15 Fin-tastic Facts About The Ocean Surgeonfish For Kids

Ocean Surgeonfish facts also include details like it has a uniformed colored body varying from light shades to darker shades.

Ocean Surgeonfish (Acanthurus bahianus) commonly known as Ocean Surgeon or blue tang, are tropical reef fishes found in shallow coral reefs of the Atlantic Ocean. They are small in size like other fishes of the household. Due to the variation in their body color, they are a popular choice for display in aquariums.

There are 75 species of surgeon fish across the Atlantic Ocean, also called the tang, and Ocean Surgeon is one of the species and they belong to the family Acanthuridae. Ocean Surgeonfish Acanthurus eat seagrass and feed on brown and green algae. They are also said to change colors during spawning. They are edible and are also used as bait for fishing and can also be kept as pets in the aquarium at home but with sufficient care and observation. They must be handled very carefully as the spines at the front and back of their body are venomous. If you are interested in more Ocean Surgeonfish and coral fish species you can also read interesting facts about Gar and Chum Salmon.

Ocean Surgeonfish

Fact File

What do they prey on?


What do they eat?

Diurnal herbivores

Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

1.3 lb (0.6 kg)

How long are they?

15 in (38 cm)

How tall are they?

20 in (50 cm)

What do they look like?

Dark brown, blue-gray, or light yellow

Skin Type

Scale with spines

What are their main threats?

French angelfish

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Shallow coral reefs


Caribbean, Bahamas, Gulf of Mexico





Scientific Name

Acanthurus bahianus





Ocean Surgeonfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Ocean Surgeonfish?

Surgeonfish are tropical coral shallow reef fishes that belong to the family Acanthuridae and genus Acanthurus. The Ocean Surgeon is one of the 75 species of Surgeon found in the bottom water column of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, Brazil, and along the Atlantic coast.

What class of animal does an Ocean Surgeonfish belong to?

Ocean Surgeon belongs to the class of fish, originated from brazil. The family is called Surgeonfish because they have sharp spines on the pectoral and dorsal fins that look like the surgeons' scalpel. They have pale whitish, brown, and bluish markings across their bodies, and in the anal fin and dorsal fin. Either end of the fish has a scalpel-like spine.

How many Ocean Surgeonfish are there in the world?

There are 75 species of Surgeonfish in the world. They are found in different tropical marine regions of Florida, Bermuda, Mexico, and Brazil.

Where does an Ocean Surgeonfish live?

Surgeons are found in Brazil, Massachusetts, the Gulf of Mexico, Bahamas, Florida, and Bermuda. They are typically seen in groups in shallow coral rocky bottoms and are very active during the day. Caribbean Ocean Surgeonfish juvenile can also be found in the northwestern Atlantic area.

What is an Ocean Surgeonfish's habitat?

The Surgeonfish inhabits shallow reefs over coral rocky areas at a depth of 80 ft (24.4 m) in several water bodies like the Atlantic Ocean. They can be found at the bottom of the water column and the species feeds on algae. Mainly, Ocean Surgeonfish eat seagrass.

Who do Ocean Surgeonfish live with?

They are found mainly in schools of four to five fishes and also in groups with other species. The Ocean Surgeon typically swims in these groups and the other fish they swim with include Atlantic blue tang and doctorfish. They can also live as aquarium fish in houses.

How long does an Ocean Surgeonfish live?

They live up to 10 years and become reproductive after two years from birth. They are small in size so they fall prey to larger fish and marine organisms.

How do they reproduce?

Spawning happens in pairs or in aggregated pairs and their spawning season is from November to April and almost 20,000 eggs are released and a change in body color may occur during spawning. The females release their egg inside the water and the males release their sperm and the fertilization is external.  The eggs of the Ocean Surgeon are pelagic and spherical with a single oil globule. Larval Ocean Surgeonfish hatched from the eggs are kite-shaped with a long snout and a mouth at the end.

What is their conservation status?

According to recent researches, Surgeon fish are currently at no risk of endangerment and they are mainly kept as aquarium pets or are used as baits and for subsistence fishing where they are trapped in net gills. They are caught in traps very carefully as the spines in the caudal peduncle may inflict a severe wound.

Ocean Surgeonfish Fun Facts

What do Ocean Surgeonfish look like?

