It was during the latter half of the 1970’s that my experiences with aquariums began. I wasn’t more than eight years old when my brother (seven years my senior) received his first aquarium from our parents. It was a typical 30-gallon starter set, freshwater, of course. What caught my eye, however, was the small, maybe 15-page booklet that came with the setup. There was a beautiful golden fish on the cover with long trailing dorsal and anal fins, being hand fed. I immediately began to look through the booklet. Then on page three, I saw it. The most incredible looking fish I had ever laid eyes upon. I stared in both doubt and fascination. I couldn’t believe that there really could exist a fish with such brilliant blue coloration. The smart contrasting black lines and edging looked like something an artist would paint, while the shocking yellow wedge of a tail appeared almost out of place… an afterthought, yet somehow still perfectly appropriate. While the caption below the picture was foreign to me (the Latin name of Paracanthurus hepatus), the name of Regal tang was memorable.

Of course, this was a small handbook on how to keep marine fish; fish that I’d never seen in person, and doubted I ever would. But I loved looking at that picture. I practically wore out that booklet, constantly staring at that beautiful tang. It wasn’t until many years later that I happened to be over at a friend’s house after school and noticed an aquarium in their living room. Well, my jaw dropped and my eyes sparkled as I saw a Regal tang swimming around, right there, in front of me, in the flesh! From that point on, I was bound and determined to own that fish.

I am obviously not the only person that finds himself fascinated by this fish. The numerous threads and pictures found on Reef Central attest to this. Then, of course, there is Dori! Well, it turns out this fish is part of a family of gorgeous, entertaining and fascinating fish, the surgeonfishes, or tangs. This month’s ReefSlides segment is dedicated to the beauty and diversity of tangs. Everything from the massive species of the genus Naso, to the sometimes obscenely painted Acanthurus and Zebrasoma species, to the subtle Ctenochaetus species can be seen in this collection.

All tangs belong to the family Acanthuridae, literally meaning "thorn-tail," derived from their spines, or scalpels, found at the base of their tail. Eighty-one species belonging to six genera are found in the tropical Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as the Red Sea. There are currently seven Zebrasoma, 19 Naso, 38 Acanthurus, nine Ctenochaetus, seven Prionurus, and, of course, one Paracanthurus species, considered to be valid names. Most are grazers of benthic algae. Others incorporate zooplankton or detritus in their diets. For more information on the various genera, please read here: Naso, Acanthurus, Zebrasoma, Ctenochaetus, Prionurus, Paracanthurus

Identity Crisis – What’s My Name? Paracanthurus hepatus

Is it a Comb or a Bristle (Surgeonfish)? The Genus Ctenochaetus

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Many thanks to SDguy for his assistance with this project.
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