Achilles Tang
Achilles Tang
© Emma Turner

Achilles Tang

Acanthurus achilles
SynonymsAcanthurus aterrimus, Hepatus achilles, H. aterrimus, Teuthis achilles, T. aterrimus
Sexual DimorphismUnknown
Maximum Size24cm (9.4")
Water ParametersSG: 1.020-1.025, pH: 8.1-8.4; high dissolved oxygen level essential.
TemperatureTropical: 25-28 deg C (77-82 deg F)
CompatibilityReef with caution
LightingNo special requirements
Reef Aquarium CompatibilitySafe with most invertebrates. Occasional specimens may nip at LPS corals if underfed.


The Achilles Tang is a striking-looking fish known from clear seaward reefs and surge zones where it is usually observed in groups, feeding on filamentous and fleshy algae. However, this attractive, sought-after fish is one of the more demanding members of the Acanthurus genus and is suitable for advanced aquarists only. The aquarium must be spacious, mature, have a vigorous water flow, and contain plenty of live rock which the Achilles Tang will enjoy grazing upon. Include plenty of hiding places that are large enough for your fish to retreat into quickly should it feel threatened, at the same time aiming for an aquascape that allows plenty of open swimming space along the front of the aquarium for such a powerful swimmer. Achilles Tangs are not usually overly aggressive towards tankmates (although rogue specimens have been known), however they will show much hostility towards their own kind and towards other tangs - particularly other members of the Acanthurus genus - so for this reason it is best to house just one specimen per tank and not with any other tangs. It is recommended that the Achilles Tang is the last addition to a set up, as it can be a little territorial to newcomers, especially similar fish species. It is best to source a medium sized specimen (i.e. over 4” in length) as they are more likely to acclimatise well to life in captivity. Conversely, extra large specimens may have a difficult time settling in, so aim for a healthy-looking fish that is neither too small nor excessively large. Avoid any specimens that appear ‘pinched’ in the belly area, and do ask your retailer to show you that your chosen fish is feeding well prior to purchase. Achilles Tangs have a high metabolism and require small frequent feeds throughout the day. Powerful filtration/circulation and a high level of oxygenation are therefore essential for this energetic, voracious eater. Be sure to keep on top of water quality as this fish will not tolerate deteriorating water conditions. A large refugium with living rock can be most useful: macroalgae can be cultured on this rock and these pieces rotated with pieces from the main tank, so that the Achilles Tang has a continual supply of natural foodstuffs to graze upon. Take care when handling this species, as the caudal spines are large and can inflict a very painful wound. A period of quarantine can be a valuable procedure for the acclimatisation of all livestock, and it is of particular importance for the Achilles Tang which can be fairly susceptible to developing marine whitespot. This can be difficult to treat in the reef aquarium. Ideally the fish should be quarantined and carefully observed in a separate aquarium for at least a fortnight before being introduced into your main display tank. May also be seen on sale as the Red Tail Tang. Juvenile fish display an orange caudal peduncle spine; the large orange teardrop marking in this area appearing as the fish mature. In the wild, the Achilles Tang has been known to hybridise with the Gold Rim Tang (A. nigricans). ***Prior to purchase, please bear in mind that the Achilles Tangis a very demanding species that requires an aquarium planned around its well-being; the tang should be made the centrepiece of the tank, with all the other variables worked around to suit its specific needs. Experienced aquarists only***


Feed a varied diet for omnivores, with a large vegetable component, in small amounts several times per day. Although this species will browse on algae within the aquarium, its diet must be supplemented with frozen herbivore rations, green marine flake, Spirulina (blue-green algae), Spirulina-enriched brineshrimp, cucumber, courgette, lettuce, broccoli, Nori (dried seaweed) etc. It will also take meaty frozen foods such as Mysis, but be sure that it is receiving enough green food to help prevent HLLE. Adding a specially formulated vitamin supplement to any frozen foods will be beneficial.


This fish has not been bred in the home aquarium.

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