Black Tang - Zebrasoma rostratum
Updated August 5, 2019
Author: Mike - FishLore Admin
The Black Tang (Zebrasoma rostratum) is also known as the Black Longnose Surgeonfish or the Black Sailfin Tang. They are considered a rarity in the hobby and this tang commands extreme prices. As of 2012 when this article was originally written, the Black Tang is going for anywhere from $600 to $1,500 depending on the size!
They are so rare in the hobby because they are only collected in a few places and in those places they are not seen by divers very often. Being a tang they need to swim and a recommended tank size of around 120 gallons or preferably much larger would be good to start with. Most adults get up to about 8 inches (21 cm).
Being an herbivore, the Black Tang primarily eats filamentous algae in the ocean. They are found in lagoons and seaward reefs at depths of 26 to 115 feet. Having a good amount of live rock in the tank will help with not only the biological filter but the rock will also provide grazing opportunities in between their main meals provided by you. The rock will also give them a place to shelter in at night when the lights are off.
They will do well in highly oxygenated tanks with plenty of water flow (20 to 30x plus gph) and tanks that have very good water quality provided through partial water changes and adequately skimmed with a protein skimmer.
Getting the Zebrasoma tangs eating is not usually a challenge and the Black Tang is no exception. They should go after any marine seaweed (nori) you place in the tank. I use a veggie clip and feed my tangs daily with it. Try to make seaweed the main staple in their diet. They will also eat meaty marine origin foods like mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, high quality pellet fish foods, etc.
Given the initial price tag of this tang most hobbyists won't be keeping them in an aquarium but if you do get lucky and score one of these tangs let's summarize what you need to do. Have a large enough tank (120 gallons plus), provide highly oxygenated water, over skim with the protein skimmer, have stable water parameters, introduce them to a well established tank, only stock them with appropriate tank mates (non Zebrasoma species) feed them seaweed often and enjoy their beauty for years to come.
Photo Credit: Tom Ratchett
Black Tang Care
Scientific Name : Zebrasoma rostratum
Common Names : Longnose Surgeonfish, Black Longnose Tang, Longnose Sailfin Tang
Care Level : Moderate, needs a bigger tank with lots of swimming space, the proper tank mates and abundant food.
Size : 8 inches (up to 21 cm)
Life span : 7 to 10 years and possibly longer
Water Parameters : pH 8.1 - 8.4 | Temperature 74°F - 82°F (24°C - 28°C) | SG 1.021 - 1.025 | Carbonate Hardness (dKH) 8 - 12°
Origin / Habitat : Found in lagoons and seaward reefs and at depths of 26 to 115 feet (8 to 35 meters) in the Line, Marquesan, Society, and Tuamoto islands
Temperament / Behavior : In the aquarium they will fight with other tangs, especially with other Zebrasoma species. Sometimes the fighting is for display or establishing territory and it doesn't usually get too bad, but if it does be ready to separate. It's best to keep only one tang per tank unless you have a very large aquarium in the several hundreds of gallons.
Breeding : Not sure if it's been bred in the aquarium. It's very difficult since they are open water egg scatterers.
Aquarium Size : 120 gallon (454 liters) minimum and preferably larger to allow for adequate swimming space. This is a very active swimmer.
Reef Tank Safe? : Yes
Tank Mates : As mentioned previously you want to avoid keeping them with other tangs. It's not recommended to keep them with other Zebrasomas. Use caution when keeping them with non Zebrasoma tangs and be ready to separate them if the fighting turns to more than just dominance displays.
Fish Disease : Saltwater Fish Disease - Diagnose, Symptoms and Treatment - cryptocaryon (ich).
Diet / Foods : An herbivore that will eat throughout the day. Having plenty of live rock in the tank will help with their foraging in between meals and the live rock will provide a place of shelter at night. Give them dried seaweed using a clip or similar daily or at minimum every other day. There are lots of good marine seaweeds available to hobbyists these days. The garlic enhanced seaweed selects from Ocean Nutrition (brown, purple, green marine algae) will be devoured by your tang.
Tank Region : All over
Gender : Don't know of any external characteristics you could use to distinguish male black tang from female.
Forum : Tang Forum
Lieske, E. and R. Myers 1994 Collins Pocket Guide. Coral reef fishes. Indo-Pacific and Caribbean including the Red Sea. Harper Collins Publishers
Site References :
Black Tang Comments and Tips
I recall seeing a Black Tang one time at one of my local stores and I think they wanted like $300 for it. I remember thinking how crazy it was to pay that much for a fish but after doing a quick search online I see the price of them at $800 to over $1,000! I guess I'll have to admire them from afar or hope they find out a way to breed them in captivity or aqua-culture them so the prices come down.
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More Tang & Surgeonfish Profiles
One of the toughest saltwater fish to keep in an aquarium due to transport difficulties and diet. These idols are very expensive and only recommended for the most advanced hobbyists if at all. We would serve them better to leave them on the reef until we can develop better aquarium foods.
One of the larger tangs, this fish needs at least a 125 gallon tank and the Naso Tang needs to be fed frequently with brown macro algae.
Orange Shoulder Tang
Needs a larger tank (125 gallons at least!) and grazes on the sand and live rock. Needs to be fed dried or fresh marine origin algae on a regular basis.