied, compressed
pancake-shaped fish with a pointed
snout and small scales
. The eye
is located high on the head
and the mouth
is small and low on the
head. The dorsal fin is continuous. Of particular interest is the
yellow caudal spine located at the base
of the tail on either
side of the body, a characteristic shared with other surgeonfish.
This spine fits into a horizontal groove
and can be extended and
used to fend off aggressive encounters
Adult blue tangs are deep blue to purplish-blue with a yellow caudal spine. The change from juvenile to intermediate to adult coloration is not size-dependent as some fish in the juvenile yellow phase may be larger than the adult blue phase.
Dentition: The close-set, spatulate teeth of the blue tang are well adapted for nipping , grazing, and browsing algae from the reef. There are 14 teeth on the upper jaw and 16 teeth on the lower jaw.
This fish has three color phases . In its juvenile phase, it is bright yellow, changing to a mixture of yellow and blue during adolescence. There may be blue crescents above and below the pupils of the eyes. It may be spotted with blue or have a yellow body and blue fins . As the fish matures into the intermediate phase, the color darkens to a bright blue or purplish-gray with a yellow caudal fin. Gray longitudinal lines are located in the flank region with blue dorsal and anal fins banded with orange-brown diagonal lines. The caudal spine is yellow to pale yellow or white. At night, blue tangs display white vertical stripes .
The blue tang reaches approximately 12 inches (30.5 cm) in length . The largest specimen, caught off the coast of South America, measured 14.4 inches (37 cm). It reaches sexual maturity at 9-12 months of age and lengths of 4-5 inches (11-13 cm). Males are commonly 25 cm (Total Length) in length when caught/marketed, but may be as large as 39 cm (Total Length).
Tangs are found in coral reefs and inshore grassy or rocky areas at depths of 6-131 feet (2-40 m ). In coral reefs, blue tangs live in holes and crevices where they are sheltered from predators while they sleep at night. The blue tang lives singly, in pairs, or in small groups of up to 10 or 12 individuals, although occasionally it forms large aggregations that forage about the shallow reefs, grazing on algae. These aggregations sometimes include doctorfish (Acanthurus chirurgus) and other surgeonfish. The juvenile blue tang is rarely seen on the reef due to its small size and need for constant cover from predators. The intermediate phase with the blue body and yellow tail is often observed on reefs while young adults are abundant everywhere on the reef.
Typically found in water with a depth of 0 to -5,107 meters (0 to -16,755 feet).
Biome: Marine .
Feeds entirely on algae. It grazes algae from rocky areas and browses filamentous algae, thereby avoiding large quantities of calcareous materials . Other surgeonfishes have heavier-walled, gizzard-like stomachs, and are capable of handling ingested sand and other calcareous materials. Blue tangs are important in keeping algae populations under control, preventing algae from overgrowing and suffocating corals .
Spawning occurs during late afternoon and evening hours. This event
is indicated by a change in color from a uniform
dark blue to a pale
blue anterior and dark blue posterior. Males aggressively court
of the school, leading to a quick upward spawning rush
the surface of the water during which eggs
The eggs are small, approximately 0.8mm in diameter. The eggs are
pelagic, each containing a single droplet of oil
for flotation. The
fertilized eggs hatch
in twenty-four hours, revealing small, translucent
larvae with silvery abdomens and rudimentary
The newly hatched larvae are referred to as acronurus because they were once thought to represent a separate genus of fish, Acronurus. The acronurus is diamond-shaped and laterally compressed , with a head shaped like a triangle. It has large eyes and prominent pectoral fins , and vertical ridges on the body. The dorsal fins, anal fins, and scales begin to develop when the acronurus reaches 2-6 mm in length . The caudal spine does not appear until the acronurus reaches about 13 mm in length. Late post-acronurus drift inshore , where they metamorphose into juveniles . The acronurus lose their silver color and turn brown, and their profiles become round . The prominent dorsal and anal spines that are characteristic of the acronurus reduce, and the snout elongates . Complete metamorphosis takes about a week, after which two-inch long juveniles settle onto the bottom of a suitable inshore habitat.
Tuna , bar jack , tiger grouper, and other large carnivorous fishes are known predators of the blue tang .
