News / Species Spotlight / Popular Piscines - Zebrasoma desjardinii (10/01/15)

Popular Piscines - Zebrasoma desjardinii

In the Wild

Zebrasoma desjardinii is frequently called the "Red Sea Sailfin Tang" but is more accurately a resident of much of the Tropical Indian Ocean. Pairs and small groups of adults are frequently seen, while juveniles are generally found singly, both in 90 feet of water or less. They are almost always amongst seaward reef and lagoon biotopes.

Z. desjardinii is predominantly an herbivore, though recent studies have shown that a surprisingly large portion of its diet is made up of the small invertebrates that are incidentally eaten. This could help explain its fairly rapid growth. The largest Red Sea Sailfin on record was nearly 16 inches from nose to tail; a much more common adult size is closer to 12 inches. Regardless, this size has led to this fish being a popular food fish, and it is even commercially harvested as such.

In the Aquarium

Both of the fish commonly called "Sailfin Tang" are excellent aquarium fish. They are some of the hardiest, most reef compatible herbivore fish available in the hobby. Of these two, the Red Sea variant is the more colorful and thus, often more desirable.

However, it is also the more aggressive of the two species. Keeping it with other Tangs, Angels, and Butterflyfish is definitely possible, but success is most likely if all the species with this body shape and eating habits are introduced simultaneously.

Beyond this, husbandry for these animals is very straight forward. They love a large amount of flow in an aquarium. They are also prodigious grazers so some resident algae is a plus, both nutritionally, and to give the fish a way to maintain its wild feeding behavior. If the destination aquarium lacks any algae, supplement the diet with some nori or other marine based algae product.

Rudie H Kuiter & Helmut Debelius, World Atlas of Marine Fishes, 1st ed. (IKAN-Unterwasserarchiv 2006)
Scott W. Michael, Reef Aquarium Fishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2005).
Rudie H Kuiter & Helmut Debelius, Surgeonfishes, Rabbitfishes and their relatives, 1st ed. (TMC Publishing, Chorelywood, UK, 2001).