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Naso Tang (Naso Lituratus)

Naso Tang (Naso Lituratus)

Naso Tang (Naso Lituratus)

Naso Tang (Naso Lituratus)

The Naso Tang (Naso Lituratus) known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as Barcheek Unicorn, Clown Surgeonfish, Literate Surgeonfish, Lipstick Tang, Orangespine Unicornfish, and Barcheek Unicornfish is found in the East Indian and Pacific Ocean. Their extensive range in the central and western parts of the Pacific Ocean includes Hawaii, Japan, Tuamotu, and the Marquesas.

The Naso Tang is usually encountered swimming in pairs or in large groups, grazing on sargassum and dictyota above the corals and live rock found among the flats and outer slopes of the coral reefs, at depths from 15 to well over 300 feet.

Naso Tang (Naso Lituratus)

Naso Tang (Naso Lituratus)

Juvenile Naso Tangs have a dark gray body color, a blue stripe following along the dorsal fin, and an orange stripe in the anal fin.

As they mature a thin, black face mask outlined with bright yellow forms between the eyes and mouth, the lips develop a reddish orange (lipstick) color, the body morphs into a brownish gray color with a yellow nape and a broad black band on the dorsal fin, the tail acquires a lyre shape with a vertical yellow bar towards the posterior, and two bright orange patches develop at the two forward hooked spines on the caudal peduncle.

Males are slightly larger than females and develop trailing caudal streamers that the females lack. For reasons unknown, Naso Tangs collected from Hawaiian waters are more brightly colored.

Although the Naso Tang (Naso Lituratus) is sometimes misidentified as the Blonde Naso Tang (Naso elegans) found in the Indian Ocean; Naso elegans have predominantly yellow colored dorsal fins with some shades of black, compared to the dorsal fins of Naso Tangs which are predominantly black and gray.

Because adult Naso Tangs grow to almost 18″ in an aquarium environment, they are best housed in a mature FOWLR or reef tank of at least 180 gallon capacity with a crushed coral or coraline sand substrate, plenty of live rock arranged into large caves and overhangs, and plenty of free swimming space. They need high oxygen levels, strong currents in the tank, and pristine water conditions to thrive.  An appropriately sized reef filtration system with a good protein skimmer and multiple power heads is recommended along with the normal water changes required in reef systems.

The Naso Tang is reef safe and will generally ignore corals and invertebrates in the tank. They are a shy, active, and somewhat nervous species that are peaceful with other fish in the tank but are aggressive towards most other tangs.  Some good tankmates include clownfish, eels, gobies, yellow tang, sailfin tang, and angelfish.   In larger aquariums of 200 gallon and over capacity, other tangs like the Purple Tang can be safely housed with Naso Tangs.

In a reef tank, Naso Tangs benefit greatly from cleaner wrasses, cleaner shrimp, or neon gobies that remove any parasites from their skin.  They also lack a mucus barrier on their bodies which makes them susceptible to marine ich and velvet.  Cryptocaryon is very common among tangs but is easily cured with copper drugs in a quarantine tank.

Because of their large size, Naso Tangs have not been bred in a home aquarium environment.  It is possible, but a huge tank would be required. In their natural habitat Naso Lituratus display the egg scattering spawning activity typical of the family Acanthuridae.   They are pair spawners.   After a brief courtship ritual, the male and female swim up into the water column to the surface where the female releases her eggs and the male immediately fertilizes them.  The planktonic eggs drift with the current along the surface until they hatch.  The finless fry live off the yolk sack until completely absorbed, at which point they drift to the bottom of the reef feeding on microalgae until they grow into juveniles. Spawning occurs year round in Guam.

Adult Naso Tangs thrive on a diet of wild algae, with a definite preference for brown macroalgae. In the wild, they normally eat sargassum and dictyota. In an aquarium environment, they should be copious amounts of dried seaweed or dried algae.  A lettuce clip placed under some live rock in the tank is a good way to introduce the seaweed. The key to keeping the Naso Tang healthy in the long term is to obtain some brown macroalgae to feed them, which is by far the most natural thing for them to eat.

Unique to members of Acanthuridae, including the Naso Tang, is the epulopiscium bacteria in their gut which influences their digestion.   Candidatus Epulonipiscium is a genus of Gram positive bacteria that have a symbiotic relationship with surgeonfish and helps them process this algae in their diet.

In a pinch, Naso Tangs will eat Mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and other meaty foods when they see other fish eating, but these foods should not become a staple.   Herbivore preparations like Sea Veggies, Seaweed Salad, and Ocean Nutrition are all good products that are very easy to use as a substitute.

The Naso Tang (Naso Lituratus) is commonly available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts from specialty fish shops, online wholesalers, retailers, and trans shippers at the following approximate purchase sizes from several areas in the Indo Pacific: Small: 1″ to 2″; Small/Medium: 2″ to 3″; Medium: 3″ to 4″; Medium/Large: 4″ to 6″; Large: 6″ to 8″; Extra Large: 8″ to 9″. Prices vary depending on locale and size but start at around $179.00 for medium adults.

Naso Tang (Naso Lituratus)

Naso Tang (Naso Lituratus)






Minimum Tank Size: 180 gallons
Aquarium Type: Reef or FOLR
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Semi Aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 75-79° F, dKH 8-12, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.020-1.025
Max. Size: 18″
Color Form: Black, Blue, Orange, Red, Yellow
Diet: Herbivore
Compatibility: Reef
Origin: East Indian and Pacific Ocean
Family: Acanthuridae
Lifespan: 8+ years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Posted in Featured Articles, Saltwater, Tangs, Tropical Fish KeepingComments (3)

Orinoco Zebra Pleco

Tropical Fish Keeping – Plecostomus

Plecostomus (Loricariids), commonly called Plecos, armored catfish or suckermouth catfish comprise several species of freshwater armored catfish belonging to the Loricariidae family.

All of these species (well over 680) have hard bony plates that cover their upper bodies. They also have specially adapted sucker mouths which allow them to attach themselves to underwater substrates.

Rineloricaria sp. aka Whiptail Cats

Rineloricaria sp. aka Whiptail Cats

Most plecos are peaceful bottom dwellers and make excellent community tank additions. They graze over the bottom of the tank and clean up excess algae and uneaten fish food.

Some of the smaller species are excellent algae cleaners and spend their time vigorously cleaning individual plant leaves as well as the sides of the tank.

Plecostomus are usually sold to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts when they are young and small, however in their native habitats many species can grow to over 2 feet in length and should be housed in large tanks.

Plecos (Loricariids) are found on both sides of the Andes in the varied freshwater habitats of Panama, Costa Rica and South America. Although this species’ native range is in tropical South America, it also naturally occurs in Guyana, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname.

Plecostomus inhabit fast flowing streams, torrential mountain rivers, black acidic waters, quiet brackish estuaries, and are even collected from subterranean waterways.

Orinoco Zebra Pleco

Orinoco Zebra Pleco

Plecos are found in a wide range of variable color patterns and body shapes, but all have have a ventral sucker mouth with small projections (papillae) around their lips.

The adipose fin, when present, usually has a forward spine and in most Ancistrini species, sharp evertible cheek spines. These cheek spines (elongated odontodes) are usually more developed in males for use in displays and offensive combat.

Plecos mouths and teeth are adapted to feed on a wide variety of foods and some species even have the ability to eat and digest wood.

In their natural habitat, fast flowing streams, they attach themselves to rocks and graze on algae, aquatic plants, detritus and frequently on small invertebrates.

Most species of Plecos are nocturnal, some are territorial, and others (like the Otocinclus) prefer living in small groups. Many species of Plecostomus are air breathers and can live out of the water for many hours and still survive.

Loricariids are facultative air breathers and can survive out of water for long periods without adverse effects. They will only breathe air when under stress, and then use their gills only during high oxygen level conditions, such as during dry seasons when evaporation causes severe drops in water levels and oxygen content.

Plecostomus are occasionally consumed in their native range but have little to no value as a food fish. Their main attraction is for the aquarium trade where there is a great demand for them as algae cleaners.

Some of the more popular species of Plecostomus are listed below with links to more specific information

Because of the huge number of unknown Loricariids species, a two-part scientific naming system was first devised by Carl Linnaeus in the 1700’s and farther refined in the 1800’s to identify specimens until an official scientific name could be created.

The numbering system for unknown fish, started with L001 (L standing for Loricariidae) and continued for each unrecognized fish.   Once an official scientific name was created, the old L-number was supposed to be retired however, many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts still use these numbers to help identify their specimens.

 Click here for L-numbers and associated Wikipedia articles listed  in numerical order.

Posted in Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Plecostomus, Tropical Fish KeepingComments (1)

Congo Tetra School

Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus) “The Jewel of Tetras”

The Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus) is a strikingly beautiful fish considered by most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the crown jewel of tetras.

Congo Tetras are large, peaceful, full bodied fish with shimmering long flowing fins and large iridescent scales. Their base coloration is silver with an orange like glow.  The actual background color of the fish is silver, but the bottom half is suffused with an aquamarine blue and the upper portion more of a gold color. As the fish grow older and larger, these colors become more vivid.

In dominant male Congo Tetras, the colors are more pronounced and their fin edges become more extended.  The tails of all male Congo Tetras grow very long and feathery and with mature fish, it is an easy matter to differentiate the males from the females.

Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus)

Congo Tetras (Phenacogrammus interruptus)

Congo Tetras are one of the few “tetras” that come from Africa. They are found in the central Congo River Basin in large shoals.

In an aquarium environment, Congo Tetras do best in moderately planted tanks with driftwood in groups of six or more fish.

They are an active fish and make a breathtaking display in a large, long aquarium. They enjoy swimming in and out of plant thickets and prefer hanging under shaded areas provided by floating water plants.

Congo Tetras are ideal fish for a peaceful community tank and get along fine with other non aggressive species of similar size. They are easily frightened by loud noises and aggressive tank mates and may wait for you to leave the aquarium before they will feed.

The Congo Tetra requires soft, peat filtered water and a darker substrate.  Since they are schooling fish they need a large aquarium to thrive and display their full beauty. Anything less than 30 gallons is not suitable for keeping these fish happy.

Congo Tetras are omnivorous and will accept many small foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, freeze-dried bloodworms, tubifex, micro pellets, and high quality flakes.

Little is known about the Congo Tetra’s breeding habits in the wild except that they are egg scatterers. They are seldom bred in captivity however they are commercially farmed through out the Far East for the aquarium trade and minor color variations are occasionally available for sale.

In captivity, a large aquarium with peat-filtered water and bright lighting may induce spawning.

If this occurs, they will lay up to 300 eggs that will drop to the bottom.  Separate the adults from the eggs or they may be eaten and since the eggs are vulnerable to fungi attack, they should be treated with a fungicide.  When hatched, the fry are large enough to eat freshly hatched brine shrimp.

Congo Tetras are moderately priced and offered for sale when they reach 1-1/2″ to 2″ in size.

Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus)

Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus)








Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 75-81° F, KH 4-8, pH 6.0-6.2
Max. Size: Up to 4″
Color Form: Orange, White, Yellow
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility:  Suitable for peaceful commuinty tanks
Origin: Zaire, Congo River Basin in Africa, Commercially farmed in Far East
Family: Alestidae
Lifespan: 5 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Posted in Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Tetras, Tropical Fish KeepingComments (2)

Bleeding Heart Tetras (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma

Bleeding Heart Tetra (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma)

Bleeding Heart Tetras (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma) are peaceful mid-water fish that get their name from the blushing blood red marking near their gills.  They are a school fish native to the upper Amazon River Basin and should be kept in small schools of 6 or more individuals when in an aquarium environment.

The dorsal fin of male Bleeding Heart Tetras can become quite long and flowing. Both sexes have the eye catching, blood-red spot at the heart area, as well as the distinguishing black and white patch on their dorsal fins.

Female Bleeding Heart Tetra

Female Bleeding Heart Tetra

The males can be identified by longer extended dorsal and anal fins. The dorsal fins in the males are elongated into a distinct sickle shape that arches to the length of the tail base.

Female Bleeding Heart Tetras have shorter, more rounded fins.

Bleeding Heart Tetras are perfect for community aquariums and are a good choice for beginning tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

They are hardy fish and easy to keep as long as you provide them with a densely planted tank of at least 20 gallons.  Rocks and driftwood
should be added to the tank to mimic their natural habitat and reduce stress on the fish.

Like most South American tetras, Bleeding Hearts do best in soft, highly filtered, slightly acid water, with plenty of plants.

They do well in a variety of community tank settings when in small groups with other tetras of their own kind. Tiger barbs, other tetras of the same size and bottom dwellers like corydoras, loaches, etc. are good choices. In smaller groups the males often become territorial. Bleeding Hearts are mischievious little fish and seem to enjoy nipping at other fish entering their territory, especially during feeding.

Bleeding Heart Tetras are difficult to breed but not impossible. They are egg layers and are occasionally bred in an aquarium environment. After the eggs are laid, the parents should be immediately removed from the tank or they will eat the eggs.  When the fry are free swimming, start feeding them newly hatched baby brine shrimp until they are able to eat finely crushed flake foods.

Bleeding Heart Tetras will eat a variety of foods including daphnia, brine shrimp, tubifex worms, freeze dried bloodworms, micro pellets and flake foods.

Bleeding Heart Tetras are a common and readily available fish. Most aquarium shops put them up for sale when they are 3/4″ to 1-1/4″ long.

Bleeding Heart Tetras (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma

Bleeding Heart Tetras (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma










Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Water Conditions: 72-77° F, KH 4-8, pH 6.0-6.8
Max. Size: 2″
Color Form: Red
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Peaceful in small groups
Origin: Amazon River Basin; Farm Raised in Thailand
Family: Characidae
Life Span: 5 to 6 years
Aquarist Level: Beginner

Posted in Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Tetras, Tropical Fish KeepingComments (1)

Tinfoil Barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii)

Tinfoil Barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii)

The eye catching Tinfoil Barb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii) has large, distinct silvery metallic scales, red-tipped fins, a forked tail and grows up to 14″ in length.