- Whittaker & Margulis,1978
- C. Linnaeus, 1758
- (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Grobben, 1908
- (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Bateson, 1885
- Cuvier, 1812
- Jawed Vertebrates
- Huxley, 1880
- Huxley, 1880
- Order: Perciformes () -
- Superorder: Acanthopterygii ()
- Cohort: Clupeocephala ()
- Infraclass: Actinopteri ()
- Subclass: Actinopterygii ()
- Class: Osteichthyes () - Huxley, 1880
- Superclass: Osteichthyes () - Huxley, 1880
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata () - auct. - Jawed Vertebrates
- Subphylum: Vertebrata () - Cuvier, 1812 - Vertebrates
- Phylum: Chordata () - Bateson, 1885 - Chordates
- Infrakingdom: Chordonia () - (Haeckel, 1874) Cavalier-Smith, 1998
- Branch: Deuterostomia () - Grobben, 1908
- Subkingdom: Bilateria () - (Hatschek, 1888) Cavalier-Smith, 1983
- Kingdom: Animalia () - C. Linnaeus, 1758 - animals
Acanthurus brevis Poey • Acanthurus broussonnetii Desmarest • Acanthurus caeruleus • Acanthurus caeruleus (Bloch & Schneider, 1801) • Acanthurus caeruleus (Bloch and Schneider • Acanthurus coerulus • Acanthurus coerulus Bloch & Schneider, 1801 • Acanthurus coerulus Bloch and Schneider • Acanthurus heliodes (Barbour • Acanthurus nigricans (Linnaeus • Acanthurus violaceus Castelnau • Acronurus caeruleatus Poey • Hepatus caeruleus (Bloch and Schneider • Hepatus pawnee Breder • Teuthis coeruleus (Bloch and Schneider • Teuthis helioides Barbour
Status: Accepted Name
First described: Bloch, M .E. and J.G. Schneider M.E. Blochii, systema ichthyologiae iconibus cx illustratum. Post obitum auctoris opus inchoatum absolvit, correxit, interpolavit Jo. Gottlob Schneider, Saxo. Berolini, Sumtibus Austoris Impressum et Bibliopolio Sanderiano Commissum: Berlin. 584 p., 1801.
Last scrutiny: Data last modified by FishBase 09-Jan-1998
Members of the genus Acanthurus
ZipcodeZoo has pages for 62 species and subspecies in this genus:
A. achilles (Red-Spotted Surgeonfish) · A. albipectoralis (Whitefin Surgeonfish) · A. auranticavus (Orange-Socket Surgeonfish) · A. bahianus (Ocean Surgeonfish) · A. bariene (Bariene Surgeonfish) · A. blochi (Ringtail Surgeonfish) · A. blochii (Blue-Banded Pualu) · A. caeruleus (Blue Tang Surgeonfish) · A. celebicus (Celebis's Surgeonfish) · A. chirurgus (Black Doctorfish) · A. chronixis (Chronixis Surgeonfish) · A. chrysosoma (Blue Tang Surgeonfish) · A. coeruleus (Blue Tang Surgeonfish) · A. crestonis (Barbero Negro) · A. dussumieri (Dussumier's Surgeonfish) · A. nigroris (Elongate Surgeon) · A. flavescens (Yellow Sailfin Tang) · A. fowleri (Fowler´s Surgeonfish) · A. fowleriinde (Fowler's Surgeon) · A. nigrofuscus (Ringtailed Surgeonfish) · A. fuscus (Black-Barred Surgeonfish) · A. gahhm (Black Surgeonfish) · A. gahm nigricauda (Black-Barred Surgeonfish) · A. gemmatus (Gem Surgeonfish) · A. glaucopareius (Whitefaced Surgeonfish) · A. grammoptilus (Finelined Surgeonfish) · A. guttatus (White-Spotted Surgeonfish) · A. japonicus (Japan Surgeonfish) · A. pyroferus (Powder-Blue Surgeonfish) · A. leucocheilus (Pale-Lipped Surgeonfish) · A. leucopareius (Whitethroated Surgeonfish) · A. leucosternon (Blue Surgeonfish) · A. lineatus (Blue-Lined Squirrelfish) · A. lituratus (Striped-Faced Unicornfish) · A. maculiceps (Yellow-Freckled Surgeon Fish) · A. mata (Bleeker's Surgeonfish) · A. monroviae (Monrovia Doctorfish) · A. nigricans (Black Surgeonfish) · A. nigricauda (Black-Barred Surgeonfish) · A. nigrofuscus (Spot-Cheeked Surgeonfish) · A. nigroris (Bluelined Surgeonfish) · A. nubilus (Bluelined Surgeonfish) · A. olivaceus (Gendarme Fish) · A. polyzona (Black-Barred Surgeonfish) · A. pyroferus (Chocolate Surgeonfish) · A. randalli (Gulf Surgeonfish) · A. rostratus (Longnose Surgeonfish) · A. scopas (Brown Sailfish Surgeonfish) · A. sohal (Red Sea Clown Surgeon) · A. striatus (Bristle-Toothed Surgeonfish) · A. strigosus (Slender-Toothed Surgeonfish) · A. tennenti (Lieutenant Surgeonfish) · A. tennentii (Double-Whip Butterfly-Bream) · A. thompsoni (Thompson´s Surgeonfish) · A. tractus (Fiveband Surgeonfish) · A. triostegus (Fiveband Surgeonfish) · A. triostegus triostegus (Fiveband Surgeonfish) · A. tristis (Blackcheek Surgeonfish) · A. velifer (Pacific Sail-Fin Surgeonfish) · A. vittatus (Yellowtail Sailfin Tang) · A. xanthopterus (Ring-Tailed Surgeonfish) · A. zebra (Eel Loach)
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- A list of common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. Report presented at the eighty-ninth annual meeting, Clearwater, Fla., Sept. 16-18, 1959. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1960. url p. 34.
