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Underwater photography: images of surgeonfish taken while scuba diving
Arabian Tang | Powderblue surgeonfish | Sailfin Tang || Yellowkeel unicornfish | Bignose unicornfish
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) Order: Perciformes Suborder: Acanthuroidei Family: Acanthuridae
The surgeonfish family includes about 80 species in six genera. All these are marine (saltwater) fish that live in tropical waters.

Surgeonfish come from the family group Acanthuridae, which means "thorn tail". This apt name describes the rather nasty sting in their tail – the most distinctive characteristic of these fish is the sharp blades which sit on either side of their tails. Some fish have just one pair but others have several. No matter the number though, all these blades are razor sharp and are used to defend territory and themselves against each other and predators.

Apart from surgeonfish, the common names for fish in this group include tangs and unicornfishes. Tangs tend to be rounder rather than long ovals while unicornfish are longer. Some are easy to identify as they have a unicorn horn on their forehead.

Most fish in this group are small, between 15 and 40 centimetres long but a few will grow larger - the whitemargin unicornfish is the largest species in the family, reaching up to a metre in length. Surgeonfish feed on algaes and detritus and often feed alone, but they are sometimes seen feeding in schools, which is thought to be a defense mechanism against smaller, territorial damselfish.

image gallery

click any image to enlarge
Int. = intermediate stage
Juv.= juvenile

Surgeonfish are not regarded as a threatened species
Surgeonfish encounters
Japanese Garden
12 metres
Zebrasoma Xanthurum
Yellowtail tang

This dive site is an extension of the more famous Cedar Pride Wreck and covers the shallow areas to the south. A seagrass bed leads to healthy hard coral gardens that support a lot of small fish - lionfish, pipefish, phenomenally ugly stonefish, reticulated morays, blennies, gobies... a bit of a never ending list.

This iridescent blue Yellowtail Tang followed our movements, perhaps waiting to see if we would disturb something it could eat. Interestingly, the blades on the tail fin are hard to see, while other surgeons announce their blades with contrasting colours.

french angelfish in Grenada
SPECIES NAMES | Many fish can be hard to identify as they are so similar. Common names vary and even scientists disagree on what is what. If you can name anything we can't, please get in touch.

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