In nature, Tinfoil Barbs live in the larger, fast flowing rivers of Southeast Asia.

Compared to other barbs, the Tinfoil Barb is a hardy, peaceful fish, and in natre is actually quite docile.  For this reason Tinfoil Barbs make an eye catching addition to any large community tank.

Tinfoil Barbs are a fast swimming school fish and should be kept in groups of at least 6 or more individuals.  They can be housed with other large non aggressive fish but require a large (at least 70 gallon) aquarium with a tight fitting hood.

Tinfoil Barbs are jumpers. In the aquarium they require good filtration and strong water movement.  Adding powerheads to their aquarium is highly recommended.

Tropical fish keeping enthusiasts agree that Tinfoil Barbs are easy to care for once they are set up in an acceptable size tank.

They are easy to feed and accept most prepared commercial fish foods.  They will eagerly chow down on pellets, flakes, freeze dried and frozen foods.

In their natural habitat their diet consists mainly of algae and other plant matter.  In an aquarium environment, they should occasionally be fed spirulina wafers or some other herbivore preparation such as the algae wafers that are given as a dietary supplement to Plecostomus.

Tinfoil Barbs are normally purchased when they are 1″ to 1 1/2″ long, but since they quickly grow to over a foot in length, a large tank for these fish is an absolute must.

TinfoilBarb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii)

TinfoilBarb (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii)







Minimum Tank Size: 70 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 75-80° F, KH 4-10, pH 6.0-7.5
Max. Size: 14″
Color Form: Red, Silver
Diet: Omnivore
Compativility: Ok with large non agressive fish
Origin: Southeast Asia
Family: Cyprinidae
Lifespan: 8 to 10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Posted in Barbs, Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Tropical Fish KeepingComments (3)

Glass Aquariums

Glass Aquariuims – Pros And Cons

Although glass aquariums are the most popular with tropical fish keeping enthusiasts, there are pros and cons with their use.

There are pros and cons for each type aquarium but despite the cons, most freshwater enthusiasts house their fish in glass tanks.

Glass aquariums are constructed in almost any size using either tempered glass, plate glass, or a combination of the two types.

Tempered glass aquariums are super strong and lighter than plate glass aquariums.  Tempered glass does not crack when it breaks, instead for safety, it shatters into many pieces.

Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts drill through the bottom of their tanks to install custom overflows or sump filtration systems.  Drilling through tempered glass is extremely difficult to accomplish without shattering the glass.

Plate glass is thicker and heavier than tempered glass, and unlike tempered glass, plate glass cracks at the point of impact and does not shatter.   It is also much easier to drill than tempered glass.

Most smaller aquariums are constructed from plate glass for a number of reasons but primarily because it is more economical, more available and clearer than tempered glass.

Some custom made glass aquariums are constructed with tempered glass bottoms and plate glass sides.

When you select a glass aquarium, there will usually be a sticker on the bottom of the tank telling you if it is a plate glass or a tempered glass aquarium.

If you look carefully at the corner of a glass aquarium tank where the plates of glass meet, you will notice a hint of color.  All glass aquariums tend to have a green to bluish tint to them.

There is a relatively new type of glass now being used for aquarium construction called Starphire.  Starphire glass is a low iron glass that provides a clearer view of colors than regular plate glass aquariums.

Starphire glass costs a bit more, but is well worth the additional cost if you are looking for pure color without the color tint.  The view with Starphire glass is almost perfectly clear.

If you are shopping for an odd shaped tank, a glass fish tank may not be for you.

Glass is more difficult to manipulate which is why most glass tanks are rectangular in shape. Octoganal ,  hexagonal and “bow front”  glass tanks are available, but the seams where the glass meet gradually discolor with age.

When you purchase a glass aquarium make sure you purchase a canopy or full hood to control evaporation and help keep the water temperature constant.

Compared to acrylic tanks, glass aquariums tend to lose heat more quickly and are not as well insulated.

Glass Aquariums – Pros

  • Stronger
  • Scratch resistant.  Do not scratch as easy as acrylic tanks
  • Cheaper.  Much less expensive than acrylic tanks
  • More readily  available.  Almost always in stock  in most fish shops

Glass Aquariums – Cons

  • Weight.  Glass tanks weigh much more than acrylic tanks.
  • Limited design and shape.  Glass tanks are mainly rectangular in shape due to the difficulty of manipulation of the glass sheets.
  • Glass tint.  Glass has a blue to green tint in it.
  • Heat Loss.  Glass tanks are not as insulated as acrylic.

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