Zebrasoma scopas

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See Talk:Zebrasoma scopas for individual experiences with this species, Zebrasoma scopas. Feel free to add your own personal experiences.

Common Name
Brown Tang
Binomial Name
Zebrasoma scopas
Zebrasoma scopas.jpg
Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Acanthuridae
Genus: Zebrasoma
Species: scopas

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Common Names

  • Brown Tang
  • Scopas Tang
  • Two-tone Tang
  • Brown Sailfin Tang



The Scopas Tang, like most surgeonfish has a disk like shaped body. They have large dorsal and anal fins that when extended are regularly equal to the entire length of the fish. Its slightly extended snout is a characteristic that is shares with all sailfin tangs. Colouration can vary alot in this species from almost black in appearance to mostly yellow. The majority however, are dark yellow or brown with pale blue dotted horizontal lines. Juvenile specimens are where the name 'Two-tone' Tang is derived from the juvenile colouration where the front half of the fish is predominantly yellow and the rear half is a darker brown with vertical dotted lines along the entire body.

Another common characteristic is a single white spine or "scalpel" on each side of the caudal peduncle. This spine is used for defense or dominance in defending a territory. When not in use the spine is folded down into a groove. Caution needs to be exercised when handling Surgeonfish as a cut from its scalpel can cause discoloration and swelling of the skin with a high risk of infection. http://animal-world.com/encyclo/marine/tangs/brown.php

Similar Species

The Scopas Tang is similar in stature to other Sailfin tangs but its unique colouration prevents it from being mistaken for any other species.

Maximum Size

In the wild, Scopas Tangs reach sizes of 17cm but in the home aquarium lengths of 15cm are more common. Specimens of 40cm have also been found in the wild but are a rarety.

Associated Organisms



Scopas Tangs are relatively peaceful but are not quite as amiable as their close relative the Yellow Tang. They will claim and defend a territory and for this reason they are best not mixed with others of their genus. This aggression is mostly towards their own kind but sometimes they will harass other species. Introducing a new Surgeonfish into an aquarium that already houses one or more is usually a problem. It is best to initially introduce several species together rather than adding a new one later on. If you do need to add another Tang after a hierarchy has been established, re-aquascaping can help to reduce any aggression directed at the 'new guy'. A little chasing is to be expected, but hopefully nothing too detrimental.

Though a large aquarium can help alleviate many problems, be aware of the social behaviors of any species you are considering to prevent compatibility problems.

Other then being potentially territorial, Scopas Tangs are a perfect addition to a reef tang as they are compatible with all invertebrates and corals and will help to keep pest algae at bay. http://animal-world.com/encyclo/marine/tangs/brown.php

Captive Care

Tank Size

A single Scopas Tang could be housed comfortably in a 4x2x2 provided there is enough open swimming room as Tangs are quick, agile swimmers who like room to move. Also ensure there are sufficient rocky crevices for the Tang to sleep in and shelter in when it feels threatened.

Water Flow

All Surgeonfish and Tangs thrive with good water movement so ensure you provide strong movement in at least one area of your tank.


In the wild, they are found primarily in sunlit areas. They thrive under most lighting conditions but if you keep them under very strong light (Halides or heavy t5's) ensure that there are some dimly lit areas provided.


The Twotone Tangs are primarily herbivores. In the wild they feed mainly on filamentous algae which they scrape from hard surfaces. This genus can store fat in their body cavities so may go through periods of non-feeding.

In the aquarium the majority of their intake will be vegetable matter, but they do need some meaty foods as well. Provide lots of marine algae, prepared frozen formulas containing algae or spirulina, frozen brine and mysid shrimp, and flake foods. Japanese Nori or other seaweed can be adhered to the aquarium glass with a vegetable clip. An occasional live rock with micro and macro organisms will be greatly appreciated. Culturing macro algae like chaetomorphia in the tank is also a great idea. Feed 3 times a day in smaller amounts instead of a large quantity once a day. As continuous grazers, they will benefit from this and it will also keep the water quality higher over a longer period of time. http://animal-world.com/encyclo/marine/tangs/brown.php

Growth Rate

Little is documented about the growth rate of the Scopas Tang, but the information available points to it being relatively slow growing compared to other Tangs.


Scopas tangs, like most of the Acanthurids, are susceptible to parasites. They benefit from a period of quarantine, where they can be treated medicinally, if necessary, and learn to accept prepared foods. They can recover spontaneously from parasitic infections, if the display aquarium offers a stress-free environment and they are well-fed, but quarantining is always best.





Zebrasoma Scopas should not be housed with other members of its own genus and it is recommended that they are one of the last additions to a reef system to provent territorial behaviour.


No coral, but if you keep cyano in your display it will pick at it.


Compatible with all invertebrates.


It is hard to sex Scopas tangs based on outer appearance. The male fish does however tend to be somewhat bigger than the female, and the bristle-like patch of setae located just in front of the peduncular spine is longer on males than on females. Some males change their colours when spawning.

This species form resident spawning aggregations in the wild and both group and pair spawning have been observed. Eggs and sperm is scattered into the water column.

Littles is know however, of captive reproduction.


Local Ecology


The Scopas tang lives in the Indo-Pacific from roughly 24°N to 34°S and from about 32°e to 78°w. Its geographical range stretches from East Africa (including the Mascarene Islands) to the Tuamoto Islands, and proceeds north up to southern Japan. Southwards, you can find this species down to Lord Howe and the Rapa islands. http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/Surgeonfish/Scopas-Tang.php


The Scopas tang inhabits parts of lagoons and seaward reefs with prolific algae growth, from 1 to 60 meters / 3 – 200 feet. The Scopas tang spends most of its time grazing algae. Adults normally form small groups and will sometimes school, but you can also encounter specimens that live alone or in pairs. Groups and schools are not necessarily made up by Scopas tangs only; other tangs can also be included. Adult fish can roam over large parts of the reef, while juveniles tend to be more stationary. Juvenile Scopas tangs are solitary creatures that prefers to stay hidden among corals. Where it is found on the natural reefs, the reef zone. http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/Surgeonfish/Scopas-Tang.php

Additional Information

Some additional notes on it that don't fit in the above sections.