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Acanthurus sohal, Sohal Surgeonfish. Scott W. Michael

Family: Acanthuridae

Species in Genus Acanthurus:

Reference: A PocketExpert Guide to Reef Aquarium Fishes
Image credit: SWM
Text credit: SWM


This is the largest surgeonfish genus and the most popular among marine aquarists. There are three distinct feeding groups: herbivores, which browse on filamentous microalgae or fleshy macroalgae; detritivores, which suck detritus and diatoms off the sand substrate (often ingesting a considerable quantity of substrate in the process) or scrape it off hard surfaces (some specialize in feeding on the feces of carnivorous fishes.); and zooplanktivores, which swim in the water column where they capture minute prey (the group with fewest species).

Most need to be housed in a very large aquarium. Many are strongly territorial, driving conspecifics and food competitors from the area they defend. They vary in their tendency to act as bullies in a captive system.

The least aggressive include the Atlantic Blue (Acanthurus coeruleus), Powder Brown (A. japonicus), Brown (A. nigrofuscus), and Convict Surgeonfish (A. triostegus).

The more belligerent include the Achilles (Acanthurus achilles), Powder Blue (A. leucosternon), Lined (A. lineatus), and Sohal Surgeonfish (A. sohal).