Zebrasoma xanthurum – Yellowtail Tang

Zebrasoma xanthurum or Yellowtail Tang is one of the very attractive surgeonfishes. They are not too difficult to keep and grow up to 35 centimeters.

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Zebrasoma xanthurum – Yellowtail Tang

Zebrasoma xanthurum is found in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The species is most numerous on the Sinai side up to and including the coast of Somalia, Maldives, and to a lesser extent towards the Suez Canal. Unlike many other species, Zebrasoma xanthurum is a true inhabitant of the coral reef. It rarely leaves the coral reef or rock formations. Specimen from the African part often have a slightly browner shade. As a resident of the Red Sea, the species is used to a slightly higher salinity. Nevertheless, the fish have a good shelf life at normal water values. It is a species that is not too big at 35 cm and has a moderately busy character for doctor fishing. Remember, this species still needs a reasonable swimming space. Do not keep the species in a small aquarium.

With its dark blue color, with black lines and the yellow tail, this is perhaps one of the most beautiful surgeonfish. The most attractive, however, is the entertaining, playful and apparently curious nature of, in particular, younger animals. They are fairly calm and shy, but curious, actively foraging or exploring the area. Every day every piece of the aquarium is scraped again.

Zebrasoma xanthurum can reach a maximum age of around 16 years, there is even a case of a fish reaching 24 years. Like many surgeonfish, newly introduced animals are susceptible to white spot disease. Once established, they are more robust than most other surgeonfish.


Zebrasoma xanthurum is an agile swimmer and moderately busy for a surgeonfish. They make a playful but never restless impression. Their body shape allows them to swim skillfully and elegantly through and along the reef.

Zebrasoma xanthurum is usually peaceful or moderately aggressive. Yet the experiences in this regard vary widely. Some specimens even develop into the tyrant of the aquarium. Perhaps this depends on the circumstances or each fish has its own character. The aggression is mainly aimed at other surgeonfish, fish with a similar body shape or food competitors. As with all surgeonfish, it is therefore best to place this species in the aquarium last. Once the fish has been established, there is a greater chance that it will behave aggressively towards newly introduced residents. Young animals in particular, are group animals. Although they are excellent to keep alone, a group is most like the natural way of life. Preferably introduce the group in one go in the aquarium. The later addition of peers sometimes leads to drama, because the order of rank then continues to be confirmed unnatural with much violence. The result is strongly languishing and stressed animals.

There are varying experiences with combining with other surgeonfish. Often it goes well if the animals are introduced to the aquarium at the same time. There are both bad and good experiences with fish added later.

The Aquarium

Shelters and cracks and crevasses to swim through are greatly appreciated. Algae are eaten away very quickly. Invertebrates are usually left alone.


The diet of Zebrasoma xanthurum is primarily plant-based in nature. However, unlike many other surgeonfish, algae are less necessary for good health. In the aquarium they do well on a mix of a vegetable and meaty foods. A good menu seems to consist of a mix of Mysis, mussels, spirulina, lettuce, algae supplemented with dry food.


P. de Pijper

Copyright images

zsispeo – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
John de Lange

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