Indian Sailfin Tang (Zebrasoma desjardinii)

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Indian Sailfin Tang
Zebrasoma desjardinii
Indian Sailfin Tang (Zebrasoma desjardinii)
Name Indian Sailfin Tang
Name Lat. Zebrasoma desjardinii
Family Surgeonfishes
Family lat. Acanthuridae
Order Surgeonfishes
Order lat. Acanthuriformes
Origin Indian Ocean
Habitat Lagoons, coral reefs
Diet Herbivore
pH 8.1-8.4
Hardness 8-10 °KH
Behavior Semi-aggressive
Keeping Individual, pair
Reef Compatible Yes
Care Level Moderate
Life Span 8-12 years
Protection No
Metric Units
Size 40 cm
Temperature 24-28 °C
Salinity 33-36 ‰
Aquarium ~ 1.600 l
US Units
Size 16"
Temperature 75-82 °F
Salinity 1.020-1.025 sg
Aquarium ~ 400 gal

Distribution and habitat

The distribution area of Zebrasoma desjardinii is the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, from the African coast to Java and Australia. They prefer lagoons and reefs with dense coral cover.


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 in pairs. To avoid ranking fights, two animals of different size should be placed in the aquarium at the same time. Usually intraspecific aggression occurs only when there is a lack of space and food. They are often aggressive against other surgeonfishes, towards all 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 usually live singly near staghorn corals in which they hide in case of danger.

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 reef dwellers, they should not be kept in a fish-only aquarium. When kept in pairs, with sufficient activity (live rocks, large reef surface) and frequent as well as varied feeding, they can be maintained in challenging coral tanks without serious attacks on the corals.

If different species are kept together, care should be taken to ensure that the fish match each other in terms of water quality and temperature requirements, as well as their social behavior, and 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: Franz Lowak

Source: BAENSCH & DEBELIUS (2006): Meerwasser Atlas Bd. 1, Mergus Verlag; ENGELMANN (2005): Zootierhaltung - Tiere in menschlicher Obhut: Fische, Verlag Harri Deutsch

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