This species of coral fish has a deep and compressed head and, an oval-shaped figure with uniform distribution of color that varies from blue and gray to dark brown with a pale greenish or bluish line all over the body and also with a light yellow tint on its tail and within the thin blue area of the eye and they can have a length up to 15 in (30 cm).  It is very small and low which is perfect for scraping out algae from the coral surface and the dorsal fin is of moderate length and has no notch, whereas the caudal fin is smooth. Additionally, a close look of Ocean Surgeonfish diagram reveals that they have large anal, dorsal, and caudal fins, and on either side of their pale figure and tail they got sharp scales, these are considered to be parts of the Ocean Surgeonfish.

Ocean Surgeonfish pectoral fins have a yellowish shade and  the fish's color  vary from yellow, blue-gray to dark brown.

How cute are they?

The Ocean Surgeon is of varying colors which makes them suitable as aquarium fish and their small size makes them appear very adorable and cute.

How do they communicate?

The Surgeon communicates during spawning or intraspecific competition through changes in their body color.

How big is an Ocean Surgeonfish?

The Surgeon can have a length up to 12 in (30.5 cm) and are small in size and thus become the prey of larger fishes like French angelfish and they weigh up to 1.3 lb (0.6 kg). They are twice as small as French angelfish.

How fast can an Ocean Surgeonfish swim?

Surgeonfish are aggressive swimmers. Their pace of swimming increases during the mating time and also during fights within their school.

How much does an Ocean Surgeonfish weigh?

They can weigh up to 1.3 lb (0.6 kg), it may vary according to age and environment. They are usually small in size and lighter than other fish.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The male and female species of the Caribbean tropical fish can be distinguished but do not have different names.

What would you call a baby Ocean Surgeonfish?

Baby Surgeonfish are called larvae. It takes approximately 42-68 days to transform to the juveniles stage and then they settle out of the water column and find their own habitat.

What do they eat?

Ocean Surgeonfish (Acanthurus) are diurnal herbivores. They eat various species of algae like Dictyota, Cladophora, Chaetomorpha, Ceramium, and some species of Thalassia also. They also eat seagrass and some small invertebrates they eat sand to properly digest their food. They have sharp teeth specialized for feeding purposes and to keep the coral defenders clean.

Are they dangerous?

Surgeon fishes are harmless in nature but you should carefully handle them because of the backbone in their dorsal fin and the pectoral region as their wounds can be painful as it has poisonous.

Would they make a good pet?

The blue tang (surgeon) is a desirable and colorful aquarium pet because of its coloration and variety and they are also very small and thus are convenient for small places like the aquarium. This fish is very easy to feed and maintain according to its physical description. they need plenty of open tank space as they like to swim a lot and there should be enough water and maneuver floor for them so that they don't get injured by the coral reef rocks. Just be careful of their caudal spine.

Did you know...

Surgeon fish are important for subsistence fisheries and also their flesh is commercially sold as fresh. It is also important to the ecosystem as the species feeds on algae.

Due to their small oval size, they easily fall prey to large fishes, and to escape the danger they often pretend to be dead,  until the predator is at a safe distance.

The male Surgeonfishes engage in spine fights with their poisonous spines for achieving dominance because the most dominant party typically gets the largest breeding ground.

Large fishes and marine organisms like tiger grouper, mutton snapper, yellowfin tuna, and French angelfish eat Ocean Surgeonfish in the ocean.

How did Ocean Surgeonfish get their name?

The Ocean Surgeon or Acanthurus bahianus is named so because of the scalpel-like shaped spines along the top and bottom of its body.  The genus name Acanthurus is derived from a Greek word meaning 'thorned tails'. Their caudal spine helps them to prey on algae and is a part of the defense mechanism as they are very poisonous.

Why are Surgeonfish important?

These fish are very important for coral reefs which are home to many species, as they keep them safe from algae and protect them from suffocation. They are also used commercially as an exhibition in aquaria for private gain. Although they are of minor importance to humans, they have a vital part in the ecosystem because their species feed on different algae and helps to keep the reef clean and prevent algal bloom from suffocating the environment, and thus protects the other inhabitant of the area. Although conservation of the whole marine environment has caught international speculation nowadays.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including Rainbow Trout facts and Spotted Sunfish facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Ocean Surgeonfish coloring pages.



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