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Doctorfish Tang and Blue Tang (Acanthurus chirurgus) near Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Photo by Hal Brindley

Doctorfish Tang

(Acanthurus chirurgus)

The Doctorfish, like other “surgeon fish” in its family, has a sharp spine known as a “scalpel” sticking out of each side of the base of the tail! It is used during fights with other doctorfish, or defense against predators.

The Doctorfish has a single row of hard, sharp teeth designed for nipping off bits of algae from rocks and coral. It swallows the food whole and it is then ground up in a gizzard-like stomach full of sand!

In this photo there are both Doctorfish and Blue Tang. The Doctorfish have the dark grey stripes on the side and a dark black “scalpel” rimmed with bright blue. The Blue Tang are a lighter blue-gray with a yellow tail and a bright yellow “scalpel”.  Photo taken in Brewer’s Bay, Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands.