Species: Naso lituratus
Popular names: Lipstick surgeon, orangespine unicornfish, lipstick tang
Natural habitat: Tropical Indo-Pacific and Red Sea on outer reef slopes and in lagoons in pairs or small aggregations
Maximum adult size: 17.7 inches
Description: A bold yellow mask above the eyes and a yellow-edged brown patch around the snout and eyes make this species easy to identify. The lips are red or orange-red, and the tail develops long filaments that reach the upper and lower lobes with age. The dorsal fin may be orange or black, depending on the geographical origin. Naso elegans, from the Indian Ocean, was once thought to be a geographical color morph of this fish. Recently though, it has been raised to separate species status.
Aquarium suitability: Although this fish is often offered for sale, it is by no means an easy fish to keep. Its special dietary needs make it a difficult fish to get to feed. When it does accept aquarium foods, it is usually no substitute for the marine brown algae that forms the basis of its natural diet. It can also be fed a mix of brown algae with brine shrimp and Mysis for the best results.
Species: Naso vlamingi
Popular names: Vlamingi tang, bignose unicornfish, slender unicornfish
Natural habitat: Indo-West Pacific around coral outcrops and on outer reef slopes
Maximum adult size: 21 inches
Description: The distinct blue flecks and streaks on the sides, along with the yellowish head and bright blue lips, make this fish easy to identify if it is a juvenile or subadult specimen. Adults are a drab silver color with elongated bodies. The suborbital protuberance of fishes of this genus occurs only in adult males.
Aquarium suitability: Water quality is not critical for this species, but an assortment of hiding places should be provided, along with a varied diet of chopped mussels, shrimp, squid and algae.
Species: Paracanthurus hepatus
Popular names: Palette surgeonfish, blue surgeonfish, regal tang, morpho butterfly
Natural habitat: Tropical Indo-Pacific from east Africa to the Great Barrier Reef in clear water on seaward reefs, usually in small aggregations
Maximum adult size: 12.2 inches
Description: There is a black mark on the body that is shaped somewhat like an artist’s palette. The body coloration is bright blue, and the tail is bright yellow, with the upper and lower lobes edged in black. In adult specimens, the membranes between the dorsal rays are dull mauve. On the reef, they are often found in small shoals, usually in areas of heavy algal growth.
Aquarium suitability: Once acclimated, this fish is one of the easiest to keep in captivity, provided there is an ample supply of algae on which it can graze. When this is not the case, chopped lettuce and spinach should be regularly given as a substitute. Most frozen and dried foods will also be readily accepted. Its aquarium should have plenty of places where it can hide at night. Groups of three to five fish may be kept in a very large reef aquarium, but they must be all introduced at the same time and allowed to grow together.
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