Indian Ocean Mimic Surgeonfish (Acanthurus tristis)

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Indian Ocean Mimic Surgeonfish
Acanthurus tristis
Indian Ocean Mimic Surgeonfish (Acanthurus tristis)
Name Indian Ocean Mimic Surgeonfish
Name Lat. Acanthurus tristis
Family Surgeonfishes
Family lat. Acanthuridae
Order Surgeonfishes
Order lat. Acanthuriformes
Origin Indian Ocean
Habitat Lagoons, seaward reefs
Diet Herbivore
pH 8.1-8.4
Hardness 8-10 °KH
Behavior Semi-aggressive
Keeping Individual
Reef Compatible Yes
Care Level Moderate
Life Span 2-5 years
Protection No
Metric Units
Size 25 cm
Temperature 22-28 °C
Salinity 33-36 ‰
Aquarium ~ 750 l
US Units
Size 10"
Temperature 72-82 °F
Salinity 1.020-1.025 sg
Aquarium ~ 200 gal

Distribution and habitat

The distribution area of Acanthurus tristis is the Indian Ocean, from the Maldives and the Andaman Sea to Bali. Juveniles live in the shallows of coral reefs, adults mostly on outer reefs.


They require a well-structured aquarium with plenty of swimming space and a reef structure (hiding, resting and retreat possibilities) with living stones which they can graze on and which act like a biological filter. Only lime-rich, heavy metal-free sands, gravels, stones or sea sand of various grain sizes may be used as substrate

Filters, skimmers and heaters are necessary to ensure water quality, as well as pumps to simulate tides, swells and bottom currents. Lighting must correspond to the species-appropriate day-night rhythm of the animals

Salinity: 33-36 ‰ pH value: 8.1-8.4
Carbonate hardness: 8-10 °KH Nitrate content: 2-8 mg/l
phosphate content: 0.01-0.1 mg/l nitrite content: 0.0-0.05 mg/l

For salinity, an average value should be aimed for, which may only vary slightly by +/- 0.5 ‰. Ammonia and ammonium must not be measurable. Special attention must be paid to constantly good water quality.


They feed mainly on plant food, such as algae and seaweed. The change of diet does not always succeed without problems. The diet consists mainly of commercially available algae and kelp (e.g. nori, caulerpa, kelp) supplemented with high-quality flake or granulated food for herbivores or a commercially available vitamin-enriched frozen special food mix for herbivores. Live or frozen food such as artemia, krill or mysis should only be offered in small quantities. Plant food strengthens the immune system and reduces aggression. Fine coral sand serves as a digestive aid for them

It is recommended to feed small portions several times a day. Regular and varied feeding promotes health and increases resistance.

Behaviour and compatibility

It is recommended to keep them individually. They behave very territorial within the species and towards other surgeonfishes. Keeping them in pairs is only possible in a much larger and richly structured tank. Towards other fishes they behave peacefully.

Sex dimorphism

There are no known external distinguishing characteristics.

Reproduction and breeding

There are no known reports of successful breeding in the aquarium.


Juveniles mimic the coloration of the dwarf angelfish Centropyge eibli (Mimikri)

Characteristic of surgeonfishes is the scalpel located on both sides of the caudal peduncle, which can be unfolded from its pocket by bending the body.

As coral reef dwellers, they should not be maintained in a fish-only aquarium. With varied and frequent feeding, they can be maintained in challenging coral tanks without serious coral encroachment.

If different species are kept together, care should be taken to match the fish in terms of water quality and temperature requirements, as well as their social behavior, and to ensure that the setup meets the needs of all species kept together. New fish to be introduced must be acclimated slowly to the water in the aquarium

Further literature can be found in your pet store.


Text: Werner Winter; Image: petdata

Source: KUITER, DEBELIUS (2007): Atlas der Meeresfische: Die Fische an den Küsten der Weltmeere, Kosmos Verlag; BAENSCH & DEBELIUS (2006): Meerwasser Atlas Bd. 1, Mergus Verlag; ENGELMANN (2005): Zootierhaltung - Tiere in menschlicher Obhut: Fische, Verlag Harri Deutsch

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