Reef to Rainforest: Discovering Tropical Species, Places, Nature


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Family: Acanthuridae

Species in Genus Ctenochaetus:

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


Bristletooth surgeonfishes feed on detritus, bacteria, diatoms, and large amounts of sediment. They have specialized teeth that are elongate and flexible, with spatula-shaped ends that are curved inward. When they feed, they press their jaws against the substrate and then throw the lower jaw upward. This effectively brushes particulate matter off rock, dead coral, and out of turf algae.

Most avoid areas with long filamentous algae (if they happen to ingest it they quickly spit it out because it gets stuck in their teeth). Juveniles quickly lose weight if food is in short supply.

These fishes rarely bother sessile invertebrates. If these fishes contract a skin parasite, it is difficult to treat them in the reef aquarium. They have poorly developed caudal peduncle spines and tend to be dominated by other, more aggressive surgeonfishes. (These spines can still inflict damage to an aquarist’s hand.)

They tend to be less aggressive members of the surgeonfish family and are not likely to pick on tankmates. That said, conspecifics may quarrel, and they may fight with other members in the genus.