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Ctenochaetus strigosus - Yelloweye Tang

The tangs (also known commonly as surgeonfishes) come from the family Acanthuridae, and many, especially those from the genus Ctenochaetus (pronounced ten-oh-key-tus), make fantastic algae-eaters in a tropical saltwater aquarium. The tangs from this genus are some of the best fishes for algae control, and many are beautifully colored and may be successfully kept by even the novice aquarist. One Ctenochaetus tang is especially worth mentioning—the yelloweye tang (Ctenochaetus strigosus)—and it is this fish that will be discussed here.

Tangs from the Genus Ctenochaetus – Bristletooth Tangs

Ctenochaetus roughly translates as bristletooth, and so aquarists sometimes refer to tangs in this genus as bristletooth tangs. Looking closely at a Ctenochaetus tang’s mouth, the aquarist will notice that it is turned out and protrudes from its face. Inside the mouth, there are flexible, “comb-like” teeth instead of fixed teeth, and this makes the bristletooth tang particularly adept at scraping algae from substrate. Of the Ctenochaetus tangs commonly available, the favorites are the blue eye tang (Ctenochaetus binotatus), the chevron tang (C. hawaiiensis), the flame fin tang (C. tominiensis), the spotted yellow eye tang (C. truncates), the striped bristletooth tang (C. striatus), and, of course, the yellow eye Kole tang.

The yelloweye tang is also commonly called the striped bristletooth tang, goldring bristletooth tang, bristletoothed surgeonfish, goldring bristletooth, slender-toothed surgeonfish, spotted bristletooth, spotted surgeonfish, yellow-eyed surgeonfish, Kole tang, and number of other variations. This fish is indigenous to the Eastern Central Pacific around the Hawaiian Islands and Johnston Island. It can also be found in the Western Central Pacific in waters off Australia. The yelloweye tang may reach over 14 centimeters in length, and it is a particularly peaceful tang. In fact, this fish is frequently bullied by other fishes from the Acanthurus family.

Feeding a Yelloweye Tang

Expect the yelloweye tang to spend its days picking at rockwork in search of algae. It also feeds on detritus and diatoms by whisking its comb-like teeth over the bottom as it closes its mouth. This makes the yelloweye tang a fantastic addition to a newer tank, as diatom outbreaks are relatively common in a new set-up. When consuming the algae, the yelloweye tang also consumes many small invertebrates living in it, and, as such, it is important for the aquarist to remember that it is an omnivore. As such, it should be fed a varied diet that, while heavy in dried marine algae (nori), spirulina flakes and other foods formulated for herbivores, should include meaty bits of seafood and other foods formulated for omnivores. “We also always recommend the use of a vitamin supplement with yelloweye tangs,” says Mark Martin, Blue Zoo’s director of marine ornamental research. “The supplement will help the fish fight off any possible parasite infestation and offer balanced nutrition.” Marin recommends either soaking food in Selcon of a garlic supplement.


While some Ctenochaetus tangs live in shoals, the yelloweye tang tends to be solitary, and, as a general rule, should not be kept with other members of the genus. In terms of their compatibility with other fishes, they are mostly peaceful fishes that are reef-compatible insofar as they usually leave sessile invertebrates (like coral) alone. If underfed, however, it is often noted that some Ctenochaetus tangs will pick at large polyp stony corals.

The Ctenochaetus Tang-Ready Tank

Compared with some other tangs with which the aquarist may be familiar, Ctenochaetus tangs may appear less gregarious—even bordering on shy. A Ctenochaetus tang will therefore only truly adapt to an aquarium with loads of live rock providing lots of places to hide and forage for food. Most individuals from this genus appreciate high flow environments and plenty of algae growth, so if you plan to keep these fishes, make sure you are comfortable with keeping an aquarium that is not “sparkling clean.” Overskimming or in any other way over-filtering an aquarium with Ctenochaetus tangs can lead to problems down the road.

Weaning a Bristletooth Tang onto a Captive Diet

Undoubtedly the biggest and most pressing issue with newly acquired Ctenochaetus tangs is feeding. Too many individuals unnecessarily starve to death in the home aquarium, and while this is often secondary to improper collection, holding or shipping, it is almost entirely avoidable. Due to these fishes' unusual mouth shape, they commonly suffer from a condition sometimes called “bag rub.” If your Ctenochaetus tang arrives with a swollen mouth, and you do not pay particular attention to feeding the animal, it will most likely starve to death in your aquarium. Luckily, this is easily avoided by offering the “right” food to new arrivals.

In the wild, Ctenochaetus tangs spend their day swimming around on the reef in search of marine algae and any meaty bits of food they can find. It is therefore recommended to feed new arrivals fresh algae. Purchasing (and then culturing your own) live macroalgae like ogo algae (Gracilaria parvisipora) is an excellent idea if you plan to keep any tang, but especially tangs from the genus Ctenochaetus and especially new arrivals. Even tangs with mouth trauma will be able to consume this food, and they should recover fairly quickly. In addition, dried marine algae (Nori), spirulina flakes and frozen mysis shrimp will usually be taken with zeal. Most Ctenochaetus tangs will quite easily adjust to captive diets and will eventually eat just about any flake or pellet foods.

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