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- Bulletin - United States National Museum. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, [etc.];1877-1971. url p. 13.
- Dean bibliography of fishes. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1971-1973. url p. 211, p. 27, p. 626.
- Final environmental impact statement prepared on the proposed Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary. [Washington, D.C.]: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Coastal Zone Management,  url p. 20.
- Fishery bulletin / U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service. Washington, D.C.: The Service: url p. 1003, p. 395, p. 514, p. 536.
- Fishery bulletin. United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Washington, The Service, U.S. Govt Print. Off. url p. 340.
- Global venting, midwater, and benthic ecological processes / Michael P. De Luca and Ivar Babb, editors. [Rockville, Md.]: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, Office of Undersea Research,  url p. 369.
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- Our living oceans: the first annual report on the status of U.S. living marine resources. [Washington, D.C.]: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 1991. url p. 118.
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- The ecology of deep and shallow coral reefs: results of a workshop on coral reef ecology held by the American Society of Zoologists, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 1983 / edited by Marjorie L. Reaka. Rockville, MD.: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, Office of Undersea Research,  url p. 105, p. 94.
- The marine fishes of Panama. by Seth E. Meek and Samuel F. Hildebrand; Wilfred H. Osgood, editor 15 1928 Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History, 1928 url p. 782.
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- Brands, S.J. (comp.) 1989-present. The Taxonomicon. Universal Taxonomic Services, Zwaag, The Netherlands. Accessed January 15, 2012.
- FishBase. Release date: January 5, 2010
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Accessed December 09, 2007. http://www.gbif.org Mediated distribution data from 20 providers.
- Ruggiero M., Gordon D., Bailly N., Kirk P., Nicolson D. (2011). The Catalogue of Life Taxonomic Classification, Edition 2, Part A. In: Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2011 Annual Checklist (Bisby F.A., Roskov Y.R., Orrell T.M., Nicolson D., Paglinawan L.E., Bailly N., Kirk P.M., Bourgoin T., Baillargeon G., Ouvrard D., eds). DVD; Species 2000: Reading, UK.
Accessed through GBIF Data Portal December 09, 2007:
- FishBase, FishBase DiGIR Provider - Philippine Server
- Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University, ECNASAP - East Coast North America Strategic Assessment
- Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Vertebrate specimens
- Museum national d'histoire naturelle, Ichtyologie
- Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, MCZ Fish Collection
- Royal Ontario Museum, Fish specimens
- Senckenberg, Collection Pisces
- UNIBIO, IBUNAM, CNPE/Coleccion Nacional de Peces
- University of Kansas Biodiversity Research Center, Fish Collection
- Biodiversity Heritage Library NamebankID: 119164
- Catalogue of Life Accepted Name Code: Fis-29261
- Fishbase Species ID: 944
- Global Biodiversity Information Facility Taxonkey: 13848950
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Taxonomic Serial Number (TSN): 172254
- Zipcode Zoo Species Identifier: 101185
- Coupal, L., E. Bédard, C. Peguero and I.S. Durante (1992). Repertorio ictionímici de la República Dominicana. Fáscículo I : Acanthuridae - Carangidae. LIRD. [back]
- "Ageratina lemmonii". in Flora of North America Vol. 21 Page 548, 551. Oxford University Press. Online at EFloras.org. [back]
- Mean = -1,573.030 meters (-5,160.860 feet), Standard Deviation = 1,593.040 based on 173 observations. Ocean depth information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]