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Convict Tangs
(Acanthurus triostegus)

convict saltwater aquarium fish

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Convict Tangs or Acanthurus triostegus are members of the family Acanthuridae. This prisoner has a rather extensive habitat. Natural breeding grounds are the coral reefs systems from Japan, throughout all of Micronesia, south of Australia to Lord Howe Island and east all the way to Panama. A subspecies of this fish, sandvicensis, is prevalent along the coastlines of the Hawaiian Islands. Most convicts sold in the US are imported from Hawaii.

Convicts are a medium sized fish. They grow to a maximum adult length of 7 inches. They have the narrow oval shaped bodies common to tangs. This fish is whitish silver or yellow in color. Their name is derived from the zebra-like vertical striping on their bodies. This striping resembles an old prison uniform from the chain gang era.  

Although tangs are not generally considered aggressive, the convict is the most peace loving of the group. It will make a wonderful addition to a community tank provided it is surrounded with equally docile fish. They are very active swimmers and will add plenty of movement and visual interest to any home aquarium. Convicts are reef safe in tanks that contain anchored animal as opposed to plant life. They may, however, nibble on soft coral on rare occasions. This is a schooling species. In nature they commonly school by the thousands. Multiples can be kept in an aquarium without fear of territorial behavior. Many tangs demonstrate a propensity for aggression toward similar species. Convicts may be bullied by other tangs in the confines of an aquarium. Aggressive tendencies can be lessened by having an established school of convicts in an aquarium prior to the introduction of another tang. Convicts require a minimum tanks size of 75 gallons. Multiples will naturally need a larger aquarium.

This is a hardy somewhat disease resistant fish. They will readily adapt to aquarium life. They carry a moderate care level and can be kept by aquarist of lesser experience. They thrive in a heavily oxygenated environment. Increased oxygen levels can easily be accomplished by the addition of multiple air stones to an aquarium. Since all marine animals are oxygen breathers this will not prove in anyway detrimental to the other members of the community.

All tangs are surgeonfish. If you have never owned a surgeonfish you should be aware of a cautionary note before purchasing one. All surgeonfish have razor sharp scale adaptations at the base of their caudal fins; hence the name surgeonfish. Convicts have a single retractable set of blades on either side of their body. Extreme caution should be practiced in the handling of this species.

Convicts are technically herbivores although they would be more correctly labeled as algaevores. Although algae have many of the characteristics consistent with the plant kingdom (including photosynthesis) they are currently classified in a category unto themselves. They are considered neither plant nor animal. Algae exists in a multitude of forms; from microscopic unicellular life forms to the largest members of the Eukaryote Domain most commonly referred to as seaweed.

As inmates in your institution, all prisoners are in your protective custody. Convicts should be fed omnivorous based marine foods with a heavy concentration of algae. An abundance of live rock is mandatory for insure nutrition. Regular supplements of dried algae sheets will help your convicts maintain their fit and vigor.

Environmental Parameters


pH Level Specific Gravity
72-78  °F 8.1-8.4 1.020-1.025

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