Skip to main content

Achilles tang - Facts On The Stunning Achilles Tang

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Scientific Name : Acanthurus Achilles

Origin : Hawaii

DIfficulty : Hard

Minimum Size Tank : 100+ gallons

Temperament : Aggressive

Temperature : 72 - 82°F

Reef Safe : yes

Maximum Size : 9 inches

Diet : Herbivore

The Achilles Tang is one of the most beautiful fish in the surgeonfish family. It is my favorite tang alongside the equally stunning Sohal Tang. It has an all black/dark chocolate body with a single orange tear-drop on its spine while its tail is white, black and orange.

Achilles Tang


Achilles Tang

Common names include the Achilles Surgeonfish the Red-Tailed Surgeonfish. They found only in Hawaiian waters where they live singly, in pairs or as part of a shoal.

They are not commonly available as they're usually sold out when they hit the markets.

Prices start within the upper $100 range while adults can cost anywhere from $200 to $400 for very large specimens. Extra large showcase quality individuals can fetch more than $400. An expensive fish to be sure.

Like most tangs, the Achilles tang is susceptible to ich, hole in the head and lateral line erosion so pay careful attention to the specimen you're considering. Do not buy any specimens that exhibit scratching, a sure sign of ich or marine velvet. Unfortunately despite all precautions, this fish commonly perishes in the home aquaria. They are not as hardy as other surgeonfish species and there is difficulty in getting them to accept prepared foods.

The Achilles Tang is one of the few tangs that have interbreed with another species within the genus. A rare hybrid, the Achilles X Goldrim tang commands a very high price when they are available.

2 Juvenile Achilles Tangs


The Achilles tang is one of the more aggressive surgeonfishes. Aggression towards other large fish such as butterflyfish can be common. Smaller species like clownfish, dottybacks and gobies are generally left alone.

Sharing their domain with other tangs doesn't sit well with the achilles tang. And they show they displeasure by regularly harassing them. There's always an exception to this behavior though.

Scroll to Continue

Do not keep more than one Achilles Tang in the same marine aquarium. Members of the same species will continually attack each other in all but the biggest aquariums.

If you must keep more than one Achilles Tang, introduce them all at once.

A group of 3 Achilles Tangs in a 180 gallon tank.

Tank Size

The Achilles tang reaches 9 inches in length so its not as big as a Sohal Tang but its still big enough to warrant a large aquarium.

A marine aquarium no smaller than a 100 gallons is needed to house a AchillesTang.

They require a lot of swimming space so always aim for the largest tank you can afford. Bigger is better.

They also require a spot to sleep at night, ensure there is an ample amount of liverock to provide appropriate shelters.

A pair of Achilles Tangs in the wild.



In the overview i listed this fish as hard. Simply because it is really difficult to them on prepared foods at home. Many specimens refuse all foods and simply starve to death in captivity. With that in mind, we move on to some great foods to try on this beautiful tang.

The Achilles tang is completely reef safe, making them fine additions to the reef aquarium.

Despite the fact that they're primarily herbivores in the wild, they are open to just about anything offered once acclimated. They will eat brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, krill and whatever else you offer.

Since they feed on copious amounts of algae in the wild, we should see to it that a large percentage of the food we feed them is algae based.

Algae sheets like nori are a great algae to feed all herbivorous fish.Prices vary greatly depending on the brand. Some people may find Julian Sprungs Sea Veggies to cost a little too much. Its good stuff though. They're also available as flakes, which is very convenient since there's very little work involved during feeding.

Thankfully there are many other brands that produce nori primarily for human consumption. Some are cheap while the really high quality sheets can be very expensive.

You will need a clip of some sort to secure the nori sheet. You could DIY a clip yourself and spend a couple of bucks on a commercial type. Some people fold the sheets before clipping while others just clip it as is. Once the nori is secured, stick the clip to the side of the tank, sit back, and enjoy the show.

Ocean Nutrition produces another good quality food, Formula Two. Along with mixed seafood, vitamins and whatnot, there is an extra amount of algae added to the mix. Available in three forms, pellet, flake or frozen cube.

While Formula Two is a good flake, it surpassed by Sea Veggie mixed flakes by Two Little Fishies. A great all-rounder with a good balance of ingredients, New Life Spectrum comes highly recommended as well.

Do not feed your tangs lettuce of any kind (romaine or iceberg). Pet stores that are trying to save a few bucks normally feed their tangs lettuce. Nutritionally, lettuce offers very little and should not have a place in this hobby.


johnny guitar on December 15, 2012:

i've had an achilles tang for about a year and 1/2 and he is doing great in my 110 gallon tank. i've noticed from time to time he gets a white chin but it always goes away within a day or two. i'm guessing it's stress but i don't know for sure. i also have 2 pealscale butterflies, a pakastani butterfly and a paddlefin wrasse. the wrasse doesn't seem to bother him so all should be good. is this a sign of stress?

PirateFX (author) on December 19, 2011:

Hi Grnstang - You should. A new fish that is being harassed will only increase its stress levels. Generally speaking, we hope for an easy transition especially at the beginning. Having said that, an established Achilles will have no problem fending off a yellow tang. But it needs to settle in first. And they can be finicky eaters as well. All the best.

Grnstang93 on December 13, 2011:

Just bought a 2-1/2 to 3" for less than 150 but i noticed my yellow eyed tang keeps taking swipes at him should I be concerned

PirateFX (author) on December 12, 2011:

Hi Field - Sorry to hear that. Perhaps something live? Live artemia or something that moves to illicit some sort of feeding response. Does it completely ignore everything?

Field Borton on December 03, 2011:

I just got one 3 days ago and having problems getting him to eat. :( tried frozen brine, flake pellets, algae sheets pemysis and cycloeeze. any ideas what to try next???

Anthony on August 19, 2011:

I just purchased one and it's white under the chin or throat

PirateFX (author) on March 12, 2011:

@Mike - Certainly a problem i've never come across (Too much flow) =). Try turning off one of the MP40's and see what happens.

Mike on March 11, 2011:

Great information on the achilles tang!

I just bought one that's about 5 inches for my 150 gallon display aquarium. It seems to be staying towards the back of tank. I think this may be because of the strong flow towards the front. Is there such thing as too much flow for this tang? Thanks!

p.s. I am running 2 mp40 power heads.

PirateFX (author) on January 07, 2011:

@Matt - Maybe in the beginning. Over time i don't foresee the Achilles posing too much trouble for them.

Matt on January 06, 2011:

Thinking of buying one... I really had my mind set on a swallowtail angel and a bellus angel ... do you think id have trouble with the tang harassing them ?

PirateFX (author) on November 01, 2010:

Good catch James!

PirateFX (author) on November 01, 2010:

Good catch James!

James on October 31, 2010:

Thanks for the info. It must just be luck, I just bought a 5-6 inches Achilles for 150.00 and on day two it is eating flake.

PirateFX (author) on September 30, 2010:

Hi Kathleen, if the blue tangs are smaller than, or the same size as the Achilles, it may start harassing them after it settles in.

But i must say, 3 1/2 inch is a decent size to get. Its the larger ones that seem to have trouble adjusting to prepared foods. All the best to you Kathleen.

Kathleen on September 29, 2010:

Thinking of purchasing an Achilles juvenille about 3 1/2 inches. I have a 180 gallon reef tank that currently has a pair of clowns, trio of blue tangs (around 3 inches), a copperband and some chromis. Would this be a good addition?

PirateFX (author) on July 24, 2010:

Hi Nick, your Dragonet is safe :) Large fish like the Achilles Tang tend to ignore Dragonets completely.

nick on July 24, 2010:

Would this tang bother a mandarin dragonet?

PirateFX (author) on January 30, 2010:

Hi Mike, thanks for stopping by. Yep Achilles are something else aren't they? =)

Mike on January 29, 2010:

You have created a lovely hub on this awesome fish. I have a 6 year old reef that is currently empty. I'm tempted, very tempted.

Related